Shea Serrano is an important man. An important man who writes important things. His latest book, Movies (And Other Things) is the most important thing he’s ever written.
Me? I’m an unimportant man. But this review…this review of Movies (And Other Things) is the most important thing I’ve ever written*.
In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Orlando Bloom’s character says these words “This is either madness…or brilliance” to which Captain Jack Sparrow responds, “It’s remarkable how often those two traits coincide”. That’s what it felt like reading Movies (And Other Things), a book where writer Shea Serrano and illustrator Arturo Torres have crafted a book of essays posited on questions about Shea’s favorite movies and movie characters. Some of Shea’s questions are interesting but ordinary, for example; “Who’s in the perfect heist movie crew?”. Other questions, much less ordinary; my favorite weird one, “Were the Jurassic Park raptors just misunderstood?”. (Shea tries his hardest to convince the audience but the answer is no…the Jurassic Park raptors were not misunderstood). The questions, whether they be ordinary or extraordinary, are answered in fun, charming, and sometimes heartwarming ways.
Serrano and Torres are an All-Star pairing of Mexican American creatives, their catalogue includes; The Rap Year Book, Basketball (And Other Things), and Conference Room, Five Minutes. Each literary endeavor covers a different topic but all three books (four if you include MAOT) follow the same basic formula for success. Shea Serrano is a funny, personable writer and Arturo Torres creates well illustrated, sometimes absurd images in accompaniment. These Texas based bros want you to join in on their fun as they touch on music, sports, and pop culture.
The movies discussed in MAOT range from the uber popular, like the MCU franchise, to the obscure action movies, like Death Hammer 3**. Serrano makes sure to give the reader context for most films mentioned in each chapter and sometimes, chapters are easy to get through without a summary. For example, I felt completely comfortable reading through “What’s the Order for the Gangster Movie Moment Fictional Draft” without watching Shea’s long gangster movie list but have yet to read the chapter “When did you know Booksmart was special?” until I have time to watch the movie (I still haven’t seen it). The book’s cover is a who’s who of action movie heroes and pop culture icons but it’s not fully reflective of the book’s contents. Shea is unafraid to talk about rom-coms, dramas, and Oscar contenders. Shea’s a bro but he’s not a bro. Ya know?
My favorite thing about Shea and Arturo’s book is how unashamed they are to like what they like. Shea is absolutely unfazed by your opinion on his favorite movies. If you don’t like it…don’t read it. He is headstrong about his love for his Mexican heritage (in fact he is completely unashamed of his positive bias towards Mexicans) and bad action movies, and passionate in his hatred for our current administration. Don’t come to MAOT looking to argue or dissuade Shea on his opinions. It’s his world and we’re just living in it.
The hallmark of a Shea Serrano essay is how easy it is to read. He’s a conversational writer. He’s full of tangents, ridiculous anecdotes, and absurd questions but at no point do you feel bogged down in this one way conversation. MAOT is a book that invites you into the psyche of Shea Serrano; to hilarious and heart-warming results. His brilliant but silly questions will undoubtedly cause you to ask your own ridiculous movie questions. Shea’s works inspire writers to write and that just might be the best compliment I can give a writer.
This book doesn’t work without the immensely talented Arturo Torres. Each essay is accompanied by a cleverly illustrated title page and an internal supporting piece. Sometimes, Arturo fully embodies a chapter with the perfect illustration and sometimes Arturo just draws one of Shea’s ridiculous requests for no apparent reason. Either way, the illustrations help pace the book and provide humor and value.
For my last point I want to talk to the reader about Scrubs. Scrubs is a show that is near and dear to both mine and Shea Serrano’s hearts. I know that a television show is not a movie and that Scrubs isn’t covered in Serrano and Torres’ Movies (And Other Things) but it is a very important show (Shea isn’t gonna read this but I’m sure he’d agree). It’s important because I believe that Scrubs is the best example of a piece of entertainment’s ability to seamlessly transition from laugh-out-loud humor to wholehearted emotion. I believe that Shea Serrano’s writing has that same ability. Shea is able to express his experience as a person of color, as a father, a husband; all through a silly book of movie questions. His conversational style encourages the reader to empathize and emote; even through the non-serious subject matter. I left MAOT feeling like I had made a lifelong friend in Shea Serrano and maybe that is the best compliment I can give a writer like Shea.
*okay it’s probably not but Shea Serrano fans would appreciate the bit
**I’m fully aware that Death Hammer 3 is not a movie