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Big-Screen Values

Having attended Bob McKee’s terrific class on screen writing, I enjoyed Calendar’s Feb. 26 article (though writer Martin Zimmerman left out one of the best parts of McKee’s seminar: his a cappella rendition of “As Time Goes By”).

However, I was disturbed by McKee’s uncharacteristically superficial view that the “relativization of values” is a major factor in the failure of many current screenplays--as if an ongoing examination of values by a society is a primarily destructive process.

Many Americans, women and non-whites being the most obvious, have benefited enormously from postwar changes in values, and some of the best movies I’ve seen in the last few years--"Prizzi’s Honor,” “Birdy,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Platoon,” “La Bamba,” “Crimes of the Heart,” “Hope and Glory,” “Housekeeping,” “Bull Durham,” “Rain Man"--couldn’t have been shown had this not occurred.

McKee isn’t wrong (though he’s exaggerating) when he says that “in the ‘30s and ‘40s, even the worst B movie had a good story.” But he neglects to mention that what those movies often lacked, thanks to the rigid values embodied by the Hays Code, were credible, satisfying resolutions.

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I’d rather see screenwriters struggle with changing values than embrace a narrow field.

TOM SILVESTRI

Studio City


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