Essential Cinema: On the Necessity of Film Canons

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JHU Press, Mar 30, 2004 - Performing Arts - 445 pages
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In his astute and deeply informed film reviews and essays, Jonathan Rosenbaum regularly provides new and brilliant insights into the cinema as art, entertainment, and commerce. Guided by a personal canon of great films, Rosenbaum sees, in the ongoing hostility toward the idea of a canon shared by many within the field of film studies, a missed opportunity both to shape the discussion about cinema and to help inform and guide casual and serious filmgoers alike.

In Essential Cinema, Rosenbaum forcefully argues that canons of great films are more necessary than ever, given that film culture today is dominated by advertising executives, sixty-second film reviewers, and other players in the Hollywood publicity machine who champion mediocre films at the expense of genuinely imaginative and challenging works. He proposes specific definitions of excellence in film art through the creation a personal canon of both well-known and obscure movies from around the world and suggests ways in which other canons might be similarly constructed.

Essential Cinema offers in-depth assessments of an astonishing range of films: established classics such as Rear Window, M, and Greed; ambitious but flawed works like The Thin Red Line and Breaking the Waves; eccentric masterpieces from around the world, including Irma Vep and Archangel; and recent films that have bitterly divided critics and viewers, among them Eyes Wide Shut and A.I. He also explores the careers of such diverse filmmakers as Robert Altman, Raúl Ruiz, Frank Tashlin, Elaine May, Sam Fuller, Terrence Davies, Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Orson Welles. In conclusion, Rosenbaum offers his own film canon of 1,000 key works from the beginning of cinema to the present day. A cogent and provocative argument about the art of film, Essential Cinema is also a fiercely independent reference book of must-see movies for film lovers everywhere.


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Essential cinema: on the necessity of film canons

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Film critic for the Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly, Rosenbaum presents a new collection of film essays, some rather lengthy, others just extended notes, and most previously published in his ... Read full review

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Excellent work, all around, although I can't agree with the critique of the theme song, "Phenix City Blues": "The musical number at the Poppy Club ["Phenix City Blues"] is an anti-number, coarse, unprofessional, talentless..." I have found the song to be some loose, cool jazz, and memorable, since I haven't heard it in years. 


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About the author (2004)

Jonathan Rosenbaum is film critic for the Chicago Reader and the author or editor of fourteen books, including Movie Wars: How Hollywood and the Media Limit What Films We Can See, Movies as Politics, and Placing Movies: The Practice of Film Criticism.

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