“Movie Freak” (2016) by Owen Gleiberman


Legendary Entertainment Weekly  …  now Variety … film critic Owen Gleiberman’s memoir “Movie Freak” is the best memoir of an arts critic I’ve ever read.  As much as I love and admire Roger Ebert’s memoir “Life Itself,” Gleiberman’s memoir blows Ebert’s excellent book out of the water.  The reason?  Gleiberman’s brutal self-analysis of his faults, not only as a human being, but his chosen profession as film critic.  Near the end of the book, Gleiberman recounts a crucial point before he married his wife, when she threatened to leave him over his indecision to one day become a father.  I’ll quote Gleiberman here:

“It dawned on me that so many giants in the world of film criticism … did not have children … What was it about film critics and children that did not mix? The obvious answer is that movies can grow into an obsession that fills that space … A person could become obsessed with any art form or with other things that were just art.  But movies had seduced me because they were the art form that seemed to be the most vivid reflection of life.  The most perfect imitation of it.  The seduction -the insane glory- of movies is that you could watch them and actually believe that they were life.

But of course, they were not … I’d always though of movies as a life force that infused me, and I hadn’t changed my mind. But now I saw that they were also something else.  At the movies, you drank in an alternative existence that did not, in fact, exist … I wasn’t just a man who loved movies. I was a man who worshiped undead images as if they were alive.  I lived under their spell.  And maybe that me undead as well.  Movies had saved my life, but now my life needed to be saved from movies.”

This is one of the best statements about what it’s like to view life as an outsider, instead of participant.  It’s safer to stand in the background and comment on life as it happens than to dive in and f–k up.  And trust me, Gleiberman painfully recounts his many f–k ups in “Movie Freak,” but his admissions are liberating instead of depressing.  This was obviously not an easy book to write, given the ferocious self-analysis, but Gleiberman pulls it off with a great sense of humor and zero self-pity. The book hit home for me in a lot of ways and will be one that I will revisit in years to come.  And if you’re fan of Gleiberman’s writing, he recounts his favorite films and past reviews in a way that’s a total blast. I loved this book so much that I read it twice to be sure that my initial reaction was accurate before I reviewed it.   I’m happy to say I loved it even more the second time.  Dave says “Check it out!”

Dave’s Underrated Albums: “12 Angry Months” (2008) by Local H


Local H are a terrific example of a band that had one hit album (1995’s “As Good as Dead”), never achieved the same commercial success again, but stayed in the picture creating a later body of work that equaled, if not eclipsed, their best-known effort.

“12 Angry Months” from 2008 is a 12-song concept album about a difficult romantic breakup spread out over the course of a year.   The central theme is not only the range of emotions that accompany such a breakup, but the fact that the other party thrives and excels after the breakup.  It effectively portrays every conceivable emotion and stage that such an event encompasses: anger, sorrow, bitterness, jealousy, overcompensation, pettiness, despair … and … centered, but pointed self-analysis.

I don’t want to give away all the highlights, but here’s a few of my favorites:

The opening song “January: The One With ‘Kid'” starts off melancholy, the narrator sadly asking the now ex how their mutual friends will be divided up and then shifts mid-track into a brutal, angry punk screed cataloging of which albums / CDs belong to which party.  Yes, this is petty, but in a breakup, even if you know a split is coming, the eventual break can still be a shock to the system and one does not always act in the best of ways.

“February: Michelle Again” chronicles the pain with having to discuss the breakup with friends … endlessly.

“May: The Summer of Boats” is a relatively calm, but painful track with the narrator dealing with the news that his ex is moving to another city.  Key lyrics: “Life was perfectly sad … It’s perfectly sadder now” and “You’re moving on to Salt Lake … and no one will ask why.”

“June: Taxi-Cabs” is the inevitable next scene, with the narrator self-medicating, partying, and engaging in one night stands to block out the pain.  Key lyrics: “Welcome back, hijack a stool, your favorite bar with souls you know.  And forward fast to 4 a.m., a Nilsson disc covered in blow.”
“August: Jesus Christ! Did You See the Size of that Sperm Whale?” is what happens when one encounters the ex … looking great and doing much better than the narrator is.  And of course, the narrator disparages the improvements his ex has made, spitting out ‘And to think I used to f–k you!”

“September: Simple Pleas”  is the inevitable come down from such anger.  A rare moment of self-awareness and acknowledgment of despair.  Key line: “I always said you were too good, I always said you were too good, I always said you were too good … and now you believe … I think I always knew that you were gonna leave.”

“December: Hand to Mouth” is the epilogue where the narrator fully comes to terms with what has happened over the last year.  The narrator may not be happy, but you sense there’s been growth and that he might handle things differently the next time he’s in a relationship.  Key lyrics: “You’ll learn what really matters … you’ll know what really counts … you’ll hear the chitter-chatter they say … when you’re living hand-to-mouth.”

I may have painted “12 Angry Months” as a painful album.  In many ways it is, but it’s also hysterically, blackly amusing.  This is the musical equivalent of Woody Allen’s brilliant 1992 film “Husbands and Wives” … caustic, brutal, embarrassing, heartbreaking, and very funny at times.