February 2004

The Hollywood.com Guide to Film Directors
(Carroll & Graff Publishers, 965 pages, $24)
Edited by the Staff of Hollywood.com

There's nothing out there quite like these 965 pages of info on directors and only directors. Baseline.Hollywood.com, which bills itself as "the premier online film resource for the entire entertainment industry and movie-going public at large," has gathered a lot of general and specific data under one roof and between two covers. Even if there were as much material on the Web, when the chips are down, when you can't point and click, when scrolling gives you the bends, or if you just love the heft, presence and portability of a book, you've got the Guide.

No, not everyone who has ever said "action" is here, but more than 300 entries offer a wide cross section of Hollywood pioneers, Golden Age luminaries, foreign directors, American independents, "today's cinematically hip," and "up-and-comers." There are even listings for the likes of Herschel Gordon Lewis, dubiously "credited" with inventing "the gore film."

The Guide's format is reader-friendly, casual, entertaining. In addition to "Biography" columns, headings include lists of "Milestones" (great for career-at-a-glancing), "Awards," "Quotes" and "Bibliography." Some but not all directors also get "Family," "Education" and "Companions" (the latter category, consisting of one-time girlfriends/boyfriends and/or spouses seems particularly questionable, arbitrary and contains numerous errors). "Family" details can be interesting when they relate to careers, as with filmic dynasties like the Coppolas or in the case of Allison Anders' adopting the child of a 19-year-old Latina gang member who died while working on Anders' acclaimed Mi Vida Loca (1994). A bizarre touch is "Affiliations," where we can learn that Jonathan Demme has been a "member of the American Ornithologist's Union since the age of 9," but, under the same category read only "Jewish" for Nora Ephron and "Mormon" for Neil LaBute!

There are other inconsistencies. Sometimes awards are not under "Awards," and have to be searched out within the biography sections. There are no straight filmography lists either, so biographies and/or milestones have to be picked through for film titles and dates.

Nevertheless, this is a valuable reference tool for directors, ADs and UPMs to discover information about their colleagues in the craft as well as people they may work with in the future. I find myself turning to it again and again — and it can be a lot of fun. Leafing through records of disparate routes to success is fascinating. Having great quotes at your fingertips is useful for research and can be downright inspiring. Here's one from the great Chuck Jones: "These cartoons were never made for children. Nor were they made for adults. They were made for ME."

Review written by Lisa Mitchell


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