My Favourite Movie Book

Reading & Writing

As I heard a six year-old toddler give his parents his Christmas present list – new apps for his iPhone – I wondered if anyone out there might actually be going retro and giving books this year. If you are, apart from forking out £40 for the astonishing ‘London’s Hidden Interiors’, worth every penny, you could try this.

It’s called the Little Black Book of Movies: Movies: Over a Century of the Greatest Films, Stars, Scenes, Speeches and Events That Rocked the Movie World’ – there’s a mouthful – and it’s neither black nor little. An editor called Chris Fujiwara has assembled a staggering selection of key scenes from world cinema into one vast tome for just £18.99.

The book is a selection of moments that celebrates 100 years of cinema. There are 1000 of these divided into categories including great scenes, lines and major events, from meetings and debuts to casting quirks and deaths. Some are well-known action sequences, special effects, performances, great bits of direction or dialogue. Others are more subtle – groundbreaking films that inspired decades of imitators, the first screen appearance of a future star, the untimely death of a major player and so on – what distinguishes the book is the quality of writing and its breadth of knowledge. I’ve ended up watching dozens of films I’d never seen because of it. I just wish it was available as a DVD set.

14 comments on “My Favourite Movie Book”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Sounds like an interesting book and being a tradtionalist I try always to give books. Something to get a person through the winter or some weeks into one. Were my Father still alive, I’d give him a copy, but I suspect the book will have larger sales your side of the Alantic than over here.
    Films come and go in the States and except for Woody Allen, film majors, and the buffs in the big cities (NY, Chicago, LA, San Francisco and the film schools)not many people are into movies and their history. Of course, our films are all disposable now: all Wham, Bam, Explode It. Now, Sam!
    And granting that Admin is quote a film freak unquote, are British citizens in general still as deeply into moving pictures, as my Father always maintained on his return from WWII? (He was with the Office of War Information during WWII and stationed in London during the Blitz, then Dublin and finally liberated Belgium.)
    He always said: “My British friends were amazingly into all things film. At dinner parties people start talking and the conversation quickly reveal that everyone around the table had already seen the latest release and within days of its opening.Then the conversation would quickly cover a wide range of craft details: Wasn’t that the same set, but a touch modified with potted plants as was used in She Left A Lady? Did you notice Edward FitzRoy was the Best Boy on Return Passage to India? He must have worked on six films this year alone.
    When I visited London in early January 1960, I had dinner with some people and an early question asked me was: Have you seen Dr.No? Did you notice…?
    So here’s a sincere question I’ve been wanting to ask: Are films still as big and details still as remembered? (Setting aside Harry Potter and that other set of three movies starring she who shall not be named?

  2. J F Norris says:

    In the US it’s called Defining Moments in Movies: The Greatest Films, Stars, Scenes, and Events That Made Movie Magic. I just found a used copy for 90 cents. Merry Christmas (several weeks early) to me!

  3. Alan G says:

    I broke my heart last year. Managed to get my paws on a rare printing of William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and gave it to my dad.

    His response? “Did you get this from a second hand shop?”.


  4. Alan G says:

    I broke my heart last year. Managed to get my paws on a rare printing of William Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and gave it to my dad.

    His response? “Did you get this from a second hand shop?”.


  5. snowy says:

    I can’t speak for the entire UK, Dan. But I’ll hazzard a guess that since the arrival of first colour TV and then home viewing, Video then DVD etc. has diluted the effect.

    When a film appeared in a cinema for only seven days and then disapeared effectively forever. Everybody would rush out to see it, and it was the subject of conversation the following week, until it was supplanted by the next ‘big thing’.

    Film is still discussed, but in the ‘social networking age’ the majority of it now happens on Twitter and Facebook.

    I’m happy to have freed myself from the yoke of the film distributors schedule, and just consume films as I come across them. At the weekend for example I picked up a copy of an unknown (to me) Denzel Washington B-movie, which I rather enjoyed. But given it was a cop hunts killer, (with a Spanky-esque twist) it’s probably not that surprising.

  6. John Howard says:

    Alan – I think we all feel for you. Is it a shame that some people don’t appreciate the rare and the wonderful? I think probably not. It sounds as though you might do what I try not to do, but generally fail, give presents on the “I think its interesting/worthwhile” premise. Ah well, fall back on the ‘it’s the thought that counts’ solace.

    Dan – I think I agree with snowy, with the plethora of things vying for the attention of the young then what used to happen at the cinema must become diluted. I bet admin has at his finger tips the figures for ‘cinema viewing per capita’ though. I still find that when I am talking to my brother, who lives in Australia, at least part of the conversation centres around what films we have watched, what we thought of them, what they reminded us of and, being brothers, rubbishing part of each others choices. ( Obviously as he is the younger then he must be wrong.)
    Does it really come down in the end to the fact that our friends tend to be like minded people so we naturally assume our views are the views of the rest of the viewing public?

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Snowy & Howard: Thanks for the comments. I didn’t know that the films were only around for a week. Dad probably mentioned it, but I obviously forgot. Kind of neat though that people took such an interest. Not unlike people in Baltimore and other cities on the East Coast going down to the docks as a shipload of Dickins arrived, just to find out what happened to one of his characters and grab an episode. Spoiler country for the crews.
    And here it’s finally Election Day. Have fingers crossed, but can not wait to see the back of this cycle. What a great lot of cash has been spent for air. What a poor use of funds when there are so many better things needing to be done. Politics – Election year politics – the Spending Sport. I look at the red/blue map election map this year and see after after 150 years the old North and South map, circa the Civil War. This doen’t fill me with pride. And New Jersey! Horrible storm, an earthquake and next another deeply serious storm. Wish some of the election funds had gone there for the people. A bit more bad karma and the effected towns may feel they should take a tip from The Lottery. Remember that story?

  8. snowy says:

    I’m a tiny bit disappointed that more people from Britain didn’t respond to your request Dan. But they were probably all out last night burning things, and even now fully involved re-starching umbrellas and ironing bowlers as we speak.

    Films would only generally be exhibited for a week, unless they were madly popular and the latest ‘Bond’ would be a good example. It might run for a fortnight, but most towns only had a single screen. So it was always a risk that all your patrons might have seen it in the first week, and so in the second week the cinema could be completely empty.

    I’ve just remembered that if you were out in the sticks, then your local ‘fleapit’ would probably be a ‘second run’ cinema, and you would only get to see a film 2-4 weeks after release, because it depended on used prints being returned by the larger cinema chains. The distributors were supposed to check the quality of the print before sending it to Dunny-on-the wold, but some were better than others and you could find yourself watching a ‘brand new’ film, with all sorts of scratches and other defects. And if it got damaged, the projectionist would have to chop out that section and try to patch it back together, whole scenes could vanish, which could be a problem if the bit that went was the key ‘reveal’. That could start (good natured) arguments in the pub over exactly who did what, and was X really the murderer?

    As to the election, just keep repeating the mantra ‘this too will pass’ over and over again. And console yourself with the thought that some of the obscene amount of money spent on election ads might pay for a few descent TV series.

    Speaking of Wars, Civil, even on this sleepy little island, the population have occasionally waxed weary of our politicians, and the last time they were dismissed with following speech:

    “It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

    Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess? Ye have no more religion than my horse; gold is your God; which of you have not barter’d your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

    Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defil’d this sacred place, and turn’d the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices? Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation; you were deputed here by the people to get grievances redress’d, are yourselves gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

    In the name of God, go!”

    (I’ll let you decide if it is still applicable to governments today.)

  9. Dan Terrell says:

    Thanks to all. Really wondered. And with my wife working for one of the candidates most days after her teaching, I have been pondering the whole idea of running and funding a campaign. What cost and what energy spent.
    Side note: Last Saturday she went out knocking on doors to remind people to vote and was followed (with the campaign’s permission) by a film crew from Germany. Monday she was on the national 11:00 PM news show there and since we didn’t know when it would run, nobody we know there was aware she’d be on German public TV. Monday morning we had emails and phone calls from amazed distant relations. That was nice because she’s worked quite hard. I bought her some flowers, but have resisted asking for her autograph. Appreciate the extended comment, Snowy

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Dan, it’s the volunteers who really deserve the congratulations after a hard fought campaign. Give your wife a really nice wine and some smoked salmon as she watches the returns tonight, unless she’s at campaign central. We’re holding our breath up here as we wait.

  11. glasgow1975 says:

    Well I met my mum & aunt for lunch last weekend and films were very much a topic of discussion, the new Bond, my aunt’s excitement over a set piece in it that she couldn’t talk about until her fellow teachers & family had seen it too, I then recommended Argo to her & we discussed whether it was all high tension, or whether there were a few laughs in there along the way, as she’d seen the trailer and was a bit confused as to the tone. 🙂 Films are still very much on the agenda here 🙂

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Even here in B.C. theatres changed the marquees once a week. The new film was Thursday and ran through until Tuesday (?) I know that from the older generation’s talk, though, and that referred to the downtown theatres, because of course that’s where you went. The local was where the kids went on Saturday afternoon, and that was true even for me, although I don’t think there was a news reel, just the trailers, cartoon, short, serial and feature. The news and serial disappeared first, then the short and now there aren’t Saturday afternoon programmes.

  13. snowy says:

    I’ll throw a few more crumbs in the pot as they come back to me. I might have slightly misled when I said a feature was shown for a week. The cinema would be closed Sunday and Monday, so a week was really only 5 days.

    But there were many more cinemas around, post war than in the decades that came after. Most towns would have one cinema, a large town could have two or more.

    They gradually dwindled away becoming Bingo halls or nightclubs. In my little patch there were a dozen cinemas at their peak, now reduced to one of the old style and a rather bleak multiplex tucked in at the far end of an industrial park.

  14. Helen Martin says:

    We had 7 or 8 major theatres on one street in downtown Vancouver, one of them originally the Opera House. One major venue that was built for live as well as film presentations has been renovated and is now the home of the symphony. The interesting thing is that the city built a large theatre in the ’50’s and used it for opera, symphony and other major events, but everyone complained about the flawed sound, dead spots and other problems. We had matinee tickets for the symphony up in the balcony and I usually started to drop off to sleep because the A/C was turned off so as not to blur the sound. Now that they are back in the Orpheum there is no problem and the Mozart I heard the other night was beautifully crisp & clear.

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