These Books Are Ready for Their Close-Up
By Elisabeth Egan
The History of
By Stephen Tapert
Illustrated. 504 pp. Rutgers University. $39.95.
Open Tapert’s elegant doorstopper of a coffee-table book and you’ll find yourself face to face with Frances McDormand looking as if she has a trick up her sleeve. With her unspackled skin and gold ball earrings — the kind you get from the piercing kiosk at the mall — the two-time Oscar winner sets the real-life tone for “Best Actress.” Tapert, a film studies professor and an eight-year veteran of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is not a purveyor of headshots and puff pieces. He presents stars the way we want to see them: in action. There’s Anne Bancroft wearing protective padding backstage while filming 1962’s “The Miracle Worker”; there’s Halle Berry gripping her statuette as she becomes the first — and so far only — black woman to win the best actress Oscar. The accompanying profiles are textured and timeless (Grace Kelly was fighting gender discrimination back in 1955), and Roxane Gay’s frank foreword acknowledges the women who are not represented in these pages — and challenges the academy to right that wrong. Immediately.