LISTEN UP: First Five Choices Of Audio Books Worth Discovering
This is the first in a series of columns presenting reviews, notes and commentary on non-fiction audio books about entertainment, how Hollywood works, who makes money in show biz and Hollywood’s influence of politics. Read these and then share your reviews with the world on this site
Alec Baldwin in his Emmy winning turn as Donald Trump on NBC's Saturday Night Live in 2017. In his honest, compelling book, Baldwin shares the story of how he came to play this role of a lifetime, what it has done to his career and whether he will do more in the future. Read it below.
COLUMN NUMBER ONE. THE OTHER ENTERTAINMENT PLATFORM
This is my first column with five audio book reviews – four I recommend and one to avoid.
My choices are recommendations from the present and past, but chances are you haven’t “heard” them anyway. You may have read the book, but hearing it is a different experience.
I hope you will watch this space for more reviews and recommendations in the future, and share your own reviews with me. Post them here or on my Facebook page, or send them to me and I will post them as long as they are coherent and smart.
These audiobooks are not chosen by a ranking system, but rather by which I enjoyed the most and feel the greatest emotional connection to.
A GREAT HOLLYWOOD INSIDER BOOK
LEADING LADY: SHERRY LANSING AND THE MAKING OF A HOLLYWOOD GROUNBREAKER
By Stephen Galloway
Narrated by Kristen Potter
Length 13 hours and 59 minutes (unabridged)
Publisher Random House Audio
First released April 25, 2017
Sherry Lansing comes to life in this well-written and nicely paced biography, which also provides a real-insiders look at American show business.
Sherry was the first woman to head a major studio’s movie production, and went on to produce movies as well. She today leads an exemplary life as a hands-on philanthropist.
I covered Lansing for years when she ran Columbia, was a top producer and during her long run at Paramount Pictures. I also interviewed her for my book OUTFOXED: The Inside Story Of America’s Fourth Television Network, is about her years at Fox under billionaire Marvin Davis’s ownership. This book vividly brings to life how she was marginalized as a woman executive by rich entitled men in a sexist atmosphere.
Fascinating to hear her “I was there” description of David Begelman’s rich lifestyle and his fall when he cashed Cliff Robertson’s and got caught.
Sherry is unique not only as a woman in a man’s world, but for her excellent taste in movies and people.
She admits in this book she finally left the industry to become an important philanthropist when they no longer made the movies she loved, the ones with stories about real people.
The new generation of execs wanted to make movies only for the money and she chose to leave at the top of her game.
I am proud to say Sherry is a friend, and that the author, Stephen Galloway, is also a longtime friend, as well as one of the top editors at The Hollywood Reporter.
This book is a window into an amazing life and the inner workings of the movie industry, with all the names and places and dirty deeds woven in.
I chose it to launch this occasional series of audio book reviews because it is a really great read, full of surprises even for me, and I lived or cover it.
Galloway writes many of the cover stories at The Hollywood Reporter because he is a first-rate reporter, a sympathetic listen, a solid journalist and a virtuoso as a stylist using non-fiction as a platform for wonderful storytelling.
If you actually want to know how Hollywood worked over the years, and in many ways still works, then this book is insightful, informative, often touching and written from a smart pov.
RATED READ IT
THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH
Nevertheless: A Memoir
Written and Narrated by Alex Baldwin
8 Hours, 25 minutes, Unabridged
First released April 4, 2017
This may be the most refreshingly candid celebrity bio of the year. It delivers truth told with candor of all the big stories and scandals he has been associated with, including his personal battles with drugs and alcohol.
The painful story of the biggest mistake of his life, his marriage to Kim Basinger, is told with emotion, painful honesty and deeply personal admissions about his failings as a husband and father over those years.
If you admire Baldwin as an actor, and if like me you agree with his progressive politics (or want to understand it), this is a must read. It is full of insight, humor and interesting information.
It is a bio and memoir of Baldwin as a young man surviving a tough beginning, his life as an actor, his greatest roles and the way he is drawn to politics like a moth to the flame.
Accomplished and outspoken, in this wonderfully-written book, Baldwin has a no-nonsense style that feels like there will be B.S. He makes his incredible personal story accessible, and pulls no punches in doing so, taking us into his worlds.
Baldwin for over 30 years has been creating wonderful roles in movies including Beetlejuice, Working Girl, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Departed and of course Jack Donaghy on the hit sitcom 30 Rock, which won him a pair of Emmy's. Golden Globes, SAG Awards and much more.
Baldwin is generous to the talent he has worked side by side with, and affectionately recalls mentors who helped him at key times.
He even discusses his portrayal of President Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live first during the 2016-2017 season, a role that has garnered Baldwin tremendous attention. and awards.
While he tells the truth, he still has steel in his spine on some things. He clearly feels justified for how he has dealt with overly aggressive paparazzi.
He talks about how his career went from theater to soap operas to movies to TV. He is upfront about the highs AND lows.
RATED READ IT
AN HONEST ACTOR WORTH FINDING
A LIFE IN PARTS
Written and narrated by Bryan Cranston
hours, 53 minutes (unabridged)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Audio version Audible.com
Audible.com Release Date: October 11, 2016
It is easy to be a fan of Bryan Cranston from his award-winning work in Breaking Bad to being the wacky dentist on Seinfeld, the perplexing complicated Trumbo and now this book which has made me a fan of the man behind those role and it has made me both laugh and cry.
This is one of the best show biz biographies I have read, and I’ve read many, because Cranston has a fascinating life story to share, and he does it here without pretense, honestly, candidly and shows the intense trajectory of his interesting career.
There is a section on Breaking Bad but this is more about Cranston himself. He is a real man but he also has a sensitive side, and a philosophy of acting he shares in a most generous way. Any actor cable of being introspective, or would be actor, should approach this as a manual of the craft.
It is also deeply personal and of interest to a wider audience as well.
I was impressed there was a reader review on Amazon from his ex-wife, Mickey Middleton.
She nervously approached it, but Middleton came away loving it.
“Bryan’s writing,” she writes, “is unaffected by fame and fortune and his own voice. He tells his story clearly, with exactly the right words.”
“If his book seems to devote little to Breaking Bad or Malcom in the Middle,” his ex continues, “it’s because those are just parts of the whole that is Bryan Cranston. This book is honest, witty, sensitive, funny unapologetic, and heartbreaking. And that, too, is Bryan Cranston.”
RATING: Read it
Written and read by Hillary Rodham Clinton
16 hours and 50 minutes (unabridged)
publisher Simon & Schuster Audio
First released on Audible Sept. 21, 2017
It is actually quite unusual for the losing candidate in a presidential race to write a book analyzing, as Secretary Clinton aptly puts it, to explain, “What happened.”
But then 2016 was not the usual presidential election, and Mrs. Clinton and Donald Trump were not the usual candidates, and the system was not the usual battle for the American soul – It was an all-out slug fest in which a foreign power played a secretive role, and the majority political party, the Republicans, were able to trump up a series of investigations and controversies all designed to make a woman of strength, intellect, character and good intent sound like she was a crook and a person who would ruin the country.
Even with that Mrs. Clinton won the popular vote, while losing the Electoral College.
This book takes a long time to get to what really happened. The first half or more is Mrs. Clinton sharing her life story, her philosophy, her feeling about female empowerment, the impact her mother had on her and more very personal stuff.
Most of the first half felt like I was a student in a classroom with a somewhat humorless but sincere school teacher.
Mrs. Clinton is very competent and she is of a good heart, but she has a hard time communicating that.
The book finally comes into its own in that last third when she breaks down what it took to get nominated (and her internalized anger at Bernie Sanders) and then running against a political novice who had a sense of entitlement, unlimited wealth and a willingness to say whatever it took to win over his base audience.
Want health care, Trump will give it to and it will be bigger, better, cheaper and cover everyone. Don’t like Isis. Trump has a plan to destroy it in a matter of weeks.
Don’t like paying taxes. Trump will cut your taxes, simplify it and give you back a refund.
Unhappy with Wall Street and the political establishment, Trump will “clean the swamp” and sweep away all the bad players.
Mrs. Clinton had a big problem. She wasn’t a good liar. She did have a political background and she wasn’t going to make a lot of promises she could not keep. She also seemed to be part of that swamp Trump loved to talk about.
And there were those emails. She had used a private email server, just like many other Secretaries of State before her, but when she did it, the Republicans declared it was a crime and Trump led chants at his boisterous rally in chants of “Lock her up!”
Still, as the election approached, Mrs. Clinton was ahead in all the usual polls by a wide margin
Trump had been seen in a sex tape, had a checkered history of broken marriages, failed business deals and a history of cheating small business contractors who worked for him in good faith.
None of that mattered. In the media storm of 2016, Trump was big news, and got huge coverage, while Clinton was that woman with the email problem.
Mrs. Clinton relives it all for you, and in the end points blame at FBI Director James Comey for announcing a week before the vote he was reopening the email investigation, only to close it days later.
By then the damage was done. Mrs. Clinton looked like the crook Trump said she was, and millions of swing voters at the last minute decided they could not support her.
Mrs. Clinton also gets into the Russian hacking of the election and what appears to have been collusion with the Trump campaign, and Trump’s fetish for Russian president Putin, whose authoritarian style seemed to appeal to Trump.
She was almost the first woman president, the first First Lady to become president…Lots of firsts.
And then it was over and Trump was in charge, and everything he said during the campaign was just so much nonsense.
At one point, early in the book, Mrs. Clinton says that if the U.S. had a parliamentary system, instead of the circus version of a presidential election, she would have been chosen the leader based on her experience, knowledge and temperament, and she is right.
But America is a circus, and the media have become the court jesters, and Trump’s lies, madness and bragging played better than Mrs. Clinton’s polices, ideas and morality.
So, Trump got the White House and Mrs. Clinton has given us this book.
Rating: Read it and weep
WHEN A GOOD COMIC GOES BAD
Written and read by the author,
Publisher Hachette Audio
Length – 3 hours, 7 minutes (unabridged)
First released on Audible Oct. 4, 2011
I have long been a fan of Ellen DeGeneres, who has a great wit, intelligence and style on her daily talk show, and is great as an awards show host.
Unfortunately, she has extended her gifts to a book that is not a memoir, not a cohesive story and not very good.
This is not autobiography, because she has already done that. This is more like shoveling a lot of shit into a bag and calling it a present in order to fulfill a book contract deadline.
It is not just that the stories, bits and low brow attempts at humor are random, it is that they have the feel of filler, and not very funny or clever filler at that.
RATING: Skip it.
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