Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Books: Entertainment Edition

This is a great season for books on the entertainment industry, ones that will be a great addition to your book collection, perfect to leave on a coffee table and peruse, and yes, perfect for Christmas gifts for people on your list. The books we will look at in this review are: Fun City Cinema: New York City and the Movies That Made It, by Jason Bailey; Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life, by Alan Cumming; Hip-Hop (And Other Things): A Collection of Questions, Asked, Answered, Illustrated, by Shea Serrano; The Storyteller, by Dave Grohl; The Boys, by Ron Howard and Clint Howard; The Collected Works of Jim Morrison: Poetry, Journals, Transcripts, and Lyrics, by Jim Morrison; and Once Upon a Time In Hollywood: A Novel, by Quentin Tarantino.

Fun City Cinema: New York City and the Movies That Made It

By Jason Bailey

Abrams Books; hardcover, 352 pages; $40.00; available Tuesday, October 26th

Jason Bailey is a film critic and historian whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, and The Atlantic. Fun City Cinema is his fifth book, and while it is a treasure trove of movie history, could also double as a history of New York City

Fun City Cinema documents its rise fall, and resurrection through 100 years of moviemaking, and it is one of the most beautifully produced movie books you will ever own, starting with the distinctive text jumping off the page. As you go through it, you will be wowed by the historic photographs, both scenes from the movies and behind the scenes; production materials, posters, and exclusive interviews with famed directors including Martin Scorsese, Oliver Stone, Greta Gerwig, and Noah Baumbach.

The story is told through the movies themselves, with movie production starting here in the late 1800s, and then when the movie industry shifted west to Hollywood in the 1910s, there still were movies produced here, and the city was still an endless inspiration. While the rest of the country, especially the heartland, could really be Anywhere, USA, if a movie was set in The City, that meant New York. A lot of credit to the city becoming a hotbed for film and TV shooting was Mayor John Lindsey, who in the late 1960s, fulfilled his campaign promise of creating the Mayor's Office of Film, Theatre, and Broadcasting.

The iconic Gotham films looked at here include 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 Francis Ha (2012). 

Fun City Cinema shows that most movies shot in New York City are a reflection of the time they were filmed in, a virtual kaleidoscope of its rich history.

Baggage: Tales from a Fully Packed Life

By Alan Cumming

Dey Street Books; hardcover, $27.99; available Tuesday, October 26th

Alan Cumming is one of the most acclaimed actors of this era, known for his Broadway roles in Cabaret, which he won a Tony Award in the role of Emcee; Macbeth, and Threepenny Opera, and for his role on The Good Wife as the political fixer Eli Gold. He is the author of #1 New York Times bestselling memoir Not My Father's Son, as well as two children's books, a book of photographs and stories. 

Cumming has a podcast called Alan Cumming's Shelves, and he is an activist for civil rights, sex education, and social justice causes, who has done numerous charity appearances and speeches on behalf of LGBTQ rights and youth. He has a club in the West Village, Club Cumming which has become a haven for underrepresented voices in the performing arts.

Baggage is a collection of essays documenting his remarkable life, including the breaking up of his first marriage, which was to a woman, and then his second marriage, to a man, and then all his relationships and encounters with legends like Liza, Gore Vidal, and the Spice Girls.

This is a rollicking collection of essays that fits the man who wrote them, and will keep you entertained from beginning to end.

"There is absolutely no logical reason why I am here," Cumming writes. "The life trajectory my nationality and class and circumstances portended for me was not even remotely close to the one I now navigate. But logic is a science and living is an art."

Hip-Hop (And Other Things): A Collection of Questions, Asked, Answered, Illustrated

By Shea Serrano - illustrated by Arturo Torres; foreword by Bun G of UGK

Twelve; hardcover; available today, Tuesday, October 26th

Shea Serrano has created one of the more-entertaining series of books looking at various topics, including on movies and basketball. 

This history is told in a series of questions, complete with incredible graphic illustrations by Arturo Torres, and the latest addition to this ledger is Hip-Hop (And Other Things): A Collection of Questions, Asked, Answered, Illustrated.

This smart, fun, funny, insightful book is centered on rap, but touches on other things along the way in it celebration of what has been the most dominant form of music the past 25 years.

Jay-Z, Tupac, and Missy Elliott are in there, among the many big names featured, and some smaller names find their moment as well.

Some of the topic you will find are "How About A Taxonomy of Advice From 50 Cent?," "Is Action Bronson A Good Travel Partner?", and "Where's The Second Most Impractical Place Ludacris Mentions Having Sex In During 'What's Your Fantasy?" There are infographics and footnotes, and some chapters are serious, while others are silly, with some a blend of both. 

Serrano makes observations like this throughout that give this book its soul, "One of the things that make hip-hop special as an art form is that it can be replicated very easily in a public space without needing much. When I was a kid, we would take a milk crate and use that as a rim for basketball. Sometimes, if we didn't have that, we'd take the rim off a bicycle and use that as the rim. You can play a version of basketball anywhere with anything. Rap works the same way.

"If you're in a band and you want to perform on the street corner, somebody's gotta at least have an amplifier. Even if you're an acoustic guy, you still gotta have a guitar. But if you're a rapper, you can just rap. When I  first started, someone would just beatbox if we needed a beat, or we'd pound on a cafeteria table at school lunch. That's all we needed. At its purest - at its most base level - you don't need anything else. You don't need a recording studio. You don't need infrastructure. You don't need a facility. You just need a passion."

Virtual Events With Shea Serrano will be held tonight, October 26; November 2, and November 4. Click here for all information and how you can register.

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music

By Dave Grohl

Dey Street Books; hardcover, 304 pages; $29.99

Dave Grohl is known as the drummer for Nirvana and the lead singer of the Foo Fighters, and this collection of essays is his long-awaited memoir. He begins his compelling narrative as a kid from Springfield, Virginia, who is dreaming of becoming a rock star. 

Grohl's life changed forever in high school when he becomes infatuated with Sandi, and they become a couple before she abruptly ended it after one week. He is focused on rock and roll now, and it wasn't long before his first big break came when he got to tour with local hardcore group Scream at 18 years old. 

He left high school to perform with Scream, and it paid off as it led him to Nirvana when Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic were in search of a drummer. Grohl fits right in and became great friends with Cobain. The stories he tells about Cobain are touching and a window into one of the most compelling rock stars of all-time. Grohl never experienced someone dealing with a drug addiction before, and illustrates how he and others witnessed the late singer's downfall.

Not long after Nirvana faded away with Cobain's passing in 1994, Grohl formed the Foo Fighters, who have gone on to tremendous success with him as the lead singer. A quarter century later, they are going strong. 

Grohl also tells stories about jamming with Iggy Pop, playing at the Academy Awards, dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming with Tom Petty, and meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall.

On being able to chronicle his life in this form, Grohl writes, "The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I've recorded and ca't wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child."

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family

By Ron Howard and Clint Howard

William Morrow; hardcover, 320 pages; $28.99

Ron Howard began his illustrious career as a child actor, with his first role in The Journey when he was four years old. He then went to star in The Andy Griffith Show as Opie, then when he was a teenager, as Richie Cunningham on Happy Days, and in the movie American Graffiti. He then went on to be an Academy Award-winning filmmaker and one of the best directors of his generation, known for A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon, and Apollo 13.

Clint Howard is Ron's younger brother, who is a character actor whose career began at the age of three on The Andy Griffith Show when he played Leon. He went on to star in the late 1960's CBS television series Gentle Ben, and has also appeared on Seinfeld, Rock 'n' Roll High School, Arrested Development, The Waterboy, and many versions of Star Trek

In the captivating memoir The Boys, Ron and Clint examine their childhoods in detail for the first time. They share their unique family story of navigating and surviving as young child actors. They grew up in the Midwest, before their parents, Rance and Jean, uprooted the family and headed to California to pursue their movie dreams. It didn't take them long to see that it was their sons who would be steadily employed, and Rance became their teacher ans shepherded them through the industry, while Jean became their protector.

This is a revealing, engaging memoir told in Ron and Clint's voices, as if they're having a conversation. There are behind-the-scenes tales of their projects throughout their childhood and adolescent years. There are recollection of Ron's directorial debut with Grand Theft Auto and the making of American Graffiti with George Lucas.

The Hollywood stories the Howards divulge will generate interest, and it also  is a nostalgic, heartwarming, and confessional look at the journey of their four-person family unit that persevered in an unforgiving business. For Ron and CLint, it is about two brothers who overcame "child-actor syndrome" to become productive, very successful adults in the film industry. 

The Collected Works of Jim Morrison: Poetry, Journals, Transcripts, and Lyrics

By Jim Morrison, foreword by Tom Robbins

Harper Design; hardcover, 584 pages; $50.00

Jim Morrison was one of the greatest rock performers of all-time as the lead singer of The Doors. In this beautiful book was created in collaboration with his estate and inspired by a posthumously discovered list entitled "Plan for Book."  

In this definitive opus of Morrison's creative output, you will discover rare photographs and numerous handwritten excerpts of unpublished and published poetry and lyrics from his 28 notebooks. These were all written in his own hand and this is the first time they will be published.

It is a book he intended to publish before his untimely death in 1971 in Paris at just 27 years old. There is an array of personal images and commentary of the work by Morrison himself, and 160 visual components accompany the rich text of this comprehensive work.

Documented here is the Paris notebook, possibly Morrison's final journal, reproduced at full size; excerpts from notebooks he kept during his 1970 trial in Miami, family photographs and images of Morrison performing through the years, and complete published and unpublished song lyrics accompanied by numerous drafts in Morrison's handwriting,

If you opt for the CD or digital audio edition of this book, you can hear Morrison's final poetry recording, at the Village Recorder in West Los Angeles on his 27th birthday, December 8, 1970. The audio book also has readings of Morrison's work by Patti Smith, Oliver Ray, Liz Phair, Tom Robbins, and a host of other stars.

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood: A Novel

By Quentin Tarantino

Harper Perennial; paperback, 416 pages; $9.99

The movie "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," which starred Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCapairo, and Margot Robbie, is regarded as one of Quentin Tarantino's best works, a gripping movie about a faded television star and his stunt double who are in search of fame and success in the waning years of Hollywood's Golden Age in 1969.

Two years after it was released, Tarantino has created his first work of fiction, a novel, based on the film. It is produced like an old pulp fiction novel you would find on a rack in a drug store, which gives it a cool feel.

The story centers on Rick Dalton, the faded TV star, and Cliff Booth, Rick's stunt double, who are navigating an industry they barely recognize anymore; and Sharon Tate, an actress who was in search of fame.

Rick had his own television series, but he is now a washed-up villain-of-the-week who drowns his sorrows in whiskey sours. Will a phone- call he receives from Rome save his fate, or seal it?

Cliff is the most infamous man on any movie set because he is the only one who might have gotten away with murder.

Sharon left Texas to chase the dream of being a movie star, but her salad days are spent on Cielo Drive, way up in the Hollywood Hills. She, along with four others, is tragically killed by a member of Charles Manson's "family" of hippies who think he is their spiritual leader. The thing is that Manson would give it all up to be a rock star.

This is one of the most creative novels you will read about "Hollywood 1969, You Shoulda Been There."


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