Bright Lights Film Journal

Have Yourself a Merry Little Bright Lights Holiday: A Gift Guide

Gary Morris

We recently heard, and verified, the shocking news that some of Bright Lights’ contributors actually have lives and activities outside their work on the once-humming BL assembly line. Apparently some of them (and you know who you are) have been busy writing books and making art! After we recovered from our initial dismay that BL “just isn’t enough” (as one of our worker-writers cruelly phrased it), we realized that this was one bag of lemons we could turn into a lemon-infused aperitif. Why not get on the bandwagon, we reasoned, and start hyping these byproducts of Benedict Arnoldism? And with the holiday season upon us, what better way to do that than to suggest BL‘s readers consider buying some of these items that our writers and artists have furtively slaved over during the past year? (Click on the images to go the appropriate website.)

Merci Bleh Bleh Holiday Cards

First up would be Irina Beffa’s holiday cards. Irina, who runs design studio “Merci Bleh Bleh” (think Pee Wee Herman speaking fractured French), was the mastermind behind the massive redesign of Bright Lights a few years ago, and she brings that same dazzle to a series of cool retro cards that you can buy from her Etsy store. There’s still time to observe the homely custom of sending out seasonal cards, and Irina’s charmers are the place to start. (She also has other art on the site that’s well worth a gander.)

With “old-school” books still valiantly hanging on in an increasingly digital world, what better gift for loved (or even tolerated) ones than what was once the single preeminent sign of a civilized home? Here are a few examples:

Male Bisexuality in Current Cinema: Images of Growth, Rebellion and Survival

Justin Vicari, who’s profiled P. J. Harvey, Heath Ledger, and Fassbinder’s Fear of Fear in our cyberpages, has been very busy this year cranking out a poetry book (The Professional Weepers), a study of Mad Muses and Early Surrealists), and his take on Male Bisexuality in Current Cinema. For your most pressing needs for poetry, mad muses, and male bisexuality in current cinema, we suggest you could do no better than to pick up one of Justin’s fine voumes, though of course we most recommend his “bi-book” for the cinephiles.

How Can We Make Your Power More Comfortable?

Norman Ball has graced BL with a number of wide-ranging riffs on culture, society, and the economy that cleverly integrate cinematic references. Some of his best essays are collected in the seductively titled and disturbingly illustrated (check that cover) How Can We Make Your Power More Comfortable? Norm’s superb wordsmithing restores our faith in the allegedly lost art of the formal (yet in Norm’s hands always enticingly “informal”) essay.

Masters of Mystery: The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini

Phil Silvers, Steve McQueen, Florence Lawrence (“the first movie star”), Sean Connery, Roman Polanski, James Mason, and David Niven are among the stars Christopher Sandford has laid his lorgnette on for Bright Lights over the years. The estimable Mr. Sandford is also the author of a number of well-reviewed books, most recently the scintillating study Masters of Mystery: The Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini, from Palgrave McMillan. What could be more festive than a look at these two worthies?

In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City

We’ve missed Imogen Sara Smith’s thoughtful analyses of genres (film noir, westerns, pre-Code) and personalities (Lee Tracy, Dana Andrews, Mary Astor, Tatsuya Nakadai) in our pages, but are happy to report that her second book, In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City, is available from McFarland and Amazon. This worthy work follows Imogen’s previous, applauded Buster Keaton: The Persistence of Comedy.

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For you zany readers who’ve mastered the art of deferred gratification, consider pre-ordering some of the following books. (If you’re buying for someone else, you can, for now, send the giftee one of Irina’s cards announcing this future present.)

Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman

Another much-missed BL contributor is Dan Callahan, who burned up many a BL issue with vibrant pieces on a bracing range of cinema luminaries: Naruse, Jean Arthur, Laurel and Hardy, Kay Francis, Irene Dunne, Ingmar Bergman, and a host of others. Dan’s first book is a bio of that “miracle woman” (and let’s face it, force of nature) Barbara Stanwyck, from the University Press of Mississippi. Due in February, this one promises to be an exciting read.

Carrie (Studies in the Horror Film)

Joe Aisenberg’s muscular prose distinguishes his upcoming book on De Palma’s Carrie, a new entry in the Studies in the Horror Film series from the great Centipede Press. Joe’s contributions to Bright Lights have covered everything from fresh readings of The Godfather and A Clockwork Orange and Wes Anderson to the most thorough takedown of the godawful “bromance” genre to date. His Carrie book (due February 1, 2012) will feature new interviews with De Palma and screenwriter Lawrence Cohen in what we expect to be the definitive word to date on this book. (Centipede is known for its gorgeous gift editions, and Joe’s book will have both one of those and a regular trade edition.)

Canadian Cinema Since the 1980s: At the Heart of the World

Finally, for those who want to know exactly what’s been going on in Canadian cinema for the past three decades (and really, who doesn’t?), we advise a pre-order of BL regular David L. Pike’s Canadian Cinema Since the 1980s: At the Heart of the World, due in April. David’s analyses of Atom Egoyan’s films (his post-Exotica career, Adoration, Chloe), I Am Legend,and The Road have livened up our pages since 2006. David’s a prolific author, and his Canadian cinema book may well be definitive.

Finally, we’d like to extend a hearty handshake, bear hug, and all-around garrulous good wishes to all our contributors, and a thank-you for making Bright Lights so much fun for so many years. We raise a toast (that lemon-infused aperitif) to a New Year of good health and unfettered joy for all of you. Oh, and let’s not forget some massive political upheaval and the long-awaited demise of the plutocrats in 2012, okay?