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Filmology: A Movie-a-Day Guide to the Movies You Need to Know

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  • Posted November 20, 2010

    An excellent primer on the movies

    Review of Film.ol.o.gy by Chris Barsanti, MA: Adams Media, 2011, 380pp. The first thing most people do when picking up a book is to scan the pages for the feel of the subject. What does the index indicate about the details? How long is the introduction? Who wrote the foreword if anyone? What is unusual about Chris Barsanti's film tome is that the author wastes little time getting into his topic. Barsanti includes his own one-page introduction, then it's right on to the business at hand: giving the readers who want to know more about the movies a guide to what they should see, what they must see to gain a well-rounded education in the cinema. Film.ol.o.gy covers Barsanti's 365 favorite indexed alphabetically, also by genres: action, animation, avant-garde, comedy, crime, drama, family, foreign, horror, musical, mystery, non-fiction, romance, science-fiction, war, and western. Though 365 sounds like a large number, a look at my calendar shows that all you have to do is to see one movie a day. (I used to think that writing a 365-page novel would be a daunting task, until I figured that all I'd have to do is to write a page a day. Trouble is, I never got past January 1st.) If you want to have a deep knowledge of cinema history, production, theory and literature, go to Columbia or NYU for an MFA. If you're a more casual viewer but still want to learn more of what you should look for, you will do well to read Barsanti's reviews carefully. I'd suggest perusing a review before you attend the picture, which you can get from Netflix, then watch the film, then go back to his review and see if you'll get more out of what you've seen. I'll bet that you will. Here are some examples of his prose. For "All About Eve," we see Year Released: 1950; Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz; Who's In It: Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm. A quote: "You have a point. An idiotic one, but a point." A synopsis. A commentary: "Mankiewicz's film is funny, literate, and knowing, tracking the theater world's cycles of self-destructive narcissism with a biased eye. All the performances are fresh and energetic, particularly those of Sanders and Davis, who manage the fine trick of not overacting while portraying chronic overactors." It's not surprising to find people under the age of forty who have never heard of Bette Davis, George Sanders, Celeste Holm, and Anne Baxter. Thumbing through the rest of Barsanti's reviews, those young readers would encounter such Martians as Lillian Gish, Robert Mitchum, Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, and Friedrich Feher, and great movies like "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," "Jules and Jim," and what movie library could be without "The Great Dictator," "The Great Escape," and "Great Expectations"? There's no sign of "The Great Train Robbery." Film.ol.o.gy, then, is of special value to young people who may never have seen a movie made before 1970, is important for the collection of anyone who goes to movies at least once a week as well as those of us who never see the inside of a theater but who rent from Netflix and who pay per view.

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