By Afonso Almeida.
In my very first review for BRWC, I made mention of Peter Biskind’s Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. The book had been absolutely seminal when it came to my film education. It because the yardstick against which all future film history was to be judged. In Easy Riders, Biskind weaved together a narrative from all the related and unrelated events that formed the rise of the counter culture film movement and helped destroy the Hollywood studio system of the 30’s and 40’s. It was equal parts brilliant and engaging. The kind of writing most film academics ignore, much to their detriment. The kind of writing that would make one actually pick up a book on film history as opposed to just consulting one at the library to make a bibliography quota on an undergrad film class essay (some leftover frustration at film academics from my Uni days may still linger at the time of writing this Review). Needless to say, when his latest book The Sky is Falling arrived in my mailbox, I was ecstatic to review it.
The Sky is Falling is Peter Biskind’s take on the last two decades of entertainment. Much in the same way that his two best selling books (Easy Riders and Raging Bulls ; Down and Dirty Pictures) had a focal point to distill the 70’s and the 90s into a book, Sky takes a similar approach. In this book, Biskind picks apart the most popular TV Shows and movies of the last twenty years, and ponders on how they may have shaped, or at least explain, the rise of extremist sentiment in America. The book invites us to consider how the way we feel about keeping White Walkers beyond the wall in Game of Thrones might help us understand the mentality of those who would like such a wall erected in their country. It categorizes shows and movies into their respective categories (Homeland being in the Far Right, the Robocop reboot as a luddite leftist piece, and so on).
In truth, the book serves as an excellent introduction book for politics for those who could not be less interested in the subject. It succeeds at depicting the whole of the political spectrum by providing us with movie equivalencies. It is far easier to say someone is like Gordon Gekko than explaining they want lower income taxes, uncapped commissions and fewer Securities and Exchanges Commissions regulations.
For fans of Biskind’s previous work, you won’t get the same kind of book as his most famous ones. The Sky Is Falling is structured more like a collection of essays with no central claim. They help understand politics, but at times the sheer volume of film and TV references thrown at the reader can distract from the central claim. However, Biskind’s insights are spot on and what the book may lack in a narrative or linear sense, it offers up plenty of reflection in 5-10 page chapters. It is definitely worth a buy to take in Biskind’s encyclopedic knowledge of film and culture. The writing is funny, sharp and at times terrifying. One encompassing read on our times, and what we say about them on the big screen.
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