Monday, May 27, 2013

Books I'm Reading: Pictures at a Revolution

Mark Harris's thesis in Pictures at a Revolution (Penguin, 2008) is that the 1967 Oscars can be taken as a turning point in the history of Hollywood. By examining in detail the creative genesis of the five movies nominated for Best Picture that year--Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, and Doctor Dolittle--Harris looks at the transition from increasingly less successful big budget musicals, dramas, and romantic fluff born of the studio system toward a riskier, more independent, more personal style of film-making relying on the creative genius of individuals of a new generation. Interesting as a snapshot of Hollywood at the time and also for its back-stage look at how films are conceived, funded, made, and marketed. The book manages at the same time to paint portraits of some of the main players in the stories it tells, particularly Warren Beatty, Sidney Poitier, Dustin Hoffman, and Rex Harrison. Well written, highly readable. Successful as film history, social history, and biography all at once. Recommended.

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