When it comes to literary recommendations for aspiring filmmakers and lovers of movies in general, there are certain books that have stood the test of time: Akira Kurosawa's Something Like an Autobiography, Sidney Lumet's Making Movies, and Robert Rodriguez' Rebel Without a Crew — not to mention Blake Snyder's Save the Cat!
But as each year brings new movies to theaters, it also brings new books about cinema to our shelves. Below, A.frame has compiled a list of recently-published titles those same would-be filmmakers and movie lovers need to add to their reading lists, including books that frame (or reframe) the byzantine history of Hollywood, and works looking at specific movies, filmmakers, genres and more.
'Camera Man: Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century' by Dana Stevens
Buster Keaton was born in 1895, the same year that the Lumiére Brothers invented the Cinématographe, the revolutionary three-in-one device that could record, develop, and project motion pictures. Camera Man is less-so another biography of Keaton, but instead a study of how the comedian and the film industry came of age at the same time. Critic Dana Stevens deftly examines how Keaton was a reflection of the world around him and crafts a complex portrait of both the star and the early days of cinema.
'The Big Goodbye: Chinatown and the Last Years of Hollywood' by Sam Wasson
Chinatown won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay — awarded to Robert Towne for what is widely considered one of the greatest screenplays ever written — but it turns out the behind-the-scenes story of how this neo-noir classic was made is as enthralling as what was captured on-screen, as unveiled in Sam Wasson's The Big Goodbye.
'Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli: The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather' by Mark Seal
The Godfather is such a masterpiece that it's downright comical to think that, at one point in time, it seemed destined for disaster: Paramount Pictures had hired an unestablished filmmaker to direct a scandal-prone actor all while fending off the Italian Mafia at every turn. In spite of the obstacles that stood in its way, the film went on to become the highest grossing film ever made at the time, won three Oscars (including Best Picture), and remains – exactly 50 years later – one of the greatest films ever made, all of which is documented in Mark Seal's tome.
'My Place in the Sun, Life in the Golden Age of Hollywood and Washington' by George Stevens, Jr.
George Stevens, Jr. hails from a lineage of vaudeville stars, matinee icons and a two-time Oscar-winning director: His father, who won Best Director in '52 with A Place in the Sun and again in '57 with Giant. In Stevens, Jr.'s memoir, the filmmaker, American Film Institute founder and Academy member reflects on his relationship with his father, as well as his own career making movies and working for the Motion Picture Service during John F. Kennedy's presidency.
'The Method: How the Twentieth Century Learned to Act' by Isaac Butler
Tales of Method actors immersing themselves in their characters have been told for years. But what is Method acting? Critic and theater director Isaac Butler sets out to answer just that while providing a historical chronicle of the technique. Butler traces it back to Moscow in the late 1800s and documents the ways that Method acting has endured in Hollywood over the years.
'Age of Cage: Four Decades of Hollywood Through One Singular Career' by Keith Phipps
Something of a companion piece to this year's delightfully meta The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, journalist and critic Keith Phipps' Age of Cage attempts to understand the man behind the mythos by studying Nicolas Cage's filmography, juxtaposed with the ever-changing landscape of Hollywood. (It's worth mentioning, due to its subsequent placement on this list, that Cage does not consider himself a Method actor, but subscribes to a style he calls "nouveau shamanism.")
'Mike Nichols: A Life' by Mark Harris
Journalist Mark Harris explored the birth of a "New Hollywood" in his first book, Pictures at a Revolution, and the history of Hollywood during WWII in Five Came Back. For his third book, he focuses on a single director — the indelible Mike Nichols — to create this exhaustive account of the many successes and even the failures of his storied career, with interviews from the likes of Elaine May, Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Hanks and Gloria Steinem.
'Gus Van Sant: The Art of Making Movies' by Katya Tylevich
Gus Van Sant earned his first Oscar nomination for directing the 1997 romantic drama Good Will Hunting, then earned a second nomination for directing the 2008 biopic Milk. The filmmaker had been steadily working for two decades prior to that first recognition, though, and continues making movies to this day. Writer Katya Tylevich spent years interviewing Van Sant to provide a candid look at his creative process.
'These Fists Break Bricks: How Kung Fu Movies Swept America and Changed the World' by Chris Poggiali and Grady Hendrix
Having previously taken an encyclopedic approach to analyzing horror throughout the '70s and '80s, author Grady Hendrix now teams up with film historian Chris Poggiali to create the definitive history of Kung Fu movies in America. With a forward by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan, These Fists Break Bricks begins with the 1973 release of Five Fingers of Death and tracks the genre's impact and influences far beyond cineplexes.
'Fun City Cinema: New York City and the Movies that Made It' by Jason Bailey
The Big Apple has a history of filmmaking that is just as storied as Hollywood's own, which film critic and historian Jason Bailey explores here, reflecting on 100 years of movies made in New York City by way of one "iconic Gotham film" from each decade: The Jazz Singer (1927), King Kong (1933), The Naked City (1948), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Taxi Driver (1976), Wall Street (1987), Kids (1995), 25th Hour (2002), and Frances Ha (2012).
'Audience-ology: How Moviegoers Shape the Films We Love' by Kevin Goetz
There are numerous books about what goes into making a movie — about directing and writing and cinematography and editing — but rare is the book about how to make a movie that audiences will love. Kevin Goetz, known as "the doctor of audience-ology," pulls back the curtain on test screenings through his own work on movies over the years, as well as interviews with the likes of Ron Howard, Jason Blum and more.
'Just as I Am: A Memoir' by Cicely Tyson
Cicely Tyson was an artist so great that she changed the course of history as we know it. A veteran of stage and screen (for which Tyson was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2018), her memoir weaves together stories of her life off-screen with memories of her most celebrated film roles, including those in Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and Roots.