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Defining Moments in Movies: The Greatest Films, Stars, Scenes and Events that Made Movie Magic Paperback – October 1, 2007

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 800 pages
  • Publisher: Cassell Illustrated; First Edition edition (October 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844036049
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844036042
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 7.9 x 1.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,571,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Marc G. Snyder on November 9, 2007
Rarely does a book lover find a book that he or she has simply not heard / read / seen somewhere before. Even more so, it is rare to find such a book written on a subject that is loved just as much as books. Confused yet? Well this is an amazing book about amazing movies. Two of my greatest loves are books and movies, in no particular order. I already own several "movie guides," and subscribe to several magazines written about and reviewing books. However, this book is so much more than a film review or a compendium of film reviews. This is because the editors have taken it upon themselves to follow a theme other than than "movie you have gotta see!!" or "the BEST film of 199_, 200_."

The theme of this book is: "movies whose defining moments literally made movie magic." Of course, a more cynical person could easily find vast amusement in tearing this book apart and my review in the process, arguing that I had be "taken in" by the books easily candied ideas and was simply swept away by its flashing lights and colors. Perhaps it is true, but I don't think so. Here's why.

There have been thousands and thousands of movies made. So many times we are alerted to "the movie of the year," or "one of the greatest movies of our generation." What this book attempts to do, and in my opinion, greatly succeeds at, is getting passed this hyperbole and actually giving the true reason(s) why the movie is that good. Of course there are many, many movies that are really good, but would never be considered as one that has made movie magic. I often find myself switching through my cable guide and looking to see whether the movie I am watching is considered a one, two, three or four star movie, The intrepid enthusiasts at Comcast continuously keep my attention.
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DEFINING MOMENTS IN MOVIES is an illustrated compendium of 1,000 short articles by 60-odd critics, authors, directors, professors, economists and historians highlighting significant films, actors, scenes, directors, technical innovations, etc. from 1890 to 2007. It's quite a cinematic grab-bag.

The entries in this massive, 800 page tome are arranged by decade. Each 'defining moment' is reviewed in its historical context with commentary on its impact on movie making, movie history or movie viewing.

In some ways the 'defining moments' title is misleading. In perusing this book, you come across articles on key films, key scenes in a film, key cinematic events, key people and key speeches in a film. Each page contains two articles. So, one page, for example, discusses Dustin Hoffman's "I'm Walking Here" speech from MIDNIGHT COWBOY and Jacques Rivette's film L'AMOUR FOU. Another has articles on a scene from THE LONG GOODBYE and George Lucas' far-sighted decision to demand merchandising rights to STAR WARS from 20th Century Fox instead of more money upfront. A third page covers the death of Rudolf Valentino and the opening sequence from A PAGE OF MADNESS and so on.

The book's editor, Chris Fujiwara, didn't lay down restrictive guidelines to the contributors on what constituted a key moment. Consequently, the entries are all over the board, which is a plus and a minus. I can certainly see why the development of CGI rates an article or the $100 million dollar price tag on TERMINATOR 2 or the personal baggage that gave such emotional impact to Marilyn Monroe's MISFITS scenes...but an article on Daniel Day-Lewis' running form in LAST OF THE MOHICANS!?! Likewise many of the entries touch upon films few of us have seen or probably will be able to see.

Depending on your knowledge of movies, DEFINING MOMENTS IN MOVIES may be a treasure or way too much of a good thing. Recommended with some reservations.
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Verified Purchase
This was an impulse buy as a holiday gift for an old friend. I wasn't expecting much. But I was most impressed when it arrived. This is a very thoughtful piece. The cover leads you to believe it's going to be about memorable scenes in films. It's considerably more than that. It's often about how film effects popular culture, and vice-versa. After giving the first copy away, I bought one for myself.
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Beautiful and abundant images compliment some generally well written and well thought out editorials about defining movie moments in cinematic history. At its price point this is a virtual no-brainer for the ardent film buff. I wouldn't suggest it as a 'sit down and read through it book but more as a 'bit at a time' sort of book. Good for short moments in time in a very small room (ahem).

Telling the positive side of things without mentioning the negatives is only half of the coin. Downside is some reviewers get a bit pretentious, picking alternate scenes in a film rather than going with the popular choice or paying more attention to under-appreciated directors while ignoring some major players. I love Fritz Lang but 10 of his films appear worth reflecting on versus only one film for David Lean and Roman Polanski. Also the book could have used some better editing. In the index, Davis Lynch is credited with directing Eraserhead with David Lynch listed for Blue Velvet right above it. How hard was that to spot particularly as it is the last listing under L?

Also, someone named Kim Newman wrote that Virginia Rappe's death was a key event in movies (even this is a stretch as it isn't in a movie but around the film business). The writer suggests that somehow her real-life death in 1921 had a direct influence on the establishing of the Hays Code and use in 1934 (13 years later). Yesterday's news sister and ignores the reality of shocking films (for the time) that really made a difference like Baby Face (1933).
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