Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Printed Indexes for Film Reviews

In this time of search engines and databases it’s easy to forget that there are important reference books that have not yet been superceded by the internet. One important research tool is the Film Review Index. This two volume source indexes films from Muybridge’s earliest experiments in 1882 up through 1985. It includes citations for reviews in popular magazines like Time, Life, Newsweek, The New Yorker and Vanity Fair, as well as motion picture magazines like Sight and Sound and Photoplay. With these citations you can look up the actual magazine reviews in the library’s Magazines and Newspapers Center. But beyond the coverage of these periodicals, the Film Review Index also indexes other print sources like Magill’s Survey of Cinema, a number of film dictionaries, as well as books about film directors, actors and actresses that discuss a given film. Other helpful features of this set include an index of directors, as well as indexes for when and where a film was produced.

The Film Review Annual is another important reference tool. This work has been published annually since 1981 and includes full text film reviews from more than a dozen popular and scholarly film magazines. While it’s coverage is relatively limited, reprinting reviews of a few hundred films for each year, it provides an in-depth cross-section of critical opinion about each film. Each volume also includes a list of award winners as well as indexes for cast members, producers, directors, cinematographers, editors, composers and crew members.

Other excellent resources for film reviews include the New York Times Film Reviews (1913 to 2000) and Variety Film Reviews (1907-1996). These multi-volume sets reprint the complete film reviews of both these publications in chronological order. The Motion Picture Guide by Jay Robert Nash and Stanley Ralph Ross is also a useful source. This multi-volume set provides a detailed plot summary, production anecdotes, full credits (including music), and criticism of films through 1998.

As always, if you need help working with these tools, come and ask for assistance at the Art, Music and Recreation reference desk.

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