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The Power of Film Paperback – Unabridged, September 1, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Advance Reviews for the Power of Film "Suber genuinely helps us understand 'the power of film' - why it has been the predominant art form for more than a century, and why it continues to have such power over the lives we all lead" - Geoff Gilmore, Director of the Sundance Film Festival

"What Artistotle did for drama, Suber has now done for film. This is a profound and succint book that is miraculously fun to read." -David Koepp, Screenwriter, War of the Worlds (2005), Spider-Man, Mission Impossible, Jurassic Park

About the Author

Suber has taught more than 65 different courses in 50 years at UCLA's celebrated film schoo. He has been a consultant to every major film studio, and his former students are currently active throughout the world.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions; Underlining edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932907173
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932907179
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Don Maxwell on May 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
Howard Suber delivered a lecture to a large gathering in a theater in Kansas City this spring. What was striking about the experience was how Professor Suber turned this theater into a classroom and, by asking questions, made us active participants in a search for answers to the question: "What makes a film great?".

Suber's book, "The Power of Film", uses this same Socratic Method but the technique is necessarily different. Instead of asking questions, a writer can only pose riddles, and to this end Suber employees wit and irony to provoke careful and thoughtful reading of his concise dictionary like definitions.

The films Suber examines are American films. Without being jingoistic, he says that over the decades American films have been the most popular not only in the U.S. but all over the world. The American films he focuses on are those that have maintained their appeal ten years after they were released those, in other words, which have stood the test of time and remain perennial favorites.

The question he asks is: "What makes these films classics?"

Some of the answers are surprising. The notion, for example, that Hollywood films, to be popular, have to have a happy ending, Suber demonstrates is not true. Think of the Godfather films, Lawrence of Arabia, Chinatown. Even "It's a Wonderful Life" journeys through some very dark regions before emerging with a comic ending.

So why do people go to see these films? Suber suggests that going to the movies is akin to going to church, that what people need and want is to experience time honored rituals that put us in touch with our humanity.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Doug Carneal on February 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
Getting the book and reading all of the blurbs on the cover written by film experts like Coppola and several successful Hollywood screenwriters, I was a bit concerned that perhaps I had purchased an insiders handbook, which might prove too esoteric for the casual reader. The 'power of the book' Prof. Suber has written, is his ability to take substantive information and make it enjoyable reading. The book is written in bite size stories, alphabetized by topic, each insightful and entertaining. I often sat down with the intent of a quick read of one or two articles and discovered I had read seven or eight. The topics are easy to digest, yet informative enough to go back and read several times.

Certainly as Bill Cosby used to say, "Be careful or you just might learn something". Film students and pros, no doubt already know about(and swear by)this book, this review is for the rest of us, those who just like films. The Power of Film would make a terrific gift for lovers of films of all ages and is certainly a must read for anyone with film career aspirations.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Roberta Degnore on September 11, 2006
Format: Paperback
THE POWER OF FILM is zen. Spare, but overflowing. This is one book on film that respects the reader. It does not tell you what to think or impose "expert" opinions. Rather, Howard Suber's THE POWER OF FILM gives you his observations then allows the reader to understand and experience for him/herself. Even better, it's fun.
Don't read this book on the subway, in a coffee shop, or when you're pretending to work at your desk. The giveaway will be your yelped aha's piercing the ambient din.
Suber has sculpted a monumental body of knowledge into an accessible, quickly referenced work that--if it were a film--would haunt you with those epic images and classic dialog that make memorable films part of us all.
Suber knows Film. That means the making, the money, the heartache, but most of all that Film with a capital F is an overarching phenomenon, not merely merchandise. It affects our lives. We live through it; we use it as a touchstone. It is this psychological aspect--the slippery intangibles of our interactions with film--that Suber wrestles with, and wins.
As a psychologist before I was a screenwriter, I was trained to study behavior as a complexity to be approached with respect, the scientific method, an armload of tests to be interpreted and, oh yes, billed for. Tests like the Rorschach are called "projective" for a reason: we supposedly hurl our subconscious fears, desires and emotions onto an ambiguous stimulus--an inkblot that can be a car crash, or mom. Suber applies this to how we fling ourselves onto film.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Wiese on November 27, 2008
Format: Paperback
Length: 2:37 Mins
Author and mentor to many of Hollywood's most successful writers, directors and producers, Howard Suber discusses some of the paradigm busting ideas found in his book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W. Thielemans on May 22, 2007
Format: Paperback
Howard Suber is a legendary film educator at UCLA, and has taught dozens of courses on every aspect of filmmaking (except for animation). In The Power of Film, he commits his wisdom to paper, gathered over many decades of teaching.

The Power of Film is not a how-to book or theoretical treatise, however. Rather, it is a lexicon of movie storytelling concepts. The topics range from Accidents to Writing What You Know, and cover such things as the most important word in storytelling (it's `but'), the `real' American religion (individualism), the characteristics of the Hero (someone outside of society who sacrifices personal happiness and contentment for the greater good or goal) and whether happy endings are really mandatory. Suber also talks about genres (the essential characteristics of each), dramatic structure (some), and specific narrative tools such as the Macguffin. Throughout the book the emphasis is squarely on the mainstream American film, so you will be able to find many exceptions to the `rules' Suber mentions here, though `rules' isn't the right word. Rather, they are `insights' or concepts which work and have done so for ages, but which are just some of the possible narrative solutions to the problems cinematic storytelling poses.

This is a book to dip into, and which is intended to spark the imagination of the reader. Not all of the topics are equally enlightening, and I disagreed with the definition of the Crisis Point, but as an encyclopaedia of Hollywood storytelling it is currently without equal.
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