Taschen's 100 All-Time Favorite Movies makes the interactive jump to iPad

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Movie lovers interested in moving beyond the horizon-narrowing recommendations of Netflix and other streaming sites ("Because you watched ... you may also like insert-film-with-same-plot-from-same-era here)" should check out Taschen’s 100 All-Time Favorite Movies, a $10 interactive iBook best viewed on the iPad. If you’re not familiar, Taschen is a German publisher specializing in big, high-priced editions of books on arts and culture—including films—and recently jumped into iBook publishing. I’m excited by this move, as this will put some of its offerings within reach of those on relatively tight budgets.

100 All-Time Favorite Movies made the paper-to-iPad leap in February, and its perfectly suited to the digital, interactive treatment. Anyone interested in the history of film—or those who simply want to learn about films and enjoy gems they may have otherwise overlooked—will appreciate this repertoire.

Taschen’s picks for the most important films of the 20th century make for as good a list as any, representing a wide variety of genres and points of view. Lead editor Jurgen Muller pulled content from his previously published decade-by-decade volumes (which is available in a hefty two-volume paperback issue for $24) and relied on contributions from 25 other writers.

The iBook is organized in a chronological fashion. Each decade, starting with the 1920s, is introduced with an essay co-authored by Muller, tracing themes and trends with references to the movies chosen. Following each introductory essay, each decade’s landmark films are summarized by one of the contributors in six pages or so, including photos that can be viewed within the text or enlarged for the iPad’s full screen. Unfortunately, the book lacks a preface, introduction, or conclusion, which is a shame—there is no overarching explanation of the selection process, which would perfectly supplement the material.

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My, how Dick Cavett has grown (and changes his hairstyle). This page from the book’s treatment of “Annie Hall” includes just one of the many obvious errors that plague the iBook.

Each film description includes galleries of still photos and enlargeable images, and most writeups also include links to iTunes, where you can rent or purchase either the soundtrack or full film. Unfortunately, Apple still does not allow links to third-party stores from within apps or iBooks, adding some extra steps for a reader who would, for example, rather rent or purchase Casablanca from Amazon rather than iTunes.

I was expecting much more in terms of multimedia content, but honestly, the two primary advantages of buying this volume in iBook form are that it’s more portable and will save you a bit of cash. The fact that these are typical qualities of eBooks is not trivial, as it seems that with some imagination a digital version of such a book could be a very different experience than that of reading a print version.

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While the essay on “The Graduate” includes a short biography of Anne Bancroft as well as many photos easily browsed from within the text, photo caption errors like this one misidentifying the main character’s parents as “prospective employers” can be distracting, at the very least.

This is not necessarily the fault of Taschen or Muller, as Apple’s iBook format has limitations. But Taschen could have chosen to release the book as a standalone app, which would have allowed for the inclusion of many extras and a more flexible navigation scheme. In that format, it could also have included internal links within the app connecting films, directors, actors, writers, producers, themes, and so on.

This is a problem with many eBooks: They have untapped multimedia potential. It may be unfair to single out Taschen for criticism in that sense, but frequent major errors are another matter. The write-up on The Graduate, for example, says that Ben’s first phone call to Mrs. Robinson is from his hotel room; in fact, he calls her from a phone in the hotel lobby, and is amusingly flustered when Mrs. Robinson arrives and has to tell him to get a room. A publicity photo from the film depicts Ben in a pool with his parents treading water beside his inflatable raft; the caption beneath the photo describes his parents as "prospective employers." A caption beneath a photo accompanying the essay on Annie Hall misidentifies Tony Roberts, a star in Annie Hall, as Dick Cavett—a mistake not easily made, much less overlooked by editors and proofreaders.

This is not to say the book lacks merit: It could serve as terrific fodder for debate or as a jumping off point for those wishing to view some historically noteworthy, interesting, and entertaining films. But if you’re on a limited budget, you may be happier spending your money on one or more of the many iBooks of film history and criticism, including titles by highly esteemed critics such as Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, and Leonard Matlin.

This story, "Taschen's 100 All-Time Favorite Movies makes the interactive jump to iPad" was originally published by TechHive.

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