The Big Screen by David Thomson
The Story of the Movies

72%

6 Critic Reviews

A complex thesis to be sure, but one explored in a most satisfying manner in the pages of The Big Screen. As a study of a topic explored so many, many times before, it inhabits the core meaning of the word essential.
-NY Journal of Books

Synopsis

The Big Screen tells the enthralling story of the movies: their rise and spread, their remarkable influence over us, and the technology that made the screen—smaller now, but ever more ubiquitous—as important as the images it carries.

The Big Screen is not another history of the movies. Rather, it is a wide-ranging narrative about the movies and their signal role in modern life. At first, film was a waking dream, the gift of appearance delivered for a nickel to huddled masses sitting in the dark. But soon, and abruptly, movies began transforming our societies and our perceptions of the world. The celebrated film authority David Thomson takes us around the globe, through time, and across many media—moving from Eadweard Muybridge to Steve Jobs, from Sunrise to I Love Lucy, from John Wayne to George Clooney, from television commercials to streaming video—to tell the complex, gripping, paradoxical story of the movies. He tracks the ways we were initially enchanted by movies as imitations of life—the stories, the stars, the look—and how we allowed them to show us how to live. At the same time, movies, offering a seductive escape from everyday reality and its responsibilities, have made it possible for us to evade life altogether. The entranced audience has become a model for powerless and anxiety-ridden citizens trying to pursue happiness and dodge terror by sitting quietly in a dark room.
Does the big screen take us out into the world, or merely mesmerize us? That is Thomson's question in this grand adventure of a book. Books about the movies are often aimed at film buffs, but this passionate and provocative feat of storytelling is vital to anyone trying to make sense of the age of screens—the age that, more than ever, we are living in.

 

About David Thomson

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David Thomson, renowned as one of the great living authorities on the movies, is the author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, now in its fifth edition. His recent books include a biography of Nicole Kidman and The Whole Equation: A History of Hollywood. Thomson's latest work is the acclaimed "Have You Seen . . . ?": A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films. Born in London in 1941, he now lives in San Francisco.
 
Published October 16, 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 610 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, History. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Big Screen
All: 6 | Positive: 5 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Nathan Heller on Dec 13 2012

Thomson’s great achievement is to show how a century of creative aspiration took flight from our humblest thrills.

Read Full Review of The Big Screen: The Story of ... | See more reviews from NY Times

Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by John Banville on Oct 12 2012

Thomson could never be accused of pessimism, and his book is a glorious celebration of one of humankind's great inventions...

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Guardian

Above average
Reviewed by Peter Conrad on Oct 06 2012

This, Thomson concludes, is "the alienation that befalls people who live on or through screens". Judgments like these, when Thomson makes them, have a rare moral force.

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WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by Tom Shone on Nov 16 2012

Beneath Mr. Thomson's accusations and jeremiads, I suspect, is a grievance both smaller, more personal and more difficult to air...

Read Full Review of The Big Screen: The Story of ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Good
Reviewed by Michael Schaub on Oct 18 2012

...Thomson — arguably the world's most intelligent student of the cinema — proves remarkably up to the task. The Big Screen is beautiful and expansive...

Read Full Review of The Big Screen: The Story of ... | See more reviews from NPR

NY Journal of Books

Good
Reviewed by Vinton Rafe McCabe on Oct 16 2012

A complex thesis to be sure, but one explored in a most satisfying manner in the pages of The Big Screen. As a study of a topic explored so many, many times before, it inhabits the core meaning of the word essential.

Read Full Review of The Big Screen: The Story of ... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

Reader Rating for The Big Screen
77%

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