Movie Watching with Owen
Everyone experiences movies in his or her own way, categorizing some as disposable diversions of the moment, others as complete wastes of time, and a precious few as eternal loves that fire on all cylinders in the memory. The professionals who review movies for a living – whether icons like Manny Farber, Pauline Kael, Andrew Sarris, Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin or today’s often genre-centric bloggers – channel their individualistic tastes into their evaluations and it is on the strength of their argument and the skill of their writing that their usefulness to a devouring print/online reader/viewership is based. The year before his death, Ebert, the first journalist to earn a Pulitzer Prize for film criticism, published his memoir Life Itself, a soulful and evocative self-examination of his early days in journalism and how his 1967 appointment as the Chicago Sun-Times movie critic galvanized his life, an instant symbiosis of occupation and vocation. Ebert’s appreciative quality of movie love, as well as the polar-opposite capability of mercilessly condemning cinematic hackwork, is also present in the new memoir Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies, penned by long-time film critic Owen Gleiberman, who covered film at The Boston Phoenix (1981-1989) before he started in 1990 as the newly-launching Entertainment Weekly’s lead film reviewer, where he served 24 years before changes in management triggered his departure. It involvingly chronicles his infatuation with movies throughout childhood, through his time as a “disciple” of critical maven Kael, and his ultimate emergence as an eloquently analytical commentator on filmmakers, mainstream and independent filmmaking trends and most importantly – in a cutthroat world of competitive, ego-pumped fellow “geeks” at other noteworthy publications – his individual voice, which could appreciate a prime populist prestige effort or an expertly executed schlockfest and yet be a loner in the wilderness knocking a universally hailed masterpiece. Candid, gossipy, self-deprecating and celebratory, Movie Freak takes you inside the (sometimes schizophrenic but always intelligible) head of a guy whose own self-discoveries at the movies, as well as in life and career, are not unlike our own. Your inner movie freak will enjoy the read. For Gleiberman’s ongoing output, his current beat is at BBC.com.