Screen World has published its annual and comprehensive reference volume, a guide to “every significant American and foreign film” released in the US in the previous year, since 1949. But is there still room for dead-tree movie listings (with black and white images, yet!) in 2011? Yes and no.
The drawback to a volume as the Screen World series is a matter of space. Few readers would lay out the cash necessary to fund a volume big enough to include the detailed listings available for free on the IMDb. But when was the last time you browsed the IMDb by year? It’s not the easiest task, and if you've got a couple sawbucks to spare and wanted a quick overview of what was going on in cinema last year, then Screen World 2010 is a great industry bathroom book.
The “last year” part may be the hardest pill to swallow. If you care enough about the movies to own such a volume then you’ve likely seen or at least know of many of the films highlighted: The Social Network, True Grit, The King’s Speech, Black Swan. It is in the smaller films that such a volume becomes more valuable. Two-page spreads are of course devoted to major releases like the aforementioned quartet, while less real estate is reserved for smaller pictures (the nominated documentary Restrepo, whose co-director Tim Hetherington died covering the Libyan conflict earlier this year, is my own pick for a film that deserves more than the half-page coverage in SW10.) You will find other shortcomings
The fact that one of 2010’s best films is about the technological age in which we live makes one wonder if SW10 is, to paraphrase Werner Herzog in Grizzy Man, “filming its own murderer.” With over 19,00 entries, Screen World Volume 62: The Films of 2010, edited by Barry Monush, is a major undertaking, but is it a Sisyphean task, a droplet in the onslaught of online reference? An Amazon reviewer gave the 2009 edition a five-star rating, noting that he has been collecting them since the very first volume in 1949. I kind of smell hoarder, but for the rest of us less dedicated collectors, do we need these volumes? God bless Hal Leonard and Applause for keeping up the print fight, but one wonders if SW is not long for this world — or if there’s a franchise-saving app in development.