Like catching up with a dear and funny friend, this insightful and irreverent book is a soothing balm for turbulent times.

SHIT, ACTUALLY

THE DEFINITIVE, 100% OBJECTIVE GUIDE TO MODERN CINEMA

Revisiting her early career as an acid-tongued film critic, New York Times columnist West deconstructs 22 blockbusters in this nostalgic, laugh-out-loud romp.

In the introduction, the author labels this collection “silly,” a frivolous work initially conceived as a ray of light for a fraught America. Despite being released into an irreparably altered world—not just due to the pandemic, but also “the demoralizing grind of public life under Donald Trump”—these breezy essays fulfill that promise. They are warmhearted, acutely self-aware, and surprisingly timely, providing insight into modern society through movies first sold on VHS. West rates each film against the Harrison Ford vehicle The Fugitive (“the only good movie”), leaping across genres, from Jurassic Park to Garden State to The Shawshank Redemption. Whether she is excoriating Love, Actually (“the apex of cynically vacant cash-grab sentimentality”), describing how the “best thing” about the Harry Potter series is that she loves to hate it, or discussing whether or not The Lion King’s Mufasa has any actual parenting skills beyond his deep voice, West uses hindsight to gain critical distance and set up her sidesplitting one-liners. The book’s breadth of targets allows for a wide canvas. For example, an essay on Reality Bites examines West's own teenage lusts and the dearth of realistic female role models in film while a treatise on The Santa Clause looks at the 1990s humor triumvirate of “lawyer jokes, hatred for psychiatrists, and your divorced parents getting back together." A number of the pieces were previously published online, and some of the jokes may seem crude to West neophytes. But the author uses frivolity and humor as entry points to discussions about racism, sexism, and our tendency to overlook the damage a story can do if it keeps us entertained. Other targets include Rush Hour, American Pie, Titanic, and The Rock.

Like catching up with a dear and funny friend, this insightful and irreverent book is a soothing balm for turbulent times.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-44982-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

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GREENLIGHTS

All right, all right, all right: The affable, laconic actor delivers a combination of memoir and self-help book.

“This is an approach book,” writes McConaughey, adding that it contains “philosophies that can be objectively understood, and if you choose, subjectively adopted, by either changing your reality, or changing how you see it. This is a playbook, based on adventures in my life.” Some of those philosophies come in the form of apothegms: “When you can design your own weather, blow in the breeze”; “Simplify, focus, conserve to liberate.” Others come in the form of sometimes rambling stories that never take the shortest route from point A to point B, as when he recounts a dream-spurred, challenging visit to the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré, who offered a significant lesson in how disagreement can be expressed politely and without rancor. Fans of McConaughey will enjoy his memories—which line up squarely with other accounts in Melissa Maerz’s recent oral history, Alright, Alright, Alright—of his debut in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused, to which he contributed not just that signature phrase, but also a kind of too-cool-for-school hipness that dissolves a bit upon realizing that he’s an older guy on the prowl for teenage girls. McConaughey’s prep to settle into the role of Wooderson involved inhabiting the mind of a dude who digs cars, rock ’n’ roll, and “chicks,” and he ran with it, reminding readers that the film originally had only three scripted scenes for his character. The lesson: “Do one thing well, then another. Once, then once more.” It’s clear that the author is a thoughtful man, even an intellectual of sorts, though without the earnestness of Ethan Hawke or James Franco. Though some of the sentiments are greeting card–ish, this book is entertaining and full of good lessons.

A conversational, pleasurable look into McConaughey’s life and thought.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13913-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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