Readalikes: You Are Good

Time for another podcast readalike! This one is inspired by You Are Good (formerly known as Why Are Dads), a great podcast about movies, feelings, and everything in between. The show is hosted by journalist Sarah Marshall and Alex Steed. It’s part of the You’re Wrong About cinematic universe, so to speak, as Sarah is also on You’re Wrong About.

If you like You Are Good, these recommended books will probably appeal to you as well.

And here’s a list of other readalikes.

Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World by Wil Haygood 

This unprecedented history of Black cinema examines 100 years of Black movies–from Gone with the Wind to Blaxploitation films to Black Panther–using the struggles and triumphs of the artists, and the films themselves, as a prism to explore Black culture, civil rights, and racism in America. From the acclaimed author of The Butler and Showdown.

Beginning in 1915 with D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation–which glorified the Ku Klux Klan and became Hollywood’s first blockbuster–Wil Haygood gives us an incisive, fascinating, little-known history, spanning more than a century, of Black artists in the film business, on-screen and behind the scenes.

He makes clear the effects of changing social realities and events on the business of making movies and on what was represented on the screen: from Jim Crow and segregation to white flight and interracial relationships, from the assassination of Malcolm X, to the O. J. Simpson trial, to the Black Lives Matter movement. He considers the films themselves–including Imitation of Life, Gone with the Wind, Porgy and Bess, the Blaxploitation films of the seventies, Do The Right Thing, 12 Years a Slave, and Black Panther. And he brings to new light the careers and significance of a wide range of historic and contemporary figures: Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, Berry Gordy, Alex Haley, Spike Lee, Billy Dee Willliams, Richard Pryor, Halle Berry, Ava DuVernay, and Jordan Peele, among many others.

An important, timely book, Colorization gives us both an unprecedented history of Black cinema and a groundbreaking perspective on racism in modern America.

Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film That Sank United Artists by Steven Bach 

Heaven’s Gate is probably the most discussed, least seen film in modern movie history. Its notoriety is so great that its title has become a generic term for disaster, for ego run rampant, for epic mismanagement, for wanton extravagance. It was also the film that brought down one of Hollywood’s major studios–United Artists, the company founded in 1919 by Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, D. W. Griffith, and Charlie Chaplin. Steven Bach was senior vice president and head of worldwide production for United Artists at the time of the filming of Heaven’s Gate, and apart from the director and producer, the only person to witness the film’s evolution from beginning to end. Combining wit, extraordinary anecdotes, and historical perspective, he has produced a landmark book on Hollywood and its people, and in so doing, tells a story of human absurdity that would have made Chaplin proud.

Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films by Arthur Dong

“Hollywood Chinese: The Chinese in American Feature Films” presents an intimate look at the Chinese American role and influence in Hollywood, from some of the earliest films set in America’s Chinatowns to the contemporary artists remaking the face of Hollywood. Filled with more than 500 stunning, vintage photographs, movie posters, lobby cards and assorted ephemera based on the author’s extraordinary personal collection, this lavish coffee-table book’s richly illustrated pages show the myths, misconceptions, and memorable moments of the Chinese in film.

I’ll Have What She’s Having: How Nora Ephron’s Three Iconic Films Saved the Romantic Comedy by Erin Carlson

In I’ll Have What She’s Having entertainment journalist Erin Carlson tells the story of the real Nora Ephron and how she reinvented the romcom through her trio of instant classics. With a cast of famous faces including Rob Reiner, Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan, and Billy Crystal, Carlson takes readers on a rollicking, revelatory trip to Ephron’s New York City, where reality took a backseat to romance and Ephron–who always knew what she wanted and how she wanted it–ruled the set with an attention to detail that made her actors feel safe but sometimes exasperated crew members.

Along the way, Carlson examines how Ephron explored in the cinema answers to the questions that plagued her own romantic life and how she regained faith in love after one broken engagement and two failed marriages. Carlson also explores countless other questions Ephron’s fans have wondered about: What sparked Reiner to snap out of his bachelor blues during the making of When Harry Met Sally? Why was Ryan, a gifted comedian trapped in the body of a fairytale princess, not the first choice for the role? After she and Hanks each separatel balked at playing Mail’s Kathleen Kelly and Sleepless’ Sam Baldwin, what changed their minds? And perhaps most importantly: What was Dave Chappelle doing . . . in a turtleneck? An intimate portrait of a one of America’s most iconic filmmakers and a look behind the scenes of her crowning achievements, I’ll Have What She’s Having is a vivid account of the days and nights when Ephron, along with assorted cynical collaborators, learned to show her heart on the screen.

The Lady from the Black Lagoon by Mallory O’Meara

As a teenager, Mallory O’Meara was thrilled to discover that one of her favorite movies, Creature from the Black Lagoon, featured a monster designed by a woman, Milicent Patrick. But for someone who should have been hailed as a pioneer in the genre, there was little information available. For, as O’Meara soon discovered, Patrick’s contribution had been claimed by a jealous male colleague, her career had been cut short and she soon after had disappeared from film history. No one even knew if she was still alive.

As a young woman working in the horror film industry, O’Meara set out to right the wrong, and in the process discovered the full, fascinating story of an ambitious, artistic woman ahead of her time. Patrick’s contribution to special effects proved to be just the latest chapter in a remarkable, unconventional life, from her youth growing up in the shadow of Hearst Castle, to her career as one of Disney’s first female animators. And at last, O’Meara discovered what really had happened to Patrick after The Creature’s success, and where she went.

A true-life detective story and a celebration of a forgotten feminist trailblazer, Mallory O’Meara’s The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Patrick in her rightful place in film history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since.

Picturing Indians: Native Americans in Film, 1941-1960 by Liza Black

Standing at the intersection of Native history, labor, and representation, Picturing Indians presents a vivid portrait of the complicated experiences of Native actors on the sets of midcentury Hollywood Westerns. This behind-the-scenes look at costuming, makeup, contract negotiations, and union disparities uncovers an all-too-familiar narrative of racism and further complicates filmmakers’ choices to follow mainstream representations of “Indianness.”

Liza Black offers a rare and overlooked perspective on American cinema history by giving voice to creators of movie Indians–the stylists, public relations workers, and the actors themselves. In exploring the inherent racism in sensationalizing Native culture for profit, Black also chronicles the little-known attempts of studios to generate cultural authenticity and historical accuracy in their films. She discusses the studios’ need for actual Indians to participate in, legitimate, and populate such filmic narratives. But studios also told stories that made Indians sound less than Indian because of their skin color, clothing, and inability to do functions and tasks considered authentically Indian by non-Indians. In the ongoing territorial dispossession of Native America, Native people worked in film as an economic strategy toward survival.

Consulting new primary sources, Black has crafted an interdisciplinary experience showcasing what it meant to “play Indian” in post-World War II Hollywood.\

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

When Carrie Fisher discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved–plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Before her passing, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon was indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time–and what developed behind the scenes. Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars.\

Reel Latinxs: Representation in U.S. Film and TV by Frederick Luis Aldama, Christopher González 

Latinx representation in the popular imagination has infuriated and befuddled the Latinx community for decades. These misrepresentations and stereotypes soon became as American as apple pie. But these cardboard cutouts and examples of lazy storytelling could never embody the rich traditions and histories of Latinx peoples. Not seeing real Latinxs on TV and film reels as kids inspired the authors to dive deep into the world of mainstream television and film to uncover examples of representation, good and bad. The result: a riveting ride through televisual and celluloid reels that make up mainstream culture.

As pop culture experts Frederick Luis Aldama and Christopher Gonz lez show, the way Latinx peoples have appeared and are still represented in mainstream TV and film narratives is as frustrating as it is illuminating. Stereotypes such as drug lords, petty criminals, buffoons, and sexed-up lovers have filled both small and silver screens–and the minds of the public. Aldama and Gonz lez blaze new paths through Latinx cultural phenomena that disrupt stereotypes, breathing complexity into real Latinx subjectivities and experiences. In this grand sleuthing sweep of Latinx representation in mainstream TV and film that continues to shape the imagination of U.S. society, these two Latinx pop culture authorities call us all to scholarly action.

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