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The Power of Film [Paperback]

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Item description for The Power of Film by Howard Suber...

America's most distinguished film professor provides the definitive A to Z course on the intricacies of film. Each entry in this remarkable book, which represents a lifetime of teaching film, has already inspired and educated several generations of Hollywood's greatest filmmakers and writers. This book examines the patterns and principles that make films popular and memorable, and will be useful both for those who want to create films and for those who just want to understand them better. Advance Review Quotes: "Howard Suber's understanding of film storytelling fills the pages of this wise, liberating book. Much of it is surprisingly contrary to what 'everyone knows.' A remarkable work." Francis Ford Coppola

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Item Specifications...

Pages   424
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.25" Height: 8"
Weight:   1.16 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 1, 2006
Publisher   Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN  1932907173  
ISBN13  9781932907179  

Availability  0 units.

More About Howard Suber

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Suber has taught more than 65 different courses in 40 years at UCLA's celebrated film schoo. He has been a consultant to every major film studio, and his former students are currently active throughout the world.

Howard Suber currently resides in Los Angeles. Howard Suber was born in 1937.

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Product Categories

1Books > Special Features > New & Used Textbooks > Humanities > Communications > Film Studies
2Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Movies > General
3Books > Subjects > Entertainment > Movies > History & Criticism

Reviews - What do customers think about The Power of Film?

compendium of film storytelling  May 23, 2007
Howard Suber is a legendary film educator at UCLA, and has taught dozens of courses on every aspect of filmmaking (except for animation). In The Power of Film, he commits his wisdom to paper, gathered over many decades of teaching.
The Power of Film is not a how-to book or theoretical treatise, however. Rather, it is a lexicon of movie storytelling concepts. The topics range from Accidents to Writing What You Know, and cover such things as the most important word in storytelling (it's `but'), the `real' American religion (individualism), the characteristics of the Hero (someone outside of society who sacrifices personal happiness and contentment for the greater good or goal) and whether happy endings are really mandatory. Suber also talks about genres (the essential characteristics of each), dramatic structure (some), and specific narrative tools such as the Macguffin. Throughout the book the emphasis is squarely on the mainstream American film, so you will be able to find many exceptions to the `rules' Suber mentions here, though `rules' isn't the right word. Rather, they are `insights' or concepts which work and have done so for ages, but which are just some of the possible narrative solutions to the problems cinematic storytelling poses.
This is a book to dip into, and which is intended to spark the imagination of the reader. Not all of the topics are equally enlightening, and I disagreed with the definition of the Crisis Point, but as an encyclopaedia of Hollywood storytelling it is currently without equal.
A powerful look at a powerful medium  May 18, 2007
I found The Power of Film truly refreshing and unusually spiritual. Suber compiles years of teaching experience into a few hundred pages loaded with wisdom and wit. While not a believing man himself, his reverence for world scriptures and figures of faith who have changed the world, from Moses to Jesus to Gandhi, is rare in books on film.

Also, Suber's coinage of "Aristolatry" sure could have come in handy in film school (I went to USC, grad level), along with many of his paradigm-shattering concepts. I only had one professor who dared say that some films may have four acts -- I think he got fired!

The Power of Film is a great book that will take a prized place at the top of my list of books about filmmaking.
An Essential Book  May 16, 2007
Howard Suber delivered a lecture to a large gathering in a theater in Kansas City this spring. What was striking about the experience was how Professor Suber turned this theater into a classroom and, by asking questions, made us active participants in a search for answers to the question: "What makes a film great?".

Suber's book, "The Power of Film", uses this same Socratic Method but the technique is necessarily different. Instead of asking questions, a writer can only pose riddles, and to this end Suber employees wit and irony to provoke careful and thoughtful reading of his concise dictionary like definitions.

The films Suber examines are American films. Without being jingoistic, he says that over the decades American films have been the most popular not only in the U.S. but all over the world. The American films he focuses on are those that have maintained their appeal ten years after they were released those, in other words, which have stood the test of time and remain perennial favorites.

The question he asks is: "What makes these films classics?"

Some of the answers are surprising. The notion, for example, that Hollywood films, to be popular, have to have a happy ending, Suber demonstrates is not true. Think of the Godfather films, Lawrence of Arabia, Chinatown. Even "It's a Wonderful Life" journeys through some very dark regions before emerging with a comic ending.

So why do people go to see these films? Suber suggests that going to the movies is akin to going to church, that what people need and want is to experience time honored rituals that put us in touch with our humanity.

As a practicing filmmaker, I have spent many hours over the years thinking about how to use the power of film to move an audience and I am always looking for help. Of the many available, I have culled a few "essential" books on film theory and aesthetics. Eisenstein's "Film Sense" and "Film Form" are two, Pudovkin's 'Film Technique and Film Acting", Mascelli's "Five C's of Cinematography" and a few others. Suber's "The Power of Film" has already taken its place with these.

Why? Because first of all, the book is packed with information and insight covering every subject about American film, literally from A to Z. Second, the insights are uncannily precise. A brief example: I don't like using flashbacks because I feel they are too easy but I find I must at times because they are sometimes necessary and I haven't been able to think of anything better. This is in Suber's definition of "Flasbacks":

"The reason flashbacks came back is that they are not merely
stylistic flourishes, like iris shots; they are necessary tools
that, so far, cannot be replaced by others."

The authority of this statement is reassuring, but notice the two words: "so far"; this tiny insertion leaves open the possibility and, indeed, ecourages the search for other ways.

How to transition to a flashback?

"The camera moves to a tight close up of a character's eyes, they
glaze over and we hear an echo chamber voice..."

I fear that every time I use this device that someone in the audience is going to yell out: "Visual cliche!". It never happens and I continue to use it because, as Professor Suber says: "no one has come up with anything substantially better.".

This is a sampling of some of what can be considered Suber's practical advise; but this book is very rich and has a broad range and covers everything from the technical to the philosophical.

The entry for "Tragedy" is three pages long but delivers a store of wisdom. One paragraph in this concise definition is about "impulsivity", and the final line reads:

"Impulsivity we see over and over again leads to tragedy."

The philosopher Martin Buber in his book "Good and Evil" devotes pages of discussion to the tendancy to impulsivity and how it is an aspect of evil. Suber's book is obviously a distillation of years of thinking and study not only about film but also about human nature.

The entries that make up this book are cross referenced. This cross referencing, like the use of wit and irony, is not only an practical aid, but also an encouragement to explore the connection of ideas.

Suber has carefully culled the essential ideas of what makes a film "great" and this selection reveals that the subject in Suber's mind has a unity, that it constitutes an aesthetic, an interlocking system of ideas. It is an indication of Howard Suber's wisdom as a teacher that he does not expound this system but only indicates it; and because this system must be discovered and recreated by every reader, it will always be new.

A great read - informative and terrific fun  Feb 14, 2007
Getting the book and reading all of the blurbs on the cover written by film experts like Coppola and several successful Hollywood screenwriters, I was a bit concerned that perhaps I had purchased an insiders handbook, which might prove too esoteric for the casual reader. The 'power of the book' Prof. Suber has written, is his ability to take substantive information and make it enjoyable reading. The book is written in bite size stories, alphabetized by topic, each insightful and entertaining. I often sat down with the intent of a quick read of one or two articles and discovered I had read seven or eight. The topics are easy to digest, yet informative enough to go back and read several times.
Certainly as Bill Cosby used to say, "Be careful or you just might learn something". Film students and pros, no doubt already know about(and swear by)this book, this review is for the rest of us, those who just like films. The Power of Film would make a terrific gift for lovers of films of all ages and is certainly a must read for anyone with film career aspirations.

The Art of Reading  Dec 15, 2006
A good film comes at you slowly, like a work of art, creeping into your soul through metaphors and meditation. That is how Suber's THE POWER OF FILM comes at you. Start anywhere and read a little or as much as you want, in small bites. Then stop and meditate on what you just read. Better yet, think of the film you're working on or just watched, and note in the wide margins what you now understand anew. A good scene in a good film should be watched time and again. Each page of this book is like a good scene. Underline it, mark it up -- and then, later, read it again, and add to your discovery of why film is so powerful.

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