Do the Movies Have a Future?

David Denby, Author
David Denby. Simon & Schuster, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-4165-9947-0
Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4391-1009-6
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-1-4165-9948-7
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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. Dividing his approach into seven sections—“Trends,” “Independent Glories,” “Stars,” “Genres,” “Directors,” “Two Critics,” and “An Opening to the Future”—Denby constantly harkens back to the way things used to be (“the way we were,” to be exact, though the Redford/Streisand romantic drama doesn’t get a mention). In “Pirates on the iPod: The Soul of a New Screen,” he compares the joy of the big screen to the less than comfortable experience of squinting at a smartphone screen (this was written in 2007). He’s at his best in the sections on stars and directors because, as he notes in the introduction, what he’s interested in are “mainstream commercial and mainstream American filmmaking,” as this is what the general public means by “going to the movies.” Denby’s critique of Joan Crawford and his summation of Clint Eastwood’s remarkable career as a director (and an actor) are vivid enough to make readers want to immediately update their Netflix queues with 1940s melodramas and spaghetti westerns. As for the future of movies, Denby is hesitant to predict with certainty (he’s not a fan of smash-’em-up digital-effects extravaganzas) but what he proposes is preferable to another onslaught of video-game adaptations: film becoming “a national culture that everyone talk[s] about again.” Agent: Kathy Robbins. (Oct.)
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