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The Independent Critic

 Book Review: Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions by Ed Zwick 
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Why do we rush to read books from our favorite celebrities? Why do we immerse ourselves in the lives of our favorite actors, singers, writers, filmmakers, and others?

While it seems like everyone right now is reading books from Britney Spears or Jada Pinkett-Smith or others, I barely raised an eyebrow when those titles were released and instead my heart went aflutter when I caught sight of "Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions: My Fortysomething Years in Hollywood" by Oscar winner Ed Zwick.

Filmmakers, it would seem, are loathe to write traditional biographies. Instead, they take the worlds they've spent their lives creating and invite us even deeper into them. I've read a number of memoirs authored by filmmakers over the years, I am a professional film journalist after all, and the vast majority of them have been rather light on personal revelations yet filled to the brim with cinematic nuggets of insight and wisdom.

The same is true here.

Ed Zwick is the acclaimed director of such films as Blood Diamond, The Last Samurai, Legends of the Fall, About Last Night, and Glory among others. He created the television show Thirtysomething and executive produced My So-Called Life. He's worked with a number of the film industry's greats, often discovering them or at least empowering them early in their careers, and over four decades in the industry his projects have claimed eighteen Academy Award nominations (seven wins) and sixty-seven Emmy Award nominations (22 wins). He himself claimed the Oscar for producing Shakespeare in Love, a victory made, perhaps, more sweet by his lawsuit against Harvey Weinstein, which he won, after Weinstein tried to squeeze him out.

"Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions" is, quite simply, one of the best of the many books I've read written by filmmakers. The book is less a personal memoir than a creative one. Chapters are organized primarily by films, projects, or creative periods and while Zwick doesn't avoid personal revelation neither does he immerse us in it.

Instead, Zwick invites us into his creative process as he grows as a filmmaker and encounters the "self-proclaimed masters-of-the-universe, unheralded geniuses, hacks, sociopaths, savants, and saints" he's worked with over the years. Refreshingly, he doesn't really hold back whether heaping enormous praise or honestly sharing details regarding his most challenging relationships.

We learn about the complex and complicated relationship, for example, that he shared with a fresh off Ferris Bueller's Day Off Matthew Broderick during the subsequent shooting of Glory. While he's quick to share that the two have since made amends, the vivid storytelling makes it clear this was among his most difficult relationships during filming.

There were others.

Throughout "Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions," there are others where he shares lovingly, ruefully, or even with some degree of existing exasperation as he truly does reflect upon his hits, flops, and other experiences over the years.

I found myself loving nearly every page of "Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions," though I'll confess I found the ending rather abrupt and perhaps lacking the personality that had filled the pages before it. Yet, this is a minor quibble for a book that informed, enlightened, entertained, and widened my view of Zwick and the cinematic worlds he's created over the years.

Each chapter also includes what could almost be called a meditation on the work itself, tidbits and insights and teachings often hard-earned and clearly never forgotten.

I'm not always sure why I choose to read a book by filmmakers, however, what I do know is that what I long for is exactly what I've gotten from Ed Zwick's "Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions." Written with tremendous heart and humor, honesty and vulnerability, "Hits, Flops, and Other Illusions" is no doubt a must-read for anyone who wants to gain greater knowledge and insight into the creative process and those who commit their lives to entertaining us all.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic