Author Archives

Michael Musto

The Danger of Befriending Celebrities

Getty, Illustration by Homestead Studio

Michael Musto | Longreads | February 2020 | 8 minutes (2,000 words)

Meryl Streep doesn’t call me every week to go bowling. In fact, she doesn’t call me at all. And that’s a good thing. I honestly can’t recommend becoming friends with celebrities, especially if you’re a long running journalist like I am. It simply will not lead to a Hollywood ending.

As appealing as they are, celebrities are used to being the center of attention, so you’d have to subvert your ego and go into full-blown ass-kiss mode in order to even be vaguely tolerable to them. Stars live for the spotlight, and in many cases, it’s all about them, even when they pretend it’s about you. (And I like things to be about me, thank you.) What’s more, as a journalist, I’d be blurring all sorts of lines and throwing away objectivity in order to snuggle up to my famous “friends.” And they’d only be nice in return because I’m press — and/or an ass kisser — so they’d have to feign some kind of kinship while pretending that all of my hideously annoying quirks are absolutely adorable. Yes, they’d be good at acting the part, but it’s so much better for both parties to just avoid this potential landmine and don’t go there. Don’t call me, Meryl! Don’t even text!
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The Art of Acceptance Speech Giving

Angela Weiss / Getty, Illustration by Homestead Studio

Michael Musto | Longreads | September 2019 | 9 minutes (2,135 words)

We’ve heard it a million times: “I was nothing until I got this award, and now I’m everything. But this honor isn’t really for me. It’s for you — all the little people out there in the dark, who now have all the inspiration you need to know that someday you can be as great as I am. You just might be holding this trophy someday long into the future — though right now, it’s me! And I love it! Thank you to the Academy, CAA, and God — in that order!!!!”

Inspirational, right? Nope. That’s actually a tone deaf, self aggrandizing approach to an awards speech, and we usually end up loathing the winner for being so condescendingly grand about their big moment. It comes off extra phony because we sense that, deep down, the winner isn’t really thrilled with the idea that this honor may lead to millions of other wannabes yapping at their heels and trying to win one.

So what should an award winner say? Well, with the mass audience taking to social networks to dissect every moment of awards shows, speechmaking definitely makes a difference, to the point where a 90-second acceptance can make or break a career almost as much as the award itself can. Anne Hathaway seemed to become significantly less popular because of her breathless laundry lists of names (and by starting her Oscar speech with “It came true”), whereas Meryl Streep has become even more beloved because her speeches are invariably witty, pointed, and also touching. (They should let Meryl win every time, even when she’s not nominated, just so we can hear her talk.)

Meryl knows that an acceptance speech should be sincere yet entertaining, succinct yet somewhat comprehensive, and humble yet confident, and there should also be some real emotion involved. In another seeming contradiction, there needs to be serious thought put into what the winner is saying, but they should also make sure to brim with the spontaneity of the moment. Come on, folks, you’re actors — you can do it.

Glenn Close did brilliantly at the Golden Globes earlier this year, when she was a surprise Best Actress winner for The Wife. Glenn looked shocked when her name was called, yet she quickly composed herself to speak about the themes of the movie and to come off truly grateful and honored. And in framing The Wife as being about a talented woman living in someone else’s shadow, she seemed to herself be crawling out from behind Meryl Streep! It was such a terrific speech that I was sure it clinched Glenn the Oscar, but that instead went to The Favourite’s Olivia Colman, who wasn’t necessarily the favorite, but gave a lovably daffy acceptance that was eccentric and droll.

Alas, instead of speeches like those, we usually get Hathaway-like name checks (“I want to thank my accountant, Jim; my trainer, Joanne…”), speeches that leave out key names (In 2000, when Hilary Swank won her first Oscar, for Boy’s Don’t Cry, she forgot to thank then-hubby Chad Lowe; they eventually split), phony bouts of gushing, self-satisfied preening, fake-spontaneous recitations (“I didn’t plan anything”) that seem to have been rehearsed for months, and canned orations full of platitudes and advice, as if we schlepps out there want nothing more than to someday win Best Lighting in a Musical, and the winner knows just how we can get there.
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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.

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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.
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Every Day I Write the Book

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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, 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!
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