A Movie Making Nerd by James Rolfe

thewallflower00's review

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Is forty too young for an autobiography? Bruce Campbell wrote his at 44, so I guess it’s all right. But James Rolfe still seems so young. Maybe it’s because he’s in such a “hip and trendy” medium, being one of the first career YouTubers. I feel he still has more to do in his life, that his career has yet to reach its pinnacle. He won’t be the AVGN forever. And some studio is going to recognize his prowess and snatch him up.

The testament to his staying power is not his video game skill, not his penchant for spectacle, but the fact that he’s always been a filmmaker. And that’s what the book is about. And it’s very much in his voice. Close your eyes during an AVGN video and that’s his narrative voice. Kind of gen-X’y, kind of stilted, like someone with a short attention span with short choppy sentences. The style he uses for videos is the same one he uses for writing. Which is not a smooth transition.

Clearly, he wrote this without the help of an editor or professional services. I spotted quite a few typos and grammar mistakes. Not to mention, overall, it lacks deeper self-reflection. Why did Rolfe do these things? What was his motivation? Why was this a mistake and what would he have done differently? A biography should be as much self-analysis as it is a retelling of events. Maybe even a form of therapy. This book lacks that.

But for a guy who’s just a YouTuber, it has some pretty fascinating events. I’d say it’s on par with Lindsey Stirling’s memoir.

helpfulsnowman's review

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Loved it.

I see a couple reviews on here bellyaching about proofing and editing and so on, and I always like to make a distinction between books that have a handful of style issues that aren't like I prefer and books that are a total fucking mess and are borderline unreadable.

To use the language of cinema, since this IS a book about movies: there are movies that are imperfect, a boom mic in frame here, some plot holes there, but they have more than enough of the basic movie structure in them, and they leave you entertained. They're an awesome use of a Sunday afternoon. And then there are movies where you can barely make out the dialog, you're not sure what you're supposed to be watching on the screen at any given time, and they're so difficult to follow that you have to read the Wikipedia entry after to see if you actually saw what you think you saw.

Some folks make out an indie book with a couple typos or comma splices to be the literary equivalent of the second kind of movie. And those folks really only out themselves as rarely picking up an indie or (gasp!) self-published book.

A Movie Making Nerd is a book that's got a couple technical flaws, and if you're unable to look past that, you're missing out. It's incredibly entertaining. It oozes enthusiasm, and I think that's what this book is really meant to do.

James Rolfe is an entertainer. While in film school, it seemed like he grew to dislike pretentious artsy stuff, and he'd take any opportunity to make an entertaining movie instead of a piece of artistic floof. That's the kind of person I really respect and tend to enjoy. I don't like filmmakers who make movies to please other filmmakers, I like filmmakers who make movies to please viewers.

I don't like writers who write books to please other writers. I like writers who write books to please other kinds of people.

The secret success of A Movie Making Nerd is that it's the kind of book that's going to convince people who normally don't read to pick up a book and tear through it this year, and I think that's one of the best things a book can do.

xgirlonfire's review

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flavourlessquark's review

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chucklebuck's review

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Having been a fan of the Nerd for over a decade now and reading some other showbiz memoirs such as the excellent I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jeanette McCurdey and the not-as-excellent Friends, Lovers and the Great Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry, I picked up A Movie Making Nerd in the hope of gaining insight into the life of James Rolfe and some behind-the-scenes introspection into how the show and character came to be and its effect on his life.

Unfortunately this book is so poorly written and edited that there is little, if nothing, of the sort to be found.

Unlike other memoirs which give a glimpse into how the author perceives events and their feelings at the time, A Movie Making Nerd is written as a matter-of-fact chronological series of events. 'This happened, then this happened, then this happened' and so on. There's no insight or nuance into how Rolfe felt about events other than the occasional 'can you imagine how that felt!?' We can't, so it would be nice if you would tell us. There are also moments where individuals essential to the origin and growth of Cinemassacre and the Nerd are mentioned once or twice with no context or importance given to their roles. For example, Mike Matei is mentioned once early on then again towards the end of the book with no character given to his personality or how he shaped the channel and character into what they are today. They are integral to Rolfe's success, yet they are relegated to a single line with no importance or gravitas required given to their introductions in the book as little more than people that Rolfe happened to meet. As such, the writing style comes off as secondary school level and leaves the reader wanting more context and analysis of events rather than just 'this is the sequence in which they happened'.

Rolfe also spends time elaborating on the wrong aspects of his life for this book. James is most widely known as The Angry Video Game Nerd and I purchased this book in the hopes that I would gain greater insight into the creation and production of the show, discovering tidbits about how it is made and the effect is has had on James' life. Instead we get a large focus on other, less idiosyncratic aspects of his life. Yes, it's endearing to hear James talk about learning to use his equipment and making silly movies with his friends as a child, but the amount of detail and analysis that he goes into regarding what is essentially messing around with his friends is unnecessary and repetitive.

A particularly egregious and infamous part of the book is the chapter dedicated to the time he was almost kicked out of college due to his 'roomgoers' at college. This section isn't particularly interesting in the slightest, yet a good portion of the book is dedicated to it. With how much detail Rolfe goes into things, you'd expect it to have a massive effect on his life and personality, but it turns out to be just another thing that happened in his life with no consequence further down the line. It's irrelevant and without it the book would have been a shorter, tighter read.

When we do get to the events that myself and undoubtably many others bought the book for i.e. creating the AVGN character, there is a disappointing lack of any personal insight and reflection to be found. What should have been the bulk of the book is instead relegated to a scant few chapters that again offer little other than 'here's what happened'. While there is a chapter on the creation of the movie, again it is little more than a blow-by-blow account of events as they happened. This section should have been an in-depth analysis of Rolfe's decision-making, why he chose to do what he did, the highlights and lowlights of making a film independently and some honest reflection on the outcomes of the film and how it affected his life after that. Instead we once again get 'here's what happened in this exact order, how wacky is that!?' A great opportunity to endear himself to both his fans and detractors was missed here and these chapters ultimately became as worthless as the ones preceding it.

The worthlessness of the book continues towards its conclusion. Rolfe brings up things that aren't relevant to this book. It's heartbreaking reading the story of his and his wife's struggles having children, but we don't need to know that he has cats. Working with Screenwave would have been an interesting addition to the book, but other than a perfunctory one line mention, nothing more is said of it and the book's narrative continues to fizzle out until it concludes.

What could have been an insightful exploration into the creation of an internet phenomenon and the effect it had on its creator is instead a turgid, poorly-edited sequence of events that are both boring and irrelevant to the creation of such an iconic character. If you're looking to learn more about AVGN, its creation and impact on society, you'd be better off looking to other sources: the creator of the character can only offer a boringly-written sequences of events that aren't relevant to anyone except for himself. This is perhaps the story that Rolfe wanted to tell, but not necessarily the ones that his fans want to hear.

k0rnbr34d's review

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I don't have enough nice things to say about Rolfe. I have loved AVGN since a friend first introduced me to it in high school. We used to spend hours watching his reviews and the Monster Madness series. The overviews of these films gave us a great start to understanding the lineage of horror film and was a nice starter kit for film criticism.

His role as the titular nerd is legendary. He has so many classic videos and helped jumpstart the now obvious association with online video content and gaming. He's also cemented many games into classic status as spectacular duds. In this book he mentions that he's heard many times that when he reviews a game, local game stores get numerous requests for it, no matter how bad it is.

I love watching garbage movies, cringe-listening to bad music, and playing broken games. I think everyone gets some enjoyment from these things. Watching the old seasons of AVGN is a joy, and the amount of work Rolfe put into the series is spectacular. I would describe him as a true outsider artist, and this book confirmed this for me. It begins with a recollection of his childhood and his struggles with possible social/behavioral disorders. This was so illuminating for me. He talked about his time in special education and it really shed a lot of light on him beyond the Nerd persona.

He went into a good amount of detail about his dreams and interest in movies and went over several of his childhood productions he put together. It was great. He had a lot of anecdotes about adolescence and high school, and a lot about college. I love his DIY attitude and it's honestly inspiring how much work he put into it, plus, I live for no-budget mindsets when it comes to art.

The last half of the book lost me a bit as he went into great detail over the AVGN movie, which was widely seen as a big flop. It sounded like hell to make, and did not make for interesting reading content. The end of the book was very brief and edited poorly, unfortunately. It would've been great to hear more about the people he worked with over the years, especially Matei, although he has brought a great deal of negative attention to James over the years.

At any rate, I would definitely recommend this to any hardcore fans. It is very ernest and increased my admiration for Rolfe's artistic ability and work ethic. He is epic. 

msmith2000's review

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laz0rbrain's review

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lechuga2002's review against another edition

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Solid read, this is one of those reads that makes me lose track of time and makes me feel all kinds of emotions in the process.

isaacvthompson's review against another edition

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