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Filmmakers

Book Review: Tarantino – A Retrospective (Revised and Expanded Edition)

Tarantino - Revised Cover

Publisher: Insight Editions

Release Date: September 07, 2021

Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 1963, Quentin Tarantino spent many Saturday evenings during his childhood accompanying his mother to the movies, nourishing a love of film that was, over the course of his life, to become all-consuming. It is just as well, because he would grow up to be one of American cinema’s most celebrated filmmakers. Known for his highly cinematic visual style, out-of-sequence storytelling, and grandiose violence, Tarantino’s films have provoked both praise and criticism over the course of his career. They’ve also won him a host of awards — including Oscars, Golden Globes, and BAFTA awards — usually for his original screenplays. His oeuvre includes the cult classic Pulp Fiction, bloody revenge saga Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and historical epics Inglorious Basterds, Django Unchained, and The Hateful Eight. This stunning retrospective catalogs each of Quentin Tarantino’s movies in detail, from My Best Friend’s Birthday to The Hateful Eight. The book is a tribute to a unique directing and writing talent, celebrating an uncompromising, passionate director’s enthralling career at the heart of cult filmmaking.

Quentin Tarantino

Make no mistake about this, Tarantino: A Retrospective isn’t merely coffee-table fluff with a lot of great photographs and artwork (although, there are plenty of great photos to be found throughout the book). This is an informative examination of the director’s career. Tom Shone’s text is a seamless mixture of career biography, retrospective appreciation, and film criticism. Surprisingly, there aren’t many essential books available about the director. This makes Shone’s text all the more essential for those who love the director’s work. In our review of the original edition, we mentioned that some might feel that the text was slightly premature since Tarantino has consistently insisted that he will only make ten films before he retires from making movies. It seemed a shame that his final two films were inevitably left out of the retrospective.

Well, this new edition of the book tries to rectify this one issue slightly by adding a sixteen page chapter that covers Once Upon A Time in Hollywood and a slightly different epilogue that is slightly updated from the 2017 edition. Everything else about the book is exactly the same, so it may not be worth the money to purchase this new edition if you already own the first edition. Having said this, those who do not yet own either edition of the book will want to pick up this “Revised and Expanded Edition.”

Tarantino - Revised Edition - Open

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Filmmakers

Book Review: The Nolan Variations

The Nolan Variations - Cover

Publisher: Penguin / Random House

Release Date: November 03, 2020

Imagine a college course on the cinema of Christopher Nolan. Tom Shone’s The Nolan Variations: The Movies Mysteries, and Marvels of Christopher Nolan would be the textbook. This beautifully rendered comprehensive examination of the director’s work is the most complete text on the subject to date, and it has benefited from the cooperation of Nolan himself. He has written a book that outclasses his incredible career-spanning texts on Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese (Tarantino: A Retrospective and Martin Scorsese: A Retrospective, and he takes a different approach to this volume in that he doesn’t present the information in a strictly chronological manner but is organized instead by thirteen themes and motifs (each constituting a chapter of the book): Structure, Orientation, Time, Perception, Space, Illusion, Chaos, Dreams, Revolution, Emotion, Survival, Knowledge, and Endings. Nolan fans will welcome and cherish this extensive volume as it will certainly embellish their knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Nolan’s work. Highly Recommended.

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Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: Wes Anderson – The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work

Wes Anderson - Cover

Publisher: Quarto Press

Release Date: November 03, 2020

This reviewer is fast becoming a fan of Ian Nathan’s wonderful series of books on various modern auteurs of the cinema. His books on Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers were both enthusiastically received, and I found that “Alien Vault” was well worth reading as well. The truth is that it is Nathan’s name that captured my attention when I learned about this beautiful book about Wes Anderson. I’ve never been a huge Wes Anderson fan (although I do greatly admire three of his films), but Nathan’s thoughtful examination of his filmography has certainly given me a new appreciation for his aesthetic.

Wes Anderson - Slipcase and Book

Wes Anderson - Centerfold

Wes Anderson - Spread 01

Wes Anderson - Spread 02

Those who are already enthusiastic about the director’s work will find even more to love about this excellent career spanning volume as Anderson’s themes, motifs, and narratives are discussed in some depth and put into context. There is an individual chapter devoted to each of his feature films, and this includes The French Dispatch (which hasn’t even been released yet). It’s safe to say that this is an essential text for Wes Anderson cultists.

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Filmmakers

Book Review: Paul Thomas Anderson — Masterworks

Distributor: Abrams Books

Release Date: October 20, 2020

Adam Nayman’s (author of The Coen Brothers: This Book Really Ties the Films Together) career spanning examination of Paul Thomas Anderson’s filmography is one of only two books about the director’s work and the only comprehensive text that covers each of his films to date. Each of the director’s eight films is discussed and examined in some detail, but Nayman organizes his book quite differently than similar books. Instead of examining Anderson’s work in chronological order, he presents his essays in the order of the era that each of his movies are set (with the notable exception of Phantom Thread): There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice, Boogie Nights, Hard Eight, Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love, and Phantom Thread. Anderson’s influences, his style, and the recurring themes of alienation, reinvention, ambition, and destiny that course through his movies are analyzed in enough detail to add enormously to the reader’s appreciation of these films.

This would be more than enough to warrant our enthusiasm for this volume, but Nayman also includes a selection of interviews with seven of Anderson’s closest collaborators — including JoAnne Sellar (producer), Dylan Tichenor (editor), Robert Elswit (cinematographer), Jonny Greenwood (composer), Jack Fisk (production designer), Mark Bridges (costume designer), and Vicky Krieps (actor) — and illuminated by film stills, archival photos, original illustrations, and an appropriately psychedelic design aesthetic. It’s a wonderful gift for anyone who admires the Anderson’s work and may very well earn him a few new fans.

Categories
Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: Stanley Kubrick – New York Jewish Intellectual

Publisher: Rutgers University Press

Release Date: April 19, 2018

Quite a lot has been written about Stanley Kubrick, but it isn’t often that a text offers cinephiles a truly new prism in which to view his filmography. Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual reexamines the director’s work in context of his ethnic and cultural origins. Many reviews of this text are suggesting that the book answers a single question: “Just how Jewish was Stanley Kubrick?” However, this seems to be missing the point. Nathan Abrams merely dissects each of the director’s films in an effort to examine how Jewish elements made their way into his filmography. Each chapter offers a detailed analysis of one of Kubrick’s major films, including LolitaDr. Strangelove2001A Clockwork OrangeBarry LyndonThe ShiningFull Metal Jacket, and Eyes Wide ShutStanley Kubrick thus presents an illuminating look at one of the twentieth century’s most renowned and yet misunderstood directors. The analysis of each film is quite exhaustive. In fact, some points can occasionally feel strained as if Abrams overreaching, but this isn’t a problem since any unique examination of Kubrick’s work can only enrich the reader’s appreciation and understanding of the films being discussed. Stanley Kubrick fans should certainly find a place of honor on their book shelves for this always engaging text.

Categories
Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: Stanley Kubrick – American Filmmaker (Jewish Lives)

Stanley Kubrick - American Filmmaker - Cover

Publisher: Yale University Press

Release Date: August 18, 2020

Kubrick enthusiasts will be wondering how this new volume compares to John Baxter’s biography (which was approximately 360 pages in length if one doesn’t count the book’s various appendages) and Vincent Lobrutto’s examination of the director’s life (which was a healthy 500 pages in length if one discounts the appendages). This new text by David Mikics is less comprehensive in many ways (it is only 204 pages) but examines Stanley Kubrick’s life through a different lens than the two previous tomes.

Stanley Kubrick: American Filmmaker is part of a “prizewinning series of interpretative biography designed to explore the many facets of Jewish identity. Individual volumes illuminate the imprint of Jewish figures upon literature, religion, philosophy, politics, cultural and economic life, and the arts and sciences.” David Mikics draws from interviews and new archival material to examine the enigmatic director’s life and how it influenced his work. He puts forth the theory that “Kubrick’s Jewishness played a crucial role in his idea of himself as an outsider.” His life and work is examined in this particular context, and this alternative approach to the subject has resulted in a book that will earn its place in Kubrickian scholarship even if one expects Mikics to examine this angle more than he does. It certainly makes a terrific introductory primer on the director’s life and work.

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Alfred Hitchcock Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Interview: Hitchcock’s California – Vista Visions from the Camera Eye

Alfred Hitchcock Master

Hitchcock's California (Small Cropped)

Publisher: Middlebrow Books

Release Date: March 29, 2020 (Tentative)

Robert Jones (Small) Robert Jones

A Conversation with Robert Jones

Hitchcock’s California: Vista Visions from the Camera Eye” celebrates (and re-creates) images that evoke scenes from many of the great director’s most famous films—including Notorious, Vertigo, North by Northwest, Psycho, The Birds, and a great many more classics. It was a labor of love for Robert Jones (the book’s primary creator) and a treat for Alfred Hitchcock’s fans. Jones’s excellent location photography is supplemented by photographs created by Aimee Sinclair that re-create memorable scenes from “Hitch’s” greatest movies and commentary by Dan Auiler (author of “Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic” and “Hitchcock’s Notebooks“).

Alfred Hitchcock Master is honored to have had the opportunity to talk to Robert Jones, Aimee Sinclair, and Dan Auiler about their incredible new book:

AHM: How…

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Categories
"Making of" Directing Filmmakers

Book Review: My Best Friend’s Birthday – The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film

MBFB Cover

Publisher: BearManor Media

Release Date: October 06, 2019

My Best Friend’s Birthday: The Making of a Quentin Tarantino Film is a book that few expected. The film discussed wasn’t even completed, and most books on the director relegate this abandoned effort to a mere footnote. Andrew J. Rausch hopes to remedy this unfortunate tendency amongst Tarantino scholars. The writer interviewed a great many of those who worked on the project—including Tarantino himself—and presents these textual interview snippets in an order that traces how each of these people came together, other early film projects they worked on, and how they ended up making (or trying to make) a black-and-white screwball comedy. The final section of the book is a breakdown of the film as it would have been if it had been completed. He also makes the argument that My Best Friend’s Birthday is something far more meaningful than a curiosity. After all, the film’s production was a formative experience in Tarantino’s life. It helped shape his voice and prepared him for bigger and better projects. If the book has a weakness, it is that the “oral history” nature of the text results in a book that is sometimes slightly repetitive. However, one imagines that scholars and fans will be thrilled to have this information available to them as it offers a relatively detailed account of a part of Tarantino’s history that has been largely reduced to mere trivia until now.

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"Making of" Classic Cinema Filmmakers

Book Review: Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film (40th Anniversary Edition)

Alien Vault - Cover

Publisher: Quarto Press

Release Date: November 19, 2019

For 40 years, audiences have been simultaneously captivated and appalled as the spaceship Nostromo is invaded and its crew stalked by a terrifying parasitic creature. From the gore of the infant alien bursting from Kane’s chest to the mounting claustrophobia as Ripley discovers the monster has followed her into the escape shuttle, Alien is a chilling masterpiece. It is a film that deserves an excellent “Making of” text, but are two texts really necessary?

Quarto Press is giving Ian Nathan’s Alien Vault: The Definitive Story of the Making of the Film a 40th Anniversary edition that falls on the heels of J. W. Rinzler’s The Making of Alien—a larger and longer coffee table epic that this reviewer thoroughly enjoyed. However, there is something to be said for Ian Nathan’s original book, which manages to be just as gorgeous and engaging as Rinzler’s later work.

There is plenty of informational overlap, and both books contain some of the same production photographs. However, there are enough differences to recommend both texts to die-hard Alien fanatics. Both books trace the path of the film’s production “from embryonic concept to fully fledged box office phenomenon,” but there are differences in their delivery and a few nuggets of information that don’t cross over. What’s more, both books include a wealth of production photography, sketches, storyboards, and all sorts of pertinent visual documentation.

In fact, Nathan’s book adds icing to the cake by adding two compartments containing “ten meticulously reproduced artifacts—such as replications of storyboards, a detailed schematic of the Nostromo, early designs of O’Bannon’s face-hugger concept, and a promotional poster from Japan.” It’s a nice tactile bonus for fans to enjoy. What’s more, this 40th Anniversary edition has an added chapter that discusses “Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien saga with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.” Better yet, lends this text added legitimacy by providing the book’s forward.

In other words, each book is nice enough to warrant a special place on the cinephile’s bookshelf. Casual fans who prefer to only add one book to their collection may find the Rinzler text a bit more substantial, but don’t proceed under the illusion that you aren’t missing anything by not examining Nathan’s beautiful book.

Categories
"Making of" Directing Filmmakers

Book Review: Quentin Tarantino — The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work

Book Cover.jpg

Publisher: Quarto Press

Release Date: October 01, 2019

Those who have read Ian Nathan’s wonderful book about the Coen Brothers (The Coen Brothers: The Iconic Filmmaker’s and Their Work) will know what to expect on this even better book about Quentin Tarantino’s filmography. One could call it a career biography as it is a nice fusion of scholarly analysis and “behind the scenes” information. Tarantino fans will want to have this on their shelves as it makes for terrific bedtime reading, and film scholars will be happy to have it as a resource (especially since there aren’t that many books about Quentin’s work). The book covers each of the director’s nine primary films—including Once Upon A Time In Hollywood—as well as those he wrote but didn’t direct (True Romance, From Dusk Till Dawn, and Natural Born Killers). Honestly, I am going to keep an eye out for any future books written by Ian Nathan.

Contents

Reservoir Dogs - Spread

Kill Bill Volume One and Two - Spread