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Sunday, May 6, 2007 -- 8:31 am

I suppose I'm saying nothing new when I observe that, to gather from the vast majority of books, television, and film that are issued these days, either that artists and audiences are no longer able to separate the good from the mediocre, or simply don't care to. There are exceptions, of course, and a handful of genuinely talented people who even sometimes get rewarded for their efforts. But so much that's published these days, often at staggering expense, seems to call out for artistic restraint and even basic editorial review. Movie scripts are, I'm vaguely aware, subject to considerable review and revision. But by whom? And for what purpose? I know too little about the process to comment, except that so often the final result gives me little reason to believe that the changes were made with an eye toward improving the story being told.

I find this so puzzling because I think everyone knows that audiences prefer good stories to stupid ones, and good stories, as long as they're accessible, tend to be pretty good money-makers. And in addition, building a good story requires hard work (which may explain their rarity) but isn't a conceptually difficult or occult process. Everybody knows what matters here -- premises and behavior that make sense, and situations that are rich enough in their possibilities to hold the audience's attention. Meaningful (or simply knowing) observations are nice but pretty rare in any case. And since everybody knows this, I can only conclude that they don't fashion their stories appropriately because they don't think it's worth the effort, and find it easier to invest their attention on ... something. Apparently special effects, for film anyway. That's a bit disspiriting.

Perhaps I hazard a little hypocrisy -- or worse -- by making such comments, not having published my own unfinished efforts for the world's inspection. But isn't that the risk of every critic?