where the writers are

Remember the days when you couldn't wait for Oscar night; when it was tough to pick the best movie?  

I remember going to see 90% of the films nominated for Best Picture, and lamenting it when I missed even one of them.    Yes, those were the days of "As Good As It Gets," "Julia," "The English Patient," "Terms of Endearment," "Shakespeare In Love,"  "Schindler's List," and "Road to Perdition."

"Slumdog Millionaire?"  --- I don't think so.    

Though I haven't seen her in either "The Reader," or "Revolution Road," it might be worth watching tonight's ceremony for Kate Winslet as she's one of my all-time favorites from "Room With A View," and I'm a Mickey Rourke fan from way back.           Sean Penn was magnificent in "Milk," a wonderfully directed, and authentic, film, but I miss how my heart would beat electric at the mere mention of Oscars.

But, none of the movies honored tonight makes me want to run to the movies like "North by Northwest," or "Rain Man."     

Now, I can barely find a DVD worth renting at Hollywood Video, but the odds of finding a DVD to my liking are astronomically greater than the probability of finding one in a theatre that won't disappoint.

Earlier this week, I rented "Gonzo," a wonderful documentary about the life and times of journalist Hunter Thompson.   Remember when it was in the theatres?   Johnny Depp does the narration, and he's brilliant, as always.   The film featured a former president, Jimmy Carter, and presidential candidate, George McGovern, both of whom were friends with Thompson.

 I think the film lasted, oh, something like a week, and then went right to DVD.     John Cusack's "War" was right next to "Gonzo" on the shelf.

When I showed my screenplay to a friend, his response to it was simply, "I like happy endings."      Guess that explains the "Slumdog Millionaire" phenomenon.        Guess that rules out "A Brilliant Mind" or, for that matter, "Terms of Endearment."  

As the character played by Jack Nicholson, in "A Few Good Men," says:  "You can't take the truth."   Indeed, we can't which may explain why more people were interested in reading the tabloids than about the break-in at the Watergate Hotel, as the documentary "Gonzo" asserts.     

"We want to be entertained," another friend once said.   "Nobody goes to the movies to be bummed out."   Guess nobody thinks of movies as an artform, or a window into a perverse world. 

 Whoooops--- big thumbs up to "Mary Poppins," big thumbs down for "Schindler's List," and "Platoon."     Better save "Platoon" and "Apocalypse Now" for the real live battlefield.   Nobody wants the ravages of war, and an eyewitness view of an internment camp, to interfere with their popcorn.    

We want happy endings---everywhere but in real life.

9 Comment count
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I Will Watch The Oscars

This is the first year I have seen none of the movies up for the Academy Awards. Mind you, it has nothing to do with "happy endings" but mostly due to circumstance.

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Haven't seen a one, this year...probably a combination of the prices and the fact that my wife has allergies that make it hard in public places sometimes.

But I find LOTS of movies I like, we like, on NETFLIX, and at Blockbuster, too, or Hollywood, when we used to go there. Mostly small and/or foreign films. I feel it's still the thrill movies have always been...I mean, they hold a mirror up to life, showing sometimes its glory, sometimes its hurdles.

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We just watched a 4-part PBS (from 1994) bio of FDR. What a story his life was! Scarcely even need a "dramatic" treatment, a documentary treatment is drama enough!

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Happy Endings

Jayne, even though I saw it when it first came out (sic), I'm still not entirely sure what I think about Milk. (Did you happen catch Hilton Als's very nuanced analysisin The New York Review of Books?)

But I disagree with you about Slumdog Millionaire. While I think it is overrated, I did enjoy it, and I don't think it's necessarily more popular because it has a happy ending. First of all, it's a pretty harrowing movie, so much so that the happy ending, such as it is, almost feels tacked on—almost.

Second, it's not all that happy, since...well, maybe it would be too much of a spoiler to say what actually happens, but too happy an ending would mean a different fate for the brother.

I don't think you can make a case for or against happy or tragic endings for films. The only judgment should be: does it serve the story? I'm sure your screenplay's ending serves your story just as much as Slumdog's does its story.

Maybe many people yearn for happy endings in movies because most endings in life aren't happy, even though we might want them to be.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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I haven't seen Slumdog yet...

but the conversation on happy endings reminds me of the early 90's when so many movies had happy endings. Pretty Woman was supposed to end with Julia Roberts' character dying. Mo Better Blues was critqued because of its happy ending, but I think Spike Lee needed to do a movie with a happy ending.

Me, I love happy endings. Corny yet true, I love it when the hero gets the girl, James Stewart sings "Aud Layne Syne" at the end of It's a Wonderful Life,  Shirley Temple gives a toss of her blonde curls and shows off her smile, and we can live to see another day.

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Hilton Al's analysis

Thanks for the heads-up about Hilton Al's analysis in NYROB which I've just read.   It's brilliant, and I agree---the major aesthetic obstruction, in a biopic, is the hard reliance on fact which is why Shakespeare wrote tragedies based on history, and not biopics.  

 The best thing about "Milk" wasn't the screenplay which, as Al suggests, is formulaic, but the acting, and the directing----Penn and Brolin were magnificent as was Gus Van Sant.    

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Thanks to Max, Dale, and Huntington for your comments. I wouldn't miss the Oscars for anything whether I've seen the movies or not. I love motion pictures.

Huntington, you're right about not judging movies by their endings. I pick movies and gynecologists by their names, and so far I've been right about them all.

I think we have way too much sentiment, and not enough substance, in general, though I recognize the need for both. I loved "A Room with a View" though there are some who would call that film sentimental. Have no desire, or intention, to see "Slumdog," and didn't see "Little Miss Sunshine," either. Chalk it up to Attention Deficit Disorder. I couldn't sit still long enough to read until, at about 15, I read "Crime and Punishment."

My screenplay isn't concerned with happy, or unhappy, endings, but with truth, and the universal desire to censor that which is uncomfortable, or gapingly real.

Wouldn't it be a refreshing change if society, as a whole, worked to bring about more happy endings in life instead.

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I sure do!

I agree completely. It's proper to express sentimentality in art because there is sentimentality in life, but it doesn't have to get in the way of good art's other raisons d'etre. A Room With A View is a great example because it reeks of sentimental nostalgia for pre-WWI bourgeois England, but also has so much more going on.

I encourage you to give Slumdog Millionaire a chance, and even Little Miss Sunshine. Neither title does justice to the dark, complex things that happen in each film. There are good reasons why Sunshine won the screenplay Oscar that year.

Most of all, I'm really glad you posted an entry that made me want to continue a conversation in your comments section. I hope we hear from others about this stuff, especially about how a story ends—whether it's a novel, a play, or a screenplay—must above all be true to the story as a whole. Thanks!

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Thanks to you

Thanks to you, Huntington, for your comments.

It's good to know that you take the time to read our posts, and to comment.