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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Perhaps not the definitive tale of the age of the silver screen, this dense and thick, but necessarily brief work,details the world of the cinema and how it has changed over time, from one to another, from art to commerce to somewhere inbetween.

Interestingly, even within the opening pages, the transition from film to digital is already covered : Kodak is barely a moment, film itself being the physical composition of the medium and not the message, transitioning from "film" to the "movies", Thomson covers the history of the market,m the medium, the way that storytelling as a medium has changed, become something much much bigger than mere images on a screen. Where this book does fall short - but no book could cover all the wide variety of elements - is not covering the way that film making became big, big, big business, where billions of dollars rest upon each carefully chosen weekend of release, on school holidays, on tie in merchandising deals to sell toys and burgers. The writing is succinct, elegant, unafraid to bring in socio-economic and political factors where appropriate, always enlivened by a good quote, often aware and enlightening : what it lacks in breadth and comprehensiveness, it makes up with deft turn of phrase and broad overview of this wide and fascinating subject.
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VINE VOICEon 12 January 2015
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"The Big Screen" is a beautifully readable meditation on movies and moviemaking, from their beginning to [almost] the present day. Subtitled "The Story Of The Movies And What They Did To Us", it's written from the viewpoint of the moviegoer but informed by the understanding and knowledge of one of our most noted film critics. David Thomson was born in Britain but has lived in the US for years, giving him a transatlantic viewpoint whcih takes in the art of the filmmaker in both its European and Hollywood variants.

Rather then move chronologically, he traces the story of film and its impact within social history both sides of the pond through a series of thematic chapters which deal with differeing aspects of film, spotlighting a few especially iconic or meaningful titles, referencing many others. He's particularly great on Hitchcock, his chapter on film noir is a marvel, and his study of David Lean's 'Brief Encounter' points out imagery and layers of meaning I'd managed to miss, although I must have seen the film a dozen times.

Efficiently indexed, it's a great resource for any student of film but its language - though never dumbed down - is so informally conversational that it can be read right the way through like a work of fiction. A great read.
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VINE VOICEon 9 April 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book has some great insights, particularly on television and how that has changed domestic entertainment for ever. The writing style takes some getting used to - switching between conversational and complex, teasing and academic without warning.

This is really a short history of cinema with some short biographies and summaries of films which are significant in cinema history. However the author keeps denying this is the focus of the book, referring frequently to his them of light v dark and the different screens we are using. This is never pulled together into a theory so that its validity can be judged. The ways in which we have been influenced by cinema are not clearly distinguished from other cultural influences -it's not easy to discern cause and effect.

This book will provide support for a lifetime of viewing landmark films. Even limiting yourself to films available on YouTube will keep you busy for weeks.

There's more on US than UK television, but the coverage of cinema ranges wider (but excludes Bollywood).

Worth reading, just for the two pages on how television has taken over our lives and homes.
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on 29 October 2012
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
David Thomson writes well about film. That's a given for anyone familiar with his large body of writing on the subject. But this sizable new book, which has been dubbed a love letter to the movies, is not so very different from his fairly recent history of Hollywood, The Whole Equation.

Plenty of film buffs will agree with Thomson that the recent story of cinema is one of decline. The atmosphere of this book is one mainly of nostalgia. My own view is that this line of thinking is invalidated by any familiarity with recent films that have been made in languages other than English. Thomson shows he knows a lot about previous ages of foreign language filmmaking, but this book shows little awareness of current developments in that area.

Another cavil is that Thomson's tendency in his film writing is to be biographical, to write about the personalities within the film industry more than about their product. There's a gossipy, personal quality about this, which is certainly engaging, but I left this book, as with several of Thomson's previous books that I'd read, thinking that he is more interested in characters than in film as a form of art.

In short, this is a book that movie-lovers will find stimulating, as it always bubbles with ideas, but the subtitle "The story of the movies and what they did to us" strikes me as inaccurate. I don't think Thomson has a sufficiently wide-ranging sense of the social impact of cinema.
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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a book about passion. Multiple author David Thompson, who also finds time to write for the Guardian, hasn't just written a history of cinema (that would be 1000 page plus tome The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, he's given us the story of the screen, what we look at for entertainment & education.

The story starts with ground breaking work of Eadweard James Muybridge and follows every advancement of cinema and it's influence on society all the way up to the decrease of cinema audiences by the popularity of that small screen TV. This book also concentrates more on the personalities of the people withing the visual industry, rather than the history they are part of, but that is welcome here. You may feel there are gaps in the history, but he has chosen a good selection here,

Some bits of the book drag a little and I found I didn't agree with all of his opnions, but there's no denying the impact of the big (and small) screens that he has managed to cram into this book.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 March 2014
Setting out to produce a 'history of cinema’ in around 500 pages was always going to be a challenge and although author, and noted film critic, David Thomson regards his work as more of a novel than a 'history’ of film, it is difficult to envisage anyone else providing quite such a compelling read on this subject. Indeed, the man’s opinions and prejudices will no doubt provoke much heated debate, but what shines through undimmed here is Thomson’s obvious love of his subject, his account being written in something of a rambling, unsystematic style thereby making it all the more endearing and stimulating (although the book is structured in an approximately chronological order).

There are many intriguing and insightful views and analyses on display here, covering past, present and potential future trends in cinema, and ranging over areas as diverse as the impact of social media, pornography, TV (HBO, etc), special effects (CGI) and Hollywood conservatism and 'infantilisation’ (who does have the royalty rights for Marvel comic characters?), as well as a particularly fascinating section where Thomson provides a comparison (principally from a 'media presentation’ perspective) of two major 20th century figures, Adolf Hitler and Ronald Reagan! In the end, of course, everyone will have their points of issue with Thomson – for me, there is rather too much here on Lucille Ball and not enough on 'indie cinema’ or the Japanese masters, not to mention oversights of Kieslowksi, Haneke, Wong and Kiarostami (although Thomson does acknowledge these latter omissions). What remains, however, is Thomson’s unfailingly passionate and rich interpretations of his beloved subject.

Along with Peter Biskind’s take on the 1960s/70s Hollywood 'bratpack’ in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, I would rate Thomson’s book (which, of course has a much wider scope than Biskind’s) as one of the most compelling I have read on the subject of cinema.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book will be around for a long time, it will be on film students must read list for years to come and be devoured by all who have more than just a passing interest in the movies. Gathering rave reviews from all quarters 'The Big Screen' helps cement David Thompson's reputation as the greatest living writer on film.

Subtitled "The Story of The Movies and What They Did To Us" this narrative is a journey through the complex history of the movies starting basically with the photograph and in a mainly chronological fashion brings us up to date including movie and film technology of all screen sizes and media.

From the days of the packed cinema, audiences bedazzled and entranced by the stars, who in some cases were really larger than life, offering us a chance to escape reality and in some instances being subliminally fed propaganda of one form or another. In the USA the power of the studios and a few moguls who controlled the mainstream culture of a nation for several decades. Now compare that to today where much movie and film viewing is undertaken in the darkened room of a house or apartment as powerless citizens look to find a moment of happiness, fantasy or escape in front of their DVD player and TV.

Have the movies lost their power since those earlier times when they transformed us and our perception of the world and each other. With mass communication the world is a much smaller and some would say, a better understood place,do the movies still have the same pull and persuasion?

Thompson's tale takes us around the world and across many medias to discover if movies take us out into the world or just mesmerize us - that is the author's question. His passion, his encyclopedic knowledge, the warmth, the humour all shine through his writing. This book, all 500 plus pages of it, is the art of the storyteller, not the documentary maker or the historian as you would probably imagine. Copious and comprehensive notes at the end round off this fine volume.

Unlike many 'experts' or 'professionals' in one subject or another, Thompson does not overwhelm the reader with facts and figures nor does he avoid issues such as sex, pornography and violence and his attitudes to these are anything but politically correct or knee-jerk.

I am a keen movie watcher, especially sci-fi films, political movies and for some reason, Brazilian movies, and I found the book absolutely fascinating, easy to read, rarely flags (even in parts that you may find not so interesting)and kept me going most nights until well after usual lights out time.

Highly recommended, if not essential, for any serious or not so serious fan of the movies and a fabulous gift for either sex.
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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
David Thomson - The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies and What They Did to Us is a cultural exploration of movies and their impact on us the audience. This book is well researched and offers much insight into mechanisms & intrigues of the movie-making business. Though like most books on this subject it is Holywood-centric, unlike most it does go in to depth on the foreign films that have so influenced cinema (Bergman, Rosselini, Renior, Godard, Ozu, Lean, etc). I found the book a little disjointed but very informative even if at times a little too opinionated. A good read for fans of classic films and cinema history.
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on 1 November 2012
Thomson's depth of knowledge is quite incredible - his ability to connect biographical detail to critical insight is convincing...and I usually take some convincing of that (I'd be more of the Deleuze/Cavell inclination). The chapter on "State Film - Film State" is particularly good.

My own problem with this book is nothing to do with the content, it's the publishers. Allen Lane seem to have skimped on the binding - I've had my copy for less than a week and already the pages are falling out - and I'm careful with books. Seems a shame that such a work is marred by cheap and faulty binding.
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on 20 June 2014
Very good book because written in a very lucid easy to read style, I was writing a talk about Cinema in the 20's and 30's but I read the whole book because it was so interesting.
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