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Sneaks Fallout

September 17, 2000

Helen Hunt is a likable actor and seems like a decent person, which makes Amy Wallace's article on her all the more irritating when it comes to Hunt's input into the screenplays she chooses to do ("Talk About Connected," Sept. 10).

Any screenwriter will tell you that ideas, good, bad and horrendous, come from everywhere: the director, the actors, the mailman, the girlfriend, the maid, the caterer. Most writers hear them out with equanimity, particularly when they come from The Star. (Did Wallace really believe anyone would be stupid enough to tell The Times their Star was a meddling idiot?)

When Wallace tells us that Hunt ". . . doesn't so much read a script as unravel it," searching for what a character "ought to do," one wonders where she was during the making of "Twister"? Or that truly grim year of "Mad About You"?

The truth is that suggesting shutters would look nice on the windows is not the same as being an architect. Hopefully Hunt understands this.

JAMES LORIN BISHOP

Valley Village

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The "Blair Witch" fans have it backward ("Trouble Brewing Over a Sequel," by Christopher Noxon). It's the first film that was a cheap, exploitative rip-off. The new film sounds like an interesting attempt to bring some self-reflective substance to the story.

Incidentally, "Blair Witch 2" director Joe Berlinger, not Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick, made the scariest movie of the '90s: "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders of Robin Hood Hills."

GARY DAVIS

Culver City

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The articles by Reginald Hudlin ("If It's a Question of Money . . .") and Patrick Goldstein ("Doing the Right Thing? Not Yet") certainly prove that Hollywood is one of the two most accurate barometers on the state of race relations in America. The other is the prison system, where racial animus and polarization among whites, blacks, Latinos and Asians are so intense that, nationwide, the four groups are segregated from one another in every aspect of prison life.

Spike Lee should not have been surprised when supposedly "hip" studio execs had never heard of the comics he was pitching for his "Kings of Comedy" project. Years ago, Mark Canton and his executive staff at Warner Bros. had never heard of Prince when "Purple Rain" was pitched to them, yet Prince was already a celebrated rock star at the time. So-called "hip" studio execs, like the rest of white America, have appropriated the external manifestations of African American culture without any real understanding of that culture and even less motivation to learn.

I don't necessarily agree that upper-echelon black executives are the panacea black filmmakers are seeking. In order for black executives to matriculate through the studio system to reach that level, they would have to mirror studio philosophy. That doesn't bode well for African American filmmakers seeking a sympathetic ear for their projects. In many cases, pitching to an African American studio exec could be like pitching to a white exec.

If Hollywood is looking for a black drama with "hit" written all over it, they might consider a remake of the 1967 Sidney Poitier/Spencer Tracy/ Katharine Hepburn film "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Only the black guy should be a high school dropout with limited skills working at Kmart. And for those readers who believe this an implausible premise, may I suggest you stop looking at "Survivor" and turn on MTV's "The Real World."

Better yet, visit a local club and meet the black guys white girls are dancing with. I guarantee you they aren't Harvard-educated neurosurgeons.

ROLAND S. JEFFERSON

Los Angeles

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Gosh, where to begin? I understand that New Line's Mike De Luca has a stake in defending the greenlighting of black comedies over dramas, but what the heck does he mean when he says issues dealt with in a black film are "inevitably" black issues?

Does that mean a black film that deals with, for example, infidelity, the loss of a child, alcoholism or a person's place in the world, becomes less accessible because black people are the only ones who experience these problems? Or does it mean that De Luca has no interest in black dramas and is laying his lack of interest on the viewing audience. It's pretty hard for the viewing public to render an opinion on what doesn't get made.

I wish Patrick Goldstein had asked De Luca to give examples of "inevitably" black issues.

TANNIS WATKINS

Los Angeles

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I am beginning to think that I should make this into a form letter. The Times perpetuates the most persistent myth in Hollywood: that directors are the authors of the movies they direct. In your Fall Sneaks, you list 84 films that will be released in the next few months, mentioning key cast members, storyline and director. Nowhere do you mention the names of the people who created the films, the people without whom there would be no films.

Imagine an orchestra announcing its fall concert schedule. A concerto for violin and orchestra, with Joe Smith playing the violin; a symphony with Jane Smith conducting; a cantata in D-minor, with Jill Smith as mezzo-soprano, etc.

When we go to the movies these days we are invariably shown an advertisement that proclaims that if we want "the real story" about the entertainment industry, we should read The Times. It's time you guys lived up to your advertising.

PETER LEFCOURT

Los Angeles

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