Before Patton Oswalt became a beloved fixture in comedy, film, and television, including roles in Young Adult, Big Fan, and Ratatouille, he was obsessively watching classic movies at the legendary New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. Discussing his new memoir which takes the reader on a journey into the mind of a film buff, next week Patton will join ALOUD at the Writers Guild Theater for a familial and likely irreverent conversation with his brother and fellow film fanatic, Matt Oswalt. Before the Oswalts take the stage, we caught up with Patton about his addiction to the big screen, books, and his 1.75 million Twitter followers.
You’ve watched a lot of films at the New Beverly Cinema, but you also watch films at library programs. What’s the importance of watching films in a communal setting for you? How does a library screening differ from other cinematic experiences?
Patton: Watching films in a communal setting adds a subconscious dimension to the movie that no one—not the director, writers, actors, and not even each individual audience member anticipated would be a part of the experience. Something that you’d shrug your shoulders at watching alone—or that a director, writer and actor conceived and executed as a means to get from point A to point B—can suddenly become a laugh, or a scream, or a groan of exasperation to an audience, wired together emotionally in the dark.
Watching a film in a library adds another aspect—the feeling of eras colliding and battling each other. You’re surrounded by books, which used to be movies for the masses, and there they sit, like tombstones, while up there on the screen is a moving glow which pushed those books further back into the shadows. Very dramatic, if you’re in the right mind for it.
Although your main passion is film, you are also very literary—you’ve written two books and you took part in the Library Foundation’s Moby Dick project last year. What role did books play in your life growing up—and did they influence your love of film?
Patton: Books were a comfortable bolt-hole out of reality, and prepared me to be comfortable with looking through different windows at the way someone who wasn’t me interpreted reality. Any window—page of a book, comic panel, painting canvas, cathode ray tube, movie screen—the mind wants an expanded horizon.
You are very active on Twitter, yet you recently took a break from it. Do you think such forms of communication enhance or pose a threat to the way we use language today?
Patton: Any new form of communication can enhance the world we live in—ask the people in Tahrir Square if they think Twitter is a threat—but, like anything, it can get misused or, worse, replace life. There are just as many people who have fallen into the pages of books and never re-emerged as have dissolved their consciousnesses online.
You often take your daughter to the Los Angeles Public Library. Can you talk about your visits to the Library? Why is the Library important to you as a father?
Patton: I never go with a specific thing I want to do or don’t want to do. Mainly I like her seeing people excited to get into the stacks, to thumb through pages, to brush up against other minds. The looks on the faces of the freaks, waiting by the main entrance with their notebooks and pages and manifestos? It’s like I’m taking her to see a vanishing species.
An Evening with Patton Oswalt
Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film
In conversation with writer and director (and brother) Matt Oswalt
Friday, January 23, 7:30 PM
Writers Guild Theater