Sometimes I worry about Ann Althouse. She’s often one of the most perceptive and objective bloggers on law and politics, but when she leaves her zone, we get things like her recent dismissive assessment of screenwriter/novelist William Goldman upon the news of his death.
Althouse admits that she hasn’t seen many of Goldman’s films, and I presume that she hasn’t read his novels, either. Nonetheless, she writes, “Goldman seems to have been a competent, successful, mainstream writer, and good for him, but I have no sense of him as original, profound, or speaking to me.”
Let me enlighten her. (And by the way, how could he “speak to her” if she didn’t read his novels or watch his best films?) Goldman was one of the very best, cleverest and reliably excellent screenwriter of his time, and probably any time. Althouse cherry-picks an interview in which he said in part,
“[P]ay attention to the audience. The great thing about audiences is, I believe they react exactly the same around the world at the same places in movies. They laugh, and they scream, and they’re bored. And when they’re bored it’s the writer’s fault.”
Incredibly, Althouse uses this endorsement of lively writing, which Goldman was a master at, to minimize and condemn him. “And that’s the attitude about movies that has taken over in the last 40 years and why I’m not interested in movies anymore. This grand effort to preemptively stomp out all boredom bores me,” she writes, whatever THAT means. Goldman isn’t talking about explosions, sex scenes or CGI dinosaurs. He’s talking about stories that go somewhere, avoiding cliches, and making an audience want to watch and listen. My approach to play direction embodies exactly the same philosophy. I learned a lot about drama and comedy from Goldman’s films.
Everyone has an opinion and they are welcome to it, but bloggers should stay away from uninformed opinions, and on movies, Ann Althouse is uninformed. She doesn’t even try to hide it, beginning her commentary on screenwriter William Goldman while admitting that she’s never seen 1976’s “Marathon Man” (he also wrote the novel, which is terrific)
and 1969’s “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” If you haven’t seen “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” you never cared much about movies, you don’t understand Westerns, you have huge gaps in your understanding of American culture, you definitely lack proper respect for the contributions of William Goldman to it, and I wonder about your intellectual curiosity, frankly.
There may have been screenwriters who contributed more immortal scenes, lines and catch phrases to our lexicon, but not many. For example…
There can be many critical assessments of Goldman and his place in Hollywood history, but the minimum requirement for making such an assessment is watching his movies.