Since hitting DC’s open-mic scene in the late 80s, Patton Oswalt has been able to translate his indie comedy roots into mainstream success, with starring roles in long-running sitcoms and Pixar films alike. A dedicated film buff, his 2015 memoir Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film chronicles his come-up through the lens of classics and cult hits. In 2018 he helped complete his late wife Michelle McNamara’s true crime book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, a deep dive into the Golden State Killer case.
Sharing a list of his favorite books on moviemaking with The Week, Oswalt went for some deep cuts – including an exploitation director’s biography, a gossipy memoir of ’70s show biz, and a history of fringe film. Find his reading list below.
The Ghastly One: The Sex-Gore Netherworld of Filmmaker Andy Milligan by Jimmy McDonough
“Andy Milligan, a below Z-grade exploitation filmmaker, filmed a shadow autobiography of his life and hid it in the disposable, grind-house trash he churned out in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. John Waters once talked about Milligan and The Ghastly One in this same space, asking the disturbing question, ‘Can a genius be untalented, too?'” -PO
Out of the Past: Adventures in Film Noir by Barry Gifford
“Gifford’s 1988 collection of seemingly random reviews of movies from the film noir era is the best example of how films affect you personally — both in how you perceive them and how they make you look at your life.” -PO
Suspects by David Thomson
“The mansion that Norma Desmond inhabits in Sunset Boulevard was purchased for her by Noah Cross from Chinatown. And Suspects offers a hundred other offscreen connections that exist solely in the imagination of David Thomson. The film critic’s 1985 story collection is haunting and, when you discover the identity of the book’s narrator, tragic.” -PO
The Kid Stays in the Picture by Robert Evans
“Is this the best, bitchiest Hollywood memoir ever written? You bet it is. The audiobook, narrated by the former Paramount studio chief himself, is an acidic epic.” -PO
“I’d recommend any edition of the Video Companion books, which were released annually from 1986 through 1998. But especially the later ones, which included appendixes and essays about The Great Films, Ebert’s Movie Glossary, and other goodies. They made me a smarter, happier film buff.” -PO
The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film by Michael Weldon
“Published in 1983, Weldon’s exhausting, no-stone-unturned history of fringe cinema was the internet in paper form before the internet existed. Did you know Francis Ford Coppola got his start in 3-D nudie films? The Psychotronic Encyclopedia does. It knows everything.” -PO
(via The Week)