Posts tagged Hollywood
Full disclosure: author Daniel M. Kimmel is my friend, and my colleague in The Boston Online Film Critics Association. However I can honestly say that I would have loved his book Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide, regardless of whether I knew him personally. Kimmel’s debut novel is brilliant satire of the film industry, which also happens to be a hilarious, heartwarming science fiction story about unexpected friendship.
Click here to read more.
When you read a book about the film industry, you don’t want to be overwhelmed by text. You expect photos to tell the story. After all, what would a motion picture book be without the pictures? Supplying an adequate number of storytelling images is even more vital when the topic of your volume is photography like Hollywood Movie Stills by Joel W. Finler. Rather appropriately, Finler’s book doesn’t waste your time with excessive dissertation. He sets up his chapters with historical information, letting multiple pages of photographs and captions serve as examples of his discussion.
Hollywood Movie Stills traces the origin and purpose for still photography in Hollywood from the 1910s through the 1960s, or as it’s subtitled “the Golden Age of the Studios.” The book’s narrow scope works to its advantage for two reasons. First, it is a quick read because it covers a short time span in filmmaking. Second, its in-depth focus provides a thorough education about the value of still photography in Hollywood.
As you learn from the book, still photography has several applications in Hollywood. It is used for old character photographs in movies, record keeping, film promotion, and star publicity. More importantly however, images preserve movie scenes that were cut and films that have been lost to time. Since many prints from the silent era no longer exist, still images provide us with visual proof of their content. What’s slightly deceptive though is that some pictures could be of scenes or characters that didn’t make the final cut, so reconstruction is not a precise science.
The most entertaining sections in Finler’s book describe the 1930s and 1940s, when movie studios were absurdly controlling of their stars. Treated like commodities, actors had to constantly endure being photographed at home, in character, and in seductive outfits. They were styled to match other successful celebrities or to fit specific archetypes. Ironically, these images were highly censored to remove ridiculous things like chest hair and cleavage.
Finler’s volume is a meticulous study of movie photography. Not only does he teach you about the influential photographers of old Hollywood, he also shares some amusing industry anecdotes. One photographer hilariously recounts pranks that Alfred Hitchcock played on him and another comically discusses how actor Jimmy Stewart was considered “a problem” because studio execs couldn’t fit him into one of their molds. Finler’s captions are equally detailed. There are captions that literally just describe the types of images you will see on the following pages in addition to individual ones for each photo. These segments can be a bit long and tough to read though given their length however.
In his conclusion, Finler argues that still photography in films today has less impact and quality given the industry’s switch to color photography and digital cameras. While these methods certainly deviate from tradition, I disagree with his assessment that they lower the effect or the worth of the pictures. Color photography shows the brilliant shades of costumes, sets, and makeup in ways that black and white photos cannot. A couple of years ago he might have been correct about digital photography, but the advances in technology now allow high resolution photographs to be taken that are equal in excellence to those captured by traditional cameras.
If you are a movie buff with knowledge about photography, then you’ll appreciate Hollywood Movie Stills. Even if you aren’t into photography like me, you’ll still soak in a lot about its origins and purpose in filmmaking.
Hollywood Movie Stills is available in stores and online at www.titanbooks.com.
Hollywood insiders know that for every movie that gets made, there is an even greater number sitting on the shelf. These projects live in a world known as Development Hell, just waiting for the right break, whether it’s financial, creative, or legal in nature. If you want to learn exactly why some of these films never see the light of day, but you’re not well-versed in the filmmaking process, fret not, because critic and screenwriter David Hughes gives you the necessary education in his engrossing book Tales from Development Hell.
Hughes provides a crash course for understanding the Hollywood machine in his entertaining introduction, titled “Welcome to Development Hell.” He leads with a brilliant quote from author Douglas Adams, who is known best for his novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Adams hilariously said, “Trying to make a movie in Hollywood is like trying to grill a steak by having a succession of people coming into the room and breathing on it.” This statement primes you for the messy creative process, which Hughes describes in five easy to understand steps that land a picture in Development Hell.