Our midsummer books roundup opens with one sharp critique and one celebration of American popular culture. In The Wrath to Come: Gone with the Wind and the Lies America Tells, Sarah Churchwell writes that Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel (which still sells 300,000 copies a year) and the 1939 adaptation (adjusted for inflation, it remains the highest grossing movie of all time) provide “a kind of skeleton key, unlocking America’s illusions about itself.” Writing for the Literary Review,Alex von Tunzelmann notes that Churchwell “swiftly begins to pile up startling evidence” for her argument “in short, pithy chapters. Race, gender, the Lost Cause, the American Dream, blood-and-soil fascism, the prison-industrial complex, a Trumpist mob storming the Capitol in 2021: it’s all here.” Churchwell’s “writing is an extraordinary blend of wit, intellectual agility, and forcefulness: it’s like being swept along by an extremely smart bulldozer.”
On the penultimate episode of Erotic 80s, the recently wrapped season of You Must Remember This, Karina Longworth discusses Kevin Costner’s breakthrough in Roger Donaldson’s No Way Out (1987), a hit right out of the gate. On the day it opened, Orion Pictures closed the deal on Bull Durham, the 1988 directorial debut of Ron Shelton, who scored an Oscar nomination for his screenplay. Based on the years he spent as a minor league baseball player, the film stars Costner, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins. Reviewing Shelton’s new memoir, The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bill Durham: Home Runs, Bad Calls, Crazy Fights, Big Swings, and a Hit,Michael Sragow writes at Air Mail that the book “does for filmmaking what Bull Durham did for the national pastime: it demystifies the craft, pillories the business, and celebrates the calling with wit and passion.”
In the Mind’s Eye
James Cutting’s Movies on Our Minds: The Evolution of Cinematic Engagement is “simply the most complete and challenging psychological account of film art yet offered,” writes David Bordwell. “Cutting’s initial question is ‘Why are popular movies so engaging?’ He characterizes this engagement—a more gripping sort than we experience with encountering plays or novels—as involving four conditions: sustained attention, narrative understanding, emotional commitment, and ‘presence,’ a sense that we are on the scene in the story’s realm.” Movies on Our Minds is “a feast of ideas and information, presented in lively prose.”
Writing for the Notebook, Thomas Quist remembers writer and philosopher Jean-Louis Schefer. “Perhaps no other thinker was as dedicated to exploring the interlocking of interior self-consciousness and external perception that the experience of images provides,” writes Quist. Schefer’s 1980 book The Ordinary Man of Cinema “has been hailed in many corners as an essential work of film and visual theory and had a great influence on two seminal thinkers, Serge Daney and Gilles Deleuze, with the latter relating that it was ‘a book in which the theory forms a kind of great poem.’”
Edited by John G. Hanhardt, The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: 1963-1965 is “a monument as much as a book, and far more than a catalogue,” says Pamela Hutchinson, one of three judges who have selected the volume as the winner of this year’s Kraszna-Krausz Moving Image Book Award. “Each word and image across these five hundred pages adds something to the tale of two years of remarkable creativity.” On September 19, the Barbican in London will screen a few of the films Warhol shot on 16 mm and then host a discussion with Hanhardt and Elena Gorfinkel, who contributed an essay to the collection.
One of the two titles shortlisted for the award is Ten Skies, Erika Balsom’s book on James Benning’s 2004 film that was published by Fireflies Press last summer as part of its Decadent Editions series on films from the 2000s. Balsom has sent a few words to Sabzian on another volume in the series, Inland Empire, in which Melissa Anderson writes about David Lynch’s 2006 film starring Laura Dern. “At a time when some critics look to cinema for a clear political stance—for an exemplary morality cleansed of any bad feelings—Anderson has authored an implicit defense of a different approach, a different relation to the screen,” writes Balsom. “In her lively prose, the irreducible complexity of how we can be at once ‘turned on, terrified, dumbfounded, stupefied’ at the cinema comes through.”
The Monster and the Talent
Last week saw the release of the trailer for She Said, the film coming out in November directed by Maria Schrader, written by Rebecca Lenkiewicz, and based on the 2019 book by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. Kantor and Twohey—who will be played by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan, respectively—are the two New York Times reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein story in 2017, five days before the New Yorker published Ronan Farrow’s deep dive into the accusations of sexual assault and the network of enablers and enforcers that kept Weinstein’s accusers quiet for decades.
Ken Auletta, a staff writer for the New Yorker, tells Deadline’s Dominic Patten that he heartily applauds the work of all three journalists. But with Hollywood Ending: Harvey Weinstein and the Culture of Silence, “I’m doing something different,” he says. “I’m writing a biography.” His aim is to show “both the monster and the talent.” Reviewing Auletta’s thirteenth book for the NYT,Alexandra Jacobs writes that he “effectively, if maybe a little too elegiacally, frames this one in the lengthy shadow of Citizen Kane. Auletta is, of course, Jerry Thompson, the reporter looking for his antihero’s Rosebud: the mysterious missing object or influence that will explain his personality.”
On the latest episode of the WTF Podcast, Michael Mann tells Marc Maron about expanding the world of his 1995 film Heat to tell the story of what came before—and after—the face-off between Al Pacino’s LAPD detective and Robert De Niro’s professional thief. Heat 2, the novel that Mann cowrote with Meg Gardiner, will be out early next month. Mann and Maron also talk their way through the oeuvre—Thief (1981), The Last of the Mohicans (1992), The Insider (1999), Ali (2001), Collateral (2004), and Miami Vice (2006).
For more summertime listening—and reading, of course—turn to the New Books Network, where writers talk about their books on a wide range of topics, including Hollywood classics, the current global rage for Korean movies and series, Cahiers du cinéma’s radical years, and more.
If you’ve listened to the first episode of the new season of the MUBI Podcast, you’ve heard critic and filmmaker Luc Moullet talking about the early days of the Cinémathèque française. Srikanth Srinivasan has now completed his freely accessible translations of all of Moullet’s books—with the exception of the memoirs.
Let’s wrap this month’s roundup with a pointer to WeimarCinema.org, a new site that “builds on and supersedes” The Promise of Cinema: German Film Theory, 1907–1933, the 2016 collection edited by Anton Kaes, Nicholas Baer, and Michael Cowan. Gathering essays and documents and posting relevant news items, the team aims to emphasize “the undiminished relevance of Weimar politics and culture in the present.”
For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.