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Harlan Ellison's Watching

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  597 ratings  ·  40 reviews

Most overviews of film are written from some high, sunlit mountaintop. In this first collection of Harlan Ellison's cinema criticism (with expanded, never-before-collected articles as well as an essay written especially for this volume) come from the darkened interiors of a thousand movie houses where this most peculiar of all Observers of the Passing Scene has spent much

Paperback, 550 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Underwood-Miller (first published 1988)
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4.13  · 
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 ·  597 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Dec 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Harlan Ellison is a bitter old crumudgeon, but that's why I love his writing. His poison pen is somehow full of charm and wit. He has a uniquely direct style, conversationally straight to the reader. And he is very convincing, he truly writes from his heart - in what he believes and what he believes important. This book is a collection of essays about cinema, particularly science fiction cinema, republished from a few different magazines. As writer (professional liar, he argues in a later essay) ...more
Louis Arata
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
Ellison is primarily known as a writer of speculative fiction as well as TV shows, including the original Star Trek and The Outer Limits. His name comes up often as the inspiration for other writers. He’s the writer that other writers respect for his intellect and craft. So, I wanted to try out some of his work.

Reading this book was like being cornered at a cocktail party by an opinionated blowhard who has to tell me in a loud voice everything he thinks is wrong with the current state of cinema.
Jackie "the Librarian"
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: SF movie fans, and anyone who can appreciate a good rant
I just finished the book, and am in awe of Ellison's ability to sustain a rant. He's so feisty! Harlan Ellison, who has written science fiction books and screenplays for decades, won all the big SF awards, and has seen the television and movie industry from inside and out, is an opinionated, bad-tempered, loud-mouthed (and foul-mouthed) know-it-all who won't shut up.
Who better to tell us what he really thinks about movies, especially science fiction (never, ever "Sci Fi", please!) movies? Who b
Feb 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ellison challenges the reader to think about entertainment (and life!), to try to learn something from it, and to try to understand and weigh myriad labeling concepts like worthwhile, enriching, mindless, educational, and on and on and on. It's like when you pay the dentist to do stuff to you that's uncomfortable; you know you'll probably be much better off for the experience when it's over. You can't always agree with Ellison (heck, I suspect he didn't agree with himself a lot of the time durin ...more
Jul 06, 2008 rated it liked it
If you admire Harlan Ellison because he dares utter all the criticisms of what is stupid and mindless in our popular culture that you, yourself, would utter if you were not so timid or polite, you will like this book.

If you liked the biopic "Dreams With Sharp Teeth," you'll like this book. Ellison was the same prickly guy in the 70s and the 80s that he is today.

If you thought the 1970s "Star Wars" trilogy was the tritest of trite plots lamely supported by then-state-of-the-art special effects, b
Jemiah Jefferson
Feb 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Essential for all lovers and students of film criticism, Ellison's humor, wit, intelligence, and vitriol are on fine display in these essays, starting with his earliest film reviews in the mid-1960s. You will want to see every film he mentions, even if his response is vicious and demeaning - you'll want to see for yourself if it's that bad (or that good)! Hilarious and infuriating in equal measure, this collection is a great survey of the inimitable Ellison style.
May 24, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film, lit-crit
The only problem I had with this book is his analysis of Risky Business; he completely missed the critical subtext because it was supposedly a teen sex romp. On the plus side, He loved David Lynch's Dune. Turns out I'd been making the same arguments for the excellence of the movie that he makes in his essay. In other words, he's brilliant.
Feb 18, 2012 added it
Shelves: own-this-book
Just as good as the first time I read it.
Ellison is a genius.
Give this one a try if you don't own the complete works of Ellison.
Jan 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a collection of movie reviews, written by Harlan Ellison© (hereafter referred to as "the Author" because making that mark has me playing the organ with the keyboard). I initially got this book because I had heard good things about Harlan Ellison's review of Star Wars ("Luke Skywalker is a Nerd and Darth Vader Sucks Runny Eggs"), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture ("Star Trek-The Motionless Picture"). None of the Author's reviews are available online, for obvious reasons, so I bought this ...more
Feb 03, 2012 rated it liked it
Despite his arcane verbiage and frequent detours this book is good, funny, and easy to read: more so when he's reviewing a movie I've seen than b-movies I haven't. Also possibly my favorite title for an essay collection ever.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Film criticism is a sticky subject. There are three routes a critic can take when writing reviews.

One: One may make an attempt to establish a persona, appealing to a specific fan-base, and thus write their reviews in such a way to appeal specifically to that fan-base, despite how they actually view a film.

Two: One may make a valid attempt to objectively view each film their review, through some sort of imaginary, impartial lens, in attempt to lend "credence" to their reviews, and thus becoming
Daniel DeLappe
Mar 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Just a great fucking writer and a great book.
Jim Cherry
Feb 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Harlan Ellison Thinking in the movies

In the 1970’s Harlan Ellison published “The Glass Teat” a compilation of his articles he published in the L.A. Free Press. The articles were a critical assessment of television of the period and they became instant classics. “The Glass Teat” became part of the curriculum at numerous colleges and their media departments. In “Watching” Ellison takes his critical and rhetorical skills to the movies.

“Watching” covers a much broader span of time than “The Glass Te
Rick Keeney
Oct 10, 2016 added it
Shelves: the-musts
I started reading Harlan's essays, introductions, and afterwards in AGAIN, DANGEROUS VISIONS.

The fiction is secondary to me. I love the criticism, and journalism. That's where I hear his voice most clear. The man is singular. The writing is stellar. The time spent reading his work is an investment.
Drew Raley
Jul 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
A pain in the ass whose opinions wear thin, this collection is for Young Iconoclasts only. For the rest of us, life is too short to hang around listening to the bloviations of a hack Star Trek writer. Shrill and unpleasant.
Terry Collins
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ellison as reviewer has lost none of his prowess from the days of his column "The Glass Teat." Laugh out loud funny? Absolutely. Thought provoking? Always.
Michael Anderson
I just don’t get tired of the way Ellison articulates his anger and righteous indignation when faced with what he perceives as the stupidity and lies of his fellow man. The man can write the hell out of a sentence and can stack paragraphs into highly entertaining structures of compelling persuasion. Plus, he knows moviemaking having worked in and around Hollywood for 30 years, and his reviews are well thought out. Like nearly all his work, I thoroughly enjoyed this compilation of his old movie r ...more
Jul 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Very interesting connections between the world in 1989 and the world today. Reviews of movies and television and comments on media.
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You'll learn more from one Harlan Ellison movie review than you did in a week of any college history or media class.
He's done the screenplays for various movies to varying degrees of quality, and he's honest about that, which gives him MAD credibility points with me (self-effacing is the path to free, open blasting of others). He blasts movies on the premise that, if they're bad, they've lied to you and sucked the very life out of your existence and should be punished. He's got lots of backstage
Ellison takes the battle directly to the enemy, telling the readers of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction that they are idiots for liking Star Wars, Gremlins, Goonies, and virtually everything else issued by Hollywood in the late '70s and '80s. Most amusing are the columns where he takes on the readers that write in, fansplaining to him that he should just sit back and enjoy the movies (much as readers of today write in to the NY Times to tell Manohla Dargis the same thing) and not be ...more
May 23, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Disclaimer: I only read his essays about Lynch's Dune.

Written during the period Ellison was the in house reviewer for Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, his deity like status within SF gave him free reign. Much like the D.F.Wallace essays about a Lynch film I reviewed recently, the author's killer wit and occasional genius are on display, but he also was in desperate need of an editor.

Through self-aggrandizing diarrhea we can extract that Ellison thought highly of Dune, forgiving its oper
Benoit Lelièvre
It's difficult to fully get enthusiastic about this book unless you agree with every single thing written in it and it is a very big book. Harlan Ellison sticks to his guns about just everything. I can respect that, but I found at times that the old man's suspension of disbelief was lacking and he bugged on meaningless details. I mean, who cares if the traffic in L.A is fluid in LETHAL WEAPON. It may be a lie, but it's not a critical lie. It has nothing to do with the story being told.

Ellison is
Jan 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
A compilation of Ellison's opinionated columns from the 60s, 70s and 80s. He's not my favorite author, nor my favorite columnist - I just don't agree with his tone in is many of his more critical instances - but usually his insights are at least engaging. For example, I don't know of many other reviews in print that slam Star Wars (the film we now know as Episode 4: A New Hope).

But what I bought the book for, and the reason I'd recommend it, is for his pieces about the rise and fall of David Ly
Tom Cavender
Mar 21, 2008 rated it liked it
This isn't quite as good as Ellison's essays on TV that are collected in the two "Glass Teat" volumes, but it's still worth a look. Granted, there are a couple of things I strongly disagree with Ellison on, most notably David Lynch's film version of "Dune" (Ellison loved it, I thought it was awful). But where Ellison's aesthetic sense is sometimes lacking, he's never dull.
Veach Glines
I appreciate the writing and the message. Although the film opinion is skewed (and, obviously, dated) I still enjoyed learning how an expert puts these letters and spaces together into fantastic sequences which kept him in liquor and ladies for a lifetime.
Jeremy Maddux
God, Ellison. Nobody uses those words as a kid. If you're going to write from the perspective of a kid, can you try not to bloviate so much? I know you're famous for it, but please... When you're writing from the perspective of a wide eyed young boy, try to write more plausibly.
Grig O'
ellison's a great writer and a cool dude. he's at his best when he picks on stuff he hates. too bad there's nothing here newer than 1990, and some of the movies he reviews are completely irrelevant nowadays.
Michael Thompson
Aug 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great selection of Movie reviews by Harlan Ellison
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Often amusing, regularly provocative, sonetimes just irritating, a reprinting of F&SF columns from the eighties, sometimes about film.
Jul 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Ok. I haven't read the whole thing, yet. But who cares. I'll be returning to this wonderful book for years to come.
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Harlan Jay Ellison was a prolific American writer of short stories, novellas, teleplays, essays, and criticism.

His literary and television work has received many awards. He wrote for the original series of both The Outer Limits and Star Trek as well as The Alfred Hitchcock Hour; edited the multiple-award-winning short story anthology series Dangerous Visions; and served as creative consultant/writ
“Let me first establish—on your behalf—feelings of animosity and disgust at the mendacity inherent in this concept of "cartoon." Whenever someone hits you with a conversational shot that is crude or is intended to hurt, and you bristle, the shooter quickly throws up his/her hands and tries to get you to believe, "I was only kidding. It was all in fun. Boy, are you overreacting. You musn't take it seriously, it was just a joke." Well, we know it wasn't any such thing. It was a snippet of truth slipping past the cultural safeguards that keep us dealing with one another with civility. It was for real. Similarly, when such films as Streets of Fire and Gremlins and Temple of Doom are made, we are expected to take them seriously enough to plonk down five bucks for a ticket. When they fail to deliver what they've promised in all those tv clips, and we express our anger at having been fleeced, the shooters tell us we're overreacting and we should feel a lot better about losing our five or ten or whatever amount they got out of us, because it was all a gag. I wonder how well they'd take the gag if we paid for the tickets with counterfeit bills. Or pried open the firedoor at the theater and sneaked in with the entire Duke University Marching Band. "It was all a joke, fellahs; don't take it so seriously; gawd, are you overreacting!" No, they cannot have that cake and eat it, too.” 3 likes
“Then Alan looked thoughtful and seemed reluctant to speak, perhaps because he had just written the sequel to the Star Wars novelization that Lucas had sold to Ballantine Books, but in his reserved and gentlemanly fashion he told the audience of a day when he had seen a rough cut of the film and had remarked on just this scientific illiteracy to Lucas. He had even suggested a workable alternative. . .no, two workable alternatives. . .and Lucas had said words to the effect of (approximate quote), "There's a lot of money tied up in this film and people expect to hear a boom when something blows up, so I'll give them the boom." And at that moment, the cynicism showed through.” 1 likes
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