Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Books of 2015: Found Footage, Film Studies for Dummies, Shock Value

I made a determined effort to read more film-related books this year. That started off very well with the first few books, but then petered out by the end of the year. This must also be the first year ever where every book I've read was non-fiction. Here's the books I read in 2015:

Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas

Just brilliant. Not many people are so devoted to studying these often very frustrating films. As I'm in the final year of my thesis on this subject, I read this at almost the perfect time. I managed to reference it a great deal in my thesis and I found it fascinating from cover to cover. I WISH I had read it before completing my book on The Blair Witch Project as Heller-Nicholas' analysis of that film would have given me a lot more to write about. The analysis of Paranormal Activity is also excellent and the detailing of how Highway Safety Films have influenced found footage was also something that I had not considered in my own thesis.

If you like found footage, or are just interested in its appeal, this is an absolute must read. Buy it here.

Film Studies for Dummies by Dr James Cateridge

I'd never read one of these 'for Dummies' books before and I thought that after 14 years of studying and teaching film studies, it would probably cover little that I didn't already know. Wow was I wrong. This book has been absolutely essential reading for me. It has clarified some of the most complex ideas in film studies, it has given me new ways to teach certain topics, it has broadened my knowledge of areas where I had little.

In short, it is a brilliant overview of the subject. I would recommend it for any student who is about to embark on Film Studies A level or a degree course. I think I learned more from this one book, than in much of my studies. Somehow it is perfectly pitched for both beginners and people who have been studying film for some time. Buy it here.

Shock Value by Jason Zinoman

Another must read for horror fans. Covers all the big classics from the 70s and the guys behind getting them made. It was especially timely to read this, as soon after I finished it, Wes Craven sadly passed away. Even though films like Texas Chainsaw, Halloween and The Exorcist have been written about to death already, Zinoman still manages to make this feel like a pretty fresh look at some of the greatest films ever to be unleashed from the genre. It would have been a good book to have around while writing my dissertation on the representation of the family in 70s horror. Buy it here.

12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup

I saw this in a shop for something like £3 and as it was my favourite film of 2014, had to pick it up. A quick read and well worth it, even if you have seen the film. There are many harrowing parts and a quite a few memorable moments that were not included in the film. Overall, a story that deserves to be told and retold and retold.

Revolution by Russell Brand

Just a massive brain-fart really. I like Russell Brand and I like his outlook, but this came across as hopelessly naive in places. Still, there's lots of good stuff here and I hope Brand continues his crusade to try and change the world. I'm still listening.

The Hell of it All by Charlie Brooker

A collection of Brooker's columns for The Guardian. I laughed out loud a lot. After a whole book of reading Brooker's miserable ramblings, it can get a bit much. But he's still a brilliant writer and a lot of fun to read.

I'm also half way through Ayoade on Ayoade: A Cinematic Odyssey which is frankly, just bonkers.

What did you read this year? Any recommendations?

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