Monday, May 16, 2005

Book Report

Despite a shitty review in the NYT, I read Rebels on the Backlot by Sharon Waxman. It's supposedly a story about how six "revolutionary" directors (Soderbergh, Tarantino, PT Anderson, David O. Russell, Spike Jonze and David Fincher) took on the Hollywood studio system and won. My response: Piece of Shit.

First off, the premise isn't in the book. There was no "taking on" of the Hollywood system. If anything, the studios propped these guys up. Every one of them (except maybe Jonze) was given budgets real rebel directors could only dream of. The book even goes into detail about how the studios viewed boutique and artsy films as important to their bottom line. There were only a few clashes between the studios and the directors (usually about the length of the film). Those were far outweighed by the passages of studio bosses licking director balls.

The real tagline should be "How a mediocre writer knew a few people who knew these six directors, and how she got a book deal by writing gossip that doesn't really mean much of anything." Seriously, the book only goes as far as the sources. Waxman must've known someone close to Soderbergh (probably his former girlfriend, who's featured throughout and even has a solo photo), Tarantino and David O. Russell. Russell's the strange one, mostly because his film rep seems a little lighter than the others. Jonze also only seems like he's in there because he's apparently close to Russell.

There is very little discussion of the artistic choices for the directors. At best she writes about how the studios struggled with (and the directors bitched about) marketing of the films. Tons and tons of gossip and dimestore psychoanalysis, which just goes nowhere. At the end of the book, it felt like I just watched the IFC True Hollywood Story - and that it was just as much of a waste of my time.

Also, there were some serious editing problems. How am I supposed to take the author serious when 50+ pages are devoted to Traffic, and the writer doesn't even know that it was Erika Christensen, not Julia Stiles, who played the drug addled daughter? Weak.

Even if you think this book might be interesting, it isn't. It'll just make you mad that a better book wasn't written about these directors. Do not make my mistake.