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In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the movies, once America's primary popular art form, have become an endangered species. Do the Movies Have a Future? is a rousing and witty call to arms. In these sharp and engaging essays and reviews, New Yorker movie critic David Denby weighs in on "conglomerate aesthetics," as embodied in the frenzied, weightless action spectacles that dominate the world's attention, and "platform agnosticism," the notion that movies can be watched on smaller and smaller screens: laptops, tablets, even phones. At the same time, Denby reaffirms that movies are our national theater, and in this exhilarating book he celebrates such central big movies as Avatar and The Social Network as well as small but resonant triumphs like There Will Be Blood and The Tree of Life.
Denby joyously celebrates what remains of the shared culture in romantic comedy, high school movies, and chick flicks; he assesses the expressive triumphs and failures of auteurs Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Pedro Almodovar, and David Fincher. Refusing nostalgia, he mines the past for strength, examining the changing nature of stardom and the careers of Joan Crawford, Otto Preminger, and Victor Fleming, and the continuing self-invention of Clint Eastwood. And he recreates the excitement of reading two critics who embodied the film culture of their times, James Agee and Pauline Kael.
Wry, passionate, and incisive, Do the Movies Have a Future? is both a feast of good writing and a challenge to fight back. It is an essential guide for movie lovers looking for ammunition and hope.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-09-10
- Reviewer: Staff
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 about again.” Agent: Kathy Robbins. (Oct.)