02 September 2003

My new favorite read this month is David Thomson's Biographical Dictionary of Film, an amazingly opinionated and comprehensive encyclopedic essay of 800 pages that just begs to be browsed and devoured. I remember this book from my local library; when I was fourteen or so, I would spend hours standing up with this book by the reference shelf, reading entry after entry (but unable to check it out). I stumbled across it at the Strand bookstore yesterday, and found myself doing the same thing (just browsing and reading while standing in front of the shelf) before realizing that I could actually buy myself a copy. Which I did.

It's a great book, mostly because it never pretends to be objective and provides endless fodder for argument. (Thomson doesn't care much for Kurosawa, for example.) It's also quite prescient. Check out the following entry for Arnold Schwarzenegger, written back in the early nineties:
I remember how a friend came back from a visit to the set of Stay Hungry ('76, BoB Rafelson) with reports that the not unobservant Rafelson was saying that this hulk with the impossible name was the smartest person on the picture, and that he was going somewhere. Fifteen years later, we think we know where. But consider: Arnold may have more dreams yet behind that rippling grin…What will the world do if, on learning the explanation that anyone born in Ganz, Austria, cannot be president, Arnold says "Why, baby?" Paul Verhoeven once said that this man could be as big as Charlton Heston -- which may be Verhoeven's one recorded instance of naivete.

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