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April 1998, Week 5


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Murray Pomerance <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Thu, 30 Apr 1998 16:11:24 -0400
TEXT/PLAIN (53 lines)
In good will, let me add this question to the current discussion about
GOOD WILL HUNTING, a film I *happened* to like and *perhaps shouldn't
have,* but which is nevertheless getting some screenplay here.  Part of
that screenplay is, I suppose inevitably, the discussion of its
importance, because it won an Oscar, and it's the Oscar I want to bring
up, a little fitfully I admit.
Is there anybody here who has anything to say about either (a) the Oscar,
or (b) films that have won the Oscar, or (c) the process or winning of
the Oscar, or (d) what we make of films that win the Oscar, or (e)
anything related to these themes, that is *not just* putting down
Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the dolts who
admire the Oscars and the Oscar-winners, commercial vs. artistic film,
the filmic establishment, etc.?  It's not that I don't want to critique
these entitites--I surely do.  But I'm just getting tired of hearing and
reading the same thing over and over in so many languages.
Why, for instance, set upon Damon/Affleck except that they won an award
and are being made into something by p.r. engines?  Same for Cameron?
Would we honestly jump so quickly if these films/persons weren't being
uplifted mechanically before our eyes?  And why, when we jump, do we
always jump in exactly the same way about exactly the same issue, to wit,
the fact that such mediocre filmmaking inevitably and inexorably wins praise?
Let me be bold and ask directly:  what is the problem with mediocrity,
that we should spring at it so urgently?  Does it threaten some latent
sense of class superiority we would like to believe exists in some
films?  Or in the social world--and represented through certain films?
Why is it important to us, in short, to establish, to prove, to utter,
that GOOD WILL HUNTING is schlock?  Note: I am not asking whether or not
it IS schlock--it may be, it may not be, and it may be impossible to
know.  But we wish to make the claim: that the story is borrowed or
stolen, that the setting is inauthentic, that the writing is sophomoric, etc.
I'm asking this for a great number of reasons, only one of which is that
I teach and rather like sophomores and don't think of their sophomoricism
as automatically a culpability.  I think, too, that the sweeping critique
of this film, of TITANIC (in which I surely participate), of AMISTAD and
almost all Spielberg films, is a way of hiding outside the bounds of
serious and helpful attention material we may in fact find ourselves
troubled by.  I'm suggesting a closer, more patient, more open reading
less eager to put GOOD WILL HUNTING in its "proper" place.
A question, at any rate, made for inspiration, not challenge, and sent
with best wishes to the list:
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.