Apr 28, 2014

Read the Movie - Anne Thompson's THE $11 BILLION YEAR (Review)

Anne Thompson
Published: March, 2014
Newmarket for It Books / 320 Pages
Available in Hardcover and Kindle Editions (Hardcover edition Reviewed)

* * * * (out of 4)

Is there a harder working Hollywood Journalist than Anne Thompson? I mean she's everywhere - Festivals, Awards Season, Comic-con - and not only on top of things with a passionate energy that is infectious.  She somehow even has time to tweet about non-business events like Los Angeles screenings and weekly "Trailers From Hell" updates (she's re-tweeted me many a time - thanks Anne!). So it's no surprise that this book covers a full year in the Film Business and is one of the most comprehensive looks at an industry where the rules seem to keep changing by the hour.

It kind of reminded me of Mark Harris' Pictures at a Revolution which covered the 1967 Oscar race in full detail as the year that Old Hollywood started to transform into the New Hollywood of the 70s and beyond. In this case though, the subject is geared more towards the ever-changing business model whereas Pictures had a more cultural slant to it.

If you're in the film business or contemplating it, this is the book to read. It covers everything - and I mean everything - from the 2012 Film Business year that was. Hollywood works in "seasons" leading up to the most important one, "Awards season" (which seems to get longer and more crazy every year - almost swallowing up the other seasons) with the film year ending when the Oscar for Best Picture is finally handed out. She covers Sundance, Cannes, CinemaCon, Comic-con, Summer movies, the Festival circuit (Toronto, Telluride, Venice, etc) and of course Awards season. She tracks the beginnings of movies like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Argo from their festival appearances, through release and ending again with their showing on Oscar night (Argo- spoiler alert? - goes on to win Best Picture). Given that the book was written in 2013, Ms. Thompson also has the benefit of adding some of the wave of change that came from 2012 including a disastrous summer of tent-pole films that tanked after Steven Spielberg and George Lucas prophecy that it was coming (did they know it would happen so soon? Who knows...).  The events in it are still fresh as if they happened yesterday because in reality, they practically did!

While my personal favorite section is the Awards section that outlines campaigning as well as the ups and downs that the films and studios experience while fighting for Oscar Gold, I also have to mention an exceptional chapter covering Women in Hollywood - a hot topic these days. She strengthens her point by utilizing the tale of Kathryn Bigelow's struggles with Zero Dark Thirty as she has to deal with Washington Politicians crying foul over what they call unfair glorification of torture, to the perception of a movie that has a strong female lead and the so-called "drawbacks" because it is an unconventional movie. I also loved her calling out Hollywood for obsessively chasing the young male demographic (which I fall into) that is perceived to be the movie-going saviors while abandoning other key demographics (and in some cases stronger) in particular women and older audiences who are both hungry for content and are passionate moviegoers left starving. I was also impressed that Ms. Thompson doesn't look down on the Comic-con crowd like other journalists seem to do (one in particular comes to mind), giving them (ok so us) credit for being passionate about our content as well as the fact that it is becoming more integrated with women now showing up in droves to support their favorite stories and characters. I've been attending Comic-con since 1997 and have been to almost all of the events she talks about (except Cannes, never been to Cannes but I have been to the Oscars - in 2000) and could relate to everything she was saying. I also enjoyed the personal touches she added like when she geeks out (sorry Anne) over being behind Stallone at Cannes as he walks towards Elizabeth Taylor (yeah I'd be losing my mind over that as well) as well as personal observations as she attends the Oscar ceremony for the first time as a guest rather than covering the red carpet as a reporter.

I can't say enough about this book and think it is a must read (as is Ms. Thompson's blog - Thompson On Hollywood - link HERE).