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The 60 Greatest Movie Books

 

Every Christmas we like nothing better than to curl up on the sofa with a good book and a mince pie.

Just in case you feel the same way, we've put together some recommendations.

For books, obviously. Mince pies are much of a muchness.

 


60. The Greatest Sci-fi Movies Never Made
by David Hughes



Written when movies such as I Am Legend,  Watchmen and Avatar were still locked in development hell this has, with hindsight, turned from a book about films that were never made to a compelling account of how Hollywood never really gives up on its dreams.

With examinations of lost properties that still haven’t been filmed (including The Stars My Destination and David Lynch’s Ronnie Rocket), buy this and find out what you’ll probably be watching next decade...

Killer Quote: “They offered me $50,000 for twenty-five drawings.  They didn’t say twenty-five approved drawings, or twenty-five drawings in colour, or even twenty-five drawings in pen and ink – I could’ve done twenty-five  drawings on napkins!”

 

59. The Parade’s Gone By
by Kevin Brownlow

With this single book Kevin Brownlow, occasional film-maker (It Happened Here) and movie-buff extraordinaire, rescued the canon of silent film from contempt and oblivion. 

Written with loving expertise, packed with rare illustrations, at its heart are the riveting interviews Brownlow secured with aged veterans of the period.

Killer Quote : “The silent era was the richest in the cinema’s history.”

 

58. The Genius of the System
by Thomas Schatz

The old Hollywood studio system crushed and stifled talent – right? Not so simple, says Schatz.

For all the insensitive philistines and overweening egos, the system actually spawned a remarkably high ratio of masterpieces to turkeys. 

With a wealth of research and detail, Schatz shows how.

Killer Quote: “Studio filmmaking was less a process of collaboration than of negotiation and struggle – occasionally approaching armed conflict.”

 

57. Hitchcock
by François Truffaut

In August 1962, François Truffaut, filmmaker, critic and passionate Hitchcockian, sat down with the Master of Suspense in a room at Universal Studios – and over several days recorded 50 hours of conversation covering Hitch’s whole career to date. 

The outcome was the finest-ever book-length interview with a director.

Hitch is expansive, teasing, urbane, frothing with anecdotes and clearly relishing the attention;  Truffaut is respectful but probing, bringing his own directorial knowhow to bear. 

A treasure-trove of material for every Hitchcock study written since.

Killer Quote : “If one accepts the premise that cinema is an art form, on a par with literature, I suggest that Hitchcock belongs among such artists of anxiety as Kafka, Dostoyevsky and Poe.”

 

56. Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood
by Todd McCarthy

Cool, effortlessly patrician and no slave to the studio system, Howard Hawks made masterpieces in genres ranging from screwball comedy to westerns – and lived a high-life of beautiful women and fast cars.

McCarthy’s biog treats his subject with a well gauged mix of admiration and irony.

Killer Quote : “Hawks had always found that he could do most things better than most other people, so he rightly reasoned that it would be that way with movies as well.”

Next: 55 - 51 [page-break]

 

55. The Indiana Jones Handbook: The Complete Adventurer's Guide
By Denise Kiernan



Ostensibly a practical guide to becoming an archaeologist, we’d love it if a real archaeology student picked this up, followed it, and turned themselves into a whip-cracking Nazi bashing myth-hunting superhero.

Stuffed with useful advice on how to be Indiana Jones, this should be in every kid’s library. And every archaeologist’s.

Killer Quote: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. This statement is as true for archaeologists as it is for any ruthless businessperson or member of the underworld.”
 

54. Hollywood Babylon
by Kenneth Anger

Enfant terrible and pioneering gay filmmaker Anger lifts the lid on Hollywood’s most lurid scandals and gleefully shows us the squirming, scuttling creatures beneath.

Drugs, booze, nymphomania, homicide, gay orgies – this is the stuff the studios threatened and bribed to have hushed up.

Killer Quote: “Film folk are depicted as engaging in madcap, non-stop off-screen capers. The legend overlooks one fact – fear.”

 

53. The Unkindest Cut
by Joe Queenan

If you believe the subtitle, this hilarious book tells How A Hatchet-Man Critic Made His Own $7,000 Movie And Put It All On His Credit Card.

In truth, Queenan spent $65K making psychiatry satire Twelve Steps To Death, only to receive exactly the kind of caustic criticism he routinely dished out.

All of which, naturally, makes this account of his self-delusional quest even more entertaining, crammed as it is with enough mishap to make Michael Cimino feel positively chipper.

Killer Quote: “I wasn’t going to be the next Orson Welles. I was going to be the last Ed Wood.”

 

52. Final Cut: Dreams And Disaster In The Making Of Heaven’s Gate
by Steven Bach

As one of only three people to experience the Heaven’s Gate debacle from start to end, Bach had a ringside seat on how Cimino’s megaflop brought down United Artists.

His survey of the wreckage still remains the quintessential chronicle of Hollywood hubris.

Killer Quote: ”Heaven’s Gate was a movie about a war and was one itself.”

 

51. Hollywood Animal: A Memoir Of Love And Betrayal
by Joe Eszterhas

A self-confessed “rogue elephant”, Eszterhas’s blistering tell-all detailing how he became the highest-paid hack in Hollywood is the most revealing read since Robert Evans’s The Kid Stays In The Picture.

The Basic Instinct chapter alone makes it indispensable.

Killer Quote: “I was the only screenwriter in Hollywood who had groupies.”

Next: 50- 46 [page-break]

 

50. Making Movies
by Sidney Lumet

The veteran auteur offers the benefit of his experience in this informative primer on the nuts and bolts of filmmaking.

Lumet’s anecdotes about his stars – including one about Brando needing 34 takes to deliver a speech – are equally illuminating.

Killer Quote: “There’s no right or wrong way to direct a movie.”

 

49. The Kill Bill Diary: The Making Of A Tarantino Classic As Seen Through The Eyes Of A Screen Legend
by David Carradine

As that oh-so-modest subhead suggests, there’s no shortage of ego in Carradine’s record of the Kill Bill shoot.

It’s still a cracking read, though, from a grizzled vet who was really just a big softie.

Killer Quote: “Here I am, at sixty-seven, being fucking reborn. It’s amazing.”

 

48. Disney's World
by Leonard Mosley

First published in 1985 as The Real Walt Disney, Mosley’s depiction of Uncle Walt as a Commie-hating tyrant and misogynist anti-Semite is a refreshingly scabrous antidote to the studio-sanctioned biogs.

It’s especially good on Disney’s puritanical streak and his fascination with Cryogenesis.

Killer Quote : “Walt was not the holier-than-thou character the studio propagandists made him out to be.”

 

47. The Return of the King Visual Companion: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion
By Jude Fisher

 

Released shortly before Return Of The King hit cinemas to cash-in on the hunger for fresh information / images from the final part of Jackson’s Rings cycle, this gorgeous hardback is like a time capsule from a time when we still had new Rings instalments to look forward to.

All three movies are summarised, with gorgeous exclusive images to gawp at.

With The Hobbit on the distant horizon, it’s time to pull this massive tome from the shelf to remind ourselves of why we fell in love with the franchise in the first place.

Killer Quote : “Now he is Gandalf The White, and he is mightier than he was before.”

 

46. What’s It All About?
by Michael Caine

Candid, charming and full of blokeish wit, Sir Michael’s 1992 autobiography is a brilliant distillation of his irresistible personality.

His memories of acting with Olivier on /Sleuth/ are a stand-out, as are the moving recollections of his second daughter’s difficult birth.

Killer Quote : “It has been a privilege to share my life with such a bunch of rascals.”

Next: 45 - 41 [page-break]

 

45. The Stanley Kubrick Archives
Edited by Alison Castle

Culled from Kubrick’s personal archives, this 544-page, 14lb beast is the final word on the great man.

Split into two sections, the first a wordless, entirely visual representation of Kubrick’s work via frame enlargements - 800 in all - scanned directly from original prints, while the second delves into his Creative Process, featuring everything from scribbled notes to photographs taken by Kubrick on the sets of his films, to posters, artwork, set designs, sketches, correspondence, documents, screenplay extracts, even unfilmed drafts, as well essays by noted Kubrick scholars, and a selection of interviews.

It also includes a CD of a 70-minute 1966 audio interview by Jeremy Bernstein.

The first print-run even came with a series of twelve frames from Kubrick’s own print of 2001. Utterly essential. And, alas, sold out.

Track it down on eBay.

Killer Quote : “2001 is a nonverbal experience. I tried to create a visual experience, one that directly penetrates the subconscious with an emotional and philosophic content.”


 
44. Killer Instinct: How Two Young Producers Took On Hollywood And Made The Most Controversial Film Of The Decade
By Jane Hamsher

An astonishing no-holds-barred account of how USC film school graduate Hamsher and her erstwhile producing partner Don Murphy convinced Oliver Stone to direct Quentin Tarantino’s Natural Born Killers script.

No ego is left unskewed in Hamsher’s scabrous detailing of the madness of moviemaking and its resultant carnage.

Shamelessly self-serving and one-sided, but hugely entertaining nevertheless.

Killer Quote: “It only took two weeks for Oliver Stone to reduce screenwriter Dave Veloz from a stable, reliable churchgoing Mormon to a borderline psychotic Pepsi-swilling mess, rolling around the floor in his boxer shorts, wondering if he’d ever be able to do anything right again for the rest of his life.”

 

43. Getting Away With It: Or Further Adventures Of The Luckiest Bastard You Ever Saw
By Steven Soderbergh

Part confessional, part diary, structured around a series of incisive interviews with filmmaker Richard Lester and dotted with extracts from Soderbergh’s 1996/97 journal, this is a remarkably candid account of his post-Schizopolis and pre-Out Of Sight career, detailing his dissatisfaction with himself, Hollywood, and, seemingly, filmmaking in general.

Thankfully, he's since cheered up.

Killer Quote : “I imagine Me as Not Me reading all this shit and thinking, This is boring shit.”

 

42. The Devil’s Candy: Anatomy Of A Hollywood Fiasco
By Julie Salamon

Wall Street Journal journalist Julie Salamon was given unprecedented access to write a fly-on-the-wall account of the making of Brian De Palma’s adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s best-seller The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Bad idea – for the filmmakers.

Salamon salaciously chronicles the many disasters — casting, monetary, tabloid — that lay ahead, in a riveting expose of how committee creativity leads to messy end product.

Killer Quote: “Meryl Streep. She’s attractive, but would you want to…? No way! She doesn’t have that Rita Hayworth thing. She’s gotta be the devil’s candy!”

 

41. The New Biographical Dictionary Of Film
By David Thomson

The Guardian columnist’s weighty wonder is the buff’s bedside bible: a dip’n’mix encyclopaedia marrying pernickety but passionate personal biases to piquant analyses of stars, helmers and more.

He’s hottest on Hollywood film but in those hills, he might be the hottest.

Killer Quote: On Sam Fuller: “His films are like scenarios made from communities of rats, the camera itself a king rat, scarred and hurt, but still swooping in and out of every scuffle, commanding the spectacle and jumping in for gross close-ups like a thumb on a bug.”

Next: 40 - 36 [page-break]

 

40. You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again
By Julia Phillips

From the penniless, post-rehab, post-marriage pits, the ’70s Hollywood uber-producer of The Sting and Taxi Driver didn’t so much write as spew up this tell-it-all tirade about Tinseltown’s tawdry boys’ brigade.

One producer dubbed it “the longest suicide note in history”.

Readers, though, can revel in this one-woman hit squad’s breathless bestseller prose, tirelessly bitchy slap-downs (Goldie Hawn? “Borderline dirty, with stringy hair”) and bridge-burning, coke-hoovering, venom-spitting, door-slamming, no-holds-barred fuck-you to the Hollywood table.

And of course, as old Gordon Gekko once said, lunch is for wimps.

Killer Quote : “Marty [Scorsese] was tiny and asthmatic, Steven [Spielberg] had the soft, flabby look of a typical Twinkies kid, and Brian [De Palma] never took his safari jacket off…

 

39. Down And Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance And The Rise Of Independent Film
By Peter Biskind

Did Harvey Weinstein eat the indies? Looks like it, from the shadow he casts over Biskind’s rise-and-fall fable of Miramax, Sundance and the US indies.

Biskind serves chewy gossip, flavoursome insight and tasty access; big bad Harv is the ogre at the table.

Killer Quote : On Harvey: “He was a man of large appetites. Watching him feed was an experience not easily forgotten. It brought to mind the great scenes of movie gluttony…”

 

38. Adventures In The Screen Trade,
Which Lie Did I Tell?,
The Big Picture
By William Goldman

The Butch Cassidy screenwriter’s three-book spleen-fest illustrates one no-bull conceit (see quote) via venomous insider insight and bullet-point prose. Adventures is a crap-cutting memoir – the screenwriters’ bible.

Lie explores the Hollywood scribes’ Faustian deal: take the pay-cheque and your soul’s sold. Picture collects caustic essays, with targets including Saving Private Ryan and 13 Sly Stallone flicks.

“How long do you think you’d hold,” he deadpans, “if you had those 13 movies played over and over in a locked room?” Don’t even try arguing...

Killer Quote: “Nobody knows anything.”

 

37. The Kid Stays In The Picture: A Hollywood Life
By Robert Evans

More insider dirt-dishing, this time from the Godfather and Love Story producer, ex-husband to Ali MacGraw, voracious skirt-chaser and alleged drug-rhino.

Kid proffers hootsome ringside snapshots from ’70s Hollywood’s circus, chopped out in brash lines of lurid but lithe prose.

Killer Quote: “There are three sides to every story: yours, mine and the truth.”

 

36. Scorsese On Scorsese
By Martin Scorsese with David Thompson and Ian Christie

 

The mighty Marty’s ever-gripping rat-a-tat-tat chat, corralled into one standard-setting doorstop.

Thrilling consumed from cover-to-cover and ocular crack as a dip-in read, this is the finest of Faber’s interviews series, Scorsese approaching movie-making less as a career than a devotional calling.

Killer Quote : “To make moves you really have to be in a situation where if you didn’t make them you’d die…”

Next: 35 - 31 [page-break]

 

35. Devil May Care
By Sebastian Faulks

 

Picking up after the events in Golden Gun, the most-recent post-Fleming Bond book is a rip-roaring affair, with Faulks channelling Fleming to produce an 007 adventure – complete with deformed villain, weird weapons and gorgeous girls – of which the master would be proud.

Now, can we have a film version, please?

Killer Quote: “‘His left hand," said M, sitting down again, and staring Bond squarely in the eye. ‘It’s a monkey’s paw.’”

 

34. A Third Face: My Tale Of Writing, Fighting And Filmmaking
By Samuel Fuller

 

Full-blooded, full-bodied autobiog by a man who lived the American 20th century, from tabloids to trenches, Tinseltown, B-movies and European exile.

Fuller wrings World War 2 and Hollywood for gut-level emotional potency. As he might have growled, it’s a real pisscutter of a book

Killer Quote: “If a story doesn’t give you a hard-on in the first couple of scenes, throw it in the goddamned garbage.”

 

33. The Dark Side Of Genius: The Life Of Alfred Hitchcock
By Donald Spoto

Lurking beneath Spoto’s linear re-telling of Hitch’s life lies a psychosexual dissection of the man who traumatised Tippi Hedren and spent a life oppressed by his own bulk. Controversial? Sure, but agenda setting and, though often challenged, never bettered.

Killer Quote: “Even the most presumably charmed life is never that tidy… and from the beginning Hitchcock’s was riddled with disappointments, unhappy surprises, interjections of chaos and of cruelty.”

 

32. McQueen: The Biography
By Christopher Sandford

Sandford bites into The Big Mac with relish, not softening up the “king of cool” for consumption but mining the “deep source material” behind Stevo’s belligerence and need for speed.

He’s besotted but he finds flawed humanity in McQueen’s messy life.

Killer Quote: “Sam Peckinpah, a man whose wit outlived his liver, put it best: Steve was every guy you didn’t fuck with.”

 

31. Robert Mitchum: Baby, I Don’t Care
By Lee Server

Server’s smoking biog trails Mitchum’s languid swagger exhaustively. From trouble-causing teen to rail-rider, boxer, beach-bum, boozer, brawler, dope-fiend and cantankerous oldster, Mitch emerges as a perma-tipsy goldmine of contradictions, self-lacerating, self-destructive and combative but still capable of sensitivity and greatness.

Killer Quote: “He smouldered, had that opiated, heavy-lidded look, had an almost feminine languor, moved only as much as necessary and then with a measured, sinuous grace.”

 

Next: 30 - 26 [page-break]

 

30. The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror
by David J. Skal

The Depression, the Cold War, AIDS: this ambitious history reckons horror's always a mirror of its time.

His scope is epic but Skal's real talent lies in the detail, resurrecting icons like Boris Karloff and Vampira from the grave to the page.

Killer Quote : "The image of Bela Lugosi's Dracula ushered in the Great Depression"

 

29. Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film
by Carol J. Clover

Big knives stabbing big-titted co-eds: slasher flicks are all about sadistic violence against women, right? Wrong!

Digging through grot (I Spit on Your Grave, Slumber Party Massacre) using Freud as a shovel, Berkeley professor Clover argues that slasher and rape/revenge movies aren't sadistic at all. Instead, they're deeply /masochistic/ male fantasies that invite blokes to imagine themselves as menaced and mutilated scream queens.

Hugely influential (especially its theory of slasher movies' "Final Girl" heroine), Clover's smart tome takes feminism slumming in the grindhouse.
Killer Quote: "The slasher film speaks deeply and obsessively to male anxieties and desires."

 

28. The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney's War Against the Counterculture
By Bob Levin

In 1971 a gang of renegade cartoonists started putting out satirical comics starring Disney characters in compromising positions. Disney didn’t see the funny side, and sued.

The case eventually became a metaphor for the freedom of artists to create versus the rights of corporations to make money.

This fascinating account of the trial doubles up as a guide to Intellectual Property rights and, arguably, the early history of slash fiction.

Killer Quote: “Draw a mouse. Go to jail.”


 
27. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls
by Peter Biskind

Biskind's compendium of talking heads is so brazenly A-list, struggling journos will want to bitterly through their TV screen and take up pigeon fancying instead.

For everyone else, the urge to lap up Scorsese, Lucas and Coppola's every loose-lipped revelation will win out. Why? Because these fractious soundbites seem to have been won with such breathtaking guile and structured so smartly the celluloid Gods seem to be bickering across the chapters like frothing Celebrity Big Brother inmates.

If you claim to care about movies, and you haven’t read it, get on over to Play, right now. Actually, get it on import from the US if you can – the American edition isn’t so hamstrung by legal twitches.

Killer Quote: "From Fox's point of view, George Lucas demands were a joke. It was axiomatic that you couldn't make money on sequels."

 

26. Incredibly Strange Films
by Vivian Vale & Andrea Juno

More a tsunami of bullet-point observations from assorted B-helmers and guest essayists than a coherent thesis, this coffee table miscellany of the conceptually fucked has a nicely blasé air to it. If photos of Frank Henenlotter's fridge (seriously) are your bag, congrats; you've stumbled into curio Valhalla.

Killer Quote : "We built a corpse-grinding machine for $38. If the studio built it, that wouldn't even buy the coffee they'd drink while doing so."

 

Next: 25 - 21 [page-break]

 

25. Mondo Macabro: Weird & Wonderful Cinema Around The World
by Peter Tombs

A prime jumping-in point, not least because it graciously includes a few Top 10 lists from those in the know. Tombs favours description and factoid over meaty analysis, but chucks in enough cultural relativism to lend some mind-bogglingly lurid material a valuable degree of context.

Killer Quote: "The next scene shows the tiger licking the woman's bare behind and breasts, before the shaky hand of the censor cuts off any further dalliance."

 

24. Dark City: The Lost World Of Film Noir
by Eddie Muller

This highly stylised overview rewards patience, initially presenting Muller's titular City as an imaginary shared arena for the plots and personnel of every movie he references.

Get your head around his sprawling conceptual dystopia, though, and the insights and narration are every bit as hard-boiled as you'd hope.

Killer Quote: "Some of the best stories emanate from transients' hotels in the town's tenderloin; cramped rooms clammy with the residue of spoiled hopes."

 

23. Asia Shock: Horror And Dark Cinema From Japan, Korea, Hong Kong And Thailand
by Patrick Galloway

Galloway's worryingly hungry trawl for mangled manflesh makes you wonder how often he had to break off for a cold shower - the man sniffs out Asiatic viscera with a passion bordering on tumescence, but well-defined chapters (Family, Technology, Psychosis) just about keep him zipped.

Killer Quote: "Gore, ghosts, curses, cannibalism, voodoo, disease, zombies, demons,necrophilia, rape, torture, and bulging bin bags of body parts."

 

22. The Essential Batman Encyclopedia
by Robert Greenberger



Containing more information about Batman’s varied history than a Batcave computer, this is essential to Batfans old and new.

Cinema-goers introduced to the character by Christopher Nolan may be momentarily confused by many of the entries – including backgrounds of oddities such Ace The Bat-Hound and Harold, Batman’s hunchback mechanic – but then they’ll grin at the fact that literally every element of Batman’s bizarre back-story has been recorded for posterity.

Now, if only Bruce Wayne would get around to writing that autobiography...

Killer Quote: “The Elizabeth Arkham Asylum for the criminally insane was located north of Gotham City, and had been the home to both average and superpowered  criminals since its founding in the early 20th Century.”


 
21. Cronenberg On Cronenberg
by David Cronenberg

Most directors in this series treat the gig like 'An Audience With...', spouting endless had-to-be-there anecdotes.

Not so Cronenberg, who instead flings himself gamely onto a homemade shrink's couch to saw through the gore-and-semen-slung wreckage of his psyche. Generously freaky.

Killer Quote: "I would never censor myself... my fantasies, my unconscious...it would devalue me as a film-maker. It's like telling a surrealist not to dream."

 

Next: 20 - 16 [page-break]

 

20. Nightmare Of Ecstasy: The Life And Art Of Edward D. Wood Jr.
by Rudolph Grey

A B-movie fan without a Wood-shaped soft spot would be like a clown without make-up: bewildering, and fundamentally crap.

No post-ironic blinkers here, though - compiling backstage testimonies to Wood's crippling flaws, Grey excavates the conflicted spirit of cinema's most endearingly wretched dreamer. Lovely on-and-off-set snaps help, too.

Killer Quote : "Ed would call at night, plastered... the Saudis were in town with $5m to make a movie, and he was meeting them tomorrow. Complete hallucination."

 

19. Goddess: The Secret Lives Of Marilyn Monroe
by Anthony Summers

Digging up a personality so deeply buried in iconography is tough work, but ex-BBC man Summers gives it his all, and it pays off. Doggedly stone-turning yet palpably respectful, this 1985 is still the benchmark for investigative Norma Jean journalism.

Killer Quote: "She'd keep me waiting for two hours while she was in the bathroom, supposedly washing her face. Two hours! I mean, that's very strange."

 

18. The Guerrilla Film-Makers' Handbook
by Chris Jones & Genevieve Jolliffe

Calling this guide 'in-depth' is like calling Bill Gates 'well-to-do'. It's truly exhaustive in its multilayered, budget-slashing top tippery.

By interviewing loads of those folks with the baffling credit-sequence job titles, this DIY bible covers more bases than you ever knew existed.

Killer Quote: "No use complaining when a beer company sues because your serial killer uses the empties to slash characters' throats."

 

17. I'll Be In My Trailer: The Creative Wars Between Directors & Actors
by John Badham & Craig Modderno

Saturday Night Fever and Drop Zone helmer Badham delivers a read as entertaining as it is instructive. Hefty doses of practical advice are offset with enough anecdotal evidence to please, even if you don't expect to be coaxing a corral of preening A-listers into action any time soon.

Killer Quote: "A very angry Richard Pryor is 18 inches from my face, demanding an apology. I allegedly endangered his life by asking him to drive by the camera."

 

16. Me Cheeta
By James Lever

One of the most brilliant movie star biographies we’ve ever read – that fact that it was written by a monkey is almost a side-note.

This dark tale is packed with the sort of salacious gossip that most humans would be sued for printing, but we’re assuming normal libel laws don’t apply to chimps.

But it’s not just revealing, it’s really funny too. Check the below quote, which sees Cheeta reflecting on the cliché about infinite monkeys producing Shakespeare for proof...

Killer Quote: “You've had a million humans, at least, writing away for much longer than a thousand years, and only one of them ever managed to produce the Complete Works of Shakespeare. Only one! Well, well, what's the big deal?”

Next: 15 - 10 [page-break]

 

15. High Concept: Don Simpson And The Hollywood Culture Of Excess
By Charles Fleming

The sordid, excessive and mostly sad tale of Hollywood macho man and LCD doyen Don Simpson, who ate, snorted and fucked (in both senses) his way through ‘80s LA and ultimately to an early grave.

Most shocking from Fleming’s shamelessly lurid narration aren’t the drugs and sexual degradation – coke, hookers, pissing and strap-ons – but the fact that none of the power-suited producer’s circle of friends and smiling enemies had the balls to tell him to stop before it was too late.

Killer Quote: “What Dom and the dominatrix did to this girl should have gotten them both thrown in prison.”

 

14. Spike, Mike, Slackers and Dykes: A Guided Tour Through A Decade Of Independent Cinema
By John Pierson

Ripe, behind-the-scenes story of early-‘90s US independent cinema, brought to you by producer’s rep Pierson, the middle man between the indie flicks and the Hollywood suits at a time when Sundance was taking off and the Studios were starting to see the value of indie gems like sex, lies, Slacker and Clerks.

Killer Quote : “I like Pulp Fiction the movie, yet distrust Pulp Fictionthe phenomenon.”

 

13. The Battle Of Brazil: Terry Gilliam vs Universal Pictures: The Fight To The Final Cut Of A Film Classic
By Jack Matthews

 

Blow-by-blow, day-by account of how a young, reckless Terry Gilliam took on a major studio and won, by the LA Times hack who reported it as it happened.

Comprehensively detailed with unrivalled access to both Gilliam and the unhappy Universal execs, this is a gripping David and Goliath tale with a happy ending .

Killer Quote: “The Battle of Brazil was declared on July 17, 1985…”

 

12. Rebels On The Backlot
By Sharon Waxman

 

An Easy Riders for the Sundance generation.

New York Times correspondent Waxman waxes lyrical about Hollywood’s hip indie kids – Soderbergh, Fincher, Jonze, Anderson, Tarantino – drawing frequent parallels with the New Hollywood of the 1970s.

Killer Quote: “The rebels of the 1990s shattered the status quo, set new boundaries in the art of moviemaking, and managed to bend the risk-averse studio structure to their will.”

 

11. You’re Only As Good As Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films And 100 For Which I Should Be Shot
By Mike Medavoy and Josh Young

Almost unique in Hollywood, Medavoy is a producer passionate about making classic films while keeping a steady eye on the bottom line. The hook here isn’t the obvious honour-roll of successes - Apocalypse Now, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, The Silence Of The Lambs - but the exec’s hard-lined honest about his mistakes and the pitiless, cut-and-thrust nature of the business.
Killer Quote : “Why I passed on Pulp Fiction…”

 

10. Disney War
By James B. Stewart, Simon & Schuster

History-heavy investigation into the irresistible rise of the Mouse House under chairman Michael Eisner in the 1980s, and the boardroom ructions which caused his downfall.

The winding story of corporate backstabbing is sometimes baffling, but the peek behind Disney’s family façade is always gripping.

Killer Quote : “When Roy Disney, chairman of Disney animation and nephew of founder Walt Disney, abruptly resigned in November 2003 and declared war on chairman and chief executive Michael Eisner, he sent shockwaves throughout he world.”

 

Next: 09 - 05 [page-break]

 

9. What Just Happened: Bitter Hollywood Tales From The Front Line
By Art Linson

Hit and miss Hollywood producer Linson (/The Untouchables/, /Dick Tracy/, /Fight Club/) recounts his Tinseltown dealings with startling candour and modesty in this lightweight but entertaining memoir. (Newsflash: Alec Baldwin has a fat neck and Bob De Niro can be grumpy!)

Killer Quote: “’Mutherfucker!’ Baldwin whispered. Then, with impeccable timing he turned and left the trailer.”

 

8. Blockbuster
By Tom Shone

Searing, impassioned riposte to Biskind’s Easy Riders. Englishman Shone tears down the elder critic’s construction of a golden generation of American cineastes under the weight of Lucas and Spielberg’s bucks-by-numbers blockbusting.

Instead, he argues, the pair’s intelligent and popular sensibility rescued an industry teetering on the edge of financial ruin, and taught the Western world how to love the movies again. Tramples all over Biskind’s gossipy smarm with perceptive, persuasive writing and bags of enthusiastic charm.

Killer Quote : “What a grand piece of historical luck it was to be in your early teens when Raiders Of The Lost Ark came out - when Speilberg and Lucas were in their prime and the very act of going to the movies seemed to come with its own brassily rousing John Williams score.”

 

7. One Hundred Films And A Funeral: The Life And Death Of Polygram Films
By Michael Kuhn

With Four Weddings, Fargo and Being John Malkovich, for a while there in the indie-buzzing ‘90s it looked like upstart Euro outfit Polygram might become a genuine rival to the old Hollywood order, before they were sunk by corporate re-jigging.

Ex-chief Kuhn gives a keen, honest and desperately sad overview of the company.

Killer Quote: “Polygram Filmed Entertainment – a child who was growing remarkably well and got shot in the back…and died.”

 

6. Shoot Out: Surviving Fame And (Mis)Fortune In Hollywood
By Peter Bart and Peter Gruber

The main draw here are the two Peters – Bart, the editor-in-chief of industry totem Variety and Gruber, a notorious ex-studio chief – who come together to offer a holistic view of Hollywood. Thumb past the glib preachy stuff (auteurs recast as ‘vision keepers’?) and soak up the juicy insider anecdotes.

Killer Quote: “'The world stage is populated by those who instinctively realise they will crash and burn one year, perhaps to rise triumphantly the next - artists who are willing to fail extravagantly, to risk the abyss on the off-chance that it may actually be the summit.”

 

5. If Chins Could Kill: Confessions Of A B-Movie Actor
By Bruce Campbell

Sam Raimi’s star man Campbell tells all about his sudden rise to the fringes of the film biz in this charming and irreverent autobiog.

The camp cult hero revels in his role as Hollywood hanger-on, and spills the beans on the making of Evil Dead and his other Raimi collaborations.

Killer Quote : “I’m a working stiff actor. I told them, ‘I just want to work.’”

 

Next: 04 - 01 [page-break]

 

4. Movie Wars: How Hollywood And The Media Limit What Films We Can See
By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Pumped up on passion and ferocious intelligence, the heavyweight Chicago Reader critic’s punchy polemic is a rigorous, readable call-to-battle for moviegoers who believe "movies" mean more than multiplex fodder. This is mettle-grasping movie writing as protest-lit, witty and mustard-keen.

Killer Quote: “How far are we from the prospect of Disney being asked to take over public education?”

 

3. Arnold: Schwarzenegger and the Movies
By Dave Saunders

Not your typical star biog, this.

Schwarzenegger and the Movies is an intellectual deconstruction of Schwarzenegger’s career, crediting his success to a series of socio-political changes and positioning him as an important an influence on American culture as any President.

Put it this way, you’ll never see a sentence like this written about Vin Diesel.

Killer Quote: “In the post-Marshall Plan climate of American pre-eminence, a number of imperative factors conspired in aiding Schwarzenegger’s preternatural ascent: supply-side morality and the ongoing ‘culture wars’; lingering ignominy thanks to the entwined legacies of Vietnam and Watergate; a revitalised but nonetheless newly absolutist popular conception of the American dream Reagan and Bush Senior’s conservative economic and foreign agendas; widespread anti-liberal backlash after the Great Society’s overselling of reform; and the death-throes of the Cold War.”
 

 

2. Pixarpedia
By DK Publishing

This encyclopaedia is targeted directly at kids, communicated in a language they’ll understand and enjoy. Which is no mean feat for a book that contains as much company history as it does character-guides.

Which isn’t to say there isn’t plenty for adults to enjoy too – every element, from the step-by-step chart to making a Pixar film, to behind-the-scenes facts, to the gorgeous pictures and beyooooooond, can be enjoyed equally by parents and children alike.

Just like Pixar movies, then.
 
Killer Quote:
“From talking toys to bungling bugs, over-the-hill superheroes to over-the-top dads, rusty robots to really grumpy old men.”

 


1. Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon – The Greatest Movie Never Made

Edited by Alison Castle

Originally slated as 2001’s follow-up, Kubrick’s Napoleon was planned as both an intimate character study and expansive epic.

41 years later, we get to glimpse at the immense amount of obsessive research Kubrick was putting into the project right up until the moment he passed.

It’s an amazing, incredible, mesmerising book – actually, it’s more like ten books, with one big hardback housing nine smaller hard and softcover editions.

Each separate book covers an individual area, from picture research (440 pages of every Napoleonic image his assistants could get their hands on), to location scout images, to costume shots, to textual essays, to production documents, to colour-coded index cards featuring info on all the different real-life characters who would have had to appear, to personal correspondence to, best of all, the actual script... It’s the definition of comprehensive.

So, ten books for the price of one? Actually, it’s more like ten books for the price of ten – this book-set will cost you a paycheque draining £400. But for Kubrick geeks there’s literally no better gift this, or any, Christmas.

Killer Quote : "In this film the audience would have been torn between admiration and revulsion for Napoleon, a man full of charisma and charm, but also a reckless, egocentric despot who betrayed the hope and trust of millions throughout Europe.

Lord Holland said to the British House of Lords after Napoleon’s death: “The very people who detested this great man have acknowledged that for ten centuries there has not appeared upon earth a more extraordinary character.”

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