When the low-budget biker movie Easy Rider shocked Hollywood with its success in 1969, a new Hollywood era was born. This was an age when talented filmmakers such as Scorcese, Coppola, and Spielberg, along with a new breed of actors, including DeNiro, Pacino, and Nicholson, became the powerful figures who would make such modern classics as The Godfather, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, and Jaws. Easy Rider, Raging Bulls follows the wild ride that was Hollywood in the 70s - an unabashed celebration of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll (both on screen and off) and a climate where innovation and experimentation reigned supreme.More
"Peter Biskind's great, scathing, news-packed history...is one hell of an elixir - salty with flavorsome gossip, sour with the aftertaste of misspent careers, intoxicating with one revelation after another...an 'A.'" (Entertainment Weekly)
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23 Hours of Wading through Sludge
Great Dish, Sketchy Analysis
This book is chock full of great inside baseball on the making of many of the great classic movies of the late 60s and 70s and juicy gossip about the directors, actors and other Hollywood figures who made them. That alone is worth the price of admission.
On the other hand, the analysis from the point of view of film history left me feeling like something was missing -- the audience. So many of these now-classic films were made under protest or fraught with production problems or in some cases even total accidents, and by contrast, so many of the labors of love and pet projects and can't-miss efforts were failures, yet the analysis never looks at the vagaries of public tastes, opinions and reactions and the overriding determinant of what works and what doesn't.
I would recommend the book to friends because of all the salacious detail and the many forgotten facts (e.g. Raging Bull was critical and commercial flop when it was first released). But I would warn them that beyond that, the analysis was less than rigorous.
Not really relevant in a non-fiction work that touched on many, many different real-life characters and quoted scores of people. But Hill does a good job of narrating those many quotes.
Because the analysis was suspect, it can be argued that at 24 hours, it was overlong. It would have worked better as an inside look at the making of these movies without the analysis, in which case it would have probably come in at a more manageable 16-18 hours.
In addition to overlooking the impact of audiences and lionizing some questionable characters who often stumbled into their success, the history of 70s cinema as presented here is myopic. First of all, to draw a straight line from Bonnie and Clyde through Heaven's Gate is a mistake, because there is one line that goes up to Jaws and Star Wars and another than emerges from the impact of those two blockbusters (the book does not overlook that impact, but it doesn't treat it as the watershed it truly was).
But more than that, there is no more than token mention of the groundbreaking Hollywood filmmaking of the post-war era that set the stage for the "New Hollywood" and the independent cinema that emerged from the ashes of Heaven's Gate. Kudos to the author for giving so much attention to the often forgotten Hal Ashby, but others that emerged from the live TV dramas of the 50s are barely mentioned (e.g. Lumet) or not mentioned at all (most egregiously, George Roy Hill), even though they were responsible for some of the seminal films of the era.
Likewise, the ruination of Hollywood that we are left with at the conclusion makes no mention of the fact that The Return of the Secaucus Seven had already launched indie film, to be followed by the likes of Jarmusch, the Coens, Spike Lee, Soderbergh, et.al. in the 80s, that Hollywood still had some tricks up its sleeve (John Hughes, Barry Levinson, Rob Reiner, Ridley Scott, Oliver Stone, James Cameron -- how many people remember that The Terminator was an independent film that was a total sleeper when it first came out?), that Miramax was already founded before the end of the 80s, that the midnight movie phenomenon had already launched auteurs like David Lynch and John Waters, and that there were still a lot of good imports coming from other countries (despite this book's assertion that foreign film became irrelevant once Hollywood films were allowed to show nudity and sex).
And newsflash for the author: Woody Allen has directed 45 movies since the only one that is mentioned in this book (What's New Pussycat, which he didn't even direct), many of the most important of those during the New Hollywood era and immediately thereafter.
- Dubi "People say I resemble my dog (and vice-versa). He can hear sounds I can't hear, but I'm the one who listens to audiobooks."