“CINEMA DETOURS” (Book Review)


If I may graphically illustrate, I read Mike White’s CINEMA DETOURS in the bath. In the grind of my life, the sanctity of hot water and suds is the only place my eyeballs can peacefully absorb any written word not penned by myself or a Fango freelancer, and I value this time greatly. It’s sacred. I use the visual of yours truly nude and immersed in a tub because while digging into DETOURS, I stayed in till the bitter end, until the water was a tepid stew of body broth and I was as wrinkled as one of the LIFEFORCE cadavers. I finished the damn thing in one session. I couldn’t stop reading it. It’s that good.

Even casual movie culture obsessives are aware of White, of his work with Cashiers du Cinemart, his blog IMPOSSIBLE FUNKY, his THE PROJECTION BOOTH podcast and his from the hip commentary on the underbelly of cult movie culture and those that toil within. But what doesn’t get mentioned enough is just how good a wordsmith he is, especially regarding the articulation of the artform he has seemingly dedicated his life to. In CINEMA DETOURS, White compiles an A-Z compendium of film reviews, lengths ranging from capsule to full blown essay. Said commentaries are culled from the author’s myriad outlets including dailygrindhouse.com, Metro Times, wildsidecinema.com and White’s own blog. And while, like any film review collection, the reader’s response to the critics’ perception of each picture will be a subjective one, White’s analysis is thorough, isolating esoteric elements of craft that most reviews rarely touch. Even when you want to throw the damn book across the room in blind anger, you can’t help but admire the writing and thoughtfulness.

My own reaction to White’s reviews range from high-fives to headlocks. As an ardent Tim Burton admirer, his oft maligned ALICE IN WONDERLAND is one of those pictures that suffered from initial critical backlash but upon multiple viewings- especially in the company of children, the film’s intended audience, it is a richly evocative triumph of production design and humor. White’s review was obviously based on an initial theatrical evaluation of the 3D version (terribly muddy depending on the projection) and although expansive and intricately observed, I almost screamed when reading the single line opener: “Tim Burton, you are dead to me.”

After dunking my head and getting passionate expletives out of my system, White won me over with his unsparing skewering of the brainless ALIEN vs. PREDATOR: REQUIEM (..”one ugly motherfucker of a movie”), his rapturous response to Leone’s true masterpiece ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, his interesting take on the otherwise celebrated MARTYRS and his words on one of the most undervalued of shockers, THE LITTLE GIRL WHO LIVES DOWN THE LANE. But then he lost me on his smug dismissal of my favorite guilty pleasure flick, 1974’s CHOSEN SURVIVORS, even going as far as to flip the bird to Fred Karlin’s greasy, creepy score.

But when the tub drained and various hairs were left on the rim and my copy of CINEMA DETOURS looked like a warped potato chip, one word was left on my lips: essential. Critics are a dime a dozen as everyone has a two-bit opinion. But what is crippling the art of movie reviewing is the fact that not everyone can write.

Mike White? That sonofabitch can write…


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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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