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If It Ain't Broke . . .

April 18, 1993

Of all the strange misconceptions about how movies are made, one of the weirdest is behind the suggestion by Jack Mathews that the pictures of the five directors nominated for an Academy Award automatically become the nominees for best picture (Commentary, April 4).

The sense of unreality is compounded when he goes on to say that the reason his proposal won't be accepted is because the industry leadership "isn't about to acknowledge that directors have more to do with the quality of films than their producer." What about the righteous indignation of writers, actors, cinematographers, film editors, production designers, composers, soundmen, art directors, costumers, set directors--all co-creators in the collaborative process?

Before Mathews, not even the most ardent proponents of the auteur theory contended that direction is the sole measure of a movie's quality. But he would have us believe that "Scent of a Woman" would have been nominated for best picture with any actor in the leading role, or "Howards End" without its screenwriter or the particular book she adapted.

In real life, it often happens that a new director makes his mark in a flawed picture, asserting his own style despite the limitations of the particular project.

All in all, I would consider it a finer appreciation of just what constitutes skilled direction, as opposed to other elements in a movie's quality, if there were more disparity than now exists between the nominees for best direction and those for best picture.

RING LARDNER JR.

Weston, Conn.

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