READ - The Rough Guides to Music and Film

[6 December 2006]

By Karen Zarker

PopMatters Managing Editor

The Rough Guides to Music and Film [Rough Guides - $14.99 - $28.99]

Virtually any place on the planet that can host human life, any place on the planet affected by human life (see the guide on climate change, or the one on environmentally-conscious shopping), and any form of cultural expression that can be identified, categorized and celebrated, is gist for the mill in these broad reaching, artfully arranged compositions.  Indeed, The Rough Guides to Music and Film alone would make any culture junkie salivate.  A single The Rough Guide or an armful of ‘em would make the perfect gift for anyone you know who has both a brain and a heart. New music titles include: Punk, Soul and R&B, World Music: Africa and Middle East; new film titles include American Independent Film, Chick Flicks and Westerns.  Just a couple of the new titles that we perused here at PopMatters are:

The Rough Guide to British Cult Comedy by Judy Hall (October 2006) is, well, funny, even to those who avoid stand up comedians and turn their noses up at sitcoms, and it’s funny even though its meant to be a guide to comedy – not necessarily a source of comedy.  Read this and not only get a good laugh, but get some really good trivia, too (“Highest average punch line delivery: 12 punch lines per minute, Phyllis Diller”).  Bios of comedians are found in “The Icons” section, complete with samples of their humor, from the wry to the rude, e.g., “I came on the train today, though I think I managed to pass it off as an asthma attack” from the cheeky Jenny Éclair.  You’ll get a good read on canonical televised comedy shows, the coolest live acts in cult comedy (#1 is Eddie Izzard, but of course, humor is relative), venues, festivals, and comedic terms, defined (look up “the rhythm method”), to a section on how to deal with hecklers (Jim Tavare’s “I’m schizophrenic” gag has been greeted with “You can both fuck off”).  In true guide fashion, after nearly every entry readers are directed to additional books, DVDs, and online resources on the subject.  With each giggle rendered, a history lesson, too, is painlessly applied. Humor may be relative, but this book crosses all divides. [Amazon]

The Rough Guide to Chick Flicks by Samantha Cook (September 2006) opens with a play list that will surprise you “. . . because there’s more to chick flick soundtracks than ‘I Will Always Love You’ . . .”  Let’s start with “Do Your Thing” by Basement Jaxx in Bend it Like Beckham.  “‘And a boom boom boom and a bang bang bang, boom bang, boom bang and bang’”.  That’s a good ass-shaking start to a not-so-tear-jerky look at movies that move the estrogen ridden.  Sure, Pride and Prejudice makes mention in the ‘The Lit/Flick Crossover” chapter (a fun section on women-authored books made into ‘women’s movies’, including Virginia Woolf and Alice Walker, of course), and doe-eyed Audrey Hepburn and sunny girl Doris Day get their respective (and respected) curtsies; but so, too, portrayals of haughty Katharine Hepburn and fearless Susan Sarandon.  Steel Magnolias is of course, an entry, but I’d never have guessed The Red Shoes—or why.  Men women love to look at and the movies they’re in get room in these pages; Rudolph Valentino, Cary Grant, Brad Pitt . . . An all too brief mention of films from India, Iran, Italy and New Zealand compel the reader to start out with this guide in hand and look a little further.  I don’t think you’ll find any other resource for “chick flicks” than this, but you will expand your vocabulary—and your respect – for this genre. [Amazon]

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