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Genre: Nonfiction, Film
Start Date: June 17, 2011
Finished Date: June 20, 2011 (4 days)
Where Found: Book Depot
Why Read: On my TBR list
Summary: A series of essays about the vacuous yet insatiable draw of Hollywood.
Larry McMurtry has an ironic presence in Hollywood. Like Nicolas Cage's Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation., McMurtry is on the outskirts of the chaotic, egomaniacal machinery of the fimmaking mecca of America, second biggest in the world to Bollywood. Many of McMurtry's essays in the cheeky Film Flam are as dry as a good martini and often bitter as a citrus fruit. It's no guess that McMurtry thinks himself too good a writer to work for the movies (and except for his partnership with directors like Peter Bogdanovich and James L. Brooks, he's correct) writing in a sad sack genre like screenwriting where description is sparse and unwarranted.
The quality of essays in Film Flam is stark, unsentimental but not quite transparent enough to bring out the veins of writing. Sometimes it comes to fruition in enjoyable works such as "The Telephone Booth Screenwriter," which accounts for his predilection to communicating with a film director over the phone after mailing the script to him. He offers interesting commentary on the sharpness of TV writing (an obvious nod to Brooks) over most screenwriting work and is downright charming with his final essay on taking a walk in California with Diane Keaton and her grandmother that speaks directly to Keaton's quirky personality that makes Annie Hall come across like a documentary.
Where McMurtry lost me is in the oddball essay that awkwardly compares All the President's Men (Woodward & Bernstein's uncovering of Watergate) to Seven Beauties (a Holocaust survival story). Maybe I was just sore that he skewered APM (one of my favourite movies) but a lack of connection between the films made his argument for Seven Beauties being the superior film slippery at best. Another odd entry in this anthology was about the "graceless" comedy of Woody Allen (definitely true) and his distaste for the appeal of Keith Carradine and Lily Tomlin in Robert Altman's Nashville. Again, the connection was dead.
Unless you are a fan of McMurtry's or a movie afficienado, I wouldn't bother with this book as only a small handful of the essays are worth reading and none are particularly memorable. Maybe you can pursue the best ones online and read them separately. Still, I wouldn't write off McMurtry as a writer altogether. Nonfiction can come across much differently from a writer than fiction. I haven't yet read any of his novels but I fully intend to. His style seems more fitting to a narrative. Can anyone recommend any good McMurtry books? I have Terms of Endearment and The Evening Star on my shelf, and I've heard that Lonesome Dove is remarkable.
Rank: (C)- Okay, Maybe Read It