book that claims to be a collection of the “best” of something—whether it is a
listing of movies, music, art, and so forth—has to be taken with a grain of
salt. These kinds of things are entirely subjective; although in this case, TCM
(Turner Classic Movies) does have a kind of clout and expertise in the matter.
said, we have this beautifully-designed and illustrated coffee-table trade
paperback that contains not 1000, not 100, not 50... but 52 “essential must-see movies.” TCM’s spokesperson, Robert Osborne,
explains the criteria in his Foreword—“The Essentials” is a weekly Saturday
night event on the television network in which a guest host (the likes of Rob
Reiner, Sydney Pollack, Peter Bogdanovich, Drew Barrymore, and more) introduce
a picture he or she believes is an Essential. The book is a collection of some
of these Essentials, with some sidebar comments by the various hosts who
appeared on the program.
big question is... why 52? Why not an
even 50? Why not 100? Aha! It’s meant to
be a movie-each-week. Fifty-two weeks in a year, one Essential per week.
every single entry in the book is indeed an essential must-see motion picture.
No question about it. Of the 52 included, I personally own 47 of them on DVD or
Blu-ray in my home library and have of course seen the others. Author Jeremy Arnold does a superb job presenting
the reasons why a particular film matters, and it’s not easy to vary
superlatives, which are what it takes to describe these great works of
the ones you expect are there—City Lights,
It Happened One Night, Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, Casablanca,
Sunset Boulevard, Singin’ in the Rain, Rear Window, The Searchers, Lawrence of
Arabia, Jaws... as well as a few
that I was particularly happy to see listed (Duck Soup, King Kong, Double Indemnity, The Bicycle Thief, Seven
Samurai, Dr. Strangelove, Once Upon a
Time in the West, Annie Hall...).
enough, although after going through the book, one can’t help but think, but what about ___? Why isn’t The Godfather an Essential? 2001: A Space Odyssey? The Wizard of Oz? A Bergman? A Scorsese? A Fellini? I found
myself scratching my head in befuddlement at the lack of some truly significant
mentions. There is also nothing more recent than 1984’s This is Spinal Tap, althoughit’s
understandable that many pictures from the 70s and beyond might not be included
because TCM doesn’t have the rights to broadcast them.
so forget about what’s missing and concentrate on what’s there. Once a reader
decides to do that, then The Essentials is
an entertaining read and, in fact, a lot of fun. Arnold does manage to mention
other titles not contained in the book that may have been influenced by one
that is. The book also has some great stills, both color and black and white.
For a preliminary “bucket list” of must-see
movies, especially for younger aficionados who might want to get a jump start
on their film history class, The
Essentials is a good place to start.
the most informed of Stanley Kubrick fans will know that Emilio D’Allesandro was,
in short, the filmmaker’s personal assistant, driver, builder, repairman,
cleaner, organizer, cook, amateur vet, house-sitter, pet-sitter, babysitter,
and confidante for thirty years. D’Allesandro probably knew Stanley Kubrick better
than anyone outside of the director’s own family. In many way, he was a part of the Kubrick family.
Stanley Kubrick and
a magnificent memoir that was first published in Italy in 2012. The English
translation, by Simon Marsh, is now available and is a must for Kubrick fans.
There have been numerous books about Kubrick—he’s likely the second most
written-about director after Hitchcock—but these tomes are typically about the
films themselves (analyses, the makings of, and so forth). There have been a
couple of biographies, notably one by Vincent LoBrutto, but these fail to
present Kubrick’s personal life in any substantial way—they rely on hearsay and
interviews by other people and are inadequate in that regard. Emilio
D’Allesandro knew Kubrick in such an
intimate way that he was in the perfect position to tell the world exactly what
the director was like as a man.
began working for Kubrick in 1970, just as A
Clockwork Orange was at the end of shooting and beginning the editing
stage. He therefore was behind-the scenes for all the subsequent pictures—Barry Lyndon, The Shining, Full Metal
Jacket, and Eyes Wide Shut, as
well as the development of discarded projects like A.I.—Artificial Intelligence, and Aryan Papers. There are chapters in the book devoted to
D’Allesandro’s work on all of these, but the bulk of the memoir is more about
the rapport and camaraderie between the two men in-between productions.
example, D’Allesandro talks about Kubrick’s love of animals—at one time there
were nearly ten dogs and just as many cats in the Kubrick household. The
filmmaker’s devotion to his animals bordered on obsessive compulsive disorder.
The same is true about his three daughters. When Katharina, Anya, or Vivian
finally grew old enough to leave the family home and go out on their own,
Kubrick was a “concerned dad” to a painful, but endearing, degree. There was a
lot of: “Oh, since you’re going to be in the city, could you possibly drop in
on Vivian and make sure she’s okay?”
author also goes into how Kubrick’s brain worked in “compartments,” that the
man was capable of multi-tasking unlike anyone the assistant had ever known.
D’Allesandro had to take it upon himself to organize Kubrick’s many-faceted
projects, ideas, and paperwork so that anyone else—and Kubrick himself—could
in opposition to the unflattering accounts in the press that speculated that
the filmmaker was a mad “recluse” or a “hermit,” the author provides solid
evidence that all this was nonsense. “In the collective imagination,”
D’Allesandro writes, “Stanley Kubrick was a kind of ogre. A misanthrope, who
lived alone in his castle, isolated from the world. Stanley was quite the
opposite: he was an altruistic man, capable of generosity without the need for recognition,
an artist who valued his privacy because it allowed him to devote himself to
what he cared about most of all: his family, his animals, and the cinema.”
Stanley Kubrick and
a beautiful picture of a genius who had perhaps the most unique arrangement for
making films in all of cinema history. The book is not only essential reading for fans of the director, but for
film buffs as well.