This may shock you, but occasionally I read books.
Most of the time they are books about movies, but, hey, they're books, right?Here are a couple you might want to consider for the film buff in your family, should his birthday be near - or maybe if you're planning early for Christmas (only 80 shopping days . . .):
- THE RECENTLY PUBLISHED paperback "The Future of the Movies," by Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel (Andrews and McMeel, $9.95), is actually an edited transcript of interviews with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese for a television special last year.
The emphasis here is on the three filmmakers' concerns for film preservation, the integrity of the art form and of what the future may hold in terms of technology. Siskbert (that's how the L.A. Times refers to the movie-reviewing team) ask some of the same questions of all three for the sake of continuity, and cite specific scenes from each artist's filmography, prodding them to elaborate on the hows and whys of what they did in their most acclaimed works.
Though the discussions sometimes get a bit dense for the average filmgoer, buffs aren't the lone target audience for this book. On simply an entertainment level it's fun to see what Spielberg has to say about his own directing style - and his answer to the oft-posed question, will there be a sequel to "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial"? And Scorsese talking about how he "thinks visually," and lamenting that too many modern directors do not. And Lucas noting that when he made it, "Star Wars" was considered high-risk film.
Still, the most compelling reason to buy "The Future of the Movies" is to learn about the frightening fragility of film, about how the major studios are not preserving their assets as older movies lose their color, or worse, crumble into ashes.
In a way, Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese have stepped forward to lead the charge to the rescue. Ebert and Siskel, similarly, are trying to raise public awareness of the cause.
And, putting their money where their mouths are, the authors are donating the book's royalties to the Film Foundation, an organization founded by Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese and dedicated to film preservation.
That alone is reason enough to consider purchasing "The Future of the Movies."
- A LESS SERIOUS book, but no less enjoyable for fans, is "Abbott and Costello in Hollywood," by Bob Furmanek and Ron Palumbo (Perigree, $16.95), an oversized paperback packed with photos and information about the knockabout comedy team.
Essentially, this tome follows the format of the plethora of existing "The Films of . . ." books, the bulk of the material dealing chronologically with all the comics' movies. Reviews, production information, etc., details what went into the making of each film, from their first, "One Night in the Tropics" in 1940, through their last, "Dance With Me, Henry" in 1956. The closing pages discuss the team's breakup and the brief work each did solo.
There's also biographical information, an introduction by Jerry Lewis, a foreward by the team's heirs and even a word-for-word transcript of Bud and Lou's most famous bit, "Who's on First?"
And, considering this is, more or less, "authorized," it's fairly unflinching about the boys' in-fighting and personal tragedies.
Serious film scholars may feel Abbott & Costello are perhaps not worthy of so much examination, but let's not forget that they were a major box-office force in the early '40s, and their routines are among the few surviving visual records of skits whose roots were in vaudeville and burlesque.
Breezily written, "Abbott and Costello in Hollywood" will delight fans.
- FROM THE FILE marked, I Wish I'd Said That:
"If Jean-Paul Sartre and Billy Wilder collaborated on a script version of Scott Fitzgerald's Pat Hobby stories and handed it to Luis Bunuel to direct, `Barton Fink' would be close to what they'd come up with." - Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Melanie Griffith, co-starring with her husband Don Johnson in "Paradise" next month, complaining to AP's Dana Kennedy about the bad press Johnson has received:
"I think people are really cruel. There's no other business like this where you're so scrutinized. If we were investment bankers, people wouldn't talk about us like this. There's been so much written, but so much isn't true."