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Apr 1, 2016

If you thought that Straight Outta Compton was an at times brutal account of the entertainment business, ready yourself for the all-out brawl that is Owen Gleiberman vs. Pauline Kael and Her Acolytes. Okay, I’m kidding. Mostly.

OWEN GLEIBERMAN podcast excerpt: "As a college kid, I was intimidated to be around Pauline Kael, this writer that I admired. She had a personality that was domineering. From the moment I was first talking to her, I felt pressure to agree with her. She was incredibly insinuating. She gave you a sense that she believed completely and had a kind of contempt for what anyone else would think."

Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies is a compelling memoir of an accidental movie critic, a young man who discovered comfort in dark theaters as a boy and never left it even as an adult. What struck me about Movie Freak was the parallel between Gleiberman’s film experiences from adolescence on to high school and into college—and my own. Part of that is our similarity in age; part is having had the good luck to be mentored and steered at critical times in our early careers. As I was reading the book, I kept telling my wife, “Replace Michigan (where Gleiberman grew up) with New Jersey and University of Michigan with University of Miami and this might as well be my life through being a freshman in college.” To which my wife would shrug, roll her eyes, and return to “Top Chef.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN podcast excerpt: "When you're at a certain age, horror can certainly scare the the sh!t out of you. There are probably 12-year-olds that sneak in to see 'Saw 4' and I can't imagine what that does to them--probably something far worse than 'Rosemary's Baby' or 'The Boston Strangler' did to me. In hindsight, the films I saw at the drive-in with my parents might have been pretty extreme but there was a certain humanity to them. It was less about the gore."

Gleiberman is best known to film fans as the first film critic at a little magazine named Entertainment Weekly, a position he held for more than two decades – even though he trashed Pretty Woman. Not that I loved it either, but I wasn’t in a position to influence millions, just tens. I especially loved the backstage editorial anecdotes and sniping he shares from his time at the predominant entertainment zine in the country. The book also doesn’t shy from revealing the author’s porn addiction in college, love of cocaine as a young adult, and – for many years – his inability to commit to any woman for longer than six months. By the way, you gotta respect a man who admits his job ain’t exactly tough.

Key interview moments:

• 8:30  Owen Gleiberman talks about the impact of scary, horrific movies on the souls of 12-year-old children (himself included);

• 29:30 Legendary film critic Pauline Kael was an early supporter of Gleiberman's -- she recommended him for the job at 'Entertainment Weekly' -- but she was not an enduring friend to those who disagreed with her film criticism;

• 54:00 Spotlight was a good movie, he says, but it didn't hold up upon repeat viewing.

Owen Gleiberman FacebookTwitterLinkedIn • EW archive • IMDB • Rotten TomatoesGoodreads • Wikipedia