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The B List: The National Society of Film Critics on the Low-Budget Beauties, Genre-Bending Mavericks, and Cult Classics We Love Paperback – October 7, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In this collection of essays by members of the National Society of Film Critics, the "B movie" is defined, classically, as "the Hollywood stepchild, the underbelly of the double feature." What B movies have become is a question the book answers only partially-movie fans will certainly debate whether newer films like Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs actually deserve a place next to proven genre classics like Gun Crazy and Crime Wave. Among dozens of pieces, highlights include Charles Taylor's appreciation of 1967's Point Blank and its embattled director, John Boorman, who mixed French New Wave styling and pulp-novel nihilism to inspirational effect (he also discusses Mel Gibson's remake and Steven Soderbergh's open tribute in The Limey). Roger Ebert's knowledgeable contributions don't disappoint; having himself penned the absurd B classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, he champions outliers Peeping Tom, May and Pink Flamingos. Rob Nelson includes the gonzo 1989 Nicolas Cage film Vampire's Kiss, for which the actor ate a live cockroach on-screen. Other titles include Detour, The Conversation, Vanishing Point, Videodrome, Eraserhead and last year's Grindhouse; though the collection's breadth undermines any attempt to pin down the modern B picture, these brief essays celebrate well the reckless streak that runs through Hollywood.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Skyscraper, Winter 08
“An engaging, lively read for die-hard B movie fans or those interested in knowing what to watch for at local DVD rental stores or on late-night television.”
Magill Book Reviews
"With a good mixture of familiar and obscure titles, the critics provide acute observations...The essays are insightful and entertaining. The best make the writers' enthusiasms infectious."
Word blog, 12/29/08
"The films in The B List are offbeat, unpredictable, and decidedly idiosyncratic. That's why we love them. That's why we love this book. A great collection of essays."
“Cover[s] a diverse set of films…Offers the cinephile a pleasant enough way to while away a few hours…May even alert readers to movies they’ve missed.”
SLUG (Salt Lake Underground)
"A good read…It throws caution to the wind and zooms in on films whose conception, lurid upbringings and dubious character traits would drive most people away. This is a fantastic resource for cult film buffs the world over.”
Atlanta Daily Report, 12/19/08
“There are some terrific pieces by all kinds of movie critics you’ve heard about, usually writing about movies you’ve never heard about.”
“A tome that will set nicely on the shelf beside your movie collection and provide rewarding reading as a supplement to the film viewing experience.”
“Downright fun…Diversity can be found here aplenty, with fan favorites like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Reservoir Dogs, to stalwarts like The Son of Kong. They’ve also included some questionable picks like The Rage: Carrie 2 that will likely spark debate among film enthusiasts. The surprises, however, are the beauty of The B List.”
Publishers Weekly, 11/10/08
“These brief essays celebrate well the reckless streak that runs through Hollywood.”
“Fun for fans of films that, in most cases, never quite made the A list because they wouldn’t be caught dead there.”
BookPage, December 2008
“Reminds us why it’s OK to love movies that have never made a ’10 best’ list.”
“The National Society of Film Critics come together for an amazing array of sub-mainstream memory in The B List…The list of contributors is enough to make a movie fan’s mouth water…Some of the most knowledgeable people in the movie field provide an outstanding collection of memories, opinions, and even analysis…The writers in this volume offer an expansive view of where the film world has been and where it seems to go when the mainstream isn’t quite ready…Collected with an intricate knowledge of B-movie production and complete with viewer guides and arguments for each of the movies selected, The B List is a welcome companion to the book collection of any movie fan who sometimes steps beyond the simplicity of the mainstream theater.”
“A few questionable choices in the National Society of Film Critics’ round-up of B-movie ‘beauties,’ but they’re argued with authority and panache. Besides, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of curveballs alongside all the usual cult suspects.”
“Perhaps The B List is at its best when it makes a real genre film like The Rage: Carrie 2 seem legitimate, while showing that a cult classic like Pink Flamingos may not be as good as its reputation might suggest. Such are the delights of this collection, which truly offers something for everyone.”
“[An] entertaining compilation of essays.”
“The writing is generally good, often excellent. Editors David Sterritt and John Anderson have done a good job of selecting essayists with an interesting variety of viewpoints and styles…[A] worthwhile book.”
Top customer reviews
Da Capo Press (2008)
>>>What kind of collection could possibly find common ground among The Son of Kong, Platoon, and Pink Flamingos? What kind of fevered minds could conceive of such a list? What are the unheard-of qualities that tie them all together? The answers: This book. The National Society of Film Critics. And the far-reaching enticements of the B movie itself. Once the B movie was the Hollywood stepchild, the underbelly of the double feature. Today it is a more inclusive category, embracing films that fall outside the mainstream by dint of their budgets, their visions, their grit, and occasionally--sometimes essentially--their lack of what the culture cops call "good taste". The films in The B List are offbeat, unpredictable, and decidedly idiosyncratic. And that's why we love them. press release
A book I wanted to review a few weeks ago already, but rather than writing the review, I continued reading. The press release above is no exaggeration. And the book's authors - US film critics - not only all write well, but also seem to have an ingrained sense of humour. No haha laughter, but an amusing read. I started out by reading about two films I had recently seen again - John Huston's Beat the Devil (1953) and Monte Hellman Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), both were spot on. So the rest I am reading for pure pleasure, in some cases happy I had not seen the film...
fbus 94 - Sterritt and Anderson (editors) The B List -B plus Da Capo Press (2008) - 13/5/2013
A “B” picture meant a Budget movie, one that provided entertainment at a low cost (in the days before television). Television led to the obsolescence of most movie theaters. Since the late 1950's it refers to low-cost entertainment products. It could also refer to movies made for television. This trade paperback has a ‘Contents’, eleven ‘Parts’, ‘Notes on Contributors’, and an ‘Index’ in its 240 pages. It discusses fifty-eight movies. Who has actually seen all of them? Who believes everything a movie critic says? One article in the ‘Columbia Review of Journalism’ (in the early 1970's) said local movie reviews were a form of advertising to lure customers to the theaters that advertised these products in the newspaper. How often have you gone to a movie and been disappointed? The best reviews are the opinions of your friends and relatives. Movies like “Jaws” “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, etc. sell themselves by their quality and popularity.
These articles or essays tell more about the author than the movie. Movies tells something about the era in which they were made (the attitudes of the people). The cover picture shows an audience from the 1950's wearing the glasses needed for a 3-D (dimensional) movie that were popular for a few years. With television, then recorded videos, people didn’t have the inconvenience of traveling to movie theaters or drive-ins for entertainment, except for special occasions. Movie reviewer are a branch of the advertising, no more worthy of respect than any hack writer or political commentator in a newspaper or magazine. What’s your opinion? Reading some of these articles provides a point of view to contrast with your own. Would you watch a movie based on what one of these articles says? Movies are entertainment products created to make money. Their measurement is how much profit they make from a public whose tastes are in flux. “Night of the Living Dead” was a surprise hit in 1968. Why? Perhaps of their events in that time. Like other horror movies it shows people who are threatened by evil forces but endure and survive.
Here is a list of the eleven Parts.
01) Out of the Shadows - Film Noir
02) Nightmares in Technicolor - Neo-Noir
03) From Grindhouse to Art House - Madness and Melodrama
04) The Allure of the Unknown - Science Fiction
05) Dark and Disturbing Dreams - Films of Horror and Terror
06) Burning Up the Blacktop - Road Movies
07) Gunfighter Nation - the Wild Western
08) Up Against the Wall! - Political Pictures
09) Whole Lotta Shakin’ - Rock, Pop, and Beyond
10) Provocation and Perversity - Cult Classics
11) Trangressive Chic - The World of Midnight Movies
The review of “The Girl Can’t Help It” doesn’t realize that the story echoes “Born Yesterday” with rock and roll performers added as a popular attraction. “Targets” is a propaganda movie that argues for gun control. It has a ridiculous ending where Bobby collapses! In real life that Texas Tower shooter had a tumor the size of an egg in his brain and was stopped by a policeman’s gunshots. “Baron Orlok” was the name of the vampire in “Nosferatu”. “Gun Crazy” was a fictionalized version of Bonnie and Clyde. The name “Christopher Elias” in “Platoon” was taken from the author or a book about Wall Street. What can you add to this list?
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A “B” picture meant a Budget movie, one that provided entertainment at a low cost (in the days before television).Read more