As quarantine life stretches into its eighth month in the U.S., simultaneously sending us all looking for diverting entertainment and shutting down any new film releases, many of us are returning to the movies of our childhood and adolescence. Which ones were overrated? Which are better than we remembered? And which have just aged terribly? Lindy West — a writer best known for her book-turned-television show, Shrill — is here to answer those questions with her new book Shit, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema.
The book is a critical romp through 23 contemporary classics like Top Gun, Speed, Reality Bites, and of course, Love Actually — West infamously skewered that movie in a 2013 piece for Jezebel, which inspired the book’s title and is adapted here. West loves many of the movies she writes about, but she also loves taking them apart. She has a decade-long text thread with a friend dedicated to the Harry Potter franchise’s plot holes, and she has a lot of thoughts about neglected side characters like Diane, the wife in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, whose unexplored interior life she can only imagine: “WHY DO WE EVEN NEED A SHRINK RAY, WAYNE? Seriously, literally, what need does this fill? You’re sick, Wayne! Sick!”
GEN caught up with West ahead of her book’s release to talk about the lost art of film reviewing, what it’s like to finish a book in quarantine, and why The Fugitive is the only perfect movie.
GEN: A lot of people complain about the state of film reviewing today. Some think access journalism has taken the bite out of film reviews, and others just don’t think they’re necessary. Do you think reviewing is a lost art?
West: Yeah, of course. Every sector of journalism has taken huge hits, and arts journalism more than anything. At The Stranger, where I was a film critic, they don’t have a film department anymore. Everything has shrunk. You don’t have that traditional, institutional, long-form film criticism, except for a handful of places — obviously the New Yorker, the New York Times. But just by degree, the industry has shrunk and those jobs don’t exist…