Dianne's Reviews > Harlan Ellison's Watching

Harlan Ellison's Watching by Harlan Ellison
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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, but have always been afraid to admit it, you'll like this book.

If you think Steven Spielberg has had more misses than hits, you'll love this book.

The book is a collection of many of Ellison's movie reviews (or really, movie criticism in the best sense of the word) over the years, mostly reviews of SF and fantasy flicks. One caution - the reviews can be repetitive, even monotonous. Ellison wrote them rather sporadically, and many of the reviews were published two or three months after the previous review. A reader reading them as they were originally published would surely have found the same criticisms leveled at Spielberg and his protégés far less monotonous than one who reads three of them consecutively in an evening.

Ellison does hold some unaccountable opinions. On the strength of his praise of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," my husband and I, who had not seen it in decades, rented it, and even went to the trouble of projecting it on our 5-foot screen - and I thought it was rather stupid and tedious. Why Ellison, who in other reviews takes Spielberg and his ilk to task for using cartoon violence conventions in live action films, and for asking us to suspend our disbelief without giving us any reason to do so, found anything praiseworthy in "Raiders" is a mystery.

Repetition and puzzlement aside, the book is worth dipping into, if not necessarily reading cover-to-cover. Not only is Ellison's language crisp (nowhere crisper than when his pen is dipped in poison), but he writes the kind of movie criticism that is becoming a lost art, the kind that asks that a movie be both entertaining AND have redeeming qualities as a work of art. Moreover, Ellison points out that viewers will rise to the expectations Hollywood has of them - if you provide them with schlock, they'll eat it up, but if you give them a truly entertaining movie that demands something of them, too, they may in fact surprise you with their enthusiasm for it.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
July 1, 2008 – Finished Reading
July 6, 2008 – Shelved

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter As a child growing up in Ohio, Ellison loved the movie serials that were shown, one chapter each weekend, at his local movie theater. To Ellison, "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was like the ultimate movie serial, an ultimate homage to the originals executed with today's srat-of-the-art effects and production values.


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