Booklicious: Booklicious Reviews: Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer

April 27, 2010


Yippee Ki-Yay Moviegoer: Writings on Bruce Willis, Badass Cinema, and Other Important Topics (Titan Books) is a book of movie reviews, making a review of it some sort of meta-review. Author Vern became a cult classic type with his first book, Seagalogy, which took a deep, serious look at the films and curriculum vitae of Steven Seagal. This new release follows in the same vein, being a collection of “writings on badass cinema and other important topics,” which includes Vern’s full urodynamic evaluation and its graphic, painful description.

The basic premise of the book is as straightforward as the basic premise of the movies. Vern’s analyses are clear and conversational; all of his reviews were originally written for the internet, and you can tell. That being said, readers can also see that Vern’s work isn’t the work of a self-centred teenager or a self-important arthouse type. He discusses film techniques, screenwriting and finer points like scores and effects without using academic wording or chat-style shorthand, which makes his style accessible and easy to read. One of my early thoughts regarding the book and its publication was, “why would I read something that I can just look up online?” which a quick look at his website will answer. Unlike nearly unreadable white-text, black-background web layouts, printed books are easy to read and well designed, and this one has a nice feel to the cover and Titan’s shiny-feeling title lettering to boot.

I opened the book to a random review, although Vern has them broken up into broad categories, among them “Filth,” “Blow Stuff Up Real Good,” and something long about horror movies. After finishing five or six reviews of movies I have watched (Predator, Predator 2, The Fifth Element, Transformers) I moved on and read some for things I haven’t, and won’t, including Chaos and The Brown Bunny. They’re engaging, though short. Since the premise of a lot of his reviews is that action movies don’t have to be Goodfellas to make a statement or have artistic value, it makes sense that the reviews aren’t huge, deconstructionist affairs. Vern manages to inject humor in most of his reviews without coming off as a wannabe comedian or an attention-seeking kid. When things come down to personal preference, he says so, and his preferences are stated pretty clearly, so things don’t just come out of the blue.

There’s a lot devoted to Die Hard, of course, and a moderately entertaining little yarn concerning Bruce Willis and his interaction with the website for which Vern works, although knowing anything at all about his web persona is pretty much optional. Anything that isn’t clear from the text has a humorous little footnote. Since he mentions Nothing Lasts Forever, the novel behind Die Hard, I feel obliged to point out something that he doesn’t: Yojimbo, upon which was based Fistful of Dollars, upon which was based Last Man Standing, was itself based upon a novel, Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. Some critics aren’t completely convinced, presenting Hammett’s other novel The Glass Key as the inspiration, but you don’t accidentally make a movie influenced by one book that exactly resembles the very same author’s first book unless there’s some sort of deity of unlikely coincidences at work.

As I’m no film critic, there’s no real reason I need to have Vern’s writings on hand in non-digital form, but that doesn't mean I don't want to. The book is entertaining, readable and covers enough ground for me to both appreciate films I had seen (They Live, Die Hard, Eastern Promises), want to go rent some others (The Virgin Spring, everything starring Charles Bronson) and definitely avoid The Aristocrats, The Brown Bunny and Sudden Death. Seriously, I owe him one for debunking all that hype in the trailer for The Aristocrats. If you’re a film buff and believe a movie doesn’t have to be subtitled to be art, this book is required reading, and you should probably make a special place for it on your coffee table.


Megan said... @ April 27, 2010 at 12:29 PM

Sounds like a great book.

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