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Book Review: Screen World Volume 63: The Films of 2011, Edited by Barry Monush

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The only real problem with Screen World Volume 63: The Films of 2011, the annual compendium of basic information about American and foreign films edited by Barry Monush, is the same problem all such reference tomes face in the era of the internet. In a world where film fans can log on to IMDb and get all of the same information and more with the click of a mouse, the need for such a volume and the incentive to add it to one’s library is limited at best. In the internet age, Screen World is a dinosaur.

What you get in Screen World, according to their publicity release is an “illustrated listing of every significant American and foreign film released in the United States in 2011.” Significant is not defined. The listings are divided into four sections: Domestic Films A, Domestic Films B, Foreign Films A, and Foreign Films B. Within each section the films are arranged according to their date of release in the United States. There is an alphabetical index if you are looking for information on a specific film. Entries for films in the A category are given more space and include a short, usually one sentence, synopsis. Most have more than one photograph. Entries in the B sections never seem to have more than one photograph and the information is stuffed into one long block paragraph.

A typical entry starts with the film’s title in large bold face. An introductory paragraph identifies the studio in parentheses and then lists the film’s production team, starting with the producers. The paragraph ends with production information like running time and the date of release. This is followed by a cast list with actors’ names in bold face, supplemented by a paragraph lumping together smaller roles. There is the synopsis and information about any Academy Award recognition. Numbers of illustrative photos vary: Take Shelter, for example, has four photos, three with Michael Shannon and one with Jennifer Chastain; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part 2 has eight, and Texas Killing Fields has one (Ms. Chastain again). All photos with some few exceptions are black and white screen shots.

IMBd listings contain all of the same information with the convenience of hyperlinks. You can follow Ms. Chastain all through the year like a stalker, a much more complicated task with Screen World. Synopses are longer, although not necessarily better. IMDb, of course, does add information, most notably that related to a film’s critical reception.

Additional material in the volume includes the year’s obituaries with a selection of head shots and photos of Academy Award winning and nominated actors. There is a list of the top 10 box office stars of 2011 with photos. Brad Pitt tops the list of seven other men and only two women, Sandra Bullock at number five and Meryl Streep at nine. There is also a list of the 100 top box office films, this topped by the aforementioned Harry Potter finale.

Screen World has been doing this since 1949. I would guess there are film fans who have been lovingly collecting these volumes over the years, and I would imagine they will welcome the opportunity to keep their collections complete. For the rest of us, the internet is certainly more convenient.

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