PUBLISHER: Da Capo Press
MSRP: $17.50
PAGES: 330

What turns us on? What turns critics on? This is the question The X List: The National Society of Film Critics’ Guide to the Movies That Turn Us On (possibly the longest unwarranted title on this site so far) tries to answer by assembling articles from the top movie critics in the nation. The articles inside this book contain opinions revolving the topic of sex/passion in films of today and yesteryear. Has does the overall product pan out? Well…

In my humble opinion, The X List tries entirely too hard to push itself as something with an edge, something you’re unlikely to read around your parents. But trust me, this book hardly reads erotic or kinky. If anything it at best reads preachy in most places, and let me tell you; the PA system isn’t big enough to get most of these messages to the choir. Actually, most of the essays seem a little ahead of themselves or actually thinking a little too hard about the topic at hand. I also found a problem with many of the critics shoving as many adjectives in a sentence then there is needed. There are points in some articles when this becomes absolutely frustrating and I had to put the book down. Yet, this isn’t the only thing that makes this book exasperating…

By pulling from a large number of sources, the book also has no single voice. This I came to expect, but there should be a flow from one article to the next and there isn’t one here. Each critic gets his or her moment in the spotlight and I feel that it’s up to this books editor to ensure a good flow from one idea to another. There were times when the flow of the book completely bottomed out on me and I had to put it down and tackle it another day.

Yet there is one single highlight of the book which is Roger Ebert’s take on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; a film he wrote alongside director Russ Meyer. Ebert is very open about the experience of writing on the film but at the same time he’s critical of what plays onscreen. It’s a truly exposed and honest opinion about the film and this piece really helped made the book bearable in a time when I thought there was no hope or any turning back.

There remain a number of other decent opinions in the book, like J. Hoberman’s humorous perspective/pan of Basic Instinct. There are also some opinions stressed in the book that turned me onto films I would have never thought of watching, many including slow paced European pieces.

But when it comes down to it, The X List: The National Society of Film Critics’ Guide to the Movies That Turn Us On isn’t a book that I can recommend to just about every movie lover. You’ve got to have a specific reasoning for wanting to read this book and even then it’s a hard one to trudge through. The book’s essay-like nature makes it disjointed at times and the whole thing reads like a stiff grouping of thesis-like papers.

For the cost, The X List might make for a decent bathroom reader, but in most cases I predict one would leave the john even more frustrated than they were before they entered.

Judging the Book by its Cover

There’s a lot more black than pink going on here than what my advanced copy looks like. The entire front of my copy was a bright pink, making it hard not to receive some interesting looks from strangers when I was reading this one during my lunch breaks.

The fuzzy X on the front of the published cover makes me think the publishers are attempting to strain away from the Malcolm X vibe, but also retain some identity with their title. In my opinion, it’s just not cutting it here. Spike Lee’s already beat them to that one, fortunately.

4.0 out of 10