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Not to be Missed: Fifty-four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film Hardcover – June 3, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times since 1991 and a regular contributor of reviews to NPR, approaches movies, as did the late Roger Ebert, on their own terms, trying to understand what a filmmaker is trying to do and assessing a movie’s success or failure in light of its maker’s intent. This book isn’t a collection of film reviews per se; it’s a look at Turan’s personal favorites, which range from the easily recognizable (The Godfather, All about Eve, Casablanca, Unforgiven, Vertigo) to the for-­devoted-film-fans-only (The Dybbuk, Seven Men from Now, The Best of Youth). His comments about the movies are always insightful: he calls The Godfather, for example, “excessive but natural, larger than life yet always lifelike,” which nicely encapsulates the film’s dual nature, and his writing is fluid and accessible. Richly deserving of shelf space alongside Ebert’s The Great Movies (2002), Pauline Kael’s For Keeps (1994), and Turan’s own Never Coming to a Theater Near You (2004). --David Pitt

Review

“We would be hard pressed to disagree with Turan's premise about what makes for a favorite movie, or to write more eloquently about the things we love.—San Francisco Chronicle

“Kenneth Turan…presents an enticing blend of Hollywood controversies, historical context, and crisp analysis in Not to be Missed…Cinephiles will find plenty to devour and to debate.”—Boston Globe

“[Turan] offers up tidbits of Hollywood history and behind-the-scenes drama, as well as his critical analysis of some of the world's greatest movies — some familiar, some obscure.”—NPR's Morning Edition

“The book’s real value… may lie in the oddities that Turan has unearthed over a lifetime of viewing: connections between films and cultures that showcase influences and enhance reputations.”—Washington Post

"A collection full of surprises and Turan's great insight, Not to Be Missed is a treasure chest—essential reading for anyone who loves movies."—Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and The Orchid Thief

“What makes this book stand out is how each film is put into context of the time period it was made and Turan’s reasons why each one sticks out as memorable and deserving of watching more than once. This collection is a worthwhile companion to similar books of “the best in film,” e.g., Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies and Gail Kinn and Jim Piazza’s The Greatest Movies Ever. Recommended for the casual movie fan as well as the serious film student.”—Library Journal

“A veteran critic offers a decade-by-decade list of the films that have been like ‘friends who’ve enriched my life.’ Film lovers will eagerly swoop in to see if their favorites are present, and there are certainly some surprises. [Not to Be Missed] will surely ignite debate, disdain and delight.”— Kirkus

“[Turan’s] comments about the movies are always insightful…his writing is fluid and accessible. Richly deserving of shelf space alongside Ebert’s The Great Movies (2002), Pauline Kael’s For Keeps (1994), and Turan’s own Never Coming to a Theater Near You (2004).”—Booklist

“Turan's thoughtful list will inspire readers to rent some of his all-time favorites, and they can have the utmost confidence in Turan's wise and enthusiastic recommendations.” —Shelf Awareness

“The never-condescending Turan, another fine prose stylist, shares his faves so enthusiastically one gets caught up in the excitement of visiting or revisiting movies like “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” or “Howards End” or even Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” to see what Turan saw in them…A great little listing of some great films, which may inspire its readers to make their own lists -- and then watch them.”—Book Buzz column

“Wholly compelling… For the last several decades, Turan himself has been a “not-to-be-missed” film critic for the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio, but now he has cast his memory back to his own formative experiences watching movies. The result is more than a collection of reviews, however; rather, Turan offers an enchanting blend of memoir, cultural and social history, Hollywood intelligence-gathering, and, of course, the testimony of an ardent and exceptionally well-informed aficionado of the movies….Here is a critic and writer at the height of his powers, fully himself and speaking in his unique voice, wholly immersed in a body of knowledge that he has mastered with the gravitas of a talmudic scholar, and yet, at the same time, fully alive with the sheer joy that the movies have inspired in him and so many others.”—Jewish Journal
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158648396X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586483968
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ed Trigg on August 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As usual, Kenny Turan writes brilliantly a with a passion for the movies that is infectious. We watch 200-300 films that are new to us each year; we depend on the great critics such as Kenneth Turan to point us in the right direction both for enjoyment and to avoid disappointment. He attempted to include movies that weren’t necessarily the most common (nor had appeared in his previous books).
The 54 films he selected for “Not to be Missed” include quite a few of our favorite sleepers but also fifteen that we had not seen (many we didn’t know existed). We’re busily catching up and are very happy with those we’ve seen thus far. His descriptions of the movies, the history behind them and his own relationship with them add depth and understanding in the watching.
This is a good book for those who love all genres and all eras of the movies – and for those who enjoy good writing about them.
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31 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Roochak on June 6, 2014
Format: Hardcover
"Contemporary audiences have become spoiled by movies that make sense, have great acting, and feature nudity only when absolutely necessary: no wonder hardly anyone goes to the movies anymore." Kenneth Turan didn't write this line, but I wish he had. Stephanie Zacharek wrote it in a lively critique of GRINDHOUSE (2007), a movie unlikely ever to make Turan's list of favorite films, and therein lies the problem with this book.

Turan has compiled a list of his 54 favorite movies, the ones he most enjoys watching over and over again. Fair enough; you can't blame the man for liking what he likes, and what he likes above all are romantic melodramas, glossy literary adaptations, and multiple Oscar winners of the 1940s and '50s: PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, CASABLANCA, CHILDREN OF PARADISE, GREAT EXPECTATIONS, ALL ABOUT EVE, SUNSET BOULEVARD, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN...You feel it's a small miracle when the occasional B movie worms its way into his consciousness.

There's a cursory nod to the silent era (Feuillade, Keaton, and the long-forgotten ethnic comedian Max Davidson); the '30s are summed up with Paul Muni, Jean Harlow, two Leo McCarey dramas, and the dark, Yiddish-language fantasy, THE DYBBUK.

The 1960s have little to offer besides late Ford, atypical Pasolini, Melville, Ken Loach, and John Boorman's POINT BLANK, an ambiguous American pastiche of a French New Wave crime thriller; the '70s have even less to offer, represented by only two movies, THE GODFATHER and CHINATOWN. From the '80s on, Turan's interest turns to documentaries, and dramas from Europe and Israel.

Turan's a good writer when it comes to describing these films, but that's as far as his critique goes.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Bukowsky HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Kenneth Turan's love for cinema is on exquisite display in "Not to Be Missed: Fifty-Four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film." Turan, a film critic for the Los Angeles Times, has sifted through movies released during the twentieth century to come up with what he admits is an idiosyncratic list. Turan writes an essay about each selection in which he points out what makes this particular work worth seeing again and again. He says that he gives high marks to movies that "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."

Inevitably, readers will not agree with all of his choices. For example: Why do so few comedies and musicals make the cut? Why does Turan choose a scant two movies from the seventies? Do the foreign films, documentaries, gangster movies, and westerns that are included deserve such elevated status? The author undoubtedly knows that some of his picks may not be the average moviegoer's cup of tea. Nonetheless, he remains true to himself, making his case based on years of sitting through countless screenings, interviewing people in the film business, and writing reviews.

Turan's writing is a thing of beauty; he expresses his thoughts articulately, entertainingly, and intelligently. Without spoiling the chosen films for us by revealing too much of their plots, he briefly discusses essentials points concerning each movie's direction, script, performances, cinematography, and other elements that contribute to its excellence. He also provides informative tidbits gleaned from a variety of sources that add an extra dimension to each essay. Throughout, Turan maintains his enthusiasm, an insider's savvy, and a passion for what makes film such a special medium.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 24, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Kenneth Turan actually lists over 160 films he recommends: roughly 54 with fascinating commentaries, another 54 or so as "follow up" films, often referred to at least as to director, actors or genre in the preceding commentary, and another 54 also rans. In addition, the commentaries are usually followed by interesting books related to his choices.

Those choices are "favorites" from his long career as a film critic, and the commentaries refer to many other films. So do not expect a list of "Best" films, but rather films Turan has seen more than once with pleasure -- and would like to see again. As SFGate writes: "As it turns out, Turan's favorites are a little bit like the songs on Bob Dylan's "Greatest Hits Vol. II" album, in that they form a compilation of tried-and-true classics spliced together with lots of wonderful oddities." Based on long experience, he "trusts in the traditional values of character development and story and I still have faith in the notion of film as a popular art."

Many of these films were new to me, and following is a checklist of the 160+ films he highlights. Also, just to show how personal preference and interest informs all of our tastes, I've included a list of the 2012 listing of the 50 "Greatest" films of all time, only eight of which are listed or described by Turan.

Whatever your tastes, Turan is a great guide to many excellent films. At least, he proved to be for me.

Robert C.
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