The critics were always mixed, his films occasionally made money, and he didn’t really care about plot, but actors absolutely adored working with Robert Altman and the performances he got out of them were career-best. Always an innovator behind the camera and in front of it, Altman directed 37 films and pioneered his use of ensemble casts, improvised and overlapping dialogue and widescreen and “flashing” photography. This loud, gorgeous book is packed with photos, an autobiography by the director’s widow, and numerous essays attesting to Altman’s genius from the likes of Jules Feiffer, Kurt Vonnegut and Michael Murphy to name but a few! A fitting tribute to an American filmic genius.
In the early ‘90s comedian Patton Oswalt moved to L.A. to pursue his dream of being a professional TV writer and filmmaker. Soon after arriving he fell under the spell of the New Beverly Cinema’s retrospective series and began to devote more time to watching cinematic masterpieces than concentrating on his career. Silver Screen Fiend is an entertaining memoir of growing up, movie-going and the burgeoning alt-comedy scene, but is ultimately about learning to stop dwelling in the craft of others and learning to devote the time and obsession to your own.
Kenneth Turan started watching movies as a kid growing up in Brooklyn and tuned in often to the TV program “Million Dollar Movie.” As a longtime film critic for The Los Angeles Times, he’s been able to indulge his childhood interest over and over. In Not to be Missed: Fifty-four Favorites From a Lifetime of Film (PublicAffairs, $25.99), Turan takes on the challenge of choosing the movies he’s enjoyed most. Why fifty-four? You’ll have to read the book to find out. But Turan did discover that limiting the number was harder than expected. In fact, he couldn’t resist suggesting a fifty-fifth film—actually two films tied for the slot—and then he appended another list of fifty-four movies that he also treasures. Turan doesn’t only critique his picks; he also provides back stories about the making of the films, discusses the actors and directors, and mixes in some cultural context. You probably won’t agree with all his selections. That’s OK—Turan recognizes that personal tastes can play a big part in judging films. He was careful not to call his picks the best films ever, just his own favorites.