Monday, April 03, 2006

Sports: Opening Day

My adopted hometown Mariners lost their opener to the Pacific Rim Angels of Anaheim (rechristened again so that fans from Juneau to Yokohama can claim them as their own). But my actual hometown Mets won at Shea, and looked good doing it. More importantly, there’s now always something to watch on TV.

If only I could get to MoMA for their baseball movie series ...

Book: Backstory 4, edited by Patrick McGilligan (2006)

The Backstory interviews with screenwriters are invaluable for any student of the movies. Volume Four, about scribes of the 1970s and ‘80s, is no exception, even though it has its share of flaws.

For instance, spelling errors. A film reference work should know that there is no ‘i’ in Sydney Pollack, nor an ‘h’ in Nicolas Cage.

Some of the material is dated. At 72, Alvin Sargent had his greatest commercial success with Spider-Man 2. Striking pop culture gold at that age should provide interesting fodder, but no mention of the movie is made because the interview is several years old. Lawrence Kasdan talks about the promise of the Clinton administration in a Q&A from 1992.

Several star writers of the ‘70s – the unrelated Goldmans William and Bo, Robert Towne, Paul Schrader – aren’t included. Neither are the two writers who kicked off the spec boom of the ‘80s, Joe Eszterhas and Shane Black.

Not that I’d quibble with the names that did make the cut. Talents as diverse as Elmore Leonard and Paul Mazursky are heard from, along with several of my personal heroes. Like high concept king Larry Cohen, the relentlessly spare Walter Hill, and master of all trades Donald E. Westlake, who says of the film made from his novel Bank Shot:

... it was a farce shot in extreme close-up, so whenever somebody stepped on a banana peel all you knew was that they’d left the frame.

Frederic Raphael is more a writer of the 1960s and the 1990s, but any opportunity for the man who penned the extraordinary script for Two for the Road to weigh in is welcome. Particularly when he says things like this, about the making of Darling:

We then had various meetings with people involved in what they conceived to be the world of such a woman – as if Shakespeare, before being allowed to write KING LEAR, would have been required to meet with a certain number of dethroned monarchs of a certain age in order to discover what they had in common.

I eagerly await Volume Five, on screenwriters of the 1990s, even though the pickings may be slim. As John Milius observes in his interview, writers used to have twenty or thirty credits while today, “there are a lot of very successful writers who have no credits and ... a lot ... with one or two.” McGilligan has his work cut out for him.