I have been a fan of David Bordwell's writing since reading his excellent book on Hong Kong movies Planet Hong Kong (2003) several years ago. I have also been following his and his wife Kristin Thompson's blog the last few years as well. I have found his writing style on movies a sagacious mix of academic interpretation, technical and mainstream appreciation. He has a love of cinema that covers such a vast array of areas that he promotes the sublime as well as the ridiculous. But it is his mixture of professor fastidiousness and fan-boy playfulness that makes his essays educational and fun.
Minding Movies is a collection of essays from both Bordwell and Thompson that were originally written for their blog and chosen for this book because "they reflect the blog's range and some recurring concerns." For those who have read the entries, there is not much new here aside from a preface. But for those fans of the pro-tactile form it is a good summation of the blog with all the pluses of random finger access. The book is organized into six parts: The Business, Writing About Movies, Film As Art, Storytelling And Style, Films, and Into The Future with several essays under each section.
The Business part has six essays which discuss, of course, the business side of the movie industry. This is an area of great interest to popular periodicals but often gets waylaid by academia. My favorite section is next with the four essays in Writing About Movies. I think budding film reviewers and critics will get the most out of these essays. One of my favorite statements is when he gave the formula for critical writing: "ideas + information + opinion + good or great writing." I quite agree when he states "...the problem may be that film criticism, in both print and the net, is currently short on information and ideas." I would have liked to see more than three essays in the third section Film As Art, but if you are not satisfied with that you can always get their book Film Art: An Introduction which is in it's 9th edition.
In the second-half of the book we start off with Storytelling And Style a very strong section with eight essays. Screenwriters will find these most valuable to read. I find Kristen's discussion of the four-part structure as opposed to the overused (especially by lazy writers) "three-act structure" most agreeable. How many times have you read about "the third act" no matter how long the film is and how it is structured? The Films section uses Cloverfield, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Shirin, Babel, Slumdog Millionaire ("Slumdogged by the Past" is one of his most famous blogs partially because of his favorable stance on the film and it is one of my favorite entries), Ratatouille, and Inglourious Basterds to not only go over those films but to branch out into a plethora of topics. And rounding out the book is Into The Future with three essays that looks at possible upcoming changes on our viewing habits, media technology and how no matter what changes some things stay the same.
A theme that runs throughout the book is the debunking of common myths that are perpetrated by journalists of cinema such as "We can best understand cinema by seeing it as a reflection of society" and "New movie-image technology...is killing the movies." An approach used in such essays here as "World Rejects Hollywood Blockbusters?", "Crix Nix Variety Tics", "Movies Still Matter" and "The Celestial Multiplex" takes a published piece proclaiming a phony platitude and pummels it. I am often amazed on how much false information is spread about cinema from writers, sometimes it is disingenuous, but for the most part I feel it is lack of knowledge and laziness (I have been guilty of this several times by quoting a critic with some factoid only to find out that it is false).
I heartily recommend this book to cinephiles. There is much to glean from the clear and concise writing even if you do not always agree with their viewpoints. But their enthusiasm and knowledge for the vast subject should compensate for any disagreements (like if you like The Dark Knight, dislike either Slumdog Millionaire or Inglourious Basterds or disagree with the anti-copyright statements in "Take My Film, Please"). You will also be a smarter moviegoer for reading this. But still check their blog.