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Living at the movies

July 18, 2007 |  2:36 pm

There are few books I look forward to receiving as much as “Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide.” Each year when it arrives, I think about the influence of a single volume, the way one person’s name can become a household word.

The 2008 edition (Signet: 1,630 pp., $9.99 paper) will soon hit bookstores, and, as ever, it adds several hundred listings to the 17,000-plus entries already in the mix. But what I find most compelling — other than the sheer heft of all those motion pictures — is not so much the comprehensive nature of the effort as the idea that it is like an almanac, a record of the storms and weather systems of the cinema, and, even more, of the viewing habits of Maltin and his team.

In this year’s introduction, Maltin thanks his “loyal readers,” not only for embracing a reference book but also for believing that such a work “has value in the computer age.” He’s got a point, I suppose, but then again, what is the “Maltin Guide” if not a reference book for the computer age? Here, we have a work that’s personal, idiosyncratic, an epic catalog of one person’s fascination and expertise. In other words, it’s like an elaborate movie database — or better yet, a 1,600-plus-page blog.

David L. Ulin