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Is Anyone Besides Me Sick of Hollywood Sucking its Own Dick?

For the past ten years, it seems at least one movie gets nominated for Best Picture that’s all about Hollywood’s past grandness. How classy and chic and vogue it all used to be (as long as you’re into constant cigar smoke, copious alcoholism, and three-piece wool suits (plus hat) that stunk of sweat because no air conditioning). Where you could get rich on talent alone (as long as you were an adult white male. If you were Black, you were a janitor. If you were a woman, a sexually harassed pair of tits with no volition. And if you were a kid, pumped full of drugs and treated like a working animal.)

Butch from The Little Rascals, the Villain I Love to Hate – Once upon a  screen…

It’s like a Great Gatsby Renaissance Faire, where they filter out the plague, the poverty, the cow dung everywhere, and remolded it into an idealized version. Removing not just what was real, adding things that only existed in stories, like minstrels and kilts and turkey drumsticks. Like Mario Kart and other Mario sports games–delete all the dull or negative parts, keep only what’s fun.

Almost every Oscars in the past decade has one Best Picture nominee that was a “tribute” to old movies. The Artist and Hugo in 2011, Argo in 2012, Birdman in 2014, Trumbo in 2015, La La Land in 2016, A Star is Born in 2018, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in 2019, and this year had Mank.

I watched Mank. It was about the guy who wrote Citizen Kane. There’s no plot, just an asshole writer doing asshole things.

And that’s another thing, and maybe the bigger thing that gets my goat. The way they portray writers is absolute horseshit. Mank bangs out Citizen Kane in two weeks, isolated in a cabin with a broken leg and a bunch of pure-grain alcohol. Telling us that one of the greatest stories ever told was penned in two weeks by a drunk, written one page after the other with no pre-planning or script meetings, doesn’t that… cheapen it?

I don’t know why someone thought this would be a good movie. Most of the content is seeing how he’s inspired from various political rallies and fancy Hollywood parties. And the central conflict is whether William Randolph Hearst is going to bust balls for a movie that paints him unflatteringly.

But the movie itself is trying to reflect Citizen Kane, being just as dense and non-linear. Thing is, that works for Citizen Kane, not for the story of the guy who wrote it. No one wants to see how the sausage is made. Plus it’s in black-and-white, and you know that’s a clear flag for “Give Us an Oscar!”

In Trumbo, the titular character goes from Johnny Got His Gun to chunking out bad Westerns and monster movies, then back to Roman Holiday and Spartacus. And he does this by writing in the bathtub, drinking, and chain-smoking. Page after page, just out of his head.

Cryptomnesia: The Physical Writing Process: Dalton Trumbo - Writing in the  Bathtub & the Duality of Screenwriter-Novelist
Remember to wash behind your ears

I hate these movies because they make writing look like this glorious process where writers can create magic in an instant. Movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Capote and Secret Window and even Misery make writing look like it’s the dominion of tortured souls. Like writers are misunderstood artists who need drugs or alcohol or eccentricities to create genius works.

I don’t think even the pantsers, like Neil Gaiman and Stephen King and George R.R. Martin, work like this. Real writing is boring to watch. I know because I do it. It all takes place in the mind. Rearranging scenes or sections to make sure pacing feels right. Trimming sentences down. Doctoring characters’ lines so that Sharon becomes Eliza, Eliza becomes Jenny, and Jenny is eliminated entirely.

Stop pining away for a world where creatives are misunderstood geniuses with tragic backstories, you drama club rejects. No one liked it when Hemingway did it, no one likes it when authors today do it (e.g. Thomas Pynchon, Michael Chabon, Jeanine Cummins, Bret Easton Ellis, etc.) Stop reaching back for a time when there were no women or Blacks because they were used as tools of the entertainment industry.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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