Combustible Celluloid

Book Reviews: Guillermo Del Toro: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work & The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook

Guillermo Del Toro: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work
By Ian Nathan
White Lion
November 9, 2021
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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Ian Nathan's Guillermo Del Toro: The Iconic Filmmaker and His Work (White Lion, $35) is likewise "unofficial and unauthorized," although Nathan (of Empire magazine) has at least interviewed his subject, and has put a good deal of thought into his work. The first chapter, on Cronos (1993), offers an awe-inspiring glimpse of Del Toro's influences, with many gorgeous images of posters, stills, and behind-the-scenes shots, of all kinds of monster movies. The chapter on Mimic (1997) tells the sad story of a young Del Toro tangling with Miramax, but it ends with a happy note, with his director's cut being released. Subsequent chapters are more focused on the titles at hand, the masterpiece The Devil's Backbone, the Hollywood hit Blade II, the two Hellboy movies, the triumph Pan's Labyrinth, the giant-robot-vs.-giant-monster movie Pacific Rim, the unsung Crimson Peak, and the Oscar-winner The Shape of Water. An epilogue looks forward to the upcoming Nightmare Alley and Pinocchio. There are also little bonuses, like a short essay about Del Toro's filmmaking pals Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu (who, among them, hold five Academy Awards for Best Director), a list of unrealized projects, a list of other credits, and a center fold-out with his complete filmography. The photos alone are enough for a fan to covet this fine book (which comes in its own slipcase), but Nathan's essays also help tie together Del Toro's career, making an argument for him as a rare artist with a cohesive, personal vision and style.

The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook
By Bridget Thoreson
Ulysses Press
September 7, 2021
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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Bridget Thoreson's The Unofficial Hocus Pocus Cookbook makes it clear that this is a fan's labor of love. It may even be better than anything "official," put out by a committee. (The only thing missing is stills from the movie, but we've all seen those before.) But it proceeds with the movie's energy, playfully spooky and silly. Most of the recipes are geared toward fall and Halloween time, so expect a lot of pumpkin. The sections don't seem to be arranged in any particular order, i.e. if you're looking for breakfast options or salads, etc., you'll have to scan the entire book. The first section, "Life-Giving Fall Favorites" contains a mishmash of things, breakfasts, sweets, French onion soup, pumpkin soup, caramel apples, and even a savory beef stew. Next is "Recipes for Salem Townsfolk," which gives us a Baked Witch Casserole (i.e. Shepherd's Pie), Witches' Hair Pasta, roasted pumpkin seeds, caramel corn, and a gingerbread witch's house. "From the Witches' Spellbook" offers egg-in-toast, chicken wings, scrod, "owl soup," Ginger-Dead Men, and, best of all, "Dead Man's Toes, Dead Man's Toes" (hot dogs made up to look like severed fingers!). Then we're on to the beverages. The next chapter has an array of party-friendly adult drinks, and the one after that has virgin drinks, including a smoothie, hot chocolate, and apple cider. Finally, "Odds & Ends" offers a selection of basics, which chefs can build upon (pie crust, whipped cream, etc.). The hardcover book is beautifully designed, with photos for each recipe (which I like); each page comes with spooky little doodles, such as a spider or a severed hand about to steal your snack. And each recipe comes with an introduction that ties the dish into the Halloween/Hocus Pocus theme. It's a cheerful book, aimed at beginner-to-midlevel chefs, and with the magic ability to get us into a Halloween mood.

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