Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt
Patton Oswalt warns you. He tells you in the beginning that this isn't a typical addiction memoir. You might think that a comedian/actor writing about his addiction would involve drugs or drinking or dangerous intrigue. Silver Screen Fiend includes all of those things but they're mostly in the films that Oswalt watched every week. And every week is putting it lightly. Oswalt describes going to double features as many as three times a week at the New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. He watched classics, obscure gems, campy horror and sci-fi, and anything else he could check off in his multiple cult movie guides. He spent the mid-90s writing and performing comedy and watching movies - hundreds of movies. He even got to the point where he associated seeing all of these films with the rising success he was having in comedy and that is where the addiction came into play.
So, not only is this not a typical addiction memoir, it's not a typical movie guide either. Oswalt mentions many of the films he went to see and describes a few scenes that had an effect on him but this is a memoir first and foremost. Silver Screen Fiend is just as much about stand-up comedy and figuring out who you are as a performer as it is about Casablanca or Sunset Boulevard. Oswalt is very self-aware throughout. He doesn't make excuses for his mistakes or gloss over them. He tells you directly that he screwed up and wasted time waiting for inspiration to strike instead of writing the scripts he thought he could or working on his comedy. I listened to the audiobook version which is read by the author. It doesn't quite have the timing and raucous laughs of one of his comedy albums but it shouldn't. What his voice does, is lend an even more personal touch to a unique memoir about the time just before he "made it." Anyone interested in film or comedy or not waiting for opportunity to find them will discover plenty to enjoy here.
If you like Silver Screen Fiend, you might be interested in Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, Patton Oswalt's first memoir.