Bambi vs. Godzilla



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  • Bambi vs. Godzilla

    Excerpts from a review of David Mamet's new book in Saturday's Wall Street Journal. Very provocative -- and I left out the most controversial aspects out of mercy for the moderator.

    In Hollywood's Maw
    David Mamet reports, with venom, on the state of the movie business
    January 27, 2007; Page P8

    In 2000, playwright David Mamet wrote and directed the film "State and Main," a satire about the effect of a Hollywood production on a small town in Vermont. Seen through the eyes of a writer new to the dehumanizing effects of the movie business, Mr. Mamet's film lampooned producers, airhead stars and corrupt politicians.

    Mr. Mamet's "Bambi vs. Godzilla" is partly a translation of "State and Main" into an entertaining nonfiction diatribe. In the movie, the executive in charge of the production suggests rewarding an underling with an associate-producer credit. Hearing this, the wide-eyed writer asks a co-worker: "What's an associate producer credit?" The more experienced hand replies: "It's what you give your secretary instead of a raise."

    In "Bambi vs. Godzilla," Mr. Mamet indulges his contempt for producers more fully, saying that a typical member of the species flourishes without possessing any discernible talent other than rapaciousness. Mr. Mamet claims that he has seen producers practice "theft, fraud, intimidation, malversion . . . with such regularity that its absence provokes not comment but wonder." This is one of the book's milder passages.

    Of course, Mr. Mamet is not always on the attack (though usually he is). Through a series of loosely connected essays, he stops to explain, for instance, how to write a screenplay. ("Almost any film can be improved by throwing out the first ten minutes.") He explains as well why movie sequels proliferate: "The motion picture megaliths, having earned more money than they could have foreseen with the original, begin eating their own entrails in a frenzy to earn all the rest." He describes what function movie critics serve: They're a "plague" whose real job is "to sell newspapers" and "defend the status quo."

    Mr. Mamet has a long history in Hollywood, from writing screenplays for "The Untouchables" and "The Verdict" in the 1980s to writing and directing films based on his plays. But readers hoping to find mounds of gossip in "Bambi vs. Godzilla" will be disappointed. He does give a few examples of whiny stars and cruel producers, but he prefers not to name names. Mr. Mamet would rather skewer Hollywood itself -- as a sinkhole where standards of loyalty and common sense have disappeared.

    Consider his definition of Tinsel Town's version of the golden rule: "Feel free to treat everyone like scum, for if they desire something from you, they'll just have to put up with it, and should they rise to wealth and power, any past civility shown toward them will either be forgotten, or remembered as some aberrant and contemptible display of weakness." Mr. Mamet is equally bleak on the subject of the decline of film art and the triumph of the blockbuster mentality.

    He also urges writers to ask three simple questions as they compose their plots and screenplays: "Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don't get it? Why now?" Mr. Mamet appears to doubt that he'll ever get what he wants from Hollywood. This book, filled with eccentric, keen, uncompromising insights, is what happened as a result. Why now? Possibly because the movie business needs to hear it.
    Last edited by Marine66; 01-28-2007, 08:45 AM.

  • #2
    Re: Bambi vs. Godzilla

    Mamet's usually worth a read. Looks interesting.

    But isn't he a producer himself these days? I guess he's not counting showrunners, but they can abuse their not insubstantial powers the same as anyone else.

    Power corrupts. Or power attracts those who are already corrupted.
    If you really like it you can have the rights
    It could make a million for you overnight