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Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.

Fun overview of the film industry underbelly

Schlock Value: Hollywood at Its Worst - Richard Roeper

Richard Roeper has been a solid movie critic for decades, but he's perhaps best known for being half of the duo of Ebert & Roeper (RIP, Roger). In this somewhat slight (218 breezy pages) 2003 book, he dishes about the seedy underbelly of the film industry and its critics. Here are the chapters:


1. Attack of the Hacks: how promising actors/directors, and even some veterans, end up in stinkers
2. Money Changes Everything: misleading analyses of the weekend grosses, massaged numbers, and other statistical sleight-of-handage
3. The Envelope Please: why the Golden Globes are the cinematic near-equivalent of the International Library of Poetry "awards"
4. Cliches, Foul-Ups and Blunders: or, there's no such thing as a perfect movie
5. Hype and Whoring: "critics" who aren't honest, or even critical
6. What the Hell Happened?, or when the Next! Big! Thing! isn't
7. Behind the Scenes: it's harder than it looks to be a critic, folks
8. Let's Go to the Movies: what it costs, in terms of money and time, to go see a film
9. Politics and the Movies: in which Ann Coulter is schooled about General Patton
10. The Unreleased Film Festival: the best movies you've never heard of
Epilogue: In America. Roeper uses the film, "...story of an Irish family that comes to New York to start a new life after the tragic death of the youngest boy...," as an example of the best that films can offer.


The book has aged well, in most places, although some of the "facts" are no longer true (Matthew McConaughey being washed up, for example). He also uses a few terms that would raise an eyebrow today (see the title of Chapter 5, for example, or the term "quote sluts"). But he gets most of the big stuff right--his section on Woody and His Women, for example, could have been lifted verbatim out of this year's headlines.


The only thing that Roeper gets wrong is his criticism of Tom Hanks' emotional Oscar-acceptance speech for the film Philadelphia. To quote Roeper: "What the hell was Hanks saying?" Hanks was saying that "all men are created equal," Roeper; it's that simple. Hanks used language evocative of the Declaration of Independence, and then refered to it all but explicitly ("written down by wise men, tolerant men, in the city of Philadelphia two hundred years ago").


This is a fun overview for movie buffs, film industry wonks, and fans of movie criticism.