In TALKING PICTURES, veteran film critic Ann Hornaday walks movie-goers through every step of the film-making process, giving budding film buffs the tools we need to evaluate everything from writing to sound design.


Whether we are trying to impress a date after an art-house film screening or discussing Oscar nominations with friends, we all need ways to watch and talk about movies. But with so much variety between an Alfred Hitchcock thriller and a Nora Ephron romantic comedy, how can everyday viewers determine what makes a good movie?

In Talking Pictures, veteran film critic Ann Hornaday walks us through the production of a typical movie-from writing the script and casting to the final sound edit-and explains how to evaluate each piece of the process. How do we know if a film is well-written, above and beyond snappy dialogue? What constitutes a great screen performance? What goes into praiseworthy cinematography, editing, and sound design? And what does a director really do? Full of engaging anecdotes and interviews with actors and filmmakers, Talking Pictures will help us see movies in a whole new light-not just as fans, but as film critics in our own right.


“Ann Hornaday provides a pleasantly calm, eminently sensible, down-the-middle primer for the movie lover-amateur, professional or Twitter centric orator-who would like to acquire and sharpen basic viewing skills.”
-New York Times Book Review

“[An] illuminating new book for anyone who wants more from the movies than popcorn and thrills…. Talking Pictures reflects Hornaday’s 20-plus years of writing about movies. Her career has given her great access to the people who make the movies, and some of her anecdotes can be fascinating.”
-Washington Post

“[Ann Hornaday] offers her insights, opinions and finely tuned observations on actors and acting, camera work, editing, sound and music, and the other elements of film-and how they can all combine to truly make a movie good, bad or just so-so.”

“A master class in filmmaking and a celebration of why we love the movies.”

“[Talking Pictures] gives the reader tools for watching films more intentionally and with more discerning taste.”
-Publishers Weekly

“[Hornaday] has conducted extensive interviews with film folk over the years, which adds an informed, insider’s quality to her discussions… a user-friendly, nonintimidating guide to appreciating movies.”



Ann Hornaday grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and graduated cum laude with a degree in Government from Smith College. After working at Ms. magazine as a researcher and editorial assistant, she became a freelance writer in New York City, where she eventually began to write about movies for the New York Times Arts & Leisure section and other publications. In 1995 she became the movie critic at the Austin American-Statesman in Austin, Texas, where she stayed for two years before moving to Baltimore to be the movie critic at the Baltimore Sun. She left the Sun in 2000 and began working at the Washington Post in 2002. She was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism in 2008.