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April 1998, Week 4


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 09:31:49 -0400
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"G.W.H." finally got the cheapies around here, so it seemed worth checking
out . . .
     i thought it a pretty godawful movie but i recognize how many personal
factors are involved in such judgments and so i'm not eager to pursue a
general evaluation of the film . . . but i'd very much like some feedback
from the list on one particular . . . if i remember correctly "G.W.H." was
nominated for, and i think won, the academy award for best screenplay . . .
and this, matters of taste aside, seems to me incomprehensible . . .
     the general outline of the story -- disadvantaged hero sees the light
and breaks through to discover the path to achieving her/his true potential
-- is common enough, and decently manipulated has an obvious kind of
appeal, so i anticipated a sappy but reasonably engaging [if not engrossing
film] . . . this kind of plot, i would think, depends on narrative
maneuvers that establish sympathy with the characters and provide some
insight [or simulacrum of insight] into their personalities . . . but the
refusal of the screenplay to pursue any single narrative thread for more
than three minutes at a time, especially when combined with van sant's
Attention Deficit Disorder approach to directing [nicely suited to PRIVATE
IDAHO, but absolutely the wrong thing here] seemed to undermine any chance
the film had to succeed on its own desired level . . .
. . . if i don't want to resort to the total cynicism of colleagues who
suggest that the awards are COMPLETELY political and have nothing to do
with quality, i'm left thinking that the film's screenplay must have gotten
attention merely because of three moderately effective set-pieces: the
second consultation with robin william's shrink; the argument/confrontation
between shrink and math prof; and --the one i liked best-- will's little
diatribe about how taking a corporate job would be selling out his
principles . . . of course this speech -- the single most patient piece of
cinematography in the film -- makes absolutely no sense coming from will,
whose morality involves pummeling people who offended him years ago, and
is, at its best, sophomoric political analysis, redolent of the worst
sixties rhetoric . . . still, it IS an extended piece of verbal language,
and a crowd pleaser -- so perhaps that's what earned the screenplay
attention . . .
but maybe i'm being unfair . . .i recognize that screenplay writing is a
complex craft, with qualities that those of us who only watch and read
about and think about film might entirely miss . . . so i'd be very eager
to hear from the list about possible virtues in the screenplay [or even the
film] that i may have missed . . . or -- lacking that -- some thoughts
about how to explain the film's success
mike frank
Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
University of Alabama.