Monday, October 08, 2012

Five top classic works of movie criticism

David Denby is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author, most recently, of Do the Movies Have a Future?

For the Wall Street Journal, he named a five best list of classic works of movie criticism, including:
Agee on Film
by James Agee (1958)

James Agee, the great humanist of American film criticism, thought of movies as "the grandest prospect for a major popular art since Shakespeare's time." Agee reviewed for Time and the Nation in the '40s, when movie attendance was at its peak. The centrality of movies, he thought, conferred certain responsibilities on Hollywood—not just to entertain but to render a credible and expressive picture of the nation's families and houses and streets, a portrait of its conflicts, its soul. Needless to say, he was often disappointed, but his evocation of movies as a moral-spiritual landscape has never been rivaled for its earnest intensity, leavened, often enough, with a poet's sensitivity to sensuous surfaces, a born writer's control of rhythm and balance, and startling explosions of blasphemous wit. In "Tender Comrade," for example, the courtship and marriage of Ginger Rogers and her husband have "the curious accuracy of those advertising dialogues in which Mr. and Mrs. Patchogue eliminate their erotic blockages by wrangling their way to a good laxative." Many of the movies he covered have faded from sight, but he can be read again and again for the tender exhilaration of his prose.
Read about another book on Denby's list.

Also see Michael Wood's top ten books on film.

--Marshal Zeringue