I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Friday, June 3, 2016

Not To Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites From a Lifetime Of Film by Kenneth Turan

If you love movies, then this is the book for you.  Turan has been a critic for the Los Angles Times and NPR's Morning Edition as well as a writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide.  That being said, the man knows his movies, from growing up in the fifties and sixties watching old movies on the late show on TV, or sneaking out of the house to go to the cinema. 

Turan chose fifty-four movies, because he didn't want too many on the list and because fifty-four is a derivative of eighteen, which in Hebrew is chai, a lucky number.  After detailing while this movie made his list and giving a good description without giving the movie away, he lists movies to watch after you watch that one and books to follow up on.

While this book does have its fair share of movies I have never heard of, I still read about them because he made me want to see them (if only I had Netflx).  He starts off with the silent films and chooses the French film Fantomas and a double feature of a Buster Keaton and a Max Davidson (a sadly overlooked comedic actor of his time).  During the thirties among those he chooses is the really good classic I am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang that changed life for prisoners and two movies by Leo McCarey, one being Love Affair, a movie so good they remade it twice (once with Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr and another time with Annette Benning and Warren Beatty).

For the forties he picks the great period piece with Sir Lawrence Oliver, Pride and Prejudice, as well as the delightful Jimmy Stewart comedy The Shop Around the Corner.  Of course he can't help but put down The Lady Eve and the classic Casablanca.  He also chooses the French film Children of Paradise, that was made while the Germans held Paris and the two writers, who were Jewish, were sneaked out of hiding to do the movie.  However, he does leave out Citizen Kane.

He will tell you that oddly enough, most of his picks come from the fifties.  There is of course All About Eve, The Asphalt Jungle, Sunset Boulevard, Singing In the Rain, and Vertigo (at the time considered a flop). 

The seventies, which is considered a cornucopia of great movies by many critics, he only chose two films for:  The Godfather and Chinatown.  For the eighties he chose three documentaries, which I have not heard of.  The first, I am curious to see.  Its called The Day After Trinity and tells the story of how America's only reason for making the bomb was because the Germans were making one.  When we defeated the Germans, these scientists couldn't stop themselves from going forward, even though they didn't know that the bomb might be needed to stop Japan. They just, out of the thrill of science, felt the compulsion to complete the project.  Trinity is the name of the bomb they dropped to discover if it would work.  Miles away, cows that were white, were turned black. and these scientists were left wondering, in horror, what they had done.

In the nineties he chooses the Merchant-Ives classic Howard's End, and Unforgiven, a movie that Eastwood bought the rights for and then sat on it for ten years until he was old enough to play the role.  For the new century he chose the excellent anime Spirited Away, Of Gods and Men about a group of Monks living in an African country that have a great relationship with the villagers, until a dictator takes over the country and the monks must decide to stay and risk their lives for these villagers who need them, or flee for their own safety.

His last two movies were an Orson Wells double feature: Touch of Evil, a Mexican border drama staring Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh, as well as Chimes at Midnight with Wells playing Falstaff from the Shakespeare plays.

At the end of the book, he lists another fifty-four books, more of which you will be familiar with, to look at as well.  The books he chose are an interesting mix and I look forward to hunting them down on Turner Classics Channel.

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Not-Missed-Fifty-four-Favorites-Lifetime/dp/158648396X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1464937370&sr=1-1&keywords=not+to+be+missed+fifty-four+favorites+from+a+lifetime+of+film

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