The Movie Book Meme, Part II

Here is the second half of my response to the book meme (here’s Part I in case you missed it).  Thanks again to The Film Doctor for tagging me and to Movieman0283 for suggesting such a productive meme.

  1. One of the books that I found myself constantly revisiting when writing the book was Barbara Klinger’s Beyond the Multiplex, one of the best books out there on the implications of watching movies at home. Klinger looks at a variety of phenomena including home theater systems, DVD collecting, repeat film viewing, and online videos shorts to consider shifts in viewing practices as movie watching increasingly migrates into the home.  In a similar context, I found myself learning a lot from Anna McCarthy’s Ambient Television, especially in her discussion of how TV, typically associated with the home, “shapes and often dominates public spaces.”  Although McCarthy primarily addresses television as a medium, her book helped me to make sense of the increasing significance of mobile devices (such as iPods) in accessing movie content.
  2. Another book that came to me as I was finishing Reinventing Cinema was John Thornton Caldwell’s Production Culture, which examines the “cultural practices and belief systems of Los Angeles–based film and video production workers.”  In particular, I found Caldwell’s analysis of “industrial self-reflexivity,” especially as it is expressed in DVD commentary tracks, making-of documentaries, promotional texts, and user-generated content, to be incredibly helpful.
  3. In addition to the many scholarly books that have been important to me, I’d also like to list some books that capture, at least in part, the pleasures of movie watching.  Few recent books on film are more readable than Mark Harris’s Pictures at a Revolution, a history of the five films nominated for Best Picture Oscars in 1968, a pivotal year not only in the history of Hollywood but in the larger political world. As a fan of Bonnie and Clyde and The Graduate, two of the nominated films, I love the behind-the-scenes narratives that Harris masterfully weaves together.  As someone interested in the history of Hollywood, I find it an immensely readable resource.  Finally, Harris quietly captures the social and political change taking place while these films were being made.
  4. Although it’s a slightly flawed and clunky book, I’ve always liked Alberto Fuguet’s novel, The Movies of My Life, in which the protagonist, seismologist Beltran Soler, narrates the story of his life in relationship to movies that were important to him, both during his years living in the U.S. and his life in Chile.  Beltran starts his memoirs during a layover in a Los Angeles hotel room, a setting that seems apt for thinking about film’s powerful influence in our lives.
  5. Another book that taps into both my cinephilia and my appreciation of those who have written so eloquently about film is Philip Lopate’s indispensible collection, American Movie Critics: From Silents Until Now, a collection of film reviews dating from the earliest days of the genre to the present, at a moment when film criticism is itself rapidly transforming as some of our most insightful critics write not for newspapers and magazines but for blogs and other websites. The book is a great resource for tracing the debates about ongoing, but ever-changing, role of movies in our daily lives, as they played out on the pages of local and national newspapers and magazines.

I’m supposed to tag five other people, but I’m always hesitant to do that, so consider this an open invitation to join the meme.  When you do, be sure to link back to the origins of the meme at The Dancing Image.


  1. MovieMan0283 Said,

    July 11, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

    And more extremely intriguing titles! That sociologically-minded Production Culture sounds especially enticing. I lived in New York for a while, and have never lived in L.A., and would be interested in the difference betwen “industry” types in the former and the latter (though of course, the bulk of said industry is in L.A., NYC certainly has a substantial population connected with film, not to mention audiovisual media in general).

    As for my previous comment, clearly I can not read sidebars as you list the title right there! Sounds interesting…

  2. MovieMan0283 Said,

    July 11, 2009 @ 9:24 pm

    By the way, does Production Culture theorize on how the ethos of the “workers” enters into the product as well?

  3. Chuck Said,

    July 11, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

    Production Culture is pretty dense, but I found it very valuable, especially given how Caldwell theorizes how above-the-line and below-the-line workers think about the industry differently. Because he’s at UCLA, my understanding is that Caldwell focuses on Hollywood, but a comparative analysis of the two cultures would be interesting, too.

    I’ve been trying not to overhype the book in the text of the blog, so I’m glad you caught the references to it in the margin. As for your second question, I’m not sure I know what you mean by ethos here, but he does offer quite a bit of analysis of how the industry thinks about itself both privately (to themselves) and publicly (in shows such as Studio 60, industry reports, and other models of “industry self-reflexivity”).

  4. Matt Thomas Said,

    September 17, 2009 @ 1:42 pm

    Bookmarked this post shortly after you posted it and am just now returning to. I also liked Pictures at a Revolution and am glad to see it included here. I thought Harris did a particularly good job of talking about Sidney Poitier’s career. I was pleasantly surprised by how attuned Harris was to race.

    Here’s a similar list I like courtesy of Jeffrey Wells.

  5. Chuck Said,

    September 17, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

    Thanks for checking back in. Harris’s books is a great read, and I’m sure I’ll returning to it frequently.

  6. Chuck Said,

    September 17, 2009 @ 3:06 pm

    Wells’ list is also a really good one.

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