As entertaining and sweeping as an engrossing Hollywood epic, and a promising source for a great documentary.

PICTURES AT A REVOLUTION

FIVE MOVIES AND THE BIRTH OF THE NEW HOLLYWOOD

A wide-angle take on a major watershed period in American filmmaking.

Perceptive moviegoers knew that something was afoot in the late 1960s when 2001: A Space Odyssey, with its elliptical plot, mesmerizing images and ambiguous symbols, became one of the most attended and discussed films of the moment. Harris, who covers pop culture for Entertainment Weekly and other publications, chronicles what was going on. In his compelling narrative, the major “characters” become the five films nominated for the 1967 Best Picture Oscar: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Bonnie and Clyde, In the Heat of the Night, The Graduate and Doctor Doolittle. Harris demonstrates how these films bespoke Hollywood’s past and future. Doctor Doolittle, a big-budget musical, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, essentially a Spencer Tracy–Katharine Hepburn romantic comedy, despite a plot about interracial marriage, were traditional studio-era films. The Graduate, Bonnie and Clyde and, to some extent, In the Heat of the Night, introduced new cinematic techniques and structures, many imported from the works of European New Wave directors like François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Goddard. The groundbreaking films also dealt more directly than ever before with themes of violence, sexuality and racism. Harris vividly details the production histories, reaching back several years in some cases to examine how a cast of fascinating characters—inspired writers, determined actors, emerging directors—got these films going. With keen cultural perspective, Harris also shows how Bonnie, Clyde and Benjamin Braddock caught the tenor of the revolutionary ’60s and established, perhaps for the first time on these shores, a vital film culture.

As entertaining and sweeping as an engrossing Hollywood epic, and a promising source for a great documentary.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-152-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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