Jewish World Review March 28, 2000/ 21 Adar II, 5760
Not for Hollywood is life in a dirty, rotten capitalistic system, so in thrall to the right-wing Christian homophobic tobacco society, where a woman often has to drive halfway across town to get the abortion that is her right.
The town rises above all that once a year, with the celebration of true-life stories, often sad ones, but all with the silver lining that is the care, the compassion, the warmth with which the film industry regards those less fortunate, the huddled masses yearning to make do with the Lexus 300 GS instead of the Lexus 400, which is of course the industry standard. (We're only now recovering from the Reagan years.)
The awards this year reflected the severe sense of sacrifice that has overtaken the town. Jack Nicholson spoke movingly of this with his tribute to Warren Beatty ("We almost lost him to politics"), and Mr. Beatty responded without disputation. Everyone here, including Arianna Huffington, understands that the presidency would have been Mr. Beatty's for the asking.
"American Beauty," which won most of the major awards, is a grim tale of homophobia in the suburbs, where a young man who lives with his feet two inches off the ground has trouble gaining altitude, and "The Cider House Rules," novelist John Irving's own adaptation of his book, is a heart-warming story of how a young black woman almost misses out on getting her abortion, and succeeds only after the abortionist's apprentice overcomes his right-wing revulsion at the culture of death, sort of like the Nazi who rescues a Jew in spite of himself.
Curiously (or maybe not so curiously), Mr. Irving, taking no chances in the months leading up to awards night, affected an observer's ambivalence, if not a neutrality, in his exposition of the theme. But when he had Oscar safely in hand he thanked his muses at Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. Courage is rarely scarce in these precincts.
Hollywood's gritty dedication to telling it exactly "like it is" is reflected in ways large and small, beginning with the screenwriter's craft. Certain rules are followed at all times. This is not formula writing, of course, but strict adherence to the discipline and restraint that is the mark of the movie culture.
Alex Metcalf, the hot Hollywood screenwriter, passes along this collection of the rules, some small and some large, that have become coda over the years, lending an air of verisimilitude common to all movies:
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