Movie Freak (Hardcover)

My Life Watching Movies

By Owen Gleiberman

Hachette Books, 9780316382960, 352pp.

Publication Date: February 23, 2016

List Price: 28.00*
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Entertainment Weekly's controversial critic of more than two decades looks back at a life told through the films he loved and loathed.

Owen Gleiberman has spent his life watching movies-first at the drive-in, where his parents took him to see wildly inappropriate adult fare like Rosemary's Baby when he was a wide-eyed 9 year old, then as a possessed cinemaniac who became a film critic right out of college. In Movie Freak, his enthrallingly candid, funny, and eye-opening memoir, Gleiberman captures what it's like to live life through the movies, existing in thrall to a virtual reality that becomes, over time, more real than reality itself.

Gleiberman paints a bittersweet portrait of his complicated and ultimately doomed friendship with Pauline Kael, the legendary New Yorker film critic who was his mentor and muse. He also offers an unprecedented inside look at what the experience of being a critic is really all about, detailing his stint at The Boston Phoenix and then, starting in 1990, at EW, where he becomes a voice of obsession battling-to a fault-to cling to his independence.

Gleiberman explores the movies that shaped him, from the films that first made him want to be a critic (Nashville and Carrie), to what he hails as the sublime dark trilogy of the 1980s (Blue Velvet, Sid and Nancy, and Manhunter), to the scruffy humanity of Dazed and Confused, to the brilliant madness of Natural Born Killers, to the transcendence of Breaking the Waves, to the pop rapture of Moulin Rouge! He explores his partnership with Lisa Schwarzbaum and his friendships and encounters with such figures as Oliver Stone, Russell Crowe, Richard Linklater, and Ben Affleck. He also writes with confessional intimacy about his romantic relationships and how they echoed the behavior of his bullying, philandering father. And he talks about what film criticism is becoming in the digital age: a cacophony of voices threatened by an insidious new kind of groupthink.

Ultimately, Movie Freak is about the primal pleasure of film and the enigmatic dynamic between critic and screen. For Gleiberman, the moving image has a talismanic power, but it also represents a kind of sweet sickness, a magnificent obsession that both consumes and propels him.

About the Author

Owen Gleiberman is an American film critic. He wrote for The Boston Phoenix and is best known as the founding movie writer for the then-startup Entertainment Weekly, where he was the lead critic for 24 years. Today Gleiberman continues to write for and lives in New York City with his wife Sharon and two daughters.

Praise For Movie Freak: My Life Watching Movies

"Owen Gleiberman may be the most consistently perceptive of our big-league movie critics, and Movie Freak is filled with his provocative judgments. (Kurosawa, Godard, even Welles - these guys sometimes suck, right?) But Gleiberman also opens up his own life to lay bare issues of love and death and dreams and desire. He provides an insider's tour of the shark-tank New York media world, and more sex and drugs and rock and roll than you might possibly expect. This isn't just one of the most fascinating books of its kind - it's a new kind altogether."—Kurt Loder, author of The Good, the Bad and the Godawful and movie reviewer for

"Owen Gleiberman's Movie Freak is a chronicle of rapture-the progression of a shy Midwestern boy, vibrating to images and sounds, who searches for his voice and his vocation in drive-in movie theaters, in shock and pornography, in Pauline Kael's prose, and finally in art (Carrie, Nashville, etc.). He becomes a full-fledged movie critic facing the competitive furies of New York journalism, where he remains devoted to an essential critical creed: Trust your pleasure. The book is exuberant and candid, a celebration of appetite, an essential, turned-on guide to American pop culture in the last forty years."—David Denby, The New Yorker

"Film has devolved rather than evolved since the days of Pauline Kael, one of the major influences named by Owen Gleiberman in his fascinating memoir Movie Freak. Film criticism isn't something just anyone can or should do. Gleiberman takes us a journey inside the life and mind that built one of the best film critics around. His careful assessment of his own place in film criticism, his observations of his own influences - and perhaps, biases - make a good case that he is one of the few good writers, and good minds, evaluating films. Reading Movie Freak reminded me how much more we need of Owen Gleiberman and less of everything else that film criticism has become. I've been following his reviews for almost twenty years so it's no wonder it was such a pleasure reading about what helped formed him as a writer, a critic and a man."—Sasha Stone, publisher of

"MOVIE FREAK is a blast....Part autobiography, part magazine-industry tell-all and part love letter to movies, the book feels like a long, wide-ranging conversation with Gleiberman.... elegant, insightful, funny and provocative. Gleiberman remains one of the most astute and pleasurable film writers of the last 30 years....This funny, frank book is filled with irresistible digressions on movies."—Miami Herald

With Movie Freak, Owen Gleiberman reminds us why he's remained one of the most incisive American critics working today. Pairing his burgeoning romance with motion pictures alongside various private and professional developments, he delivers a bracing cultural history of American movies through the intimate lens of his personal experiences. Along the way, he explores the subtle forces that contribute to the development of sharp, provocative opinions about cinema, art and life itself, illustrating that process through his typically engrossing prose and individualistic stances. Yet Movie Freak deepens its cause by extending beyond the limited arena of American film culture to capture its impact on Gleiberman's maturation as a human being. This is a coming of age drama as moving and profound as the big screen achievements that inspired its author.—Eric Kohn, Indiewire

"Movie Freak mixes ideas and autobiography in a totally riveting way. Smart, gossipy, and entertaining, it's a flashback to a time when movies mattered and an insider's look at how that moment ended."—Peter Biskind, author of Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

"A chronicle of his love affair with films...a story of societal change, rich in cultural as well as personal history."—Kirkus Reviews