Review: Dreams with Sharp Teeth

Harlan Ellison is a mook, but he won’t begrudge you for calling him that.

Dreams with Sharp Teeth

Harlan Ellison is a mook, but he won’t begrudge you for calling him that. With Dreams with Sharp Teeth, director Erik Nelson gives the revered writer a platform to mouth off about his wife and friends, book career, Hollywood dealings, the chair in his workroom and the effects of television. “How do you explain a hurricane?” asks Ellison’s childhood friend Stu Levin. If you can’t, quite a few are remarkably good at it. No longer marginalized as a writer of science fiction, the saber-toothed Ellison is succinctly appraised by acquaintances and critics alike: Robin Williams calls him a mix of “borscht and Berkeley” and The Village Voice’s Carol Cooper praises the dignity of his strategies for survival, which may be considered both an assessment of the man and his work. For sure, this potty-mouthed atheist is a fucking douche, and though his crotechedy view of TV is one explanation for why his cruel bashing of a contestant’s answer on the The Weakest Link hinges on the laughably misguided belief that Naomi Campbell wouldn’t bite the head off a chicken, unlike his friend Williams’s comic shtick, you don’t get a sense that Ellison’s rants are attempts to solicit our validation. The film could do without the special effects that often provide background for Ellison reading passages from his literature, and though Nelson brisks through conversation about the man’s personal life and the highpoints of his career, as someone who has never read a single word Ellison has written, color me intrigued by his prickly persona.

 Cast: Harlan Ellison, Robin Williams, Carol Cooper, Stu Levin, Neil Gaiman, Peter David, Ronald D. Moore, Josh Olson, Dan Simmons, Tom Snyder  Director: Erik Nelson  Screenwriter: Erik Nelson  Running Time: 96 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2008  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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