Joe Queenan is, by his own admission, not a nice man. He is, however, hilarious. These twin traits, combined with a genuine love of movies in all their flawed, insane glory, make him particularly well-suited to writing vicious and side-splitting little gems of film commentary. Queenan is a master of the quick jab (during a showing of Alive
he is compelled to shout, "Eat Vincent Spano first!") and of cutting to the chase ("In short, Philadelphia
is A Few Good Gay Men
"), but it is his longer, more thoughtful pieces that really make the book. "Hair Force," his essay on actors who manage to hijack the audience's attention for entire films through inappropriate wig use, is a masterful dissection of an insidious and chilling cinematic phenomenon. "The Drilling Fields" is a heartrending piece on the consistent and doubtless crushing failure of the motion picture industry to portray dentists in a positive light. And only Queenan could produce "And Then There Were Nuns," the most complete guide to nun movies you're ever likely to run across.
But Queenan is no mere armchair sociologist. He is unafraid to venture into the field and put his own life at risk for the increase of cinematic knowledge. In the book's title piece, he shouts his way through movie after movie, trying to figure out what it is that makes people put up with hecklers. In the ongoing "Don't Try This at Home" series, Queenan puts cinematic plot points to the test, using the most rigorous scientific standards to determine whether you can really learn Portuguese in 20 minutes like John Travolta in Phenomenon (no) and if hot candle wax is really as erotic as it seems in Body of Evidence (don't even think about it). All in all, this is an indispensable volume for any serious film student. Especially if the film student in question really hates Vincent Spano. --Ali Davis
From Publishers Weekly
A quirky, often perceptive movie maven, Queenan (Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon, etc.) returns to book form with a collection of 25 reprinted essays that satirize, spoof and frequently skewer the pomposities of Hollywood. Although his tone is occasionally serious--as when he points out the contradiction between Spike Lee's progressive politics and his endorsement contract with Nike, which allegedly runs sweatshops ("Spike Lee Does Not Bite")--Queenan more often couches his critiques in sarcasm. When he is describing how directors' visions are often eclipsed by Hollywood star power ("A Complete Lack of Direction") or the high-toned pretensions of the Merchant-Ivory films ("The Remains of the Dazed"), he usually strikes a balance between being recklessly arch and reasonably insightful. Queenan's insights are often so on-target that readers may find themselves wishing for more. But he is essentially a comic writer who delivers laughs in almost every essay: in "Hair Force," a piece on bad film hair, he claims that John Turturo's "failed afro... makes him look like a Sicilian Clarence Williams." Queenan fans will rejoice. (Feb.)
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