Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Books and movies

I love books. And I love movies. Give me a book about movies or a movie about books, and you can imagine how thrilled I am. Well, I have enjoyed one of each this week, so I am one happy camper.

Let me tell you about them.

The first is Leonard Maltin’s 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen. It’s a list, but not like all the annual best lists or the AFI top one hundred that hold very few surprises. The whole point of Maltin’s book is to bring attention to low-profile films, not the widely seen ones that usually make those other lists (where the only discovery is the exact order they’ll appear).

I’m a film lover, movie nut, cinephile—whichever way you want to put it—so imagine my delight on scanning the table of contents and finding that I had seen less than a third of the 151 recommendations. Which means I have over a hundred to add to my list of films to see. Coincidentally, some of them were already in my Netflix queue, which tells me that Mr. Maltin and I have similar tastes in movies—a good sign. And of the films from his list that I have seen, there’s only one I didn’t enjoy. (I won’t bias any opinions by mentioning the name; that way you can discover them all for yourself.)

By the way, did you know that five hundred is the maximum number of entries you can have in your Netflix queue?

Among Maltin’s recommendations is a documentary called Stone Reader (2002), a film about books and the love of them. Just as 151 Best Movies makes me want to sit down and talk with Leonard Maltin about movies, Stone Reader makes me want to sit down and talk with Mark Moskowitz about books. He was fascinated by a novel to such an extent that he made a full-length documentary about the book and his fascination. That’s my kind of guy.

The book is called The Stones of Summer, and it was the first novel by a writer named Dow Mossman. Moskowitz got the book as a teenager in the early Seventies, but he didn’t read it until years later. He loved it (literally to pieces) and wanted to read more by Mossman, but the author seemed to have disappeared after the one book.

Enter Moskowitz’s curiosity and passion.

He’s part sleuth and part stalker (but not in a creepy way), and the film plays a bit like Field of Dreams without the corn—or the baseball. Usually documentary filmmakers tell other people’s stories, but Moskowitz tells his own—his love of the book (and reading in general), his curiosity about what became of Mossman, his search for people who might know something about the author as well as people who might understand the filmmaker’s passion for books.

I won’t tell you what he uncovers on his search—I hope you’ll watch and find out for yourself. But I will tell you that I watched the film with pencil in hand. As Moskowitz and his interview subjects talked about their favorite novels I made myself a reading list. And that list of books can include The Stones of Summer, because Moskowitz spearheaded the effort to get it back into print, an effort he is expanding into The Lost Books Club. (Like I said, my kind of guy.)

A list of movies, a list of books. I’ve got my work cut out me. (I love my work.)

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Speaking of my work, I recently entered a contest on Trazzler.com, a contest that includes a voting component, so I’m on a search for friendly folk who want to participate in the democratic process. Sign up on Trazzler, and then search for “Sam Sherman.” Two trips—the skating on the Frog Pond and a foodie heaven in Cambridge—are part of the contest. Visit each page and click “Save” (that puts them on your Wish List and counts as the vote).

In the immortal words of Bartles and Jaymes, “Thank you for your support.”

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