Amid the usual flurry of sequins, excitement and suspense, Hollywood celebrates itself again this month with the 75th annual Academy Awards. You know the routine: the red carpet unrolls; the most tarnished stars shine. The secrets in those little white envelopes are disclosed. There'll be tears, pageantry and fashion faux-pas, an overlong ceremony and endless thank-you's. Ah, the traditions of Tinseltown! Yet each year, most of us endure the symptoms of celebrity the platitudes and attitudes, eccentricities and frippery with good-natured equanimity. Why? Because a season without Oscar is simply unthinkable.
BookPage pays tribute to the movies this month with a group of books sure to satisfy the most celebrity-obsessed cinemaphile.
A treasury of film triviaThe New Biographical Dictionary of Film (Knopf, $35, 960 pages, ISBN 0375411283) by critic David Thomson has provided the final word in movie trivia for the past 25 years. International in scope, organized alphabetically and freshly updated with 300 new listings (for a total of 1,300 entries overall), this weighty reference volume contains brief biographies of actors and directors, tycoons and producers, including everyone from Rin Tin Tin to Steven Spielberg. Thomson, a London native who contributes regularly to The New York Times and Film Comment, supplies plenty of insider info birthdays, lists of films and other irresistible tidbits, like Leonardo DiCaprio's middle name (the martial-sounding Wilhelm) and George Clooney's birthplace (Maysville, Kentucky, of all places.) A word of warning: Thomson is fearlessly free with his opinions. Moviegoers may take exception to his unsparing evaluations of Ben Affleck ("boring, complacent, and criminally lucky to have got away with everything so far") and Gwyneth Paltrow (star of "a host of silly films"), but there's no denying that the author's criticisms are smart, discerning, often downright hilarious. Hollywood how-toActors and executives, set builders and costume designers all share the spotlight in The American Film Institute Desk Reference. Produced by the American Film Institute, this authoritative guide to the industry offers the basics, from a timeline of movie history to an in-depth look at foreign film. The book is divided into fascinating categories. A chapter called "Movie Crafts" provides details on special effects, sound and music, while "Movie Basics" will tell you how to get started in the biz. A host of wonderful visuals brings the text alive. Edited by George Ochoa and Melinda Corey, authors of more than 30 books on cinema, this wonderfully comprehensive volume includes the American Film Institute's list of the 100 Best Films of the Past 100 Years. With an introduction by Clint Eastwood, it's an engaging survey of the film world.
A mischievous look at the moviesRichard Roeper, co-host of Ebert ∧ Roeper at the Movies, has compiled a humorous collection of movie-related lists that's a must-have for any film freak. In Ten Sure Signs a Movie Character is Doomed, and Other Surprising Movie Lists (Hyperion, $14, 304 pages, ISBN 078688830X), Roeper takes stock of Hollywood, skewering celebrity culture with his clever categories. Along with the usual best-of and worst-of rosters are lists that never existed until now, like "The Gross-Out Hall of Fame," "Age Difference Between Michael Douglas and His Leading Ladies," and "12 Actors and Actresses Who Took Their Clothes Off When They Should Have Kept Them On." A mix of roguish comedy and expert criticism, this ingenious paperback covers almost every element of the movies. So you won't have to, Roeper has indexed the best film portrayals of presidents (Harrison Ford in Air Force One; Bill Pullman in Independence Day), the worst singers turned actors (Madonna, Mariah Carey) and pop songs perennially used in the movies (Born to Be Wild; I Will Survive). From soundtracks to screen kisses to casting disasters, no aspect of the cinema is safe from the wisecracking Roeper. Frank, funny, masterminded by a movie authority, Ten Sure Signs a Movie Character is Doomed is one mischievous little volume.