An Insightful Book about Movies
During the holidays, I’m always looking for books about cinema to recommend as gifts for movie fans. This year, The Power of Film by Howard Suber, a book focusing on memorable popular films, ranks high on my list. A collection of notes and handouts -- arranged alphabetically by topics anyone interested in film would want to know more about -- from Suber’s legendary film courses at UCLA, this user-friendly book makes a perfect present for the movie lovers on your shopping list.
“I have taught sixty-five different courses covering a great variety of subjects in film and television, and in these courses I often distributed more than 500 pages of notes in a single term," Suber explains in his introduction. Many of his former students have asked that he put these notes in book form, and The Power of Film is the result of their requests.
Suber places his emphasis on American films (made since the beginning of the talkies) that were popular in their own day and are still popular today. For example, that list includes such classics as African Queen, Casablanca, Rebel Without a Cause, High Noon, It’s a Wonderful Life, Star Wars, North by Northwest, The Godfather, Midnight Cowboy, Rocky, Raging Bull, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Frankenstein, Gone with the Wind, Singin' in the Rain, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Wizard of Oz.
The Power of Film can be read from beginning to end, but I liked being able to skip around according to various topics I’m particularly interested in. For example, I immediately checked out what Suber had to say about “Acting” and learned that Russian director Lev Kuleshov’s early experiments “lie at the foundation of American popular films to this day.” What did these experiments show? That the secret of great film acting is not action but reaction. (To me, Spencer Tracy was the best film reactor ever.)
Next, because I’m the world’s most avid movie musical fan, I jumped forward to “Musicals” and discovered Suber’s favorite musical (Singin’ in the Rain) is the same as mine -- so he must know what he’s talking about, right? “In no film genre is energy and exuberance as important as in the musical,” he writes. “Nor is any other genre as much fun as the musical. That is why people who are able to let themselves enjoy something that is not ‘serious’ often find that high at the top of their favorite films are one or more musicals.”
Gems like the ones mentioned above are found on practically every page of The Power of Film. Because it contains Suber’s valuable insights concerning hundreds of key movie topics, this book is an important resource for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of American films that have withstood the test of time.
(The Power of Film is published by Michael Wiese Productions. For more information, visit www.mwp.com.)