25 October 2008

The Movies That Matter

The Movies That Matter
The latest (twenty-fourth) edition of Halliwell's Film Guide has been published, under the cumbersome title Halliwell's The Movies That Matter: From Bogart To Bond & All The Latest Film Releases. The book is edited by David Gritten, who took over from John Walker at the last minute before the previous edition was published. Gritten has made radical changes to this new edition, the most alarming being the removal of 20,000 film reviews.

In his introduction, Gritten outlines the dilemma he faced: Halliwell's Film Guide was expanding each year, as more films were added. The twenty-third edition reviewed over 24,000 films, and, apparently, readers were complaining that the book was too large and heavy. (Why don't they just buy more sturdy shelves?) So, Gritten decided to substantially shift the book's focus: it will no longer attempt to review every release, and will, instead, concentrate on only a few thousand noteworthy films. The emphasis is on theatrical releases, not on DVDs or videos, in another departure from recent editions.

Thus, there are reviews of every mainstream film released in the past year (350 of them), plus 2,000 significant films released in the past twenty years, plus 500 classic films released more than twenty years ago. (The 500 films range in chronology "from Intolerance to Blue Velvet", according to Gritten, though actually The Birth Of A Nation, which predates Intolerance, is also included.) In total, therefore, there are almost 3,000 films listed.

Why include 2,000 films from twenty years yet only 500 films from ninety years? Gritten's rationale is that "for good or bad, most films seen today" are less than twenty years old. That may be true, but it does not explain why they are Movies That Matter. Gritten, in his introduction, claims that the 2,000 films in the twenty-years group all have "brand new" reviews, though this is not really the case. Thus, although this new version has 350 extra reviews of very recent films, we are not actually getting value for money, because the deletions (more than 20,000!) far exceed the additions.

The films are listed alphabetically, though not always logically. For example, The Devil's Backbone is listed under 'T' (for 'The') whereas The Godfather appears under 'G' (for 'Godfather'). To add to the confusion, there is no cross-referencing of alternate titles.