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.

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



Studio City