Movies by the book
Attention film geeks: These books are for you! And for your loved ones, and for your movie-obsessed cousins and nephews, grandparents and best pals.
Attention film geeks: These books are for you! And for your loved ones, and for your movie-obsessed cousins and nephews, grandparents and best pals. And for you, if you want to immerse yourself in the world of moving images - even when you're nowhere near a theater or a smartphone, sitting on your sofa, or in a cafe, not a remote control or flat screen in sight. Just the pages of a book.
From an epic and authoritative chronicle of the Oscars to behind-the-scenes anecdotes of filmcraft, to a deep, detailed exploration of digital imaging, to ridiculously captivating photos of film gods and goddesses and their canine friends, the season is a time for Hollywood-themed books. Here's a roundup of 10 notable screen-centric titles:
85 YEARS OF THE OSCARS: The Official History of the Academy Awards Robert Osborne (Abbeville Press, $75) Six-and-a-half pounds of movie history, packed with photos, facts and essential Oscar info, from the ceremonies' first year (1927) all the way to last February's star-studded lovefest (best picture: Argo). Film scholar and TCM host Osborne contributes thoughtful commentary to the newly revised edition, and the decade-by-decade lists of nominations and winners, illustrated with key art, candids, and production stills, are essential for any cineaste completist's library.
THE CG STORY: Computer Generated Animation and Special Effects Christopher Finch (Monacelli Press, $75) A comprehensive, colorful coffee table tome that delves deeply, but not too geekily, into what is arguably the most momentous change in filmmaking since the advent of sound: digital visual effects. Finch traces the development from the first motion control shot (in 1977's Star Wars) through the landmark computer-animated Pixar hits (Toy Story, The Incredibles) to the latest digitally rendered magic-scapes of The Hobbit and Life of Pi. The book is huge, the images - from movies famous and forgotten - exquisite.
A COMPREHENSIVE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM NOIR: The Essential Reference Guide John Grant (Limelight Editions, $49.99) Grant, a ridiculously prolific writer and critic, serves up pithy capsule overviews of, yes, more than 3,500 films, from the certified noir classics (Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Out of the Past) to lesser-known pulps, neo-noirs and foreign titles. The hard-boiled P.I., the femme fatale, the ominous shadows angling menacingly across back-alley walls, the corruption, the lust, the losers . . . all here, with generous spreads of black-and-white and color art, too.
THE FILM CREW OF HOLLYWOOD: Profiles of Grips, Cinematographers, Designers, a Gaffer, a Stuntman and a Makeup Artist James C. Udell (McFarland, $39.99) A film school must-read, Udell's in-depth survey of 10 below-the-line talents who worked on such pictures as Bullitt, Chinatown, The Hustler, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and The Searchers offers insights both technical and artistic - and great behind-the-scenes shots of the likes of Steve McQueen, Sylvester Stallone, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, and Janet Leigh. You'll never make jokes about gaffers and key grips again.
FOSSE Sam Wasson (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin, $32) The only person to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony all in the same year, Bob Fosse was a wildly talented, wildly insecure, and wildly hopped-up actor, choreographer, and theater director who brought his electric energy and innovative vision to a handful of films - a handful not to be taken lightly: All That Jazz, Cabaret, Lenny, Sweet Charity, Star 80. (OK, maybe that last one - with Mariel Hemingway as Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten - isn't exactly a masterwork, but give it another look.) Wasson's biography is richly researched and passionate, and while Fosse's film pursuits are only a part of the story, his life had a cinematic sweep.
GEORGE HURRELL'S HOLLYWOOD: Glamour Portraits 1925-1992 Mark A. Vieira (Running Press, $60) Many of the most iconic images to come out of Hollywood, from the Silent Era through well after World War II, were the work of the great studio photographer George Hurrell. This handsome 416-page collection offers one breathtaking, beautiful shot after another - sophisticated, luminous portraits of Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy, Norma Shearer, and super-stylish, seductive scores more. For decades, from his Sunset Boulevard studio, Hurrell turned out unforgettable, unabashedly romantic photographs. To have so many of them in hand, from heretofore closely held collections, is a thrill.
GUILLERMO DEL TORO'S CABINET OF CURIOSITIES: My Notebooks, Collections, and Other Obsessions Guillermo del Toro, Marc Zicree (Harper Design, $60) Del Toro, the life force behind Pan's Labyrinth and the Hellboy franchise, has long kept notebooks and sketchbooks crammed with beautifully drawn creatures and exotic, otherworldly tableaux. Page after page of his wild imaginings are reprinted in this elaborately packaged book. Also: photographs of his house, chockablock with props, paintings, and cinema collectibles. The director as fanboy pack rat!
HOLLYWOOD DOGS: Pictures from the John Kobal Foundation Robert Dance (Antique Collectors Club, $45) A teenage Elizabeth Taylor shampooing her cocker spaniel, Rock Hudson nuzzling with his schnauzer, Bogie and Bacall and their boxer, basking in a black-and-white magic-hour glow . . . . For dog lovers and vintage movie junkies, the dream book: photo after classic photo of movie stars and their mutts, or, more often, their purebred terriers, hounds, setters, herders, and lapdogs. Culled from one of the great old Hollywood photo collections.
MOVIE ICONS 365 Day-By-Day (Taschen, $29.99) From the art book publisher Taschen, a datebook that doesn't owe allegiance to a given year, and one that offers 365 double-page spreads of images from a wide, wild range of films (Jan. 19, A Hard Day's Night; June 17, Robocop; Dec. 27, Blonde Venus). With movie star birthdays, poster art, critics' praises, and quotes from the films themselves, it's a bit of a hodgepodge, but the randomness is part of its appeal - constant surprise.
THE WES ANDERSON COLLECTION Matt Zoller Seitz (Abrams, $40) You'd expect a book about the movies of Anderson - from his first, 1996's Bottle Rocket, to his 2012 gem Moonrise Kingdom - to be quirky and gorgeous, fetishistic and full of oddball surprise. This hefty coffee-table book is all that, and more. Critic Seitz's illuminating interviews with the idiosyncratic writer/director are woven through chapters on each of Anderson's seven features to date (The Grand Budapest Hotel, coming next year, is not included.) The pages are packed with photographs, production stills, illustrations (by Max Dalton), sketches, objects, and whatnots - offering insights into this unique filmmaker's trademark aesthetic.