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Do the Movies Have a Future? Hardcover – October 2, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rhetorical questions such as the title of New Yorker movie critic Denby’s new collection always seem ripe for silly answers. But although Denby learned some jazzy stylistic chops from Pauline Kael, whom he recalls and mildly assesses late in this book, he isn’t a silly writer. He argues that American film studios’ fixation on presold blockbuster fantasy flicks based on comic books are making it harder to make adult dramatic films of any scale and for such films, even modestly scaled ones, to reach mass audiences. It’s a plausible fear, but this isn’t a book-length thesis. It’s a compilation of critiques corralled into sections on trends, indie films, stars, genres, directors, and critics. Denby writes a good journalistic style that engages and entertains regardless of whether it persuades anyone of the quality of the particular films discussed. Those date from 1999 to 2011 and are all American, as Denby warns us up front they will be. At least a newer foreign film is mentioned now and then in passing. --Ray Olson


“A must for movie lovers” (Kirkus Reviews)

“David Denby’s work is learned, wry, quietly passionate, utterly absorbing and unfailingly intelligent – criticism as it is meant to be done and these days rarely is. Some of his pieces will, I think, stand as definitive for years to come. If movies have a future – and I think they do – it will be thanks in part to critics of Denby’s rare and demanding sensibility.” (Richard Schickel, film critic, author of Conversations with Scorsese)

New Yorker film critic Denby’s fascinating collection of essays on the business, the art, and the sacred rituals of movie making and movie watching explores what part film plays in our collective consciousness, particularly in this new digital age.” (Publishers Weekly)

This collection shows a superb critic at his best – thoughtful, probing, his breadth of cinematic knowledge gracefully dispensed. Crucial to me is how Denby constantly makes us aware of the context of movies – how the present plays off the past, and the ways in which it comes up short. Voicing the passion of many, this is a cri de coeur for what has increasingly become an oxymoron, Hollywood entertainment for adults.” (Molly Haskell, film critic, author of Frankly, My Dear)

“Throughout his essays, he builds a convincing case for his contention that ‘a healthy movie scene can’t exist without critics’… Recommended for informed film buffs.” (Library Journal)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416599479
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416599470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,366,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Bibliophile on October 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Denby probably ranks as my favorite critic writing about movies these days, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that this book reads like a perfect reflection of my own thoughts on the past 15 or so years of American cinema. Denby isn't the breeziest or snarkiest of film critics. He's better: he's a thoughtful one, clearly passionate about the idea that movies actually matter, in people's lives and in our culture. Denby deftly explicates why film after film either works or doesn't, charting out the evolution of American cinema in recent years as the art form has been hollowed out by business interests and advances in filmmaking technology on a level unprecedented in the medium's history. In some ways it's a call-to-arms kind of book, and it gracefully manages to be both cautionary and celebratory. I hope its observations don't go completely unheeded, because if they do, we'll all be the poorer for it. Thanks for writing this book, Mr. Denby.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have already highly recommended this book to several friends who are movie enthusiasts. I must admit that my inital reaction was more than a bit over the top enthusiastic, based upon the book's introduction, because the author quickly presented a great summary of the current state of the industry, the technology, and the audience, as well as the decades of growth (really regression) leading up to the present. And of course, what the author
accomplished, from my perspective, was to encapsulate both the "facts" and the spirit of what has happened, and what IS happening to the movies - a point of view just absolutely parallel to my own, but stated so knowledgeably and elequantly!

At this point, according to my Kindle statistic, I am 67% of the way through the book. And now, I feel there are times that the author goes on too long about certain stars or directors (most of the book is drawn from prior appearances in the New Yorker Magazine, where what appears by anyone is typically overwritten and just toooooooo long!), typically when my viewpoint diverges from his, which it often does. I admit to being appalled by his vaunted view of some who I have held in contempt for some time. But even here when I disagree the most, he has maintained my attention and interest. And for the most part, I must say that I am in agreement with him, and also certainly enlightened.

Of all the texts on movies which I have read in the last five years, this one is at the top of my list and recommendation!
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By Timothy Jackson on January 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Denby is a wonderful writer of film but he does something more here. The opening essay provides some great perspective on the current need for good film criticism beyond mere reviews. Two ideas are introduced; film is either too complex these days for thumbs up/thumbs down reviewing or secondly, too commercially compromised by corporate marketing formulas and genre writing. Writers need to encourage a broader perspective for a renewed and vital film culture. I think that's what the book does well.
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7 of 11 people found the following review helpful By philadelphia sports fan on November 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I got this from the library and expected something else (an actual book about the future of film.) Instead I found a collection of essays from the new yorker magazine film critic. Anyway, having not heard of the author, and realizing after reading a good bit of the book that I hadn't read the author info nor seen the author's picture, I decided to try and guess his age and race based on what I had read and was pretty dead on; older white guy. the reason i came to this conclusion so easily was because many of the pieces have a "kids today" hectoring tone. For instance, the piece about "format agnosticism" laments the fact that kids today watch movies on their phones. The horror! What he ignores or refuses to acknowledge, is that kids today will watch movies they enjoy again and again, like listening to a favorite song. And that in most cases the choice is between movie on phone or no movie. Personally, I'd prefer to watch a movie while sitting in the dentist's waiting room than not.

And some of his examples when talking about why movies sucked circa 2000 were a bit ridiculous. Specifically when he was comparing Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor to The Godfather.

As I said, it's all well written and intelligent, I just disagree with the arguments.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Freddy McCall on October 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a subscriber to The New Yorker magazine I feel somewhat ripped off,
since the great majority of the articles in this book have
previously appeared in that magazine and, being a fan of Denby,
I have read them all. All of the articles in the book were
written in the 1999-2011 timeframe, some with revisions that
have not altered the original intent.

The book has been well organized into seven broad categories
such as "Trends," "Directors," "Stars." If you love movies
and have not read the articles before, then this book sould
be worth your time (in fact I enjoyed rereading a number of
the pieces). Denby has a clear writing style that is easily
accessible to the average reader.

The book does address the question posed in its title.
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