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AS IF

Mission: Go get the goods on Tinseltown

One man sets out to uncover why Hollywood is cloaking itself in positive-spinning titles. Is treachery afoot?

January 28, 2007|Craig Tepper | Special to The Times

A former high government official now hiding in Texas sent me the following e-mail:

From: Agent2-007

Re: The Way Forward in Hollywood

Since my study group broke up, I've been sort of at loose ends. It started as a book group that met twice a month mostly to share pics of our grandkids. In fact, we'd just finished "Marly & Me" when we got bogged down with Iraq. Afterward, when we all agreed we needed a break, I asked my pal Bob Gates what he'd be up to and he said he was going to be tied up -- but did I realize how many "good" movies there were to see just now?

I was insulted at first, hoping he'd take the hint. So when he told me I was better off not getting the DoD on my resume and asked had I seen "The Good Shepherd," I figured we were just making small talk, since he used to head up the CIA. It was only when he asked if I'd report back on "The Good German" and I said, "Sure, of course, count on me," and he furtively slipped me an envelope that I realized my country needed me again. My mission: Hollywood. We know the media can't be trusted to point out the "good" that America's doing. So what was going on? I was to get to the bottom of it and make my findings public.

So here they are: Last year alone produced four notable "good" films. Along with "The Good Shepherd" and "The Good German" there'd been "A Good Year" with Russell Crowe and a PBS movie called "A Good Murder." "The Good Life" with Bill Paxton and Harry Dean Stanton is due out this year, not to mention 2005's "Good Night, and Good Luck."

My first thought was George "Do-Gooder" Clooney was behind all this, so I called him. Right off, he admitted it. He was only interested in making "good" films. "What about 'Ocean's Twelve'?" I thought, but said, "Look, George, this trend appears to be media-wide."

"Well, I don't control the media," he opined ("opining" being a favorite smart-aleck liberal response according to Bill O'Reilly). It was a denial which, you'll agree, coming from the "Sexiest Man Alive" is as good as tacitly saying he does control the media. But what was the idea, was this a whitewash? Was Hollywood wrapping itself in "goodness" to get America to believe it was not a tool of the insurgents, or terrorists, or communists, or whoever it was had gotten us into such deep trouble lately? "I really couldn't say," Mr. Clooney fibbed, and said he had more urgent business, like world hunger or some genocide to help stop. As Don Rumsfeld would say, "My goodness!"

So I went to see the current films, "The Good Shepherd" and "The Good German," or "The Good German Shepherd" as some wags have put it. I admit I was surprised, it was like watching movies from the good old days, when America was the bastion of all that was right and good. Both films hark back to World War II, the last really "good" war, where "good" and "evil" were clear as night and day. (By the way, another film simply titled "Good," with Viggo Mortensen, is due in 2008 -- it's about the rise of national socialism.)

Then it hit me. It was classic misdirection. The abundance of "good" movies was there to hide an absence -- the "great" ones Hollywood was no longer making! Sure, "The Good German" was "good," but it was no "Casablanca." And neither was "The Good Shepherd." Where had the great movies gone, movies like "The Great Escape" or "The Great McGinty," "The Great Santini" or "The Great White Hope"? Or even a not-so-great great movie like "The Great Bikini Off-Road Adventure"?

I checked, and America, in this regard you can breathe a sigh of relief. The plot's been foiled. In its infinite capacity to adapt, Hollywood has already ordered up a small surge of "great" movies. "The Great Buck Howard" with John Malkovich is due this year. And next year, "A Great and Terrible Beauty" will arrive from Mel Gibson's company, which can't resist apocalyptic titles. There's even word the Girls Gone Wild gang may revive the bikini franchise and give us a "Great Thong YouTube Adventure." So, hoping better things are coming our way this year, and in '08.

Best regards,

Big Jim "I Wished I'd Never Gotten Involved in That Recount" Baker

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