Books

TONY TALKS: Announcing Book II – Star Trek, History and Us

Greetings from planet Earth!

Some exciting news for regular followers of Cultural Conversation today as I’m delighted to announce the 2021 publication of my second book, with a freshly revealed title:

Star Trek, History and Us: Reflections of the Present and Past Throughout the Franchise.

You can pre-order the book right now from McFarland: https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/star-trek-history-and-us/

Book Review: MAKE SPIELBERG GREAT AGAIN (Armond White) + Author Interview

You know what you are likely to get from Make Spielberg Great Again given the title: sheer, fearless provocation.

Armond White doesn’t care. He knows full well your mind will immediately venture to the outgoing President of the United States, as an appropriation of the ‘Make America Great Again’ slogan the Republican Party have adopted over the last four years, and much further beyond that if you know your political history. Not that MGSA is a book driven by Trumpism, or about Trump’s America, but the title very clearly wants you to understand that White’s social and cultural politics might not align with your own, even if you will take from this book a shared passion: the work of Steven Spielberg.

One aspects of White’s reviews from The Press Gang, which I reviewed last year and compiled a number of White’s pieces on film for the New York Press across many years which stood out, beyond his refusal to be pigeonholed into any kind of traditional cinematic lens, was his frankly unexpected adoration of Hollywood’s premier directorial titan. Most people think Spielberg is a great director, even if not all of his varied array of pictures are success stories, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect White to line up alongside Spielberg adherents, given how frequently he will discard aspects of cinematic culture others hold in high regard.

White’s rationale for making Spielberg ‘great again’ is one of the most interesting aspects of a typically divisive, fascinating collection of essays chronicling the director’s entire career to date.

Book Review: MADE MEN: THE STORY OF GOODFELLAS (Glenn Kenny)

Eric Gilliland with a review of Glenn Kenny’s expansive exploration of Goodfellas, Made Men: The Story of Goodfellas

Now thirty years old, Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mob epic Goodfellas continues to be one of the most quoted and discussed films of recent memory.

The fast-paced editing style and innovative use of music in Goodfellas would prove to be a major influence on film and television in the years to come. Scorsese’s tragicomic gangsters continue to haunt the popular imagination, numerous lines have entered the language, “You think I’m funny!” Glenn Kenny’s insightful, in-depth history of Goodfellas belongs on the bookshelf of all movie fans.

New Interview: MYTH-BUILDING IN MODERN MEDIA on Author Interviews

Brand new interview.

I was very pleased to be featured on the excellent Author Interviews site, alongside some rather esteemed contemporaries, to discuss my book Myth-Building in Modern Media, my writing journey and practices, and what I’ve been enjoying reading lately.

This was conducted during the Covid-19 lockdown in the summer but it’s still a relevant window into my process. Here’s a little taster and you can find a link below.

Book Review: ROD SERLING: HIS LIFE, WORK, AND IMAGINATION (Nicholas Parisi)

Eric Gilliland with a review of Nicholas Parisi’s deep dive into one of television’s greatest storytellers…

Few figures have influenced the popular memory more than Rod Serling (1924-1975).

His work continues to captivate the imaginations of millions in the decades since his passing. In our current era of uncertainty with a creeping authoritarianism seeping into the political discourse we turn to Serling’s warnings on the dangers of prejudice, demagoguery, and intolerance going unchecked. Nicholas Parisi’s comprehensive study covers Sterling’s wide-ranging work in multiple mediums that included radio, television, theater, and film.

A volume of perceptive criticism with valuable biographical insights, Parisi traces Serling’s evolution as a writer and the themes he returned to throughout his career as a writer and public personality. …

Book Review: WHEN THE MOVIES MATTERED – THE NEW HOLLYWOOD REVISITED (edited by Jonathan Kirshner & Jon Lewis)

Eric Gilliland with a review of When the Movies Mattered: The New Hollywood Revisited

When the Movies Mattered is a collection of ten essays edited by Jonathan Kirshner and Jon Lewis that reassess the New Hollywood years that spanned from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. As this period in American movies drifts further from the rearview mirror, new perspectives are taking shape. The thematic obsessions of the era – paranoia, political corruption, violence, the Vietnam War, and a general ambivalence towards post-war America influenced a generation of film goers and continues to be discussed and debated.

Many of the contributors were active writers during the era and offer perspectives tempered by the passage of time, free of nostalgia, replete with insight.

Book Review: THE X-FILES: The Official Archives – Cryptids, Biological Anomalies, and Parapsychic Phenomena (Paul Terry)

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Over the years, we have enjoyed a litany of tie-in material for The X-Files, principally across the 1990s but again recently thanks to the return of Chris Carter’s iconic series.

Fans will remember Brian Lowry’s essential episode guide books back when the show aired – basic by today’s standard but a touchstone in the pre-online era of limited investigative or behind the scenes information. Ditto Jane Goldman’s two-volume Book of the Unexplained, much more of an expansive ‘coffee table tome’. Aside from the novelisation tie-ins from writers such as Charles Grant & Kevin J. Anderson, these materials expanded our knowledge and enjoyment of the television series, paving the way for the multimedia onslaught of additional material that would appear around shows and movies to come, and following in the footsteps of mega franchises such as Star Wars and Star Trek, who had already been doing it for years.

In the modern 2020s, what can resources such as this offer us? Back in the ‘90s, without access to information or images or contextualisation, such books would inform and enrich our knowledge of the movies and shows we loved. Now, everything in those books is available thanks to a cursory Google search. This forces books such as The Official Archives to be a touch more inventive in how they engage with the property they’re playing with.

Paul Terry is clearly someone who adores The X-Files and knows it well, and such enthusiasm emerges in a book that is part coffee-table resource filled with arcanum and part investigative journal, playfully adding new details and lore to The X-Files mythos.

Book Review: THE PRESS GANG – Writings on Cinema from New York Press, 1991-2011 (edited by Jim Colvill) + author interview

★ ★ ★ ★

Film criticism is a thrilling, if mercurial, business, and one which can either chew a writer up and spit them out on the other side of corporate vacuity, or lead them to stand firm against the cultural tide.

In many ways, The Press Gang exemplifies that ongoing struggle. Subtitled ‘Writings on Cinema from New York Press, 1991-2011’, the book strings together two decades worth of criticism spanning an era of cinema undergoing a long-standing, pervasive metamorphosis into a corporate mono-culture. Edited by Jim Colvill, who undertook a mission to seek out the writing of three critics who penned a brace of work for the now long defunct New York Press, the book is a snapshot of criticism during a key time, filled to the brim with detailed, often fascinating analysis on pictures as diverse as Michael Bay’s The Island through to Mohsen Makmalbaf’s A Moment of Innocence (nope, I’d never heard of it either).

This is uncompromising, often searing film writing which is not designed to simply encourage you to indulge the filmmaker or studio producing said films, but rather question their cultural, aesthetic and personal value in the world, as part of a broader societal whole.