For a lot of folks, movies are a diversion, a date-night option or something to dip into on a lazy Sunday afternoon; for Patton Oswalt, they weren't a pastime so much as a pathology. During the mid-Nineties, right after the future stand-up-comedy headliner and star of Ratatouille moved to Los Angeles, Oswalt started frequenting the New Beverly Cinema, an old-fashioned single-screen movie theater known for programming everything from Casablanca to vintage creature features. Soon, he started compulsively chain-viewing double- and triple-features as much as he could, personal life and professional duties be damned. Why see friends or forge meaningful relationships, he reasoned, when there's a Hammer horror marathon to be devoured or a rare screening of Ace in the Hole to check out?
Part addiction memoir and part first-person history of the era's alt-comedy boom, Silver Screen Fiend is Oswalt's attempt to detail his celluloid junkie phase and reconcile a four-year period spent literally and figuratively in the dark. "Looking back, I think I was subconsciously trying to teach myself a hard-learned lesson," the 45-year-old comic says, calling from his home in L.A. before embarking on a combination book-reading and stand-up tour. (He'll play Carnegie Hall for the first time on January 9th.) "Basically, that it's more important to be out in the world and living your life than experiencing it secondhand through films. As great as movies are, they should be like a glass of wine with the meal or a really good joint at the end of the day. If you're drinking the whole bottle and not eating at all, well…maybe you have a problem."
The fact that Oswalt is a recovering cineaholic didn't stop him, however, from playing along with a request to map out his rise from budding fanatic to headlining comic via 10 films that moved him, marked him and hit him "right in that formative sweet spot." From silent-horror flicks to, of course, Star Wars, here are the movies that changed his life.