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Prose 1


THE BEST OLD MOVIES FOR FAMILIES
Written by Ty Burr
Published by Anchor Books

With summer rolling around, and the kids home full-time for a couple of months, there is no better time for this book.

Ty Burr, whom I read and enjoyed for many years while he worked for ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY, has put together an amazing and thorough guide for exactly how to entertain the younger set and introduce them to decades worth of movies at the same time. Any parent who has ever wondered if it is possible to get their kids to sit through black and white, or to appreciate film noir… Burr has the answers for you.

And he has them laid out quite nicely, too. Burr first starts by discussing age-appropriate films, with sections for toddlers (ex. BRINGING UP BABY), tweeners (THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL), and then teenagers (SEVEN SAMURAI). From there, he presents chapters on comedies, dramas, musicals, other genres… and even films to avoid showing your kids (even if they seem like a good idea- Burr showed the original KING KONG way too early and ruined it for his kids).

Burr also wisely presents information to put the films in context, whether it’s background about the making of the movie of what he calls a “pause button explanation”, where you might need to present a child with some background information to help make the movie make sense (such as what Prohibition was and how it affected the country).

As an added bonus, I have to admit that I took weeks to pore through this book, devouring information that made me want to fill in the blanks on some of my own classic film education (and making me want to re-watch some of the movies that I enjoyed in my childhood as well). For parents, non-parents, and children alike, this is a wonderfully valuable resource, and I highly recommend it. It will be worth every penny you pay for it and more.

 

Marc Mason

THINGS ARE MEANING LESS
Written and Drawn by Al Burian
Published by Microcosm

THINGS ARE MEANING LESS is an interesting little book. First comes the struggle to define exactly what it is; certainly it’s a memoir, as Burian guides the reader through his travels and angst. But as to whether or not it is a graphic novel or an illustrated prose book, that’s an entirely different question. The book combines both in heavy doses; many sections are carried strictly by Burian’s cartooning, yet perhaps even more of the book is handwritten prose accompanying the pictures or even pushing them away completely.
 
The confessional nature of the stories Burian tells here reminded me very much of the work of Jeffrey Brown, though I actually liked Burian’s work better. Brown’s work tends to be annoying and whiny, but Burian does a very good job of putting his problems on the page and not waving his dick at them. You see him, you see what’s wrong with him, and he doesn’t need to tell you just how big of a fuck up he might be at that moment. I really respected the way he handled those moments.

Unfortunately, like Brown, I wouldn’t call Burian an accomplished cartoonist by any stretch. His figures are stiff and uninvolving, and his storytelling through the art is slow and pedantic at best. But he does show a much better grasp of story on the writing side of things. When he jumps out and gets his prose motor revving, the book comes alive, and you get a strong sense of exactly what he is trying to accomplish on the page.

Ultimately then, this is a work of illustrated prose, and if not a great one, well it’s still pretty decent. I’ve become fairly inured to confessionals over the last few years, so it takes a lot for something in the genre to light me on fire. But if you like cartoonists like Brown, then I have no hesitations about recommending Burian for a reading experience you’d enjoy.

Marc Mason

 

 


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