Tuesday, March 25, 2014

WITS Book Reviews March 2014

Title: Six Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village
Author: Mary L. Johnson
Publisher: iUniverse
Publication Date: October 12, 2013
Reviewer: Dana Micheli

Like most people, I love the movies. But a book about the movies? I thought it might be well…dull! Mary L. Johnson’s 6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village disabused me of that notion on the very first page. Her book is not only chock full of facts, it’s also a fast, fascinating read about the level of artistic talent, business acumen, and collaboration that goes into creating our favorite films.

6 Degrees discusses the development of film through the decades—in terms of cinematography, writing, directing and acting. It also traces the rise of the big studios and the men--the Mayers, the Goldwyns, and the Selznicks—who used blood, sweat and tears (their own and others!) to build them. The movies they produce, from Casablanca to Con Air and Blazing Saddles to Blood Diamond, all have their own stories that are unique to the time and circumstances under which they were created.

What I found particularly interesting, though, was Johnson’s exploration of the role that films—good and bad—have in defining our social norms, and even our politics. Films play on our emotions—they make us feel sad and they make us laugh; they bring our attention to a little known social issue or the good deeds of a forgotten hero. They cheered our grandparents up during The Great Depression and galvanized a reluctant America to move against the Nazis. Of course, most of us go to the movies to escape our lives for a few hours, but it’s nice that someone is there to remind us of the deeper contribution. Johnson’s book reminds us that when we learn about film, we learn about ourselves.

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