Not to be Missed: Fifty-four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film

Overview


As a child in 1950s Brooklyn, Kenneth Turan often turned to television programs like “Million Dollar Movie” on WOR-TV. Featuring a much-loved theme song from Gone with the Wind, “Million Dollar Movie” would run one feature film twice a day, every day, all week. It was there that he developed a life-long love of the world of the movies.

One of the most discerning critics writing today, Kenneth Turan offers insights that are sure to delight and inspire movie-lovers of all kinds ...

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Not to be Missed: Fifty-four Favorites from a Lifetime of Film

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Overview


As a child in 1950s Brooklyn, Kenneth Turan often turned to television programs like “Million Dollar Movie” on WOR-TV. Featuring a much-loved theme song from Gone with the Wind, “Million Dollar Movie” would run one feature film twice a day, every day, all week. It was there that he developed a life-long love of the world of the movies.

One of the most discerning critics writing today, Kenneth Turan offers insights that are sure to delight and inspire movie-lovers of all kinds in his latest book, Unforgettable. As sophisticated and illuminating as the films they discuss, Turan’s sketches are a blend of cultural analysis, historical anecdote and sordid Hollywood controversy, astute critical appraisals, all suffused with his abiding love for the silver screen.

Turan's favorite films range across all genres, low and high. From All About Eve to Seven Samurai to Spirited Away, these are now timeless films—classic and contemporary, familiar and obscure, with big budgets and small—each as interesting as the lives of the authors and actors that made the usually two-or-so-hour-long cinematic experience itself.

Ernst Lubitsch loved to act out the scenes he was shooting in front of his cast. Laurence Olivier’s torrid love affair with Vivien Leigh was the only reason he agreed to play the part of Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. John Boorman once said that “watching film is very like dreaming,” and truly, the highly-stylized violence of Point Blank dares its audience to reconsider what they've seen on the screen.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
04/14/2014
As a child, Los Angeles Times film critic Turan lost himself in the movies. Later, as a student at the Columbia School of Journalism, he took a seminar from Judith Crist, who told him that he could be watch films and write about them professionally. In this affectionate look at the movies that have meant the most to him, he chooses several films, beginning in 1913 with Louis Feuillade’s silent film Fantômas, and proceeds decade by decade up through Joseph Cedar’s Footnote (2011). He offers a brief introduction to the films of each intervening decade and then provides short and critically admiring analyses of his chosen films. The 1930s, he writes, were a “decade, as even the titles of the films like Bombshell and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang indicated, that started with a ferocious burst of uncensored energy; the ability to speak filled the movies with a kind of dynamism that never went away.” Turan’s crisp and deft analysis of individual films offers fresh insights into them; of the length of Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (nearly three and a half hours), Turan observes: “the passage of time has one final advantage: it shows us the entirety of the agricultural year, from planting to… final harvesting; that’s critical because the film’s final message is to reinforce the endurance of that kind of life.” Turan’s illuminating reflections do what the best essays on film always do: send us to watch the movie, whether for the first time or the 20th. (June)
From the Publisher

“We would be hard pressed to disagree with Turan's premise about what makes for a favorite movie, or to write more eloquently about the things we love.—San Francisco Chronicle

“Kenneth Turan…presents an enticing blend of Hollywood controversies, historical context, and crisp analysis in Not to be Missed…Cinephiles will find plenty to devour and to debate.”—Boston Globe

“[Turan] offers up tidbits of Hollywood history and behind-the-scenes drama, as well as his critical analysis of some of the world's greatest movies — some familiar, some obscure.”—NPR's Morning Edition

“The book’s real value… may lie in the oddities that Turan has unearthed over a lifetime of viewing: connections between films and cultures that showcase influences and enhance reputations.”—Washington Post

"A collection full of surprises and Turan's great insight, Not to Be Missed is a treasure chest—essential reading for anyone who loves movies."—Susan Orlean, author of Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend and The Orchid Thief

“What makes this book stand out is how each film is put into context of the time period it was made and Turan’s reasons why each one sticks out as memorable and deserving of watching more than once. This collection is a worthwhile companion to similar books of “the best in film,” e.g., Roger Ebert’s The Great Movies and Gail Kinn and Jim Piazza’s The Greatest Movies Ever. Recommended for the casual movie fan as well as the serious film student.”—Library Journal

“A veteran critic offers a decade-by-decade list of the films that have been like ‘friends who’ve enriched my life.’ Film lovers will eagerly swoop in to see if their favorites are present, and there are certainly some surprises. [Not to Be Missed] will surely ignite debate, disdain and delight.”— Kirkus

“[Turan’s] comments about the movies are always insightful…his writing is fluid and accessible. Richly deserving of shelf space alongside Ebert’s The Great Movies (2002), Pauline Kael’s For Keeps (1994), and Turan’s own Never Coming to a Theater Near You (2004).”—Booklist

“Turan's thoughtful list will inspire readers to rent some of his all-time favorites, and they can have the utmost confidence in Turan's wise and enthusiastic recommendations.” —Shelf Awareness

“The never-condescending Turan, another fine prose stylist, shares his faves so enthusiastically one gets caught up in the excitement of visiting or revisiting movies like “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” or “Howards End” or even Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” to see what Turan saw in them…A great little listing of some great films, which may inspire its readers to make their own lists -- and then watch them.”—Book Buzz column

“Wholly compelling… For the last several decades, Turan himself has been a “not-to-be-missed” film critic for the Los Angeles Times and National Public Radio, but now he has cast his memory back to his own formative experiences watching movies. The result is more than a collection of reviews, however; rather, Turan offers an enchanting blend of memoir, cultural and social history, Hollywood intelligence-gathering, and, of course, the testimony of an ardent and exceptionally well-informed aficionado of the movies….Here is a critic and writer at the height of his powers, fully himself and speaking in his unique voice, wholly immersed in a body of knowledge that he has mastered with the gravitas of a talmudic scholar, and yet, at the same time, fully alive with the sheer joy that the movies have inspired in him and so many others.”—Jewish Journal

Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-11
A veteran critic offers a decade-by-decade list of the films that have been like "friends who've enriched my life." Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition film critic Turan (Now in Theaters Everywhere: A Celebration of a Certain Kind of Blockbuster, 2006, etc.) confesses his discomfort with his own project: so many films. He was so uncomfortable, in fact, that at the end, he suggests two others for slot 55, then appends yet another list of 54 that he's loved. Film lovers will eagerly swoop in to see if their favorites are present, and there are certainly some surprises. Turan does not mention either Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd. Citizen Kane does not make the first cut—though it does appear as a recommendation at the end of his discussion of Sweet Smell of Success; it also appears in the appended list (as do two other Welles films). Turan's tastes are eclectic: documentaries (Stranded), Westerns (The Unforgiven), an animated feature (Spirited Away), crime films (Kiss Me Deadly), musicals (Singin' in the Rain), films based on classic novels (Great Expectations), films everyone's heard of (Casablanca) and films that few beside the cognoscenti know (The Best of Youth). In each case, the author introduces each decade and discusses the directors and performers; in many instances, he summarizes the plots and/or gives some back story about the making of the films. Principally, however, he explores how each film affected him and how the filmmaker managed to do what he did (male filmmakers dominate here). Among the principal factors are cinematography, music, individual performances, the power of the plot, the settings, the ambiance, the effect of surprise and the styles of the directors. Although Turan discusses many Hollywood studio films, he also includes films from Japan, Italy, Denmark, Israel and elsewhere. Like most other "my-favorites" projects, this one will surely ignite debate, disdain and delight.
Library Journal
06/01/2014
Popular film critic Turan (Los Angeles Times; NPR; Free for All) lists here what he considers to be 54 of the world's most memorable films—an ambitious task. Each entry contains a short plot synopsis, a brief background on the filmmakers responsible for the end product, and even one or two recommended related movie titles for further viewing. All in all, this is a reliable representation of a wide range of cinematic masterpieces, and includes many well-known (Casablanca; The Godfather), as well as several less-familiar (Sherlock Jr.; The Dybbuk) titles. What makes this book stand out is how each film is put into context of the time period it was made and Turan's reasons why each one sticks out as memorable and deserving of watching more than once. VERDICT This collection is a worthwhile companion to similar books of "the best in film," e.g., Roger Ebert's The Great Movies and Gail Kinn and Jim Piazza's The Greatest Movies Ever. Recommended for the casual movie fan as well as the serious film student.—Richard Dickey, Washington DC
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781586483968
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 6/3/2014
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 163,432
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Kenneth Turan

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor. A graduate of Swarthmore College and Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, he is the co-author of Call Me Anna: The Autobiography of Patty Duke. Turan teaches film reviewing and non-fiction writing at USC and is on the board of directors of the National Yiddish Book Center. His most recent books include Free for All: Joe Papp, The Public, and the Greatest Theater Story Ever Told and Never Coming To A Theater Near You. Turan lives in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @KennethTuran.

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