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Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops
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Fiasco: A History of Hollywood's Iconic Flops

3.3  ·  Rating Details ·  250 Ratings  ·  37 Reviews
A longtime industry insider and acclaimed Hollywood historian goes behind the scenes to tell the stories of 15 of the most spectacular movie megaflops of the past 50 years, such as Cleopatra, The Cotton Club, and Waterworld. He recounts, in every gory detail, how enormous hubris, unbridled ambition, artistic hauteur, and bad business sense on the parts of Tinsel Town ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Wiley (first published December 1st 2005)
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Oct 03, 2009 Mark rated it really liked it
Interesting read on some really major film flops - esp. interesting since a friend is one (of a number) of screenwriters on one of them. (I'd be curious if he thinks the book portrays what happened to the film well.)

Some lessons from the book for life & leadership (though it's not a leadership book):

1. You've got to be willing to pull the plug on something that's not working.
2. Ego is a lousy decision-making tool; the more egos, the lousier the decision.
3. Substance is more important than st
Aug 06, 2008 Kim rated it did not like it
This book has been driving me crazy and now I am finally done with it! It's been on my bed stand for almost a year. I hated the writing; I've never seen such abuse of parantheses in my life! Who edited this thing?? And there was no salacious gossip about all these films, and what little was there was glossed over (some producer was involved in a murder, and that was explained in literally one sentence). I don't doubt that this book was well researched, but the writing was so stilted that I ...more
Mike Moore
Jun 29, 2008 Mike Moore rated it it was ok
A little too serious tone, combined with bad movies I didn't care about anyway, soured me.
Oct 11, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
I still like Last Action Hero.This was a great read.
Jun 08, 2012 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, meridian
I'm willing to bet the films featured in this book are not on anyone's top ten favorites list. Waterworld? Absolute fiasco. Ishtar? The butt of jokes. Popeye? An embarrassing blotch on otherwise promising careers. Mr. Parish has collected the stories behind the making of fourteen films that bombed – big time. All released between 1963 and 2001, these films provide cautionary tales that illustrate just how not to make a movie, especially a successful one.

So what qualifies a film as a “flop” rathe
Dec 06, 2013 El_kiablo rated it it was ok
Writing about pop culture is a lot trickier than it looks: you don't want to treat it too seriously because it is, after all, a pretty goofy affair for the most part, but it's also something that can really touch people and affect real change in society. When you balance those two tones correctly you can say something really enlightening about something that's mostly ephemeral but occasionally amazing.

This book never once hits the right tone.

For the most part Parish sounds like a scold, constant
A. Bowdoin Van Riper
There’s a certain satisfaction to watching the best-laid plans of self-important people dissolve into messy chaos. If there wasn’t, there’d be a lot fewer movie scenes involving pie fights at fancy-dress banquets or dogs running amuck at snooty garden parties. Even if you like that kind of thing, though, a little of it goes a long way. A movie consisting of nothing but pie fights would get boring fast. Fiasco -- a series of stories about big-budget Hollywood films that went disastrously awry, lo ...more
Aug 31, 2016 K rated it liked it
This was fine. Each chapter provides an overview of what went wrong for one of Hollywood's biggest flops (some more famous than others. The last movie covered, Town & Country, came out in 2001. Does anyone remember that movie? Even as a "big" flop?). It becomes clear pretty early in the book that many of these movies ran in to the same problems. There are mistakes made over and over again by big studios that seem so obvious: maybe don’t start crafting, much less shooting, your enormous movie ...more
Sep 27, 2014 Nick rated it liked it
A lightweight examination that follows Hollywood's history by tracing the flops, this book starts with Cleopatra up through (fairly modern) bombs like Battlefield Earth. Parish always keeps the book moving, so you never go too in-depth on any of the movies, but I like how you get a sense of the business changing as you go from movie to movie. Parish steers clear of movies that already have extensive post-mortems, so there's no Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven's Gate, the Fi ...more
Jan 08, 2009 Clinton rated it it was ok
Shelves: history
An interesting, if somewhat dry, look into the decisions that resulted in some of the biggest movie flops in history. It's amazing how often people can see a major disaster coming, and for whatever reason choose not to cut their losses while they can. Of course, this is a problem not relegated to the movie industry and I found myself trying to apply the lessons-learned from this book to my own projects. What am I working on today that I might someday look back on as being an obviously bad idea? ...more
Jun 12, 2013 Derek rated it it was ok
Every film analysis followed the same formula: 1) provide irrelevant biographies of all characters associated with a film, 2) piece together actions based on previously published interviews, and 3) re-print a sampling of reviews from various trade publications. I had hoped for some management insight as to how certain powers were snowed or how certain parties may have suffered specific repercussions but every example did nothing but demonstrate ways to spend money without restraints. The list of ...more
Oct 04, 2014 Pewterbreath rated it really liked it
This book hits the sweet spot for books on Cinema. It talks about the personalities vs. the business and why sometimes they create something that is completely bad--not only losing money, but ending careers, and also making a product that nobody wants to boot. Parish documents a well-researched series of flops so big they became punchlines, and connects them to what was going on in Hollywood and the Film Community at large, that allowed such a thing to happen. One rule of failure that seems to ...more
Mar 28, 2014 Ed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when it came out in 2006 and remembered finding it fascinating and compulsively readable. I'm happy to report that all these years later it held up as well as I remembered. Reading this book is like watching cars pile up on the highway: you know people are getting hurt but you can't look away. I highly recommend anyone interested in Hollywood history read this because Parish covers nearly 40 years here. I do have to say there are an alarming number of mistakes littered ...more
Jul 14, 2010 A. rated it really liked it
This book told the stories of several famous mega-flops (excluding "Heaven's Gate," which the author felt was sufficiently documented elsewhere) in a quick-paced, concise style. Something about his writing style made it difficult to keep track of who was who: people were introduced only briefly, and thereafter referred to by their first names, last names, nicknames, and job titles/film roles, meaning I had to keep track of an unfamiliar person in up to four different ways. This is my only beef ...more
Mar 31, 2010 Ellen rated it it was ok
This is a great idea for a book, and some of the details Parish relates are fascinating.

Unfortunately, the writing is stilted and the pacing is dull, making the overall reading experience a chore. I'm left wishing someone with a greater sense of fun had tackled the topic.

One thing that really bugged me: the constant use of "vehicle," "entry," and "property" as synonyms for "film"/"movie." Yes, those can refer to the same thing, but they're marked terms -- the connotations are different -- and th
Sheryl Croix
Feb 17, 2014 Sheryl Croix rated it liked it
This book details the backgrounds and causes of some of the major misfires of Hollywood between 1963 (Cleopatra) to 2001 (Town & Country).
It is amazing to see the size of the numbers being tossed around. The consistant throwing of good money after bad trying to save face. Some of these are not particularly bad movies. They just should not have cost so much.
It was especially interesting to read what Robert "The Kid Stays In The Picture" Evans did after or in addition to The Godfather.
Raza Syed
Jun 21, 2012 Raza Syed rated it it was ok
I'm not entirely sure how this book wound up on my Kindle. I presumably have Ambien CR and Amazon 1-Click to thank for that. Author James Robert Parish is some sort of entertainment journalist and quickie celebrity biographer; he covers his subject with the haphazardness of a high-schooler pulling an all-nighter. This is a shame. The history of Hollywood's biggest flops is a colorful one and deserves a better account than this repetitive, unevenly fact-checked collection of run-on sentences, ...more
Jun 08, 2013 Christopher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Fiasco" is an interesting book about certain motion pictures that flopped at the box office. Some of the films included are "Cleopatra" (1963), "Paint Your Wagon", "The Chase"- just to name a few. Also covers conflicts between actors, producers, and studio executives (throughout the films covered in the book). Highly recommended for film buffs and those who want to learn more about some of Hollywood's box office failures.
Dec 29, 2013 Picklefactory rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, cinema
The author suffers from Adjective Thesaurus Disease (I actually laughed out loud when he referred to Arnold Schwarzenegger as "the muscular spinmeister") and it seems like most of the details are taken from press accounts of the various disasters referenced (as opposed to The Studio or The Devil's Candy which had primary sources), but the sheer appeal of schadenfreude for hubristic Hollywood egomaniacs kept me reading through to the end.
Benedict Reid
Yes it was a fun quick read... but really there wasn't much in here that I didn't already know. And as Parish only focused on the flop films, there wasn't any real sense of the difference between a flop production and a hit. Frankly the making of Titanic was probably as dodgy as many of these films, it's just that it ended up making money. I also had difficulty with money being the deciding factor of the worth of a film.
Abed Gheith
Mar 17, 2013 Abed Gheith rated it really liked it

This is something that I'd like to see of. More movie disasters and television as well. The sure bets gone wrong, great scripts turned into bad movies. This is very gruesome fun. The Last Action Hero was a movie, I kind of liked, also Popeye. I read this book really for those two. The bad movie being funny. A la Room and Zardoz thing really applies for me here. Knowing the inside stories and who was to blame, I find entertaining.
Jun 29, 2015 Thomas rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This book taught me that not only do I enjoy watching bad movies, I also get a sick thrill from reading about Hollywood flops -- all that money, wasted! This book chronicles a number of ill-fated productions that spun out of control, like Robert Altman's Popeye or the infamous Elizabeth Taylor vehicle Cleopatra. Parish talks a bit about forces and personalities behind these film failures, but his focus seems to be mostly on reveling in how disastrous these movies were. Amusing.
Oct 29, 2015 Iain rated it liked it
I enjoyed the subject matter far more than the style. I think at one point he uses the description "zany funster" or some such, which would have been my cue to put this away forever had I not been interested in the behind-the-scenes gossip. So *** overall, splitting the difference between the **** subject matter and the ** writing style.
Amanda Lynn
May 01, 2013 Amanda Lynn rated it it was ok
This was a fairly quick read due to the dry and dispassionate tone (as an academic myself, I suspect this may have been intended as a work of academic film criticism), but considering the title, I felt cheated by the omission of Cameron Crowe's "Elizabethtown," which I had (possibly incorrectly) believed was a reference to that film's opening speech.
Aug 24, 2008 Michelle rated it really liked it
Fun to read about films gone wrong! I was afraid the stories of each film would be too similar to each other, but nope! There are lotsa ways to mess things up! Intersting peek behind the scenes @ Hollywood! It's wacky there!
Chris Belleisle
Jan 03, 2011 Chris Belleisle rated it really liked it
I actually really enjoyed reading this -- it's fun sometimes to hear about the stories behind truly great cinematic masterpieces, but it's even more fun to hear how some of the biggest bombs of all times went off the rails.
Sep 29, 2015 Christophlaw80 rated it really liked it
fun! a lot of already known tidbits and dish, but also some great gossipy bits on shanghai surprise, The Last Action Hero and Town and Country.
Patrick Wensink
Dec 27, 2010 Patrick Wensink rated it liked it
A little dry and insider-ish, instead of focusing on the bright ideas behind Ishtar, Showgirls and the like.
Jul 01, 2016 Rachel rated it liked it
A fascinating read on some of the biggest movie flops of all time. Egos and bad decisions abound!
Sattva rated it did not like it
Sep 29, 2016
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