Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reading List

Few things in life give me more pleasure than seeing movie punk rockers, so I pretty much had to buy a copy of Destroy All Movies: The Complete Guide to Punks of Film since Santa crapped out. The thing is huge; at over 450 pages, it will stand as the definitive guide to movie punks. The size is justified, if there was a guy with a mohawk being booked in the background of a scene for 30 seconds, the movie gets a review.

Editors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connolly keep a conversational tone throughout, with an overall feeling of talking movies with a couple of your buddies. With review summaries like, "A stupid, unattractive man is denied intercourse," you know you're in for a good time.

They also have a good eye for Hollywood shortcuts and cliches: "...Wearing black means you're depressed; if you're male and a hairdresser, you are most certainly a flaming homosexual; dyed hair and headphones means you're probably a shocking and eccentric babysitter at the door of Steve Martin or Tim Allen,"

Movie punks were all over the place in '80s and '90s movies, whether showing how wild and weird the big city was, how things regressed after the Road Warrior inspired apocalypse, or just as zany sight gags in stories of nerds trying to get laid. Because of this, not only have Carlson and Connolly compiled an exhaustive tome on movie punks, they've created an amazing record of trash cinema, one that brought back memories of working through Michael Weldon's Psychotronic Encyclopedia to Film back in the early '90s.

Mixed in with the more cliche movie punks are longer reviews of what I guess would be considered the punk movie canon, Repo Man, Suburbia, Another State of Mind and Rock and Roll High School. Interviews are featured with actors, writers, musicians and directors, even a page-long interview with the patron saint of cinema nerds, the great Eddie Deezen.

Eddie Deezen!

The authors are opinionated, funny and rude when needed, yet are still able to convey what makes a movie like Suburbia stand out from the more exploitative fare, and to enthuse wildly about classics like Surf 2, Get Crazy, Rollerblade, and Class of 1984. Well, they're classics to me, anyway.

If you have any interest in punk rockers, trash movies from the '80s or fun in life, get a copy now.

I also managed to read Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption over Christmas, written by the lady that wrote Seabiscuit. It's the story of Louis Zamperini, who started out as a juvenile delinquent who decides to start running track, comes close to breaking the 4 minute mile, goes to the Jessie Owens Olympics, shakes Hitler's hand, causes an international incident by stealing a Nazi flag, survives 47 days at sea after his bomber crashes (fighting sharks with fists and oars), then survives brutal conditions in a series of Japanese POW camps for years. I, on the other hand, couldn't ride my bike on the trail yesterday because it looked like rain.

After coming home, Zamperini suffered from PTSD, and he figures the best way to deal with that is to go back to Japan, find the commander of the Japanese POW camp, and kill him.

Obviously not as light-handed in tone as Destroy All Movies, Unbroken is a great non-fiction page turner, one that's inspiring and awe-inspiring without giving in to "greatest generation" hokum. I mean, look at that sentence up there! That's material for like 3 or 4 awesome books! Read it and go hug an old person.

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