Friday, December 27, 2013


Michael W. Davis

I was watching one of my favorite movies the other day and had a curious thought, one which I’ll share at the end of this post. Think of all the films you’ve absorbed since you first got hooked on the industry. Forget which genre is your prime interest. Just consider them all. Pick the top, say, ten candidates and hold them in mind for a moment. Here’s my list (in no particular order):

-       Seven Days in May
-       Blade Runner
-       Africa Queen
-       In Harm’s Way
-       Gone with the Wind
-       Forbidden Planet
-       Lonesome Dove
-       Search for Private Ryan
-       A River Run’s Through It
-       The Thing

You’ll notice they fit no category. There’s SF, a western, a thriller, military and romance. Why these films? Not sure. Some are gut wrenchingly frightful of the destruction recourse from extreme views (like the first). One is a macabre depiction of the future and the human condition (Blade Runner). One offers a bloody snapshot in the nation’s history when part of a country forcefully turned away from agreements in the articles of federation. Then there’s the adventurous and starry eyed wanderings of a young boy that looked into the pitch of night and pondered the possibilities (Forbidden Planet). And of course there’s the raw legacy from which we evolved in the west wrapped with a romantic flair (Lonesome Dove).

Now here’s my prime question. For how many on your list do you remember the author’s name when the movie was based on a book? I’ll admit, only about half for me. I recall the scenes, the actors, the notable lines, but the moniker of the writer unfortunately escapes me. A sad commentary on the source of such creativity. I find these marvels of celluloid so moving, so enjoyable, that each time they’re used to fill the late night schedule; I’ll watch them again, no matter how many times I’ve seen them before.

Now here’s a secondary question. With the exception of Private Ryan, how many on that list were made in the last fifteen years? For me, none. Might be my age, or a morose statement about the nature of the arts in modern society. If there’s no sex, no senseless violence, or speeding cars, does the populace respond anymore to true quality. After all, the market becomes what we as customers demand, better yet, accept. Course JMO, but in the last ten years I’ve gone to only two non-kid movies (yes, I take my GD to a ton of animation) simply because few tickle my curiosity.


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

You're right. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry, and Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchel are the only ones. Those books are classics on their own. That may be why we remember the authors.

Guess we have to write classics, Mike.

Rhobin said...

Heck, Mike, I have a hard time remembering the authors of some of the books I've read, even the great ones, and I haven't read any of the books of some of the most famous authors. Many of my re-read favorite, most memorable stories are by authors whose names very few would recognize. While author recognition is important, it is the story that touches me in some way that makes it valuable to me.

Anonymous said...

Think you're right, Rhobin. We focus on the story vs author. Perhaps in so doing, we fool our minds eye into sensing it's less of a depiction of a fictional world inside the creator's mind and more as if we're watching real events.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Liz Fountain said...

I think we're hard-wired to remember compelling stories because stories are our the medium for teaching the most important lessons about life. Tell a kid "don't touch the hot stove" and she might or might not remember. Tell the same kid a story about what happened when Grandpa was her age and touched a hot stove, and she'll remember. Stories connect us to one another through the power of their emotional content. Anyway, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it!