Friday, January 29, 2010

On The Web: Lem Dobbs

Sorry I haven’t posted this week. So much time and so little to do.

Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.

One thing I have made room for in recent days is this Cosmoetica interview with screenwriter Lem Dobbs, whose credits include Dark City, The Limey, and The Limey’s commentary track, which is so good it deserves to be treated as a separate project. The interview is truly epic – 53,000 words, 90 pages – wide-ranging, and brutally honest. It’s also one of the best things I’ve read in years. Some excerpts:

Books are published now – crime novels, for example, which is a field I still follow – that are so horrible, it’s mind-boggling. Covered in laudatory review quotes and blurbs, listing all the awards they’ve won – you can’t believe it. It’s quite often impossible to find a bad review of a book, that’s how much of a racket it’s become.

I agree with him. Which kills me, because when I read a lousy crime novel – and lately I’ve read a few, all blurbed by writers I respect and touted elsewhere – I hold my tongue. Bill Crider recently summed up my feelings on the subject of reviews perfectly. I don’t see myself as a critic. I like to use my tiny corner of the internet to call attention to the good stuff. But every once in a while, when for reasons of my own I finish a book that’s a dud, I question that approach.

Dobbs on Hollywood now:

They’d much rather hear what they think is a “cool take.” But not knowing what’s old, they have no idea what’s new. So the whole phony, broken system is an exercise in futility and another reason movies are much more uniform in their awfulness. There’s absolutely no patience for, or respect or appreciation for, ideas outside the airless dome of a very limited frame of reference. If you engage in a discussion of who the “villain” is, for instance, you’d better do it in an excited and animated way (this is why it’s helpful to have a writing partner who’s also wearing big ol’ baggy shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and a turned-round baseball cap and chortling) – because to roll your eyes and sigh and question whether there even has to be a villain would be to challenge the whole current paradigm. And the “villain,” of course, once established, has to be motivated by nothing less than destroying the entire world – and so on – from cliché to cliché. If you’re unwilling to – sincerely – play this game, you might as well stay home ... Who was the “villain” in THE GREAT ESCAPE, or THE DIRTY DOZEN? Remade now – and don’t think they’re not trying – there would have to be an evil, evil, evil, evil Nazi in alternating scenes, constantly snarling, “I want them caught, I want them stopped, I want them dead!”

Bookmark it. Go back to it in stages. It’s worth the effort.