Quirk (via Amazon)

‘Cinemaps’ Film Atlas Stimulates the Nerd Nerve

Andrew Degraff beautifully paints your favorite films and helps you nerd out in the process.

Here’s a bold statement: every person on the planet is a nerd. Or at least they should be. In the way distant past, like the decidedly ancient ’90s, ‘nerd’ was seen as negative term, but that has switched around a bit. Many people proudly claim the ‘nerd’ title these days. Essentially, it refers to a person tirelessly dedicated to a topic to the detriment of other pursuits, usually of the social variety. This isn’t bad; this shows passion.

If you do not nerd out about something or other every once in a while, something is missing in your life. Andrew DeGraff and A.D. Jameson’s new book,

Cinemaps: An Atlas of 35 Great Movies, instantly engages that nerd nerve in the brain. You’ll find yourself making small exclamations like ‘wow’ or ‘cool’. It’s a great gift for the movie nerd and an absorbing experience for just about anybody familiar with the films included.

As a child, DeGraff was fascinated with maps. “I covered my walls with full-color maps pulled from the pages of my father’s
National Geographic collection,” he states in the introduction, and he adds, “I was effectively swaddled in maps every night.” Most importantly for this venture, he’s also a movie nerd. In the lovingly penned introduction, he recounts fond memories of watching films with family, friends, and lovers in the “worn-out carpet living rooms, or the old recliner with an army blanket” and he sets his purpose: “I hope these maps and essays are pathways back to these moments.” Cinemaps is where he gets to “marry my two childhood interests — maps and movies — on the same page.” It’s his labor of love (literally — some of these paintings took him hundreds of hours to complete), his obsessive mapping out of 35 classic films. He begins with classics like King Kong and Metropolis and brings us all the way up to current day with Mad Max: Fury Road, with excellent choices sandwiched between.

To begin, these maps are in-depth, intense journeys. The first full map we see is of
Metropolis and it’s a doozy. It’s layered. It has staircases. The characters’ paths criss-cross. It just has so much going on and it’s just the beginning. From here, you start turning pages to your favorites, tracing your finger over characters’ paths, thinking about the moments in the films, as when where Dorothy meets the Scarecrow for the first time, or that clock tower scene in Back to the Future. It’s a whirlwind of recall. The brain is firing. The memories are flooding back. It’s fun.

Quirk (via Amazon)

After you tired yourself with tracing the footsteps of your favorite characters, you can just lean back and enjoy the aesthetics of the paintings. Some of these pieces are beautiful, simply put. Take the map for
Fargo, for example. It’s based in white, of course. It has all the locales you remember: Gustafson Motors, King of Clubs, even the lake (with the wood chipper, of course). What makes it so pleasing to the eyes is its simplicity. As a narrative, Fargo is a tangled web of deceit and trauma. As a picture though, it’s simple. A left turn here. A right turn here. A blood splatter there. And it’s presented in crisp, tight lines and shapes. It’s almost cute — if you can forget about the bloodshed.

The essays by A.D. Jameson offer another layer to this proverbial onion of nerdiness. Each map is accompanied with a two- to three-page essay that takes an in-depth look at a feature or perception of the film, and some are revelatory, while others miss their mark. When Jameson digs into the Indiana Jones trilogy and explains the origins and cultural implications of the films, it works. The lens through which he is seeing the films is clear and logical. Later though, when discussing
Clueless, the author seems to be reaching, going too far into the ether. As a whole though, the essays are pleasantly exploratory, and Jameson takes us on some strangle little trips in movie land.

Taken as a whole,
Cinemaps is the perfect coffee table book. Sit it in the living room and invite some friends over. Grab a beer or a coffee. Crack it open to the Jurassic Park pages or the Labyrinth section, whichever is your preferred cultural monolith. Start nerding out together. Debate. Remember. Enjoy.

Rating: 9

RATING 8 / 10
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features for publication consideration with PopMatters.
Call for essays, reviews, interviews, and list features.