Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt (2015)
Silver Screen Fiend
by Patton Oswalt
For four years, comedian/actor/author Patton Oswalt faced a serious addiction that affected both his work and social life. He was not addicted to alcohol or drugs, but to film. In his quest to become a director, and his belief that absorbing the works of others would help him achieve that goal, he watched hundreds of films (maybe thousands; I didn’t count, but he does include a list of every movie he viewed on the big screen, and it takes more than thirty pages to list them all). He finally realized, after four years, that he was not accomplishing anything toward his dream. The last movie he watched during his four-year binge was George Lucas’ Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. His disgust at what he thought would be a great film, and the time he spent discussing it with his friends (who were also appalled at its underwhelming story), showed him that his time could have been better spent.
Oswalt still goes to the theater occasionally, but with a different mindset. He writes, “My love of watching movies has turned into a love of savoring them. And the flirtation with becoming a filmmaker abides, and has stayed fun.” This book must have been a cathartic experience for him, hashing out his shortcomings during this four-year stretch. He writes some about his standup, and a little about his time as a writer at MADtv, and briefly mentions his role on The King of Queens, but the focus of Silver Screen Fiend is his time spent at theaters such as the New Beverly.
Silver Screen Fiend is interesting and entertaining, but will be quickly forgotten. Some readers might relate to Oswalt’s obsession, and some might see some of his habits in their own lives as they Netflix themselves to death (because who can afford that many movies at the theater?), and perhaps it will encourage some of those who are waiting for the right moment to follow their dreams, to actually create the moment and follow them now. But for the most part, the book will be read, chuckled over, and placed on the bookshelf to be forgotten. Perhaps Joss Whedon said it best, “This is a book for anyone who strives to be great, or is bored in an airport.”