'Silver Screen Fiend' details comedian Patton Oswalt's mania for movies

'Fiend' details Oswalt's movie habit in which he went to the movies three or more nights a week, viewing old and new films, as well as telling the story of the early days of his career.

'Silver Screen Fiend' is by Patton Oswalt.

Comedian Patton Oswalt has starred in films such as “Big Fan,” “Young Adult,” and “Ratatouille,” and according to his new book, the medium consumed his early life, with the actor often attending screenings three or more nights a week.

He tells the story of his movie obsession and his early career in his new book “Silver Screen Fiend,” which was released today. Oswalt is previously the author of the book “Zombie Spaceship Wasteland.” 

“When I was thinking of becoming a comedian I just was devouring comedy, going out to see it and doing it," he said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "In my mind, I'm going to become a director and a screenwriter, I'm going to see every movie ever made. It really appealed to the whole OCD, completist aspect to my personality."

Claudia Puig of USA Today called Oswalt’s book “engaging…. Oswalt’s prose is sparkling … astute [and] witty…. [he’s] an inventive writer… .Oswalt's homage to films is both hilarious and heartfelt," while David Brusie of the A.V. Club found the book to be "a funny, emotionally rewarding coming-of-age story.... The book’s structure isn’t always clear, which sometimes makes for an unwieldy read, and a 33-page appendix listing every movie he saw over four years, while interesting at a glance, ultimately feels like padding. But Oswalt’s ample writing talents push the narrative past these shortcomings."

Meanwhile, NPR critic Linda Holmes wrote that “the best of comedian and actor Patton Oswalt lies in his ability to truthfully observe what is small but important.” The writer found “that tendency to overwrite in response to ideas that don't feel quite as weighted as he wants them to be is the problem with the less successful parts of ‘Silver Screen Fiend’” but that “the farther he gets from the theaters, and from the attempt to convey their grandeur and the grandeur of film itself, the better the book is." 

And Elbert Ventura of Slate found that “the book still doesn’t quite sidestep the drawbacks of the contemporary pop memoir, reading too often like an anecdote dump straining for profundity. But Oswalt has a good angle – a portrait of the artist as a young film buff – and the book underscores a point often lost in talking about movie love: the sheer work of being a real cinephile…. [T]he book is at its best when it’s just him watching, thinking, and talking movies.”

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