Thursday, March 05, 2009

New This Week: Variety’s “The Movie That Changed My Life” by Robert Hofler

It seems to me that Robert Hofler’s Variety’s “The Movie That Changed My Life” (Da Capo) is a fairly impossible book not to like in that it offers up something for everyone. Well, everyone who likes movies. And celebrities. It’s a good idea that has been well executed. I couldn’t put it down.

The idea is astonishingly simple: Hofler, who is also the author of The Man Who Invented Rock Hudson, asked 120 celebrities to (from the sub-title) “Pick the Films that Made a difference (for Better or Worse).”

Hofler doesn’t just plunk down their answers, but rather puts together brief profiles that places their choices for life-altering movies in context. Novelist Michael Connelly “calls Chinatown his absolute favorite detective film,” and goes on to say that his own novel, Echo Park, “gives a nod to Chinatown.”

Though he loved both versions of The Manchurian Candidate, Senator John McCain says that “Viva Zapata! influenced him more than any other film” because seeing the movie introduced him to the historical figure and sent the young McCain on a journey of learning.

Jack Nicholson saw On the Waterfront “twelve or fifteen times. [Brando] was the guy of my high school generation.”

Kirsten Dunst, Rosario Dawson, Ben Affleck, Tim Burton, Dr. Phil, Deepak Chopra (who loved Ben Kingsley in Gandhi. Surprise!) and Donald Trump (another surprise: he loved Citizen Kane): Hofler’s book offers up a concise and vivid image of what goes on in the heart of contemporary celebrity. It’s a tremendously enjoyable book.

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