Cinema Today

by Edward Buscombe


S everal months ago I was lying in bed when I thought I heard somebody poking around underneath my bedroom window. Even though I moved here from Texas, I don't own a gun, nor do I keep a baseball bat or anything under my bed, so next thing I know, I was feeling pretty helpless to defend my homestead. Long story short: I'd like to apologize to my landlord's elderly mother for bursting out the back door in my boxer shorts and waving my toilet plunger in her face. I learned a hard lesson that night, and I'm better prepared to defend myself now. Anybody starts trouble around here, they're going to be tasting the backside of Cinema Today, Phaidon's massive tribute to the films of the past 30 years.

I can hardly imagine a sexier, more loving tribute to cinema, both highbrow and low, than this 500+ page, heavily illustrated behemoth from author Edward Buscombe. Cinema Today contains over 700 color photographs, oftentimes overlaid with classic dialogue, from what seems like every movie made since The Godfather.

Buscombe chooses the early '70s as the starting point for Cinema Today because of the advent of the movie-rating system, which meant that movies didn't have to be made with a nine-year old audience in mind. This led to more graphic representations of violence and sex, and coincided with the rise of young filmmakers like Dennis Hopper, Robert Altman, and Francis Ford Coppola, who were eager to make movies outside the antiquated Hollywood studio regime.

Cinema Today proceeds to breeze through what feels like almost every movie made since that time, organized primarily by genre, and later by geography. The book is dominated by US films, but so, the author contends, is the rest of the world. Hollywood spends twice as much money on movie production as the rest of the world combined, and in 2001, the top 10 grossing movies worldwide were all from the US. Buscombe treats popular films and independent flicks with equal attention, devoting as much ink and photo space to Axel Foley as Kitano Takeshi. This is a truly beautiful book, and if it fails to exercise your mind, carrying it around town will at least give your arms a good workout. CHAS BOWIE