Books: Agee, Hanks, and More

Complete Film Criticism: Reviews, Essays, and Manuscripts, a collection edited by Charles Maland, gathers reviews and features James Agee wrote for The Nation from December 1942 to September 1948 and for Time from September 1942 to November 1948. Jonathan Rosenbaum for Film Comment: “When Manny Farber arranged for his own ‘complete’ film criticism to be published posthumously, he requested that all of his own Time reviews (from mid–August 1949 to mid–January 1950—a gig arranged for by his pal Agee when he left the magazine) be omitted because of how much they were rewritten. Agee, of course, never had such a choice regarding the reprints of his own work, and considering how much his reputation is based on posthumous biographical and romantic legends about him, the sheer weight of his extended careers at Fortune and Time for most of the 1930s and 1940s is usually skimped. So a comprehensive strategy of inclusion gives a logic to much of Maland’s work, yet I must confess that whereas the Library of America’s Farber on Film enhances and expands Farber’s importance as a critic, Maland’s volume, perhaps unwittingly, diminishes the critical importance of Agee.”

Laura B. Rosenzweig’s Hollywood’s Spies: The Undercover Surveillance of Nazis in Los Angeles and Steven J. Ross’s Hitler in Los Angeles: How Jews Foiled Nazi Plots Against Hollywood and America “expose a buried story about underground plots waged by Nazis against major Hollywood figures as part of a plan to win over the United States,” writes Chris Yogerst for the Los Angeles Review of Books. “The quiet heroism of [‘spymaster’ Leon] Lewis and his allies is a too-long-neglected tale about the power of volunteers and activist citizens to make a difference in frightening times.”

The New York TimesJohn Williams has a brief chat with Emily Witt about researching her new book, Nollywood: The Making of a Film Empire, in Nigeria. “Witt captured the state of play by spending time, among other places, at a vast electronics market to get a sense of distribution patterns; on the set of a biopic about Queen Amina, a warrior princess; and in the company of Genevieve Nnaji, the star of more than eighty movies.”

Writing for the Baffler,J. W. McCormack suggests that “there’s no reason to assume that Uncommon Type: Some Stories, the new collection of typewriter-themed reveries by Tom Hanks . . . , should be a total abomination just because it sounds like one. . . . After all, not every Tom Hanks movie is sentimental garbage, and he’s been of certain service to bookishness in the past; he somehow got Cloud Atlas made; and after starring in two Dave Eggers adaptations, it’s possible that Hanks absorbed some affable Gen-X swagger—not to mention that one of these fictions appeared in the New Yorker. In a way, it’s a low bar to clear, as all we ought to ask of Tom Hanks the writer is stories (all of them with titles like ‘The Past Is Important to Us’ and ‘A Junket in the City of Light’) that play like miniature Tom Hanks movies. There are worse things. Or so I thought. Then I read the sentence ‘We kissed a lot and touched each other in our wonderful places’ and realized I was in hell.”

At the A.V. Club, Leonardo Adrian Garcia gives Uncommon Type a C+. The Guardian’s running one of the seventeen stories, “Three Exhausting Weeks.” And Hanks, profiled a couple of weeks ago by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times, takes on the Book Review’s “By the Book” questions. Turns out he’s quite taken by historian Yuval Noah Harari; and there are “certain authors who never let me down: Sarah Vowell, Ada Calhoun, Bill Bryson, William Manchester, Dave Eggers. The great David McCullough.” As an actor, Hanks would “like a whack at James Ellroy’s Lloyd Hopkins character—a cop who is such a genius the only work for him is police work.”

November 19 sees the launch of Elena Gorfinkel’s new book, Lewd Looks: American Sexploitation Cinema in the 1960s, at Close-Up Cinema in London. Along with a Q&A, there’ll also be a screening of a new 2K restoration of Joe Sarno’s Vibrations (1968).

“It’s time to catch up with some of the most interesting cinema-centric books of the last few months, and it’s a diverse list,” writes Christopher Schobert at the top of a round of capsule reviews for the Film Stage. “There’s some Lego, some Nolan, some Star Wars (of course), and even some vintage Stan Brakhage. That’s range.”

Speaking of Star Wars,Catherine Grant alerts us to new collection now freely available from the OAPEN Library, Star Wars and the History of Transmedia Storytelling, edited by Sean A. Guynes and Dan Hassler-Forest.

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