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Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the…

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation… (original 1998; edition 1999)

by Peter Biskind

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1,0781411,251 (3.84)17
Title:Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock 'N' Roll Generation Saved Hollywood
Authors:Peter Biskind
Info:Simon & Schuster (1999), Edition: 1st Touchstone Ed, Paperback, 512 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Easy riders, raging bulls : how the sex-drugs-and-rock 'n' roll generation saved Hollywood by Peter Biskind (1998)

  1. 00
    Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women by Michael Gross (Moomin_Mama)
    Moomin_Mama: Both books are well researched, quoting all the main players and covering the business and creative sides of the industries, with plenty of titillating gossip too
  2. 00
    Medium Cool: The Movies of the 1960s by Ethan Mordden (ABVR)
    ABVR: Biskind tells the story of the early 1970s, when the changes that Mordden shows building over the course of the 1960s came to a climax.
  3. 00
    Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer by Tom Shone (sanddancer)
    sanddancer: A different perspective on the films of Spielberg, Lucas and those inspired by them, and their impact on Hollywood.

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Until reading "Easy Riders, Raging bulls" I hadn't realised how important "Bonnie and Clyde" was to the rise of the auteur. However, I didn't need to read "Easy Riders ..." to know that most people in the film business are somewhat nuts.

Biskind is a fine writer but seems to want to write in an "edgy" way, which sometimes jars. Still, "Easy Riders ..." is full of behind the scene anecdotes that humanise some of the movie figures we read about, and in some cases shows exactly that they are somewhat nuts. Or in Dennis Hopper's case, extremely nuts. ( )
  MiaCulpa | Jan 22, 2016 |
This is supposed to be a history of the change in movie-making from the studio system to the "auteur" method. What I chiefly learned from this book is that Hollywood truly is an amoral swamp and there are no good guys there, and probably never have been. All of the wunderkinds from the 70s are nasty little brats whose sole concern is making their movies and they really don't care what happens to anyone while they do it, including wives and children. I don't generally go to movies because they cost too much and the audience has no manners. I am now thoroughly put off renting or borrowing them because of the wretched moral state of those who make them.

A book like this is why I never ever want to hear the political opinions of any Hollywood star. They are silly vapid amoral creatures who think their great wealth qualifies them as intelligent and thoughtful, completely forgetting that they make their living reciting someone else's words. Once I hear the idiotic, and almost invariably hypocritical, opinions of Hollywood folks, I never want to see their movies again.

This book did not help. Making movies seems to be exactly like making hot dogs: one should simply never learn what goes on behind the scenes. ( )
1 vote Tonestaple | Jan 30, 2015 |
If you're hoping for some insight into the creative decision making behind your favourite films, this is not the book for you. Easy Riders Raging Bulls is a squalid journey into the private lives of the great film directors of the 70s. It's more concerned with cataloguing the drugs, the damaged lifestyles and the back room business decisions than anything to do with the creative process. The exhaustive parade of bad behaviour can grow tiresome as you try to keep track of all the players and their mistresses.

It also turns out that everyone in Hollywood speaks the same grubby language. This too can become a chore to read. Biskind has an unhelpful habit of absorbing the obscenities into his commentary, so we are given phrases like "Spielberg knew he was f*cked". This style of reporting brings the tone down further than it needs to be, adding to the impression that what you thought was a well researched cultural history is actually just a gossip column. (I've quoted the above sentence from memory, it might have been Lucas or Scorsese not Spielberg.)

But it is a cultural history and the book is not without its insights. A fascinating read, if you're up for being disillusioned by your heroes. Enlightening, demoralising and ultimately a bit of a downer which reveals how most of the successful people in Hollywood are in fact pretty miserable. ( )
2 vote madcurrin | Jan 19, 2013 |
Before Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda made Easy Rider, Hollywood was controlled by the studio system. Directors were considered employees who worked for producers. While many of them became known for a signature style, they did not have full creative control over their work. The producers and the studios had final say.

Dennis Hopper and his contemporaries meant to change that. In France, Jean-Luc Goddard and Francios Truffaut among others where changing the game. They were auteur directors who controlled every aspect of their movies, from concept, to script, to cinematography, to editing.

Peter Biskind, in his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, traces the early days of American independent movie-making. He follows a cast of well respected directors: Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Francis Ford Coppola, William Friedkin, Hal Ashby, George Lucas, Stephen Spielberg, Robert Altman and several others. Looking at their collective body of work it's impressive to see what a great decade the 1970's were for American film: Nashville, The Last Detail, M*A*S*H, The French Connection, The Exorcist, The Last Picture Show, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, Star Wars, Badlands, Taxi Driver, Jaws, Raging Bull. All made against the odds while their creators struggled to maintain complete control over them by working outside of the Hollywood studio system.

Mr. Biskind has done his research. The story of each filmmaker is extensively detailed. Their character; their peccadilloes; their struggle with the studio, their peers and themselves is thoroughly examined. For instance, who knew that Peter Bogdanovich kept a piece of celery in his pillow because the smell helped him sleep. While I was reading the New Yorker reviews Pauline Kael wrote in the early 1980's when I became a serious film goer, I was unaware of how important she was to film makers throughout the 1970's. Her backing was the factor that made several of the above mentioned films possible. Film critics had the power to make or break a movie in the 1970's when films were released slowly to build word-of-mouth as they entered theatres across America.

This makes Easy Riders, Raging Bulls interesting reading for film buffs like me, and I suspect even for those with only a passing interest in the topic. However, I did have three problems with Mr. Biskind's book. First, he makes a habit of repeating salacious stories that cannot be confirmed. He relates a particularly unflattering anecdote about a film maker as though it is true, only to insert "the film maker denies this" afterwards. I suppose that it's difficult to write a book when so many incidentscome down to "he said" "she said," but I found Mr. Biskind too often went with whatever version was more sensational. The second problem I had with Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is also one of content. For my taste, there was too much about the film maker's personal lives, their sex lives in particular. I would have liked more analysis of their films than details about their sex lives. Though their sex lives were epic. Epic. Really. You've no idea. Finally, why is there no examination of Woody Allen? Mr. Allen spent the 1970's as a true auteur, making some of his best work: Annie Hall, Manhattan. Nor does Mr. Biskind look at John Sayles or John Cassavettes who never hit the big time the way Spielberg or Coppola did, but always remained in creative control of their work.

In then end, almost all of the directors Mr. Biskind covers fell victim to the cliche of Hollywood. Fame became too much for them. Their self-absorption and their self-aggrandizement grew to such heights that they over-reached, drove away those who had helped them early in their careers only to wind up producing a disaster that ruined their careers: Popeye, At Long Last Love, One from the Heart, The Last Movie, 1941, Personal Best. Some, like Robert Altman and Steven Spielberg recovered from their flops and continued to produce good work, while others faded into Hollywood's sidelines. By the end of the decade, the studios and the producers were back in power, and American movies were generally worse than they were in the mid-1960's. Can anyone imagine a line around the block in 2011 for a movie that didn't have an alien or a cartoon superhero in it?

Pauline Kael saw this coming. Towards the end of her career she became known for her argument that Star Wars and E.T. had become the norm, infantilizing American movies. This did not make George Lucas happy. In fact he named one of the villains in his movie Willow after her, General Kael. Mr. Lucas would most likely deny this, of course. But Easy Riders, Raging Bulls remains your best source for a look at the last great decade of American movies. ( )
2 vote CBJames | Jul 17, 2011 |
The writing can be hard to follow, but the subject matter makes up for that. There's an enormous amount of name-dropping, including names you probably never heard of before (producers, studio execs, and various assistant whatevers), and when the author mentions 6 or 7 in one paragraph and then says 'He says...' or 'He continues...' and begins a quote, you can't be sure who he's quoting. (I think he must have been required to mention these people in the book in order to get them to spill.)
That said, this is a great look into Hollywood of the 1970's. It's amazing to be reminded that in 1973, 'The Sting,' 'The Excorcist,' and 'American Graffiti' were nominated for Best Picture while 'Serpico' and 'The Last Detail' didn't make the cut! Talk about a golden age.
Among other things, we learn that Dennis Hopper was a guy who beat up women (Michelle Phillips divorced him in about a week when he tried to hit her), and liked to threaten people (Rip Torn immediately disarmed Dennis when he pulled a knife on him ((Torn's an ex-Marine)) ), and Marlon Brando took him for a punk and that's why he refused to act in any scenes with him in Apocalypse Now.
We also learn of the almost unanimous naked ambition of all the people who made it, whilst telling themselves and anybody who would listen that they were the peace and love generation and money was beneath them. Money per se may have been beneath them, but mansions and Mercedes were their universal dream. ( )
1 vote br77rino | May 11, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0684857081, Paperback)

Not only is Peter Biskind's Easy Riders, Raging Bulls the best book in recent memory on turn-of-the-'70s film, it is beyond question the best book we'll ever get on the subject. Why? Because once the big names who spilled the beans to Biskind find out that other people spilled an equally piquant quantity of beans, nobody will dare speak to another writer with such candor, humor, and venom again.

Biskind did hundreds of interviews with people who make the president look accessible: Scorsese, Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Geffen, Beatty, Kael, Towne, Altman. He also spoke with countless spurned spouses and burned partners, alleged victims of assault by knife, pistol, and bodily fluids. Rather more responsible than some of his sources, Biskind always carefully notes the denials as well as the astounding stories he has compiled. He tells you about Scorsese running naked down Mulholland Drive after his girlfriend, crying, "Don't leave me!"; grave robbing on the set of Apocalypse Now; Faye Dunaway apparently flinging urine in Roman Polanski's face while filming Chinatown; Michael O'Donoghue's LSD-fueled swan dive onto a patio; Coppola's mad plan for a 10-hour film of Goethe's Elective Affinities in 3-D; the ocean suicide attempt Hal "Captain Wacky" Ashby gave up when he couldn't find a swimsuit that pleased him; countless dalliances with porn stars; Russian roulette games and psychotherapy sessions in hot tubs. But he also soberly gives both sides ample chance to testify.

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is also more than a fistful of dazzling anecdotes. Methodically, as thrillingly as a movie attorney, Biskind builds the case that Hollywood was revived by wild ones who then betrayed their own dreams, slit their own throats, and destroyed an art form by producing that mindless, inhuman modern behemoth, the blockbuster.

When Spielberg was making the first true blockbuster, Jaws, he sneaked Lucas in one day when nobody was around, got him to put his head in the shark's mechanical mouth, and closed the shark's mouth on him. The gizmo broke and got stuck, but the two young men somehow extricated Lucas's head and hightailed it like Tom and Huck. As Peter Biskind's scathing, funny, wise book demonstrates, they only thought they had escaped. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:56 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Coppola, Scorsese, Lucas, Hopper, Altman, Spielberg - they were the generation who rewrote the Hollywood script for the 1970s through the films they made. This book looks back on the director's decade.

(summary from another edition)

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