Author and Northern Californian Dennis Willis will be making his presence known at the venerable Bay Area bookstore Florey's Saturday July 14th. The occasion marks the release of his new book, "American Popcorn: Hollywood and the War on Common Sense". Full disclosure: I know Dennis and consider him a personal friend as well as a friend of Indie Cinema. That said, who better to herald the call to Floreys than someone so close to the man and his work?
A life-long Northern Californian, Mr. Willis has appeared on numerous Radio and TV programs over the years including currently as KGO radio's movie guy, offering up weekly film finds and flops for your movie going edification. Also, his annual 'Flick Nation' movie guide-book features something like 800 reviews in a witty, easy to digest fashion. Thanks to his KGO duties, Willis sees an average three to five movies a week, which of course keeps the guide-book fresh.
But this year, you might say his heart just wasn't in it. "My father passed away in January and I was already about 100 movies behind where I should have been. The next thing you know, it's March and there's no possible way to see that many movies in such short a time."
Not one to miss an opportunity, Dennis channeled his energies into his weekly Flick Nation radio show. For the un-initiated let me clarify: In addition to the weekly KGO gig, Dennis now produces an hour-long weekly digest called appropriately "Flick Nation". This entertaining audio podcast goes much deeper, offering analysis, interviews, reviews and a slightly snarky, up to-the-minute take on the world of Hollywood.
Dennis has thrown himself into radio production with the goal of expanding from the internet to terrestrial radio and possibly satellite . "This show is different than anything out there. It's about movies and TV, but it's literate and just assumes that the audience knows something about entertainment." Indeed, the Flick Nation radio show is densely packed with weekly movie clips, interviews, factoids and even the occasional red carpet premiere coverage.
"My favorite part of doing the show is having these amazing conversations with actors filmmakers and even other critics." Dennis flavors the broadcasts with juicy contributions from longtime partners Steven Kirk and Steve Wagner, entertainment reporter Kevin Tripp and Rotten Tomatoes' editor-in-chief Matt Atchity. Even yours truly has taken a stab at keeping up with Dennis and his amazing film knowledge. The show can be found at, you guessed it: Flicknation.net.
Despite the TV and radio work, oddly enough it was his work at the Pacifica Tribune that led Dennis back to his current American Popcorn project. For years Dennis had a column in the Tribune. "Chris Hunter (The paper's publisher) asked me to write a weekly column. When I told him I didn't necessarily want to just review movies, he grew even more interested. The more "inside baseball" I got, the more he encouraged me!...I realized there were a few themes that kept repeating: art vs. commerce, the greedy bottom-line stuff studios do, like charge extra for fuzzy 3D or make a movie based on a theme park ride or board game simply because they own the title."
In essence Dennis collected many different articles written for the Tribune and other media like the SF Examiner, grouped them together by subject, with new introductions and postscripts and created a compeling commentary on modern Hollywood. The result is "American Popcorn: Hollywood and the War on Common Sense".
The book is a whole lot of fun, even including some extra nuggets like a list of the dozen films you should put in your Netflix queue plus spotlights of the more original voices from the early part of this century. "The postscripts were especially fun" says Dennis. "I got to go back and reassess how accurate I was about a few subjects or how off the mark I was." I. E. - One of Dennis' famous misses was his bold proclamation that Star Wars, The Phantom Menace would change film as we know it. Well, it kind of did although not in the fashion Dennis had predicted.
Thus far, Willis is thrilled with the reception the book has received. Reviews have been good, and sales have been brisk. He is also thrilled to launch his American Popcorn promotional efforts at Florey's. "It's become a tradition and I wouldn't have it any other way". One day the Flick Nation movie guide will return, likely next year. Meanwhile Willis has been bitten by the commentary bug and will continue to express himself on the radio show and in future editions of American Popcorn.
Dennis Willis will be signing copies of American Popcorn: Hollywood and the War on Common Sense this Saturday July 13th at Florey's Book Company in Pacifica from 2:00 until 4:30 PM. His KGO segments can be heard every Tuesday and Friday afternoon, and the weekly Flick Nation radio show can be heard at flicknation.net.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE FEATURED? Contact me: Martin@SacramentoFilmFestival.com