Stephanie's Reviews > Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
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Oct 23, 07

bookshelves: hollyrock
Recommended for: anyone wondering what it was like when Hollywood made good movies

This book is alternately fabulous and frustrating. In the fabulous column, Biskind is to be commended for his incredibly thorough research. How he got an interview with producer Bert Schneider is beyond my comprehension -- the guy is a total recluse, and one of the most fascinating figures in Hollywood history. I love the way he puts across the story-telling abilities of his interviewees...instead of distilling the information in cold, analytical prose, he lets everybody from Bruce Dern to Warren Beatty to Margot Kidder speak for themselves in compelling, salty language. There's plenty of dirt dished in this book, and I was ready for second and third helpings by the time I finished it.

On the minus side, Biskind comes across as an embittered would-be filmmaker in this book. He takes people to task for some pretty dumb things. For instance, I find it difficult to buy his argument that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas ruined 70s Hollywood by cranking out enormously popular films. I mean, all they did was make great movies. The fact that mainstream producers insisted that every subsequent movie draw record crowds is what drove the nail in the coffin of 70s cinema. Clearly, Spielberg and Lucas have tremendous talent, as well as a deep respect for filmmaking. It's not their freakin' fault that the money guys stopped funding quirky genre pictures as a result of the success of pictures like Jaws and Star Wars.

Also, I had to laugh at the way Biskind clucked his tongue at the excesses of guys like Martin Scorsese, Hal Ashby, and Francis Ford Coppola, only to turn around and mock Steven Spielberg for being a nerd. I mean, if you're going to argue that drugs and alcohol derailed the careers of some fine directors, you can't then chastise the one guy who led a squeaky-clean existence. Besides, such views are reductive, in my opinion. Nobody is sadder than me that 70s film culture no longer exists. But if you're going to lay the blame for its demise with anyone, put it the door of the people who fail to finance great pictures, instead of the ones who have the courage to make them.
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message 1: by Scott (new)

Scott I couldn't agree more with your assessment. The book is loaded with great anecdotes and detailed information on what was an audacious and remarkable period in American movie history. But Biskind's bitterness and even puritannical qualities are annoying and he seems determined to end the story of each individual director on a downbeat note, as if to close the book on all those directors in 1980 and suggest that they never did any good work again. This of course is not true. Scorsese, DePalma, and Altman, for example, have done a lot of good work since the 70's, and if anything Spielberg has only grown and gotten better, while someone like Lucas, commercially minded though he is, has continually expanded the technical boundaries of film. And I'm not even mentioning Warren Beatty who as a director, with films like Reds and Bulworth, did his best work after the seventies. Easy Riders, Raging Bull is a very compelling and entertaining read, but it seems all too determined to prove a thesis that hardly stands up to close scrutiny.

Scott
Reader, Filmwatcher in NYC



message 2: by Beth (new)

Beth Stephanie/Scott - have you seen the documentary "a decade under the influence"? you would both love it!


Stephanie Hell, yeah!!! It's great! I was mesmerized from beginning to end!


message 4: by Scott (new)

Scott I loved that doc also. Bruce Dern in particular was great. Very funny telling stories from those times.


message 5: by Stephanie (last edited Oct 25, 2007 07:24AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Stephanie Dernsie has such a great voice. His stories about Hal Ashby are wonderful. Only in the 70s could a rat-faced freak like Dern could have become a movie star!!!


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