Posted by: Judy M. Goodman | November 22, 2013






Recently, I saw two fairly new movies that I’d missed when they were in first run.  I don’t get to the theater very often, mostly because of the economy. However, on occasion, I will splurge. Something with Judi Dench promises good character-based stories[3]. For example, the last Harry Potter broke open my moth infested purse. Yes, of course, I saw all of the others first run. However, when the first couple were released, I was still able to practice the worst of my financial habits: multiple viewings in the first week!

The economy is only a small part of self-imposed banishment from soda-sticky floors Dobbyand popcorn underfoot like sand on the beach. My taste in movies has become rather rigid and, at some point, I lost the confidence I once had in the production of the American cinematic story — comedies particularly. For awhile, despite “knowing what I liked,” I was convinced that all the truly great films had been released before I was born.





Though I continue to eschew some of the choices filmmakers have made based on the assumption that the primary audience for film today is males 18-25 years of age, I will admit films are growing up again. Okay, so my memory of the “old days” is a bit convenient. Though I won’t waste any time with them, thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I’ve seen some dang silly movies made during Hollywood’s “Golden Era,” though primarily, that was a time when character-driven plots ruled. Even the studio logos had personality! What I most remember is that my high school years were pockmarked by the likes of “Beach” and “Carry On” movies. The “Carry On” films were part of Britain’s adolescence: driven by slapstick, sexual humor. Beach movies were driven by music and an assumption of sex — neither of which filled my bill at that time.

Wings of Desire


The two films began to change my mind each gave me a rather rude shock. Since the ’80s, American romantic comedies had been aimed at a much younger crowd. We were facing a new crop of actors and a new social sensibility. Though some of them were enjoyable, few were my idea of a great film, “Wings of Desire” (Road Movies Filmproduktion 1987) was labelled “too talky” and made into a Romantic Comedy called “City of Angels.”  “Wings of Desire” relies primarily on two things: what two angels bear witness to and brilliant cinematography; yet it is still a very personal story of an angel who chooses mortality. 


“City of Angels”  moved the setting from post war Germany to present day Los Angeles, cast cast Meg Ryan, Nicholas Cage (two of my favorites) and gave the ending tragic overtones, unlike “Wings of Desire” which acknowledged a tragic past while looking forward to an uplifted future. A clear indication that Hollywood and I were of different mind sets.



Suddenly last week, while in the library, I tripped over “Hysteria” (Forthcoming Films 2011) and “Dragonheart” (Universal Pictures 1996.)  For those of you who missed it,  “Hysteria” was a feminist romantic comedy set in the Victorian era, illustrating the invention of the British personal vibrator. Very funny and very scary, this film focuses on a doctor with the temerity to challenge the managing physician on the hospital’s blatant lack of concern for sanitary conditions. When fired, he ends up working for a physician whose primary clientele were women suffering from “Hysteria” and requiring a proper wank from a licensed physician.[10] The other unignorable character is his new employer’s daughter, an outspoken, free-spirited feminist who runs a clinic for working women. Okay, sex is still a Hollywood staple and no red state politician will ever be able to change that — especially when two strong characters of opposite sex lead the story unerringly forward — three, if you count the vibrator.



People have been telling me to see “DragonHeart” for years. And I’m extremely glad I finally listened to them. It’s a love story, not necessarily between the male and female leads — both worthy characters themselves — but between the last Dragon slayer and the last Dragon. You know, a buddy picture. While the female lead was a strong, capable person, she didn’t have as much action as, say, Snow White in “Snow White and the Huntsman[11]” (Roth Films 2012), as the director, Rob Cohen pointed out in the commentary, she was “the moral compass” of the film. Indispensable, unlike so many of Hollywood’s so called “Heroines.”

Both “Hysteria” and “DragonHeart” gave me hope for a better cinematic future here. Yet, it’s still a fact that when films spring from a book, a previous movie, or some other “published” inspiration, they become something different, whether or not they stay faithful to the source. We, as writers, need to be aware of that. Books, stories, and stage plays have limited authorship. By it’s very nature, films have many “authors:” producer(s), director(s), writers(s) [I’ve seen as many as four screen credits for “writer” in one film], cinematographers, as well as crafts people: effects, make-up, and hair artists, not to mention couturiers. Writing for film requires a very laid back attitude toward collaboration.



[1]RKO ‘s legacy includes classic films like Citizen Kane, King Kong, and It’s a Wonderful Life.
[2]Judy Dench
[3] Yes, that includes the latest Bond: Skyfall (Eon Productions 2012) Surprise, Surprise. Maybe I’m as guilty as those who thought all those wonderful, high grossing, “women’s pictures” must be flukes!
[4]Harry Potter’s Dobby, a free elf who knew the meaning of loyalty.

[5]The “Carry On” movies were British favorites from the late fifties through the seventies.
[6]The “Beach” moves were the standard for teenage angst in the sixties.
[7]Wim Wenders‘ “Wings of Desire:” Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, and Peter Falk as another fallen angel.
[8]]City of Angels, Nicholas CageMeg RyanAndre Braugher, and Dennis Franz in the Peter Falk character, directed by Brad Silberling.

[9]”Hysteria“: Hugh DancyMaggie GyllenhaalJonathon Pryce Rupert Everett; Director: Tanya Wexler. The DVD extras include excerpts from a documentary about the history of the female orgasm.
[10]While the film takes dramatic and comedic license with history, sexual stimulation was the standard practice for “Hysteria.”
[11]DragonHeartDennis QuaidPete PostlethwaiteDina Meyer Sean Connery. The characters were all strong yet engaged well. Director: Rob Cohen
[12]Snow White and the Huntsman : Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth. Director: Rupert Sanders

[13]Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer known for it’s extravagant musicals.

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