5.0 out of 5 stars a foreign observer
It is to the misfortune of most American reader's that Ben Elton's Popcorn is not in mass-distribution in the United States. The reason being is that this British comedian/novelist/playright has put his thumb exactly on both the twisted modern American mentality towards violence and the present state of the entertainment industry in a way most American fail to see...
Published on Dec 9 1998
3.0 out of 5 stars Not preaching (not really)
It is no secret that this book attempts to address the issues of violence in the media and portrays one-dimensional characters in its efforts to caricature Hollywood stars. This lack of character development is surely one of the devices the author is using to present this facile, irresponsible world to the reader. The book is not preaching about violence or its...
Published on Feb. 8 2000 by CMullarkey
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2.0 out of 5 stars Suprisingly Weak,
This is certainly a "popcorn" book, i.e. a quick, easy read which instantly fades from memory. Elton is the English TV writer of such series as "Blackadder" and "The Young Ones" (both of which I quite like), but his stab at writing a "tongue-in-cheek thriller" doesn't really succeed, as either a satire, comedy, or thriller. The characters are total cardboard, but writers like Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiassan manage to make their cardboard characters much more engrossing somehow. The lead is an extremely heavy-handed attempt at lampooning Quentin Tarantino--who is really too easy a target for such purposes. There are some rather obvious home truths spoken along the way concerning violence and entertainment in America, but it's all so hamfisted, it's hard to care. The plot involves this rising star director and a killer couple (a la Natural Born Killers) who model themselves of his films. What wacky antics ensue when they show up at his house after he wins the Oscar!! Sigh... it's not as funny as it looks, nor does it do more than skim the surface of the issues, and oh yeah, Elton's grasp of American idioms is surprisingly weak.
4.0 out of 5 stars Popcorn is not just light and fluffy,
I throughly enjoyed this book. It's a thrill ride from the beginning and doesn't stop until it's climatic, violent end. Violent is a key word here. I wasn't expecting so much guts and filth, but suprisingly most of it works and gets you to re-think issues of violence in America. This is the central point to the novel and for the most part it's presented in a clear and entertainging way, though I don't agree with all Ben Elton has to say. The idea that film or art causes violence is not a new idea and not much new is said about it here. What Elton has done is to present it in a way that is eaisly accesible (very movie-like), and most importantly, funny. The satire and out right humor are, for the most part, right on. Plenty of times I laughed from recognition of behavior or a joke. You can't help but get involved with these characters and their situations and that's what makes the politics shine. One more thing I must mention is the incredible dust jacket and book design. What a hoot! The only thing it is missing is a popcorn scent in the glue. It looks GREAT on the bookshelf!
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever satire,
'Popcorn' seems to have attracted astoundingly mixed reviews here, mostly due to people's insistence on reading it as a slur against Tarantino. It is not, and we only have to consider the character of Bruce Delamitri to realise that he is hardly Quentin with a different name. Rather, Bruce seems to reflect any director that has become more noted for the tone of his films rather than their artistic content. 'Popcorn' is a valid, yet even handed critique of the American culture of celebrity and violence, but does not in the end seek to blame any one person or group. That, in essence, is really the point of the whole book. Culpability cannot be dispensed with, because to a certain extent everyone is partly to blame for perpetuating this bizarre situation. Elton, as always, makes his point articulately and with style, and part of the strength of his books is the fact that he never rams his own point of view down the reader's throat, but allows them to make up their own mind. A brilliant read, with broader social significance that we should all ponder upon.
3.0 out of 5 stars Not preaching (not really),
It is no secret that this book attempts to address the issues of violence in the media and portrays one-dimensional characters in its efforts to caricature Hollywood stars. This lack of character development is surely one of the devices the author is using to present this facile, irresponsible world to the reader. The book is not preaching about violence or its portrayal but about the personal resonsibilities of those in the media and those who consume the varied forms of entertainment on offer. To suggest that Elton cannot have a view on American culture, which is mercilessly pressed upon the rest of the world as the culture to aspire to, is missing the point. Perhaps people outside a particular way of life are best placed to comment upon it. The British are entering a time when the practice of litigation is becoming more tempting and personal responsibility is a concept alien to increasing numbers of pampered Brits. Although Ben Elton is not the most graceful user of language, this book is simply a well-meaning attempt to remind people that ultimate responsibility for action is with the individual. I might be wrong though.
4.0 out of 5 stars Good novel, but not Dostoyevsky,
I was surprised to see so many reviews posted for this novel, and particularly surprised to see the intensity (pro and con) of some of the reviews. Prior to reading the book, I'd never heard of the author -- I bought it on the strength of a recommendation of a trusted bookstore. My general impression is that this is a well-written novel, but nothing to get excited about.
"Popcorn" is an entertaining, non-serious novel addressing a very serious subject -- the effect of violent media images on human behavior. The tone of the book seems a little strange, but I think the author pulled it off - it is a very entertaining book.
I ripped through this book in two days (i.e., much less than my average 7 days per book), and recommended it to my wife. She also finished it in 2 days, without comment. This means that, despite my recommendation, it was actually good enough to finish (! ), but not good enough to elicit comment. I guess I agree -- this is an OK book, but I wouldn't even consider it for a "best of 1999" list.
1.0 out of 5 stars UNSPEAKABLY AWFUL,
By A Customer
Often when the people doing these on-line reviews talk about their favorite book, it's best to ignore them. Their usually heaping bizzarre amounts of praise on the WILD WILD WEST novelization, or something along those lines. However, everyone does have a favorite book, and everyone has a least favorite, and this is, without doubt, the single worst book I have ever read.
When I came across this book, I had just finished a long line of disappointing novesl (Hannibal, for instance). I thought, oh, Ben Elton, he's the guy that does Young Ones and Black Adder, two of my favorite shows. I thought I'd give it a whirl. Now, Elton has a reputation for his long rants about politics, society, the media etcetera, and in this book, he turns his attention on Quentin Tarantino. I happen to like Tarantino quite a bit. When I heard this was a satire on Tarantino, I thought it might be pretty good (anybody remember that bit on the Simpsons where he directs the Itchy and Scratchy episode and gets his head lopped off?)
I was honestly disgusted by this book. The one praise of any kind I can give it is that it moved quickly, and was never really boring. What I expected was a clever mockery of Tarantino. Instead, Ben Elton seems to blame the director not just for what's wrong with Hollywood, but for the faults of the entire world.
The story is about how Bruce Delamitri (he's suposed to be Tarantino, but Ben cleverly changed his name), makes violent films, and how two killers (cleverly disguised clones of the Natural Born Killers), try to get him to take responsibility for their murders because they were inspired by his films.
Ben Elton hates Quentin Tarantino. Alot. It's actually disturbing, the almost sexual level of contempt he seems to hold for the director. If we assume Bruce is Quentin (which is blindingly obvious), we can see that the whole book is a revenge fantasy. There's also an incredibly forced message about why violence is bad, and a satire of Hollywood culture that would have been old in the 1930's, but the main thrust is what Ben would like to see happen to Quentin. Bruce (Quentin) is held hostage, beaten, shot at, has his career ruined, is blamed for the murders, has his home destroyed, watches some of his friends and his ex-wife get killed, and sees his daughter molested and killed.
I'm not sure why this book was written. Ben seems to be trying (with a staggerring lack of skill) to satire Hollywood. Never mind that Tarantino's films are not about violence. Never mind that they are meant as fun, entertaining distractions. Ben Elton seems to think that since some of Tarantino's characters have guns, the director is there fore responsible for every murder committed in America since Reservoir Dogs was released in 1992. It's also amazingly clear that Ben Elton never saw any of the movies, nor does he seem to have any clear idea of who Quentin Tarantino is.
I cannot describe how much I hate this book. I went to sleep angry the night that I finished it, angry that a good entertainer was made the subject of some sick, twisted revenge fantasy by a hafl-retarded "comedian". I've since decided that anything funny that came out of Young Ones was the result of Rik Mayall, and that anything good from Black Adder was from Rcihard Curtis. Douglas Adams is my favorite author, but I now actually think less of him, because of the good review he gave this. I just cannot express how disgusted I am. Ben Elton is the Hitler of the literary communtiy. I'm not saying that I would kill him if I met him, but if I saw him being eaten by dogs, I wouldn't feel too inclined to help him. Not until he gives me a written apology for ever releasing this novel on a poor, unsuspecting world. I honestly feel sorry for anyone who read this, even, say, skinheads, or child molesters. They don't deserve this kind of punsihment.
5.0 out of 5 stars a foreign observer,
By A Customer
It is to the misfortune of most American reader's that Ben Elton's Popcorn is not in mass-distribution in the United States. The reason being is that this British comedian/novelist/playright has put his thumb exactly on both the twisted modern American mentality towards violence and the present state of the entertainment industry in a way most American fail to see. Unlike his first novels, Stark, and This Other Eden, which were offsprings of Elton's stand-up humor, Popcorn is a funny yet serious social commentary. The reader doesn't know when to laugh or when to be disturbed by society's present state of affairs. Aside from exposing the numb acceptance of violence that we all have come to accept on the evening news and in our cinemas, Elton also attacks the "wonder boy" of American Hippness, Quentin Tarantino. Elton is in a unique positon to carry this out given he is the darling of British Hippness. For all of Tarantino's well-recognzed genious, he didn't stand a chance.
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal, fun summertime read with plenty of food for thought,
By A Customer
It is difficult to read Ben Elton's bitingly funny 1997 satire without thinking of Quentin Tarantino, the brilliant director of Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction and most recently Jackie Brown. Tarantino also wrote the screen play for Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers, whose subject is similar to Popcorn's. Popcorn's satire's target is violence both in the movies and in society at large and the media's coverage of it. The book's protagonist, director Bruce Delamitri, is the favorite to win a Best Director Oscar for his violent crime drama Ordinary Americans.
The book's title comes from that tasty movie treat whose aroma is enough to drive customers to the concession stand even on a full stomach. Even the book's jacket is suggestively designed as a box of popcorn, complete with the familiar red and white stripes. Early in the novel, Delamitri thinks to himself, "He was the first to admit that [his work] was only popcorn--but only if other popular works like Romeo and Juliet and Beethoven's Fifth were popcorn too."
Despite our knowing from the outset that Delamitri survives the book's major incident, it remains a rapidly compelling read. Told initially in fragments as Delamitri is interviewed by the police, Elton opens his story after the book's climax. Delamitri reviews his previous days, starting with the day of the Oscars: the morning talk show with the vapid "Ken- and Barbie-types" on Coffee Time, next the speaking engagement at his alma mater where, instead of being treated as the genius for his acclaimed Oscar contender, he ends up being debated by a professor who takes exception to his film's violence and Delamitri's logic for it. We quickly advance to the Academy Awards with Delamitri's Best Director acceptance speech and the party afterwards.
Running parallel to the main plot is the actions of a pair of young killers--Wayne and Scout, dubbed the Mall Killers by the press--who seem to be acting out Delamitri's movie. They are making their way to meet Wayne's hero, ! Delamitri, and it isn't long before the two plot lines join.
But regardless of how enticing popcorn the snack is, it is only insubstantial filler, only temporarily satisfying. While some might argue so too is Elton's book, I think that is most probably deceptive. Elton is after all a screen writer by trade, and it's hard not to visualize the book as a movie. But given the events of the past year, from Princess Di's death to the recent school shootings, the subject of Elton's satire is even more pertinent than when the book first came out. Ideal for a quick, fun summertime read at the beach, Popcorn, offers plenty of food for thought.
4.0 out of 5 stars Pulp fiction,
"Popcorn" is a book that examines major themes - the effect and influence films have on people, violence, the increasing irrelevance to real life in comparison to the things we see on the screen. The big issue is does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? Do the visions and images on screen influence people to copy them?
The implausibly-yet-wonderfully named Bruce Delamitri is a cool, hip, happening Hollywood director of "popcorn" movies, full of gratuitous violence, bloodbaths, witty exchanges, sexy soundtracks, and images of killers being cool whilst killing. Then, the night after winning an Oscar for one such effort, he is confronted by two real-life killers, Wayne and Scout, who take him hostage. Delamitri finds that the horrors of violence in reality are very different to the happenings he portrays on screen. The killers claim that Delamitri's films have influenced them to do the deeds they have, and made what they are "acceptable". Delamitri argues that his films actually reflect what society already is rather than moulding and changing it.
Elton writes with a certain style that lends itself well to this kind of book. The fact he gets laughs out of such material (and gets laughs in earlier books from weighty issues such as environmental catastrophe and disability) shows what a talented writer he is. The book is easy to read despite addressing the themes and making good points. The events in the book occur in a single night, and obviously lend well to a stage production. The dialogue is snappy, although the characters are occassionally lacking in depth. However, throughout the book Elton questions whether such films that make violence appear cool are valid, whilst at the same time he writes some parts of the book as one of Delamitri's film scripts might read! He also questions whether these films really have an effect on moulding the minds of real killers. The points are well made, and in the end the conclusion is quite simply that everyone wants to find an excuse; no one wants to take responsibility for violence in society, and for everything else too.
2.0 out of 5 stars Can the dust jacket be more amusing than the book?,
By A Customer
I must admit I bought this book because the dust jacket made me laugh. I hadn't seen a popcorn box like that since I was a child! What lay between the covers, however, was not so funny. Ben Elton was trying way too hard to be cool and edgy--and it showed. What's interesting is that I chose this book to read right after finishing Killer Instinct by Jane Hamsher and Don Murphy, which details the making of the movie Natural Born Killers from the producers' perspectives. Now that's a shoot 'em up if I ever read one. Instead of Bruce Delamitri, we have the larger-than-life Oliver Stone. Why read a fictionalized over-the-top book like Popcorn when I can read about something that actually happened? The real-life exploits Quentin Tarantino are much more interesting than anything Elton could have dreamed up. Regrettably, there were no sympathetic characters and I began to wish everyone would come to a fiery end. Elton should go back to the drawing board. I wasn't impressed.
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Popcorn by Ben Elton (Paperback - May 5 1997)
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