“Movie Freak” (2016) by Owen Gleiberman

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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!”

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