Cinema Heritage Group
Recording & Preserving Cinemagoing History
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While new publications are regularly reviewed in our magazine, older books on cinemas and cinemagoing (both non-fiction and fiction) are reviewed here. Reviews of further titles will be added to our website regularly. To submit a publication or a review of your own, or to suggest a title for review, contact us.

'An Acre of Seats in a Garden of Dreams' is a review of all ten books (published 1985-2007) on historic Irish cinemas and cinemagoing.

This review first appeared in Film Ireland magazine (No.120).

Stats: Novel by Larry Baker (published 1997, hc, 309 pages)

Review: The setup of Baker's book appears rather engaging and -in different hands- could have yielded a charming classic. A pair of Korean children -adopted by an eccentric, constantly feuding American showman- is growing up in Florida's fictional Flamingo drive-in, the USA's largest open-air movie theatre, during the 1960s. Throw in three potential love interests for the adolescent narrator Abraham, over-the-top showmanship displayed by his cinema owner/operator father, plus a handful of close-up details of living at and running an American drive-in, and you could have had yourself another Rocket Boys (check out Homer H. Hickam). Not even close.
Baker insists on revealing a major event or plot result every fifteen pages and then narrating how things led up to that point, seemingly convinced that he has invented a novel writing style. But he mistakes infuriating for innovative and as a result this book reads like a collection of final pages, plot spoilers and prematurely revealed twists. Would you tell moviegoers during the first three on-screen minutes that Bruce Willis' character is actually dead (The Sixth Sense), Kevin Spacey is Keyser Söze (The Usual Suspects), and Darth Vader is Luke's father (Star Wars)? I thought not. Baker, however, insists this 'style' makes for good reading.
Additionally -and inexplicably- he shies away from swearwords (the f---, s---- and d--- read like a 1930s school library after the invasion of Tippex-wielding puritans), while at the same time doling out racial slurs, only few of which originate from his characters' mouths. And did I mention this book is a little heavy-handed on Catholicism? Overall this book is even more infuriating than it is disappointing.
Verdict: * ONE of five    [+] Drive-in theatre setting/trivia    [-] Infuriating style
{Reviewed by Marc Zimmermann}

B Movies, Blue Love [UK] [£5.99]

Stats: Novel by Bella Pollen (published 1999, pb, 339 pages)

Review: A potentially entertaining premise: Kit Butler, manageress of fictional London cinema the Orange (a dilapidated, independent venue) struggles with the threat of closure looming over her beloved picture house, a deteriorating relationship with her TV-star boyfriend, the disappointment of her repeatedly rejected screenplay, plus the strained relationship with her movie-crazed father.
Although the narrative is sprinkled with plenty of film references that mostly fall naturally, this book nevertheless follows a recipe that too closely borders lacklustre chick-lit: With 50% angst (about pretty much everything) and 20% trials & tribulations (will-I-ever-make-it-big-in-the-movies?), another 20% are related to how movies permeate our lives (and where, indeed, would we be without them?), but barely 10% revolve around the actual cinema and the main character's struggle to save her charming fleapit from the wrecking ball.
This novel is amusing at times but never hilarious, observant but not revelatory, entertaining but not engrossing. Pollen's novel is under-delivering on the cinema storyline advertised on the cover, while missing a certain kick to draw readers in. Overall quite disappointing.
Verdict: * ONE of five    [+] Cinema-related    [-] Too much angst, too little substance
{Reviewed by Marc Zimmermann}