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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Reviews: The Other Hollywood (book) and Wonderland (movie)

Legs McNeil, author of the classic anecdotal punk history Please Kill Me, fails with the same format on The Other Hollywood: The Uncensored Oral History Of The Porn Film Industry. The amazon reviewers couldn't put this down, even though with one hand it does get heavy after a while, but by pg. 150 I really wanted to stop. It's a limited and self-limiting lazy mess.

The format of Please Kill Me was innovative, easy to read and I thought never intended to be all-inclusive. It's small quotes arranged to tell stories. The Other Hollywood pretends to be definitive but is limited to the quotes they could get and the drips and drabs format that interrupts itself repeatedly, sometimes with unrelated stories. When it works well you have various players gossiping and contradicting each other. When it doesn't, the layout and stoytelling just look dumb.

The book bogs down in uninteresting story lines (the personal lives of undercover agents) and endless recitations of porn people treating each other and themselves like garbage. The book's 600 pages. A good book on the subject could be 1,000 but this one tells only 250's worth. It took 7 years for Legs to find a publisher. The problem probably was the book and not the subject matter. A much better read is Tales Of Times Square.

Wonderland was a theatrical release that should have been a made-for-cable movie. I imagine the sell was Boogie Nights meets Helter Skelter. It's about John Holmes and his involvement in the Wonderland Avenue murders, not exactly the stuff of blockbusters. Val Kilmer is great as John and for such a small film the cast is impressive. There's a lot of method acting and visually the film is washed in a burning heat that doesn't exist here in Los Angeles except way inland. It's ok but also a whole lot of nothing on a very obscure piece of local history. In an effort to not have John Holmes be a totally contemptible character, they leave out that he constantly beat up his girlfriend Dawn and repeatedly forced her into street prostitution, at one time even enslaving her in a brothel. Sweet guy.


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