“It’s Strictly Personal”: A Book Review

I started my movie version of the blog in 2010. I was interested in films from my years growing up as a teenager during the 1970s.  The project was originally intended to run the length of that summer and then I would be done with it, but movies have a way of steering your life in directions that you can’t always anticipate. I was over fifty years old when I started working on the project, and I was not particularly adept at using the social media that was available. As I became more familiar with what I was doing, I discovered of course that I was not the only person who had opinions about movies, and that included films from my preferred time line. I started searching for other bloggers who, like me, were not only interested in reviewing a movie but also cared about the context of the times and the personal history that they had with the movies they loved. I had searched a few movie blogs for sites similar to mine, but I struggled to locate the right mixture. Everybody had opinions about movies, and many had opinions about old movies, but where were the ones who wanted to share more than just their opinions but a little something about themselves?

Two sites came to my attention in 2011. One was recommended to me by a blogger who for a time posted on a daily basis and seemed to have a very committed community following him. He sent me to “It Rains…You Get Wet”  written by a guy here in Southern California who was once a theater projectionist. We have connected many times since then in the real rather than the virtual world, and he has become a friend that I look forward to meeting at screenings here in the Southland on a regular basis.

The second site I discovered on my own, simply by scrolling through movie sites listed on the Blogger Platform. Unlike my colleague from So.Cal. , this guy was ten years younger than me, and he lived on the other side of the country. He was reviewing films in his own library, going through them alphabetically. That seemed like a fun approach so I started reading some of his reviews and lo and behold, they were not simply reviews but often microcosms of his life and movie going experiences. This was very close to what I did originally and still attempt to do from time to time. I have been a loyal reader of “My Movies, My Words” since early 2011. The author of this site is Eric Friedman, and he has taken his concept one step further and produced a book, based on the same principle but organized with a very specific theme in mind. My copy arrived two days ago, even though I ordered it the minute it was available last week. I feel a little proprietary toward the book, having interacted with Eric for so many years and sharing stories about movies we loved and experience we had in common.  I was a little jealous of others who were able to read it before me, but now that I have caught up with them, I can safely say that I have joined the club of satisfied customers.

Eric is usually my favorite read each week when he posts another one of his reviews. He is opinionated, intelligent and passionate about what he likes in a film. I have not always agreed with him on his perspectives on some movies, but he always makes a reasonable argument for what he believes. He also shares some information about his history with a film, and that is what his new book, “It’s Strictly Personal” does in depth. It is an autobiography of a man you have not met and almost certainly never heard of before, but it is a story that all film fanatics share. Starting as an eight year old and moving up to the point at which he turns 16, Eric tells the story of how movies reflect his life history. This is something that all of us movie bloggers could do if we took the time to work it out. We all have that first film going experience in our memories. We can recall the scenes that frightened us as children or made us laugh out loud. My guess is most of you can remember a movie that you did not understand as a child, which later became a beloved touchstone of your life. That is the story Eric is telling here.

The book is written as if we are having a long conversation with an old friend, and he is filling us in on his life and the movies we share in common. He is honest in his description of a somewhat dysfunctional family life growing up, but he is not maudlin about how things turn out, they simply reflect the personal history that recalls as the movies play out like the soundtrack to his life.  He is well spoken of many of the critical elements of film making, but like me, and I suspect most of you, he is a well informed hobbyist rather than a scholar. The other thing he is, is a good writer. He has a direct way of expressing his views but he also includes the details that make each story interesting. Although he has done some historical research to make sure his dates are accurate, he relies on his vivid memories to tell these stories.

A a Generation X kid, his encounters with films often include the frustrating but essential background of having to see a film for the first time on television. His parents were not like the permissive generation that would allow a child of eight to see “Jaws” [that of course would be a fault my generation would be guilty of. mea culpa] It’s fun to live through his frustration of wanting to be part of the cultural zeitgeist when your parents don’t approve of horror movies and you lived through the age of “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”.

Also, Eric having grown up in the NYC area, we get a bit of history concerning movie theaters of the suburbs and those in the city itself. HBO is an heroic figure in Eric’s life and the stories related to sleepovers with a friend and watching in a more permissive household, will certainly seem familiar to others of that generation. Reading about how a kid changes from a naive child to a more engaged adolescent may seem like a strange journey to you, until you realize we have all made the same journey. The delight of this book is that the author has put words to paper so we can take that journey together again. You may not have the same inventory of films in your memory bank that Eric shares, but those of us who do love movies, have similar stories that his experiences will help us to evoke.

Social Media may sometimes be a pox on the world. Twitter is filled with trolls who want to shame, virtue signal or generally act like the smart ass kid in the back row. Blogs allow the most wretched of people and ideas to be available to anyone unfortunate enough to trip over them. Despite those drawbacks, social media also allows us to connect with others who we would never have met otherwise. I have several virtual friends that I know because of our shared love of movies. I am happy to say that Eric Friedman is one of them. After having read his book, I feel like we are closer friends than I am with some of my childhood buddies, simply because we speak the same language, …AND THERE WERE MOVIES!

One thought on ““It’s Strictly Personal”: A Book Review

  1. Great book review! I’ve never heard of this book or author until now. However, you have encouraged me to want to read this book, especially since I’m a movie blogger myself. You should definitely check out my blog if you get the chance!

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