MixedThe Associated Press... it is odd that the second half of the famed Merchant Ivory film ... Once the focus of Solid Ivory: Memoirs moves beyond his youth in Depression and postwar America, the charming narrative becomes disjointed and much less engaging ... Ivory directed more than three dozen films, usually working with his partner in both business and life, Ismail Merchant. Yet his memoir contains surprisingly little on the making of these movies, the main reason one might pick up the book in the first place ... Beyond making movies, what Ivory chooses to discuss doesn’t anticipate what most readers might seek. He devotes far less space and insight to a portrait of Merchant than he does for famed travel writer Bruce Chatwin, an off-and-on lover. Other sketches of people in his life, including screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and Vanessa Redgrave, are hit and miss ... Ivory’s sharpest remembrance of things past comes from his first two decades and draws a colorful portrait of mid-20th century life, particularly for a gay teenager growing up in a small Oregon town and later off to college. Still, one is left to wonder how his own sexuality affected the creation of his films ... At one point Ivory describes his personal attributes as \'relaxed, easy-going and comfort seeking\' and says those qualities are reflected in his films. In his memoir, too, which isn’t a bad thing, except when they fail to fuel introspection.
Allen C Guelzo
RaveThe Associated Press... expertly scrubs off 150 years of political and cultural patina accumulated since the renowned general’s passing to reveal a tragic humanity ... Guelzo’s portrait of Lee in his 50s shows his ascension from worrywart to warrior to legend. Following the example of Lee’s early command method, his book surveys the battlegrounds as if through the general’s field glasses, sets the order of combat, then leaves the bloody details to the stacks of cap-and-ball tomes ... Guelzo’s formal yet enjoyable writing style evokes the period without getting lost in it. His presentation achieves relevance as America is once again riven with regional, cultural and political hostility. Is there a more appropriate time to consider Robert E. Lee’s fateful decision? ... After siding with the don’t-tread-on-me ethos of the South, Lee predicted and then witnessed how a resolute Union would defeat a fractious Confederacy. When modern disdain for the central government threatens to overwhelm the public trust in elections, vaccinations and even the concept of democracy itself, it is vital to remember that Lee’s choice of righteousness in his opinions over fidelity to his oath led himself and his homeland to ruin.
PositiveThe Associated PressA Mike Nichols credit always made the heart race with anticipation. So does Mike Nichols: A Life, an epic biography of an epic creative life. In page after page, writer Mark Harris delivers an engrossing narrative while exploring the qualities that made Nichols a thoughtful and generous friend and an encouraging, insightful director, his brilliance tempered by insecurities and destructive self-indulgence ... Harris details how the Nichols touch, at full strength, brought out the creative best in any collaboration.
RaveThe Associated PressIn the most entertaining and enlightening star biography in years, writer Scott Eyman poignantly notes the realities behind Grant’s remarkable subterfuge while exploring his phenomenal career ... A research-driven and insightful biographer, Eyman surrounds his deep dig into Grant’s personal life with fan-pleasing details of movie productions, vignettes of the wonderful characters who joined Grant in making movies, and a sense of the business side of Hollywood that too often eludes writers caught up in the magic and madness. The result is a captivating look at a captivating star.
RaveThe Associated Press... great style and lyricism ... If the Oscar-winning Chinatown is indeed \'the best American screenplay written during the ‘70s\'” Wasson does it justice by following Towne’s method of constructing finely detailed, lively backstories of all characters, major and minor. It’s impossible not to fall for this love letter to a love letter that pastes together the often sticky collage of how talent plus perseverance can equal a classic film ... The four main antagonists are vividly portrayed ... By comparison, short shrift is given to Faye Dunaway, brilliant as the femme fatale but high maintenance behind the cameras ... Wasson admirably credits the talents usually relegated to the credits with extensive reportage ... Wasson\'s book concludes with a slog through the personal and professional declines of those who achieved career peaks with Chinatown. He should have emulated its noir climax: the truth is revealed, the victim punished, the corrupt absolved, the hero chastened. The camera pulls up and away in an ending crane shot as we trudge into the darkness to ponder a story well told and fraught with meaning. Roll credits.
Ash Carter and Sam Kashner
PositiveThe Star Tribune...a captivating oral history of the late director Mike Nichols ... The occasional criticism of Nichols helps make believable the unbelievably high praise that permeates Life Isn’t Everything. While oral history doesn’t offer the breadth and depth of biography, as writers Ash Carter and Sam Kashner acknowledge, they have assembled a collection of voices that explain why Mike Nichols soared as an artist and as a friend.
PositiveThe Philadelphia Inquirer... a compassionate portrait of a complex personality whose up-and-down life rivals the Hollywood travails of Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland in its mixture of charisma, talent, and self-destruction. Fisher’s story is a sad one, certainly, but also lively, tart and funny because she was all that and more. So is Weller’s engaging book. Tapping Fisher’s many friends, she fills her pages with anecdotes illustrating the pains and joys of a life that often went over the edge — way over.
PositiveThe Associated PressZoglin’s fascinating tale of how the king got his groove back and Las Vegas refreshed its own image, together supersizing live entertainment in America’s adult playground. Blending new interviews with top-drawer research focusing on how Las Vegas evolved as the pleasure capital, Zoglin produces a gem of pop culture history.
Svetlana Alexievich, Trans. by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
PositiveThe Associated Press... engrossing ... simple but powerful prose ... More than 100 people...recall similar horrors ... There are hopeful stories, too, serving as streaks of light in the darkness.
PositiveThe Associated PressRaftery’s book works best — and works rather well — as a report on moviemaking as it existed two decades ago ... Raftery’s interviews with scores of actors, directors, writers and others power interesting and intriguing backstories about several movies that are pretty darn good and others that are pretty darn forgettable. Funny thing, even if a movie isn’t much to look at, how it got to theaters can be engrossing when Raftery teases out a telling anecdote.
W. K. Stratton
PositiveAssociated Press\"... detailed and passionately argued ... Stratton collects the kinds of elements required for a lively movie backstory: a talented if irascible director, quirky cast and crew members, a difficult location shoot and a controversial reception by moviegoers and critics. Best of all, he recounts how an idea becomes a film and the creative, economic and fate-driven roadblocks it faces ... Stratton\'s most interesting perspective comes in recounting how Mexican culture influenced the look, sound and feel of The Wild Bunch.\
PositiveThe Associated Press\"Mark Griffin’s perceptive and sympathetic biography All That Heaven Allows gives Hudson, both the movie star and the man, the kind of reassessment only time can allow ... Griffin’s interviews and correspondence with many of Hudson’s co-stars — among them Doris Day and Carol Burnett — and many of his lovers show how protective they were of their warm, loyal friend.\
RaveThe Greensboro News and RecordNo matter what you think of the 1956 epic Giant — some love it as an all-time favorite, some find it overblown — Don Graham’s book is an entertaining case study for anyone who wants to understand how Hollywood lived and breathed in the mid-1950s. His behind-the-scenes story provides as much drama as director George Stevens’ sometimes lumbering movie about a handsome but hidebound cattle baron who brings his East Coast bride to a not-so-little house on the prairie.