From Publishers Weekly
Best known for his popular book on 1970s cinema, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, Biskind has strung together a compendium of his magazine articles, dating from his tenure as editor-in-chief at American Film up to his current post as a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. While Biskind at his best provides uniquely bracing film critique, far too much of this volume is of little merit to todays readers. The strongest pieces are Biskinds profiles of master agent Sue Mengers, "a female Billy Wilder," and Charlie Feldman, an unknown figure today who in his time combined his talents to be both a legendary Hollywood producer and agent. Its hard to reconcile these humane, illuminating profiles with Biskinds review of an old Clint Eastwood film, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, which appears to be obsessed with the films latent homosexuality. Theres also a dated analysis of George Lucass Star Wars films that not only does not consider the latest additions to the series but includes such overblown analysis as "The Jabba episode culminates in an explicit vagina dentata fantasy as Luke and his pals have to walk a phallic gangplank
" Because Biskind is, as billed, an incisive writer, readers will wish he bothered to update such statements as, "Vietnam was the first television war, and
it may be the last." Heres hoping next time around, Biskind will give his loyal readers something new to chew on.
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Of late the author of books on the movie industry, Biskind began his career in the 1960s, writing about the intersection of politics and cinema for small leftist journals. Hollywood's move away from substance in the 1980s and, presumably, the need to make a living led him to profiling celebrities for glossies like Vanity Fair
. His early work is represented in this collection by thoughtful essays on topics including anticommunism in director Elia Kazan's work, the espousal of anti-individualism in '50s sf movies, and the portrayal of blue-collar America in '70s films. Later entries, sketching such powerful Hollywood figures as directors Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese, producer Don Simpson, and agents Charlie Feldman and Sue Mengers, are less distinctive but highly engaging. If these pieces collectively lack the impact of Easy Riders
, Raging Bulls
(1998) and Down and Dirty Pictures
(2004), which many consider definitive on '70s New American Cinema and '90s indie powerhouse Miramax, respectively, they constitute a less straightforward depiction of the now three-decades-long decline of American cinema. Gordon FlaggCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved