Shit, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema
Lindy West’s latest book is not brand-spanking new. It’s been out for a wee bit – but when I got to it I devoured it in pretty much one go. That is almost the review right there! The book hooked me in. And I very felt like the final question in a quiz-show round: I’ve started, so I’ll finish.
I just hoovered up this book – for two reasons. Firstly it’s Lindy West. And she’s readable-as!
I so loved The Witches Are Coming – it was fierce and funny and wonderful. And it made me want to read everything she’s ever written. And I will. I’d always enjoyed seeing her name on the internet – a good story usually followed. She’s got brilliant comic timing but there’s substance too.
Probably what really hooked me into her world was this piece about confronting a troll.
I still haven’t got to Shrill – but I did love the TV series.
And so – her brand new book is about movies. Perfect writer meets perfect subject matter.
Shit, Actually – The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema is the name of West’s new set of essays. The subject – as you’ll know from both my earlier words up there and her subtitle here – is movies. West takes us on a re-watch tour back through blockbuster-y and/or zeitgeist-y films from the 80s, 90s and 00s.
“Castor Troy is smoking a cigarette while dressed like a priest, which was the kind of edgy shit we incinerated our panties for in the ‘90s”.
Why did we love Face/Off even though it was stupid? Or was it actually because it was stupid? What is the lasting appeal of Titanic, or The Notebook or Forrest Gump? Do any of those movies stand-up today? Did they ever?
And the title comes from Lindy’s hilarious rip on Love, Actually. So I was happy enough just to know there was someone else on this planet that utterly despised that film – it’s neither romantic nor comedic, it’s creepy and sad and depressing. It’s filled with weird non-sequitur sub-plots and the casting is over-booked to compensate for the filling being under-cooked. In short: I fucking hate that film!
And this, you see, is why I love reading books about movies. More than music, I love reading someone else’s opinion on the big-screen stories that have filled up my life. I delight in getting angry – either at the writer or alongside them at the film as target. I make lists of what to re-watch or find films I’ve never seen. (They’re out there…)
Lindy West reckons The Fugitive is the greatest film of all time; one to compare all the other movies in this book to. But does she really mean that, and will I have to watch The Fugitive again – and for the first time in probably a quarter of a century?
But her hot takes on the logic lapses in The Shawshank Redemption, the world/s of Harry Potter and Back To The Future are price-of-admission stuff. The hilarious re-telling of the plot of The Lion King is another must. And the raging hard against American Pie is a chef’s kiss. It’s, well, it’s the cherry on top and the spit on the crust.
West’s writing has me fired up once again, but this time it’s to connect with a bunch of old movies I probably don’t need to rewatch. Except now I do. And it’s got me thinking – too – of one of my favourite ever magazine columns. Sacred Cows by The Reaper. Each month a much adored and raved-about piece of pop culture would go under the scythe. Few escaped. The slaughter was a beautiful thing to watch…well, to read about.
And books about movies bring out that joy, that anger, that schadenfreude. That delirious feeling of going against the crowd, of watching trash and finding treasure, or wading through the treacle and hating every moment of it.
Shit, Actually is my new best ever favourite book about the movies. I give it a full 5 Hell Comes To Frogtowns!