The Introduction summarized here is from my book called Hollywood Values.
The book has a lot to offer, so please consider ordering it. It's easy, just click on the link below and you are steps away from having your own copy. This link will also show you what the whole book has to offer. You will find that it offers a whole lot.
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What you find to the right here is the "Preface" to the published version of Hollywood Values. It will give you a good idea of what this book is all about.
Full treatment from two movies dealt with in the book is also available on this site (you will find these by going back to the HOME or opening page - they are Dead Poets Society and Patch Adams - these interpretations are very popular with students). Brief assessments of what City of Angels and The Verdict are all about is also to be found here.
Introduction to Hollywood Values
Steven C. Scheer
Have you ever felt that while you and your friends watched the same movie, you didn't really see the same movie? Have you ever wondered why people see so many different things in movies? A few years ago I had an opportunity to hear Michael Medved in person. He is the author of Hollywood vs. America (1992). What he said about Titanic (1997) shocked me. He said the movie was "corrupt" because it shows that all an old woman remembers late in her life is the fact that when she was young "she got laid in the back seat of a car." At that time I had not seen the movie yet, but some instinct told me that there must be more to this story than that. Sure enough, when I did get a chance to see the movie, I saw something entirely different. What the old woman remembers is, of course, making love to the young man she fell in love with on that fated voyage, a young man who loved her so much that he, for all intents and purposes, gave up his life that she might live. Since "greater love has no man," I didn't think there was anything "corrupt" about this, but it is this sort of negative reaction to Hollywood that has prompted me to write Hollywood Values. I intend it as a foil, if you will, to a lot of fashionable Hollywood bashing that passes for criticism these days.
If you like movies, this book is for you. My larger purpose in writing it has been the conviction that (like all works of literature) movies are arguments that present us with stories which exemplify the never-ending struggle between good and evil and which are thus, even if at times indirectly, concerned with our most sacred values. Hollywood has, of course, produced so many movies that the ones covered in this book can barely represent the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In spite of this necessary limitation (and the fact that I have also limited myself to movies produced in the last 20 years), I feel that the four categories under which I carefully examine a wide variety of movies do give us an adequate sampling of the good things that can come out of Hollywood. The categories are basic: going to school, falling in love, fighting for justice, and making a difference. I treat four movies under each of these categories, each with a different and thought-provoking perspective on a given theme in question. I should also mention that what you will find in this book is not a series of movie reviews, but fully considered readings aided and abetted by my many years of experience as a teacher of literature and as a literary critic. At the same time, this is not a dry, academic work, but a work devoted to a heartfelt appreciation of movies and to as accurate a representation of what they are about as humanly possible.
I grant you that not all movies are good, but I will also assert that the good ones are very good and are thus worthy of our undivided attention. I read the ones I treat in this book carefully, keeping my eyes and ears scrupulously focused on what we see and hear at all times, for the devil (no pun intended) is always in the details. It is for this reason that I meticulously go over what happens (and what is said) in each movie while interpreting it. In order to see the meaning or the significance of a given movie, we must pay attention to all the parts that make up the whole (which - if all goes well - is usually greater than the sum of its parts). If we are willing to really see and hear, we can be richly rewarded. But we should keep an open mind. Giving in to what I call the "rejective imagination" won't do.
Take "language," for example. Some people are still bothered by so-called adult language used in many movies. They don't seem to see that just as it is possible for a good person to use "adult language" and still be good, it is also possible for a bad (or even an evil) person never to utter a "bad" word. It is not words, per se, that are good or bad. It is something else entirely. We should look beyond the surface. We shouldn't judge a book by its cover, or a movie by its language. Although in this book (with the exception of a rare and unavoidable quotation here and there) I use no "objectionable" language, I do feel that to object to words while overlooking meanings (as Studs Terkel once remarked) is not worthy of our humanity.
We can't learn from movies if we don't enjoy them. And we can't enjoy them if we keep objecting to what is not part of what really matters. Movies can tell us a great deal about our world. They can teach us valuable lessons about life and even about our own selves. All we need to do is keep an open mind and not let the head reject prematurely what our hearts are willing to embrace.Hollywood Values is about good movies. I hope that reading about them will inspire you to revisit them and to enjoy them in renewed ways. This would be my greatest reward for having written this book
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