“There is no such thing as a $5 million independent movie,” John Waters tells Chris Kaltenbach in the Baltimore Sun. “They want me to go make it like I used to, but I have no desire to do that. I did that. I have 17 movies, they’re all playing everywhere in the world, more than ever. I’ve spoken.” What’s more, he claims to actually be earning more writing books.
Choire Sicha reviews his latest for Bookforum: “A hero of both America and Americana, Waters has changed the culture of the country as much as any other living filmmaker—Errol Morris, Wes Anderson, or Paul Verhoeven. Having written a couple of memoirs, he now turns his gaze more strictly on himself in a strange stunt book, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America… The stunt was that Waters, who is now sixty-eight, would hitchhike from his primary home in Baltimore to his San Francisco residence.” And “Waters tears a mannequin of the stunt genre apart and spits in its face.” You can read an excerpt in the Baltimore City Paper, where Baynard Woods interviews Waters as well. And Mark Yarm meets him, too, for Vulture.
Back in Bookforum, Heather Havrilesky on a couple of celebrity books: “Not only do most such titles expound upon the marvelousness of their subjects, they’re also usually written by professional ghostwriters—i.e., people who are paid to follow celebrities around, listening to how truly humbled and truly blessed they feel, and then to translate that rambling positive self-regard into a coherent narrative that makes its subject sound faintly humanlike and mortal-ish. Good ghostwriters are magicians, in other words. And if there were justice in the world, reviews of a celebrity book would award extra points for degree of difficulty, based on the odiousness of the book’s subject.”
“On July 28, Phaidon will release two new books in its Cahiers du Cinema ‘Anatomy of an Actor’ series, one of which is my own study of Robert De Niro,” notes Glenn Kenny. “The other is Amy Nicholson’s look at the work of Tom Cruise, an intriguing excerpt or offshoot of which appears here.” The series “examines careers of contemporary actors via detailed essays on ten individual films…. What I try to do in the book, true to its title, is examine De Niro’s work and his choices, and also to dig up some satisfying answers to questions that seem to torment some of his one-time admirers. But the fulcrum of my thesis has to do with how we mythologize great performers, and how in so doing we’re almost doomed to be eventually disappointed in them.”
Film Desk’s first book, released in an edition of 500, is a “volume of 40 pages contains five New Yorker Talk of the Town pieces by Lillian Ross, each of which follow François Truffaut during five visits to New York between 1960 and 1976, on occasions of the New York Film Critics Circle Awards and New York Film Festivals.”
Los Angeles Times and Morning Edition film critic Kenneth Turan has a new book out, Not to be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime in Film, and talks about it with NPR’s Steve Inskeep—and writes about it in the LAT: “I became a critic out of a deep passion for films and their ability to simultaneously do several things I love: take me out of this world and return me to it not only entertained but, if I am fortunate, with my emotions and my understanding enlarged. I look on the best of the movies I’ve seen as friends who’ve enriched my life. As director Werner Herzog said, a memorable film ‘sticks to you forever. It never leaves you. It becomes part of your existence.'”
Since each chapter is about a particular theme or motif, hopping around within the genre’s history makes sense. Those themes include the role of tradition (which makes the chapter on that subject effectively a précis of the book), musical stars, the business side, the relationship between artifice and verisimilitude, the music of musicals, fiascos, animation (maybe the most illuminating chapter), the role of race and gayness, and the impact of television.
Barrios knows this material inside out, which allows him to step back to make often inspired observations. “Dance on film, pre-Astaire,” he writes, “had been finite and self-contained, more for groups than solos or duets, a toilsome thing not connected with life or emotion or anything other than exertion.” Speaking of exertion, Joan Crawford on-screen offers “Kabuki spontaneity.” The movie version of Hello, Dolly! (1969) resembles “a convention of wedding cakes.” The chemistry between Shirley Temple and Bill (Bojangles) Robinson in The Little Colonel (1935) is “about two performers connecting, like Astaire and Rogers did or Hope and Crosby or Monroe and Russell, finding in their shared music an irresistible path to a very particular kind of joy.” Of course some kinds of joy are more particular than others: Betty Hutton was “extroverted to the point of exhaustion.”
Mark Harris’s Five Came Back “is an essential for students of Hollywood and history, easily the best book I’ve read so far this year,” declares Vince Keenan. “In recounting the role of studio filmmakers in the Allied war effort, it represents the rare combination of a story that demands to be told and a writer who is more than up to the challenge.”
“British Cinema often gets the reputation of being a cinema of stately homes, period drama, politeness, etiquette, the upper class life and Hugh Grant stuttering whilst trying to seduce an American woman,” writes Bradley Tuck at One+One Filmmakers Journal. “I.Q. Hunter’s British Trash Cinema offers an alternative narrative which takes us on a journey through British exploitation cinema, hammer horror, science fiction b-movies, pre-historic films, sexploitation, pornography, punk cinema, auteurs such as Anthony Balch, Ken Russell, Derek Jarman who blurred high and low culture and kitsch classics like Boom and Can Heironymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?“
“Pauline Kael wrote ‘Trash, Art and the Movies‘ in 1969, when trashy movies needed a boost via a pioneering critic and a glossy magazine,” writes Lara Zarum for Slate. “Today, the merits of a gleefully tacky movie hardly need to be defended. If you want proof that bad movies have their own particular value system, visit a packed midnight screening of The Room. But It Doesn’t Suck, Adam Nayman’s critical re-evaluation of Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 film Showgirls, doesn’t go the ‘so bad it’s good’ route. Nayman, a Toronto film critic, won’t let the movie off the hook that easily. He advocates for a view of Showgirls as intentional and premeditated—maybe even art.”
For Bright Lights, Doug Brunell talks at length with Steve Jones, a senior lecturer in media and cultural theory at Northumbria University, about his book, Torture Porn: Popular Horror Cinema After Saw.
Blogging for the Paris Review, Dan Piepenbring looks back on the critical reception of Frank and Eleanor Perry’s 1968 adaption of John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer,” and snips a passage from Annette Grant‘s interview with Cheever: “This is no reflection on Hollywood, but it’s just that I seemed to have a suicide complex there.”
Listening (20’46”). Scott Eyman talks about his new biography, John Wayne: The Life and Legend, on the Leonard Lopate Show. And for Esquire, Calum Marsh writes up the “5 Best Goddamn John Wayne Movies.”
While none of “the 15 Best Books of 2014 (So Far)” have much to do with cinema, I figured you’d want to know that Lev Grossman‘s drawn up the list for Time.
More books? See last week‘s roundup.