Book - Movies (And Other Things)

As if he didn't know enough about movies and pop culture already, Nate McKenzie read the latest Shea Serrano book Movies (and Other Things)...

Shea Serrano doesn’t care about being the biggest movie buff. He’s not concerned with knowing more about movies than you, or battling with online trolls defending their opinions, or trying to earn a Boy Scout merit badge for Movie Watching. He’s the anti-#TwitterHipster. There’s no ego involved. Serrano loves movies. That’s it. That’s the entire encapsulation of his film fandom.

Movies (And Other Things) is great because of who Serrano is as a human being, not solely because he found a formula for entertaining that works, but because the formula is a simple one: watch movies + talk about movies + love them + share that love with others. It seems simple but it’s hard to be genuine these days and still find an audience. Serrano just finds a way to do all that with some creativity. The manufacturing plant that is the entertainment industry makes few allowances for those without an ulterior motive; those without a clear “brand”. Through sincerity, unabashed fandom, and an honest-to-goodness altruistic nature, Shea Serrano has developed a brand, one which encompasses his 300K+ followers on Twitter, known as the FOH Army. Yeah, dude has an army. Like Leonidas defending the Hot Gates, except with Xerxes’ army at his back.

Reading a book by Shea Serrano isn’t like reading a regular book. It’s more like grabbing random comic books from a pile, reading five or six pages and then tossing that one aside for another and doing that over and over all weekend while you smash tacos and Big Red and whatever your favorite candy is. You’re hearing Shea’s thoughts without a filter, which, admittedly, is a frightening concept; or, it would be frightening, if his thoughts weren’t so damn fun to hear.

The entirety of Movies (And Other Things) is pure movie joy from front to back, but of course there are chapters that stand out above the rest. Those chapters are the ones in which Serrano showcases his creativity as he combines his ability to critique a movie from a fresh angle with an inventive format. Even if, at times, reading the book feels indistinguishable between eavesdropping on a conversation about movies between two very drunk guys at a bar. And Shea is both of the guys.

The best and most important chapters in the book, unranked, are as follows:

What happened at the Michael Myers press conference? – Reporters interview movie monster Michael Myers the way they interview a basketball player after a game (Serrano is a huge basketball fan). The best bit of the chapter is, after Myers states that he’ll eventually kill long-time nemesis Laurie Strode, a reporter tells Myers that he’s received a text from Laurie (who is apparently watching the press conference). The text reads: “lol bitch no u’r not”.

Do you wanna read an essay about Friday? – Why yes, yes I do. Friday is an absolute masterpiece, even though it doesn’t get the respect it deserves in the arena of pretentiousness that surrounds film making. Serrano pays homage to the movie with a spot-on recap and reminiscence of the best scenes and lines. This was the first chapter I read because Friday is one of my favorite movies. It is the textbook example of the term ‘underrated’.

Can I ask you a couple questions about the MCU? – Have you ever had a conversation with children about a movie you enjoy that they also enjoy? Serrano does exactly that, only it’s his own sons that he’s discussing the MCU with. It goes about as well as you’d expect a conversation with kids to go; disjointed and meandering, but hilarious and adorable. It’s also a nice reminder that, with all of the bile spewed online at big budget studio films like those in the MCU, these movies are meant to just be fun. They are for kids, but we as adults are allowed to love them. You get a real sense of that with the conversation that Serrano has with his boys in this chapter.

Who’s in the Regina George circle of friends? – This chapter is one of the most fun thought experiments I’ve ever encountered. “Suppose that we took all of the characters who have ever appeared in a high school movie and enrolled them all at the same school.” I have a deep love for high school movies (partly because I enjoyed my high school experience and partly because I still wish it could have been different in many ways) and Serrano seems to share that affinity (obsession?). If for no other reason, this chapter is one of the best in the book simply because Serrano recalls so many great high school movies and creates a premise that would be interesting to see on film. It would be like a live-action version of Clone High but with fictional characters instead of historic figures from real life. I’d pay a lot of money to see that.

When did you know Booksmart was special? – I had not watched Booksmart before I started reading Movies (And Other Things). But if Shea Serrano writes a chapter calling a movie “special”, I stop what I’m doing and go watch that movie. You know what I discovered? Booksmart is special. This is why we love talking about movies – because we hope that just one person will discover a movie we love and we’ll get to share that love with them, ultimately bringing the movie lovers together into a tighter-knit community. Instead of creating rifts like pretentious a-holes on Twitter tend to do.

Even as Serrano bombards your preconceived notions about what you think you know about movies with left-field premises and introspective asides, the thing he does that deeply endears himself to you, the reader, and anyone else that finds themselves in the gravity well that is his persona, is he stays open and forthright about himself. Throughout Movies (And Other Things), Shea Serrano shares anecdotes about his life, growing up, how his mind churns in acute ways, and that sincerity provides the real weight of the book.

With an insightful forward by John Leguizamo, and and a brilliant hodge-podge of film references in the artwork created by Arturo Torres, Movies (And Other Things) is the perfect book for anyone who is in love with being in love with movies. It is an appreciation of movie fandom as much as movies themselves, and honors that fandom as a necessary part of the entire process. Serrano also shows that you don’t have to love any one type of movie, or disregard other movies by artificially inflating the importance you put on the movies you love. Marvel movies aren’t garbage just because you love The Piano. Atonement isn’t less entertaining because it doesn’t have Vin Diesel causing carnage throughout a city. Some movies are bad, but that’s not because of the subject; some movies just aren’t made well. But even terrible movies can be loved, just like an ugly child. As Don Cheadle writes, in the afterword, “Movies can be meaningful to people for whatever reason they need them to be.”

Follow Nate on Twitter @CircusJump2020

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