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Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt: "Does anyone act more like an overserious senior citizen with time running out on their chance for immortality than someone in their twenties?"




Movies! Patton Oswalt! Patton Oswalt talking about movies! How could you not want to read this.

I was relatively sure after Zombie Spaceship Wasteland that I would want to read any future books of his, and after Silver Screen Fiend, that is definite. The subtitle, Learning About Life From An Addiction to Film, perfectly describes it. The book discusses 1995-1999, describing the time in his life when Patton Oswalt saw an ungodly number of movies.

He ties it up with getting his standup and then television career off the ground, and manages to put in so damn many relatable/wise observations that I spent the whole time feeling like I was sitting next to him, hearing his stories and benefiting from the lessons he's learned in life — you know, like how we as a society are probably supposed to work.

At the beginning, when he's describing the moment someone realizes you're too into a thing – in his case, of course, film, he says: "You've got the queasy feeling you might not even need to be here right now, and I'd still spit Facts About Billy Wilder into the afternoon air."

Well, deal with it, kid, 'cause I have more to say about season 4 of The Office

I have that quote marked with "Eminently relatable." Because while it's movies (certainly a broad topic) for Oswalt, almost everyone has the topic that, if mentioned at the right time or in the right way, will set them off, leaving everyone in their wake either bored or terrified by the unimagined depths of nerdery and why — why would you know this much about this topic?

In Oswalt's case, he wanted to be a director, and he decided the way he was going to do this was watch movie after movie. Makes sense to a degree. But it became an obsession that got in the way of Actual Life. An obsession that of course benefits the reader of the book, because his deep knowledge coupled with his obvious writing skills yields up thoughts like:

I walked away from you, Four Star, but not before seeing a print of Gone With the Wind so perfect it felt like a massive hallucination from another dimension, where humans more operatic than us found a way to make the South's defeat in the Civil War the sexiest calamity that ever crashed into history.

Despite his eventual warnings about getting way, way too into movies, the book does want you to go out and see them. Preferably in a theater. Mostly because he clearly loves them, and points out specific moments that can make an entire movie worth watching. I spent some time trying to think if I have any of those -- moments that make me want to watch an otherwise kind of forgettable movie. There's the moment Hal first sees Rosemary in Shallow Hal -- I know people hate that movie, but I watch it for that scene and I cannot really tell you why. I love Christmas in Connecticut, but I'd probably watch it all just for "Jefferson Jones, are you flirting with me?"

Really the whole movie, but esp. this scene

And there is, of course, the scene in Death Race when the inmates from the women's prison walk, slow motion, off the bus to Mary J. Blige's "Grown Woman." It is magnificent. 

Death Race. The best of films.

The 20th century was the age of cinema! And other things too, but the medium of film has changed so much about the way we behave -- my brothers and I STILL use vocal inflections we first heard in Wayne's World in 1992 -- and I cannot imagine the world before it, even though that's how the world had been for almost its entire existence.

Other random bits from the movie include what you do to kill time while shooting a movie, in this case Down Periscope (which, by the way, is a movie I love):

We all came in with newly purchased Super Soaker guns. Each of us would grab a golf cart—or pair up, with one driver and one shooter—and do an eight-mile-an-hour Road Warrior reenactment all over the studio lot.

That sounds like perhaps The Most Fun Thing possible.

There's a beautiful Casablanca story. There's discussion of the horrifying Jerry Lewis creation The Day the Clown Cried, which I'd never heard of, but apparently it's about a clown in Auschwitz who had to entertain children on their way to the gas chambers, only Jerry Lewis decided the script needed more pratfalls. It was obviously never released, and has been described as being the same as if "you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz."

Patton Oswalt is one of the few comedians who can also write. I'll read anything he puts out there, and you should read this.

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