It was the mid-1960s, and Westerns, war movies, and blockbuster musicals, such as Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music, dominated the box office. The Hollywood studio system, with its cartels of talent and its production code, was hanging strong, or so it seemed.
But by the time the Oscar ceremonies rolled around in the spring of 1968, when In the Heat of the Night won the 1967 Academy Award for Best Picture, a cultural revolution had hit Hollywood with the force of a tsunami. The unprecedented violence and nihilism of fellow nominee Bonnie and Clyde shocked old-guard reviewers and made the movie one of the year's biggest box-office successes. Just as unprecedented was the run of The Graduate, which launched first-time director Mike Nichols into a long and brilliant career and inspired a generation of young people who knew that, whatever their future was, it wasn't in plastics.
What City of Nets did for Hollywood in the 1940s, and Easy Rider and Raging Bull did for the 1970s, Pictures at a Revolution does for Hollywood and the cultural revolution of the 1960s. As we follow the progress of five movies, we see an entire industry change and struggle and collapse and grow - and we see careers made and ruined, studios born and destroyed, and the landscape of possibility altered beyond all recognition.
©2008 Mark Harris; (P)2008 Tantor
"Thorough and engaging....Fascinating." (Publishers Weekly)
"Fresh and candid....A particularly accomplished debut book." (The New York Times)
Pictures at a Revolution offers a well researched detailed account of a time at which an industry and a nation was shifting values. I only saw Doctor Dolittle in theatres of the 5 discussed in the book. As a child I had no awareness of the political or social climate of the times. As an adult, I was to appreciate the relevance they had to the history of film and Harris' assessments are spot on. His description of Dede Allen's editing brought the film alive for me despite the fact that it has been decades since I last saw the Bonnie & Clyde.
As someone who works in "the industry" I found this book insightful and believe it would appeal to anyone with an interest in film. It makes accessible the process of actually getting a movie made; the business and politics of it all in addition to the creative process. It is so much more than you will find in a glossy magazine.
But really, someone should have done something about the mispronunciations. The narrator is very listenable, but Sidney Lumet's name is, as mentioned in other reviews, NOT pronounced LUMMIT. It's just not.
Hi! I'm Casey Keller, semi-retired TV writer, avid cyclist, husband and father. I'm also a guy who devours audio books.
First of all, great book. Lots and lots of delicious back lot gossip about films I've loved for years. The material is well assembled and the connections the author makes are wonderful.
BUT... would it be too much to ask for the narrator to check the pronunciations of the names? I mean, these are famous people. Leslie Caron is not "Leslie Karen" Sidney Lumet is not "Sidney Lummit" And while it's not a name, "vogue" is not pronounced "vogg" in French or English.
As much as I enjoyed the book, I had to wince every time the narrator mispronounced these names. The man's narrated 99 books for Audible.com. Can't they hire him a producer or have someone familiar with the material listen to his narration before they publish it?
arbiter of great taste
This book is truly fascinating in detail and broad scope. It succinctly tells with effortless continuity the tale of a brilliant year in movie-making. However, the narrator can't correctly pronounce anything. Where has this guy lived his entire life? You're going to have a tough go if you can't translate his mispronunciation of names familiar to any movie fan. At least he's heard of Sidney Poitier. He gets close on that one. Still, if you're a movie nut, you've got to hear these backstories. Really interesting stuff...
I concur with others who have both applauded this audiobook's content while deploring its form. Mr. Harris' stimulating, insightful, and intricately detailed look at a key turning point in film history is, I would say, instantly indispensable to students and ardent fans of cinema. Sadly, Mr. James' narration is rife with egregious mispronunciations of names, titles, terms, etc. A few examples among many: "bespeckled" for "bespectacled", "shiska" for "shiksa", "diosan" for "diocesan", "main" for "mien", "Shilo" for "Chaillot", "Brickus" for "Bricusse", "E-LYE-a" for "Elia" Kazan, "bi-AH-pic" for "biopic", "Jean Monroe" for "Jeanne Moreau", "Romero" for alfa "romeo", "Bro-CO-li" for Cubby "Broccoli', and many more. Of course, blame cannot be placed solely on the narrator. His director or producer...or someone...should have exercised some quality control over an audiobook that shows every sign of having been rushed into production. It's especially important that a work of informative fact exhibit accuracy in all its elements. Mispronunciations aside, however, Mr. James' performance is energetic and clearly expressed.
I have to agree with earlier posts. I love Hollywood, and I could love this book so much more ( a solid 5 stars!) but it's marred by the reader. Great to see others were also annoyed by the massacre of names and concepts by this ill-guided, ill-produced narrator. Even "foreign" names like Richard Burton are clammed. It takes something away from the experience, as another listener mentioned, to wince at howlers like biopic, (it doesn't rhyme with myopic!!). This guy shouldn't read without adequate supervision. It's so bad that Tantor should consider re-recording this book properly.
As a director of 4 feature films, I found this audiobook to be transformative! It really reminded me of what filmmaking is really about...that is, ideas and attitude, which is what selected filmmakers of the 60's and 70's had in spades! The audiobook uses the past to remind us what future films have the potential to be!
I really wanted to hear this book after I read some great reviews about it in the press. However, I was surprised at how quickly it became available on Audible and how TRULY EXCELLENT was the reader--I never heard him narrate a book before but this was exceptionally well narrated.
THe book is a very intelligent analysis of the five films nominated for Best Picture in 1967 and how the turning points of the movie business and America culturally were reflected in the styles, themes, and even operating processes of these films which so well outlined the lines of cultural battles of those times.
The author does a great job of analyzing cultural history without any sort of stodginess or over-intellectualizing. He creates suspense even for events and films I remember as if I'd seen them yesterday for the first time.
THis was maybe the most interesting non-fiction audiobook I've heard in months--really left me wishing the author had another book I could start right away. I also hope the narrator does other books soon because he's really a fine, fine reader.
Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.
I had put off buying this audiobook for over 2 years due to the reviews and comments about the narration and pronounciation. Very sorry I did.
This was a fantastic book! The stories behind each of the 5 films were VERY interesting. By the time I finished the book, I had seen all 5 of the movies (I had seen 3 of them previously).
Other than the obvious discussion of the 5 movies, other highlights of this book:
1. The story of the censorship code that quickly collapsed after a few exceptions were made. Two movies in particular were responsible for the change, one regarding nudity and one regarding language - both have interesting stories.
2. The behind-the-scenes mayhem with "Dr. Doolittle". Had been a big Rex Harrison fan (due to My Fair Lady) until I read this book. Changed my mind after reading this.
3. Interesting to see how "Best Picture" votes were 'bought' by the studios as early as 1967. Explains a number of puzzling things I've seen over the years in the Oscars. Must still be going on...
4. The treatment of Sidney Poitier during the filiming of one portion of "In the Heat of the Night" was quite shocking.
5. I was surprised to learn the general practice that caused pictures to be made in black and white even after color was available for decades. Very interesting.
If you aren't a Hollywood buff, you may not notice the pronounciation errors (I noticed a few, but not all those that are mentioned). Please note that these errors DO NOT get in the way of a fantastic book.
Don't make the same mistake I did and overlook this book for years due to the reveiws. It's a great book. As with all books of this length, a bit slow in spots, but definitely worth the time invested.
This is a truly wonderful book. Focusing on the 1968 Oscars enables Harris to encapsulate the transformations in cinema at that critical time. It's reminiscent of Peter Biskind's "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls", but much more focused. The level of detail is wonderful.
I wanted to kill the narrator, though. He is generally listenable and reads with a good pace, but it's very obvious that he's just reading it cold without having done any preparation. This is a book about a bunch of Francophile Americans who changed Hollywood by taking inspiration from European cinema; it is thus very irritating to have it read by someone who is flummoxed by almost all non-English words and names; he can't even pronounce "attache" or "vogue", let alone "Jeanne Moreau". He also frequently misunderstands sentences, getting the pauses and intonations wrong.
This is a great book, though. It is well worth purchasing despite the slapdash production. Just don't expect it to lower your blood pressure.
This very well-researched and thorough account of how the five films nominated for Best Picture in 1968 came into being is everything you'd want in an audio book. It not only gives you a clear account of the time period, but shows how the curtain was closing on the studio-system-relics and opening for a new breed of younger, hipper filmmakers. It really is a watershed moment, and the author proves his thesis wonderfully. It's the perfect audio book because although I may have tired reading it in book form, it was a great companion on my long commute into work, and I was a little bummed when it ended. I learned a lot and gained even further insight into William Goldman's statement that in Hollywood, "Nobody knows anything." You're surprised anything of merit ever comes through the system, but this book shows some prime examples.
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