Author Archives

Michael Musto

The Joy of Watching (and Rewatching) Movies So Bad They’re Good

Wiseau-Films, Warner Bros, American International Pictures, Quintet Productions, Four Leaf Productions, Mid-America Pictures

Michael Musto | Longreads | Month 2019 | 8 minutes (2,090 words)

 

I’ve known about the power of good/bad movies since I was a kid, but I was reminded of it just a few days after 9/11, when I went to a press screening of Mariah Carey’s unwitting classic Glitter.

Naturally, New York City was traumatized, many of us going through the motions in a daze as we tried to make sense of the horror. But we had to make a living, so, along with a handful of other arts journalists, I dragged myself to the screening, not sure of what we were getting into. It turned out to be the hackneyed story of a DJ who tries to lift a backup singer (Mariah) up from her humble roots through song and romance. And it was evident quickly into the film that Mariah just didn’t have the acting chops; the new Meryl Streep this wasn’t. We uncomfortably sat there watching the pop diva try to act, but eventually we couldn’t hold back, and a few of her line readings were greeted with titters — the first time I’d heard laughter (including my own) since 9/11. It sounded both shocking and very welcome, and the unintended reaction mounted during a ludicrous scene where Mariah and the DJ were magically thinking of the same melody. By the end, when Mariah spills out of a limo in a glittery gown to visit her dirt-poor mother, we were all screaming in hilarity. This was just the catharsis we needed, and it generously helped us bond and move on.

Read more…

The Problem With Nostalgia

Sascha Kilmer/ Getty, Unsplash, Illustration by Katie Kosma

Michael Musto | Longreads | March 2019 | 8 minutes (2,048 words)

Nostalgia Isn’t What It Used To Be was the hilarious title of Oscar winning actress Simone Signoret’s memoir in 1978, and it’s truer than ever. Seeing the past through rose colored glasses is an increasingly myopic process, especially as technology makes giant strides forward and former modes of communication resound with an astounding obsolescence. As I handily crank out articles like this on my computer and shoot them to my editor via email, do you really think I miss the days when I had to type out a piece on a ratty Smith Corona, make changes with Wite-Out, scissors and Scotch tape, and then hand deliver the thing — sometimes in a blizzard or rain storm — to the publication, only to have to redo the whole process when a rewrite was required (after pre-Google fact-checking took up to an entire day)? Do you somehow assume that I long for a return to the time when I was terrified to leave the house because I could miss a business call? (In the ‘70s, answering machines were not prevalent and cell phones hadn’t yet been invented.) The time when I would regularly cut calls short — even with my own mother — for fear that someone more important, career-wise, might be trying to reach me? (There was no call waiting. You had to pray that anyone who’d gotten a busy signal would try again and again. And not talk too long.) Some survivors and observers longingly look back at eras like that as “a simpler time” and “a more personal moment,” but for a writer like me, it was actually a personal nightmare.
Read more…

Every Day I Write the Book

Santiago Felipe / Getty

Michael Musto | Longreads | February 2019 | 8 minutes (2,035 words)

Like a really good book, life has given me way more chapters than I ever expected. Alas, I couldn’t have predicted that as an Italian-American kid growing up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in the 1960s. It was a time of hippie-dippie love and peace — which I read about and saw constantly on TV — though those warm and rosy feelings were apparently reserved only for the young; older people were considered business suited, untrustworthy, corrupt, and pretty much doomed. At the local movie theater, I had the misfortune of catching the 1968 youth exploitation drama Wild In The Streets, in which anyone over 30 was forcibly retired and those over 35 were rounded up for re-learning camps. Seeing this flick at an impressionable age, I wasn’t worldly enough to reject its ideas or realize it was a youth fantasy as perpetuated by the suits. I thought it was a true harbinger of things to come and was horrified by every melodramatic moment. The movie haunted my adolescence, and I went to school sensing that hitting 30 was going to mean the end of meaningfulness, so I’d better live and achieve to the max until I was ready to be carted away.

Listen to Michael Musto read “Every Day I Write the Book” on the Longreads Podcast.

Well, I’m 63 and not only not retired or in an internment camp, but I’m actually doing pretty well. I have a weekly column on a popular site called NewNowNext.com, I get freelance offers (like this one), and I’m asked to appear on TV and in documentaries to give my opinions on various pop cultural topics through the years. What’s more, having produced four books, I’m often asked by agents and publishers to crank out some more. Shady Pines is not beckoning me in the least — but I wish I’d have anticipated that fact, not only as a kid, but in my late 20s, when I thought I had already peaked as a writer. Yes, I felt like a has-been at 28!
Read more…