It's the 30th anniversary of E.T., the 50th anniversary of the first 007 film, the Star Wars franchise isn't dead (thanks, Disney), Leo Tolstoy's 1870s romantic tragedy gets at least its ninth movie adaptation, a New Yorker magazine critic wonders what's happening to his medium, great actors and a great acting dynasty are celebrated, great directors are interviewed, and the star of Looper and The Dark Knight Rises has a teensy-weensy collection of teensy-weensy stories to share.
If it's November, it must be time for publishing houses to stock the shelves with books aimed squarely (and hiply) at the movie-obsessed. If simply going to a theater, or clicking on your Netflix queue, or flipping to Turner Classics isn't enough - when you need to eat, breathe, sleep, and excrete movies - these books are for you. (Some of them, anyway.)
A roundup of new titles ready to be given, or gotten:
Anna Karenina: The Screenplay by Tom Stoppard (Vintage, $15). The award-winning playwright and scenarist turns in his explicitly theatrical version of the Tolstoy classic, explaining himself and his ideas about Tolstoy in a pithy intro.
The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies by David Thomson (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35) One of the most knowledgable, enjoyably idiosyncratic, and prolific writers on the movies jumps back and forth in time and across media (TV, YouTube, smartphones, the silver screen) in this insightful study of how movies shape our consciousness, collective and otherwise.
Do the Movies Have a Future? by David Denby (Simon & Schuster, $27). A collection of essays, reviews, and think pieces celebrating the good, bad, and ugly of contemporary cinema (and not so contemporary - read his takes on Joan Crawford and Victor Fleming). Does Denby answer his titular big question? Now, that would be a spoiler.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: From Concept to Classic (Newmarket Press, $24.99) Packed with production stills, storyboard pages, how'd-they-do-that? effects breakdowns, and the illustrated Melissa Mathison screenplay, this oversize paperback celebrates the otherworldly wonders of Steven Spielberg's, well, classic. With an intro by the man himself.
Harry Potter: Film Wizardry by Brian Sibley (Collins Design, $45). Still experiencing Harry withdrawal? Try this elaborate commemorative tome, a revised and expanded version of the 2011 edition, full of removable facsimile documents, Hogwarts secrets, saucy anecdotes from HP cast members, behind-the-scenes info on Dementors and Hippogriffs, maps, magic tricks, and more.
Hollywood Unseen by Robert Dance (Antique Collectors Club, $75) Not sure how I feel about the cover photo of Humphrey Bogart on a bike (the very same image included in another eminently gift-worthy book, Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling with the Stars! by yours truly), but this huge and handsome coffee table book, culled from the John Kobal collection of vintage Hollywood glamour portraits, candids, and production stills, has photos to die for. From Marlene Dietrich to Barbara Stanwyck, James Dean to Marilyn Monroe, icons at work, at play, at ease, and at their sexiest, nuttiest, and most mysterious and mischievous.
The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers: A Primer for Directors, Writers, Actors, and Producers by Carl Gottlieb and Toni Attell (Limelight Editions, $19.99) Just what it says: Little. Blue. A practical manual for making your way through the movie-biz maze.
The Making of Life of Pi: A Film Journey, by Jean-Christophe Castelli (Harper Design, $35) Gorgeous, color-photo-packed "making of" book, with a foreward by Life of Pi novelist Yann Martel (he hates the movie! a joke, a joke) and an intro by the always-intriguing director Ang Lee.
The Man Who Saw a Ghost: The Life and Work of Henry Fonda, by Devin McKinney (St. Martin's, $29.99) Deeply wrought biography of the dark, conflicted, amazingly talented actor, whose personal life was messy, and whose professional life resulted in some of the truly great films - and film performances - in Hollywood history.
The Music of James Bond, by Jon Burlingame (Oxford, $35) The title songs and soundtracks, and the people behind them, from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace. (What, no Adele singing the theme to Skyfall?!) A fascinating look at the composers and crooners, the fortuitous accidents and fateful musical choices that have propelled the 007 franchise forward with rhythm and style.
Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made, by Alan Eisenstock (St. Martin's, $25.99) A pair of Mississippi nerd tweens remake Raiders of the Lost Ark. A fanboy odyssey, nicely told.
The Redgraves: A Family Epic, by Donald Spoto (Crown, $26) Michael, Vanessa, Lynn, Corin, Joely Richardson, Natasha Richardson - a British acting dynasty spans generations, overcoming tragedy and the occasional bad script to become a kind of quality brand of thespianism. Vanessa can bring gravitas to Mission: Impossible, and author Spoto tries to explain how.
Star Wars: A Pop-Up Galactic Adventure, by Matthew Reinhart (Scholastic, $36.99) Renowned "paper engineer" Reinhart does his magic on the three Star Wars prequels and The Clone Wars, and all the characters, conflicts, droids, and galactic action contained therein. And then uncontained, literally unfolding before your eyes.
Steven Spielberg: A Retrospective, by Richard Schickel (Sterling, $35) Movie by movie, Schickel and Spielberg talk. A 40-year overview of a career still going strong.
The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories 2, by Joseph Gordon-Levitt & wirrow (HarperCollins, $14.99) Long ago, the Looper star started an online indie-music collaborative, HitRECord (as in hit the record button). The site has also become host to a short-story collaboration - more like story fragments, or haiku-size prose poems - and Gordon-Levitt has culled quirky gems for Vol. 2. A handsome hardbound book full of wit, whimsy, and a little wisdom. And the elfish illustrations of wirrow.
Contact movie critic Steven Rea at 215-854-5629 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his blog, "On Movies Online," at www.philly.com/onmovies.