Skip to main content

What Am I Reading?

I recently went on a bit of a splurge and bought a few books on film that. They have made great holiday and weekend reading, and each went about the topic of film and cinema in really different and interesting ways.

Filmish: Comic Book Essay on Film Theory by Edward Ross


I hadn’t actually heard of this before I saw it in one of Manchester’s quirky Northern Quarter shops, and bought it on a bit of a whim. I couldn’t put it down for the rest of that day though. Edward Ross is a comic book artist, writer and illustrator. All of those skills come together in a fascinating and brilliant-looking journey through the history and themes of cinema. Ross uses comic style illustrations of popular films to tell the story of cinema from its birth to present day via themes such as power, ideology, technology, time and the body. The role a platform as powerful as cinema has to play in culture is impossible to ignore, and that is made crystal clear here.
I found this really accessible, insightful and just a lot of fun to work through. I really liked how Ross appears in cartoon form, peeking out from famous movie scenes as if giving the best university lecture ever. It’s an extremely witty trip from Arrival of a Train at LA Ciotat (1896) and The Jazz Singer (1927) to The Matrix (1999) and The Fly (1986) via the genius of Charlie Chaplin, Steven Spielberg, Disney, and Buster Keaton. I was seriously impressed, so if you know me, expect this in your Christmas stocking. #sorrynotsorry

A Year of Movies – 365 Films to Watch on the Date They Happened by Ivan Walters

Much like everyone else, got pretty excited on 21st October 2015. Back to the Future Day, or the day Marty McFly travelled forward in time from 1985, was accompanied by articles assessing how well the film did at guessing future technologies (oh for self-tying shoe laces though…) and a DeLorean turning up at Salford. Ivan Walter’s book allows you to get excited about every day of the year. Kind of.

For every date of the year, the book gives a couple of films that were set on that day. I’ll be honest and admit this isn’t a book I would want to read from cover to cover. It’s a lot of fun to flick through though and pick out important dates for you though. Frodo, Sam, and Gollum leave the hills and enter the Dead Marshes in The Lord of the Rings: The Towers (2002) on my birthday. The Adjustment Bureau (2011) is set on mine and Charlotte’s anniversary, and two days ago was 29th August, or Judgement Day in Terminator 2 (1991). Oh, and A Christmas Carol (1984) is set on 25th December. Who knew?? I’ve really enjoyed having it to hand when friends or family coming over and looking to see what movie is set on their birthdays or that particular date. The detail on the films themselves is really well written, and I’ve found it a good way to learn about films you may never have heard of otherwise.

The Movie Doctors by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode

Image result for the movie doctors
I’ve always been a really big fan of Kermode and his film reviews, and the chemistry he has with his 5Live radio colleague Simon Majo is always very entertaining. Both clearly know their stuff, and having read much of Kermode’s other books I was really excited when this was released. Again this is another book on my list that looks at film and cinema from an unusual perspective, and puts a clever twist on how and why to pick films to watch. Billed as the Movie Doctors, the two look to cure every ailment with prescriptions of film. It could be films to lighten your mood (The collected works of Richard Curtis apart from The Boat That Rocked), or put a dampener on it (The Mist, 2007). It details those films that will cause earache (Interstellar, 2014), films to avoid depending on your phobia, those to watch to make you feel like a better parent (Home Alone, 1990; Star Wars, 1977; and Carrie, 1976), and which of Tarantino’s films are most in need of a surgical trimming (Death Proof, 2007). I may not agree with everything Kermode says (it would be boring if you did), but these themes are interspersed with some of his fascinating knowledge and insight on cinema as a whole too. It’s as well written as ever, and I had a really good laugh picking through it.

“Where medical ignorance and movie expertise meet – the surgery of Doctors Kermode and Mayo is now open.”

The Film Buff’s Bucket List: The 50 Movies of the 2000s to See Before You Die by Chris Stuckmann
One day I was trying to explain to Charlotte why Jaws: The Revenge (1987) was so bad. You would have thought I would have felt the need to stop at a story of a shark with a personal vendetta against a family, but no. I began scouring the internet and came across Chris Stuckmann’s ‘hilariocity’ review on YouTube. Since then I’ve really enjoyed working through his back catalogue of film reviews. He’s got a really approachable manner, the points he makes are accessible, and it’s clear he’s really passionate about what he’s talking about. His first ever book release is going to add to the hundreds of ‘best ever’ film list books, but this one focuses more on those released from 2000 onwards. The graphics for each film on every other page are great (I would love some on my wall), and the analysis is short, sweet and to the point. I like having it as a quick reference guide to those films you’ve seen over and over, and the full list at the back with space to fill in your own star rating is a nice touch. There aren’t too many surprises in the list, but it did find myself inspired to get hold of Spirited Away (2001) and Enemy (2013).


Popular posts from this blog

My Best Films of 2017 So Far - 6 Month Review

As is now a famous Philhelm Scream tradition (ie. I’ve done it once before, last year), approaching the half-way point of the calendar year feels a suitable time to take stock and rank some films. After what was an incredible strong Oscar year, there’s a good showing of the nominees here seeing as each received a January release here in the UK. Fingers crossed July – Dec is just as good!

10. Hidden Figures
I thought it was a bit of a shame Hidden Figures (along with 2016's Hell or High Water) slipped under the best Picture radar a bit this year, while the incredibly dull Lion (2017) and Dev Patel’s hair seemed to get a lot more coverage. The story of the first ever black female employee at NASA, and the struggles she faced to get there was told really well. It’s a proper fist pump of a story, and doesn’t get too bogged down in the boring number crunching that it could so easily have done. The leading trio of Taraji P. Henson, Janelle MonĂ¡e and Octavia Spencer are each brilliant…

The Secret History of Hollywood Podcast

A while back for my previous job I had to drive from the office near Manchester, down to London, and then back again after a couple of days.  Rather than sitting through the same songs on my iPod during the journey, I thought I would search for a decent podcast to listen to.  The previous time I had made a similar journey I had listened to an audiobook of Oscar Wilde's 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' and although it was a great listen I was up for something for cinema themed this time round.  Having searched through iTunes, I came across 'The Secret History of Hollywood.'  The 'Universe of Horrors' episode in particular caught my eye, and although the 7 hour run time would put many off, it was exactly what I was after.

@philpotts89 Thank you! — Hollywood Histories (@moviehistories) September 4, 2016
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the podcast's examination of the role of the monster movie in the rise of Universal studios really caught my imagination a…

Baby Driver (2017)

Shaun of the Dead (2004) is somehow one of my favourite ever comedies, as well as making it on to my list of favourite ever horror films.  Hot Fuzz (2007) is brilliantly funny too (always thought it would make a great cinema double bill with Bigelow's Point Break, the 1991 thriller from which it took a lot of inspiration), but I don’t remember reacting to The World’s End (2013) in anyway near the same way.  While the first two in Wright’s ‘Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy’ heavily referenced films I knew very well to comedic effect, I remember thinking that I would find The World’s End funnier when I’m older… so its terrifying to think that soon may be the time to give that another go.  I'm a huge fan of Edgar Wright’s snappy style and cuts, and there’s actually a great analysis of his visual comedy which I recommend checking out here.  After he backed out of doing Marvel's Ant-Man in 2015, the release of Baby Driver crept up on me a bit this year.  Had I known one of the m…