Moments That Made the Movies


"Cinema history cloaked as a coffee-table showpiece." —San Francisco ChronicleIn his first fully illustrated work, David Thomson breaks new ground by focusing in on a series of moments—which his readers will also experience in beautifully reproduced imagery—from seventy-two films across a 100-year-plus span. An indispensable counterpart to both his classic Biographical Dictionary of Film (called “a miracle” by Sight and Sound) and his lauded recent history, The Big Screen (“a pungently written, brilliant book” according to David Denby), Moments

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"Cinema history cloaked as a coffee-table showpiece." —San Francisco ChronicleIn his first fully illustrated work, David Thomson breaks new ground by focusing in on a series of moments—which his readers will also experience in beautifully reproduced imagery—from seventy-two films across a 100-year-plus span. An indispensable counterpart to both his classic Biographical Dictionary of Film (called “a miracle” by Sight and Sound) and his lauded recent history, The Big Screen (“a pungently written, brilliant book” according to David Denby), Moments takes readers on an unprecedented visual tour, where the specifics of the imagery the reader is seeing are inextricably tied to the text. Thomson’s moments range from a set of Eadweard Muybridge’s pioneering photographs to sequences in films from the classic—Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard, The Red Shoes—to the unexpected—The Piano Teacher, Burn After Reading.The excitement of Moments’s dynamic visuals will be matched only by the discussion it incites in film circles, as readers revisit their own list of memorable moments and then re-experience the films—both those included on Thomson's list and from their own life—as never before. Moments That Made the Movies will undoubtedly reaffirm Thomson's place as—according to John Banville—“the greatest living writer on the movies.”

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In books like The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, The Big Screen, and The Whole Equation, film critic David Thomson has earned a place for himself as one of our leading historians of film. (John Banville calls him "the greatest living writer on movie.") In Moments That Made the Movies, his first fully illustrated book, he moves in for close-ups of pivotal moments of seventy-two films; from Eadweard Muybridge's primitive capturing of movement to stellar cinema of recent years. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
When we think about the movies we love or even the ones we hate, specific moments come to mind. Whether we recall a scene or an image or certain dialogue, these moments define the film in our recollection. Prolific film-critic Thomson's (The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies) new art-sized book examines these "sensational" moments from more than 70 films in this film-lover's treasure. Organized chronologically Thomson begins in the year 1887 Eadweard Muybridge's Animal Location and spans all the way to 2008 with the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading. The selection largely encompasses American classics—Preston Sturges's The Lady Eve, Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd—and a smattering of foreign films directed by the likes of Kenji Mizoguchi, Jean-Luc Godard, and Michelangelo Antonioni. He'll occasionally include less known films such as Danny De Vito's Hoffa or Jane Campion's In the Cut. The "knock-out" set-pieces often lean towards the violent or erotically charged, but all include multiple images, sometimes full-page spreads. Thomson warns in his introduction that readers shouldn't interpret the chosen moments as "the ‘best' moments" or his "personal favorites," though recent history definitely gets downplayed: 1959, for example, gets three entries, while there are none from 1996 to 2000. The book's effect is undeniable, as the reader feels determined to hit the nearest theater. Agent: Steve Wasserman, Kneerim & Williams. (Oct.)
San Francisco Chronicle
“Moments That Made the Movies, is cinema history cloaked as a coffee-table showpiece. It comes at 70 individual films—usual suspects and irregulars alike— by way of a defining sequence. Whichever his approach, this most offbeat of cinephiles and spot-on of writers shows how the part represents the whole. The consistent delight of Moments, which samples both the thin crust (When Harry Met Sally . . .) and the deep dish (The Passenger), is how Thomson makes the reader see how often the microcosm is both macro and cosmic.”
The Huffington Post
“Explores iconic scenes in both classic and contemporary films that were not only enjoyable, but in some way groundbreaking.”
The Buffalo News
“[Thomson’s] basic premise in this beautifully illustrated book is sound—that it is the moments from movies that we retain rather than the whole thing.”
New York Times Book Review
“Moments That Made the Movies is full of assured declarations, chatty asides and free-associative essays. . . . both fun and not a little feverish. . . . Moment by moment, each statement is certainly worth considering, made as it is by a highly respected critic who is appreciated exactly for such a garrulous parade of this-not-that explications.”
Shelf Awareness
“Thomson’s . . . moments are captured in a few pages each, with 250 glorious stills accompanying the brief analyses.”
The Week
“Unafraid to stump for lesser-known and lowbrow movies . . . may inspire you to look at the whole medium anew.”
“If your imagination is captured by freeze frames . . . movie history might be summed up in film historian David Thomson's Moments That Made the Movies. Films are often encapsulated by single scenes — consider the boulder pursuing Indiana Jones or Joseph Cotten's endless wait at the end of The Third Man—and the ever-sharp Thomson picks several dozen to tell the story of cinema.”
The Nation
“The idea here is to focus on a series of moments in seventy-two films of particular significance and accompany them with wonderful stills representing those moments.”
Booklist/American Library Association
“Accompanied by wonderfully evocative stills, this eminently browsable book is certain to delight film lovers.”
The Boston Herald
“A marvelous wordsmith with a keen eye, Thomson . . . somehow manages to illustrate his many moments in films both obscure . . . and legendary.”
American Profile
“A visually thrilling tour of the magic of the movies, one special moment at a time.”
“The Brit transplant's long experience with writing accessible, entertaining, idiosyncratic, erudite and enlightening movie books led him to the most delightful one of all: Moments that Made the Movies. . . . This is a keeper.”
Lafayette Journal & Courier
“Film critic David Thomson is an artist who paints pictures with words. ... What makes Moments special is Thomson’s choices. He doesn’t spotlight the obvious moments. ... In doing so, Thomson reveals unique and telling moments in film history that viewers may have overlooked. Moments That Made the Movies is a treasure-trove that highlights and helps etch many of these films into the minds of cinephiles.”
Short and Sweet NYC
“Tells of many an incredible filmed moment.”
Woman Around Town
real treasure.”
The Midwest Book Review
lovely visual and written pairing that will be perfect for any film or arts library.”
The Washington Post
“A coffee-table book with a brain... Thomson is arguably the best American film critic since Pauline Kael, and almost everything he has to say in “Moments” is savvy and stimulating.”
. . . Thomson remains acutely sensitive to the motion picture’s birthplace in the world of still imagery.”
Lifestyle Mirror
“This book is both a visual delight and a valuable tool for anyone who enjoys a good movie.

Library Journal
Film critic Thomson (The New Republic; The Biographical Dictionary of Film; Showman: The Life of David O. Selznick) has taken more than 70 films and captured the exact scene (with text and illustrations) that he felt made the movie. The examples are listed in chronological order, from 1887 to a still photo taken in 2011. They encompass such classics as Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Sunset Boulevard, A Star Is Born, Psycho, The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, The Right Stuff, and When Harry Met Sally. There are also interesting choices such as M, Tokyo Story, Blow-Up, The Conformist, The Shining, Heat, and Zodiac. It is fascinating to read why such moments as the airplane scene in North by Northwest, the initiation of Michael Corleone into the family business in The Godfather, the noir mood of the pool scene in Sunset Boulevard, the café scene in Bonnie and Clyde, and the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino meet up in Heat—and many others—are important in the history of film. VERDICT Highly recommended for readers who enjoy motion picture history, cinematography, and movie plots and themes.—Sally Bryant, Pepperdine Univ. Lib., Malibu, CA
The Key Reporter
“Experiential. . . . A great thing about Thomson is that he leaves things open.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780500516416
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson
  • Publication date: 10/7/2013
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 280,856
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 10.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

David Thomson

Based in San Francisco, David Thomson is the film critic for The New Republic and has written regularly for The Guardian, The Independent, Sight & Sound, Film Comment, and Movieline.

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