There are plenty of laughs in comedian Patton Oswalt's new book, "Silver Screen Fiend." But the collection of anecdotes, which focuses on a period in Oswalt's life that he spent running between stand-up stages and the audience seats of a revival movie house in Los Angeles called the New Beverly Cinema, also showcases the tension between creating art and consuming it.
From 1995 to 1999, Oswalt saw hundreds of films (there's a full index of them in the back of the book), enough to go from "fan" to "addict," chasing the right moment to create his own.
amNewYork caught up with the comedian to talk about his growth during that time and what he found from seeing every film from "Sunset Boulevard" to "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" over four years.
How important has it been to surround yourself with like-minded artists in your development?
It was crucial. Having the "hang" like that, having people around you who are constantly riffing and challenging what you're doing and that are funnier and better at what you do makes you try and strive to perform at a much higher level.
Is that what you sought at the New Beverly?
I thought that kind of camaraderie would bleed through off the screen. On the one hand, I was being shown that it was really good to have a group around you. I was then fooling myself with movies. I still have very hermit-y habits, where I think, "I should go off by myself and think and brood." The New Beverly is perfect for that. The regular people who went to the New Beverly never talked to each other. We were film freaks. We'd sit and stare at the screen. Maybe you'd get a very oblique nod.
Was there a movie in particular, out of the hundreds you saw at the New Beverly, that surprised you?
Mine definitely was "The Seventh Seal." I thought I would go into it and do my duty and see this thing. But I didn't expect it to be that funny, and it landed way harder than I thought it would. I thought it was a sort of assignment, and i ended up saying, "That was amazing." I wasn't expecting it at all. In my mind, I thought it would be this classic that you're supposed to like, but that it wouldn't apply to me at all. But boy, did it apply to me.
IF YOU GO: Patton Oswalt is appearing at B&N Union Square Tuesday at 7, 33 E. 17th St., 212-253-0810.