"The Story of Film"
Mark Cousins' sprawling 15-hour treatment of film is one of the best overviews of the medium in recent years. With Cousin's affable voiceover guiding viewers from one hourlong installment to the next, "The Story of Film" pushes for an international appreciation of the art form's industrial developments while also foregrounding its distinctive linguistic qualities. As a result, it's not only a guide to the process behind great filmmaking but an example of it as well. Released by Music Box Films. Available on Amazon.
"Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made"
Unless you've been privileged enough to view the fan film remake of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," produced by Eric Zala and Chris Strompolos in their adolescent years, you've probably just read about its legendary development. The shot-by-shot remake stars the young aspiring filmmakers and their friends, who grew up over the course of making the project -- only to find it land in Steven Spielberg's lap some 20 years later. Alan Eisenstock's delightful narrative history of the production is an alternately charming and thrilling coming-of-age yarn with more palpable intrigue than any given installment from Indiana Jones' life -- because while Indy's drama was a work of fiction, the perils that these boys went through to remake his adventures went one step further. Available on Amazon.
"Film After Film: (Or, What Became of 21st Century Cinema?)"
J. Hoberman's unique look at cinema in the first decade of the twenty-first century takes a characteristically broad view of the medium, grappling with the ramifications of digital technology in examples ranging from "Avatar" to Joe Swanberg's oeuvre. Excerpting reviews from his tenure at the Village Voice, "Film After Film" is both a concise history book and one of the best viewing guides available. Available on Amazon.
We might live in the golden age of television, but episodic storytelling of the highest order dates back to the glory days of silent era. Kino's lovely two-disc collection of Italian master Louis Feuillade's peculiar 1915 tale of a jewel thieves in Paris offers a surreal twist on gangster drama spread across 10 parts. The Blu-ray includes an essay on the production history as well as two comedy shorts by the director, one of which features the "Les Vampires" cast and crew and was produced to raise funds for French war orphans. Available on Amazon.
"If You Like Tarantino…"
With "Django Unchained" hitting theaters Christmas Day, now's the perfect time to get in the spirit of Quentin Tarantino's reference-heavy universe. Katherine Rife's highly entertaining and stunningly comprehensive roundup of 200 films, TV shows and other cultural objects that inspired the filmmaker provide a systematic means of sifting through the collages that constitute Tarantino's approach. The final chapter is dedicated to "Django Unchained," so it's an especially timely overview. Published by Limelight Editions. Available on Amazon.
"The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies"
Few critics use prose to convey the emotional sweeps of film history like David Thomson, and his latest opus is no exception. The book takes on a seemingly impossible feat -- encompassing the entire history of the movies with a single narrative throughline -- and comes pretty damn close to achieving exactly that. Thomson's overarching theses about the impact of new technologies on the viewing process and the ways cinema reflects our internal views of ourselves sustains a dense narrative that leaps across decades from one paragraph to the next -- and sometimes in the middle of them. Not for novice readers of film history, "The Big Screen" will certainly challenge you to look at it in new ways. Available on Amazon.