Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Book: The Film Snob’s Dictionary, by David Kamp with Lawrence Levi (2006)

This book is dedicated in part to “everyone who has ever shouted ‘Focus!’ in a revival house,” so I’m surprised that an autographed copy was not delivered to me personally.

Don’t let the marketing fool you. The book may be next to cash registers the world over, the Barnes & Noble equivalent of a pack of gum. But it’s a smart, funny, opinionated take on movie mania. Kamp and Levi (whose no-longer-secret identity is film blogger the Looker) have been writing this material for magazines for years, and they know whereof they speak.

The authors differentiate the types of film snob; categories include Art, Gore and Kitsch. They point out that ‘existential’ and ‘offbeat’ are in fact euphemisms for ‘slow.’ They call bullshit on the oeuvres of Peter Greenaway and Dogme 95. I’m pretty sure they don’t think much of people who use the word ‘oeuvre.’ (I’ve already sworn off saying that a movie is a ‘meditation on’ something.)

The brief listings contain some surprisingly sharp writing, like a tossed-off reference to Robert Altman’s “muddy-brown period.” Or the lethally incisive observation that Hal Ashby established himself “as an ‘actor’s director’ – a designation that, like the sports term ‘player’s coach,’ suggests a mixed blessing of amiability and erratic discipline.” Any book that claims John Cassavetes “carried off his self-indulgences with an acuity and slim-lapelled flair that his heirs lack” demands to be taken seriously.

Besides, how many reference works contain handy sidebars that will help you tell Anita Ekberg from Britt Ekland, and both of them from Elke Sommer? I’ve lost sleep trying to keep them straight.

The book also underscores the cultural significance of The 4:30 Movie, a staple on New York’s WABC and the telecast that made me the man I am today. Dig those groovy opening credits.

Miscellaneous: Links

Via GreenCine Daily, an article in praise of recent horror films and their ability to tap into post-9/11 teen angst. Personally, I think the guy’s reading a little too much into them.

Elsewhere, Seattle considers its historic signs. Speaking of signs, I’d give this guy a dollar.