I wasn’t planning to include this book this year because of its length (over 700 pages), but I needed to look up some information and once I started re-reading, I couldn’t stop, and since I have all this free time... you get the point.
Roger Ebert put out this compilation of film writing, from the birth of the medium in the 19th century to modern times. He divides the book into sections: moviegoing, movie stars, the business, “sex and scandal,” “early days,” genres, directors, writers, critics, “technique,” and “Hollywood.” Each section contains a number of passages, either essays or excerpts from longer works, fiction and non-fiction, on some aspect of the movies.
The lineup spans a century of writing and includes way more than just movie-related writers: Terry McMillan, Larry McMurtry, Tom Wolfe, John Updike, Mario Puzo, Susan Sontag, Charles Bukowski, F. Scott Fitzgerald, even Leo Tolstoy—and that’s in addition to Francois Truffaut, William Castle, Charlie Chaplin, Ingmar Bergman, Akira Kurosawa, Spike Lee, David Mamet, Groucho Marx, and so many more.
I bought this book around the time it first came out, back during my video store days, because it seemed like the kind of book that would help me better understand the movies. I was fortunate to have worked in a video store with an extremely diverse selection, Hollywood classics as well as independents and foreign films, and at the time my knowledge was very limited.
In the introduction, Ebert talks about the hold movies have on our imaginations:
...In my childhood and adolescence I’d liked the movies, to be sure, but they were like other forms of entertainment, like books or the radio, and I didn’t view them as an art form—maybe because I wasn’t seeing very good ones. In 1958, in high school, I saw Citizen Kane for the first time and understood two things: that a movie could suggest the truth about a human life and that movies were the expression of the vision of those who made them.... For me, no other art form touches life the way the movies do.You can’t go wrong with this book. There’s something for everyone in it.