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September 1998, Week 5


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"Charles Derry, Professor of Film, Department of Theatre Arts, Wright State University" <[log in to unmask]>
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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 30 Sep 1998 09:26:15 -0400
TEXT/PLAIN (39 lines)
Regarding Leo Enticknap's comments about my recent post:
He raises some other issues which I find deserving some inspection.
Do we let Spielberg "off the hook" for his claims about realism?  Although
I still think the "realistic" components of the film are less interesting
than other components, Enticknap's  comments suggest how important it is
to separate the claims that people may make for a specific film, even when
those claims are made by the director, from the film itself.  In other
words, we should not hold the "film" responsible for the behavior of
the director or others outside the realm of the film.
I often find the PR machines of Hollywood peculiarly offensive, selling
and hyping the worst components of their own films, diminishing that
is interesting and unique, in favor of highlighting the easiest sale.
When Spielberg was hoping for an academy award for Schindler's List, he
gave interviews in which he widely announced that he could never again go
back to making a film like Jurassic Park.  After he got his Academy award,
presto, he decided to make a Jurassic Park sequel and out comes The Lost
World.    If Spielberg was himself disingenuous, must we now see this
insincerity in Schindler's List itself?  It is important, but difficult,
to separate the maker and the hype from the work itself, but it is
important to do.  [Sometimes I think of this as the "Jerry Lewis
problem"--ie, Jerry Lewis as a director can never be taken seriously in
this country until he is long dead and our memories of his muscular
dystrophy telethon and his unctuousness have been forgotten.]  Or as one
of the best professors I ever had once said, John Hospers, then chair of
the Philosophy Department of U.S.C. once said, "If we were to discover a
letter indicating that Shakespeare thought HAMLET was the best comedy he
ever wrote, would that affect our judgment of the work as perhaps the
greatest tragedy of all time?"  The answer, I think, is no.  And as hard
as it can be, we need to struggle to separate the work from the hype.
"Only Connect."   E. M. Forster
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
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