Friday, June 12, 2009

A Taste for Garbage

I think I have already mentioned that when I saw the movie, The Soloist I was terribly moved. It’s the true story of Steve Lopez, columnist in LA who heard this homeless man on the street playing his violin. His battered instrument only had two strings but Lopez was awed by the music and the man in rags who lived on the streets. Surely, he thought there is a story here. There was more than a story—the homeless man changed Steve forever—and I think this reporter made an indelible mark on the homeless man with his violin. I have just checked out the book and Lopez is a good writer. I recommend.

But the movie had not done all that well. The project cost $50 million dollars to make. It has grossed just $30 million. Unlike me, most of the reviewers were not all that impressed. The frustrated Producer Gary Foster said of the response of the reviewers. “Audiences don’t want to be reminded of the darkness in the world. They want to laugh, get taken to space, watch things in a museum come to life.” The Producer said it well.

John Huston famous Hollywood director, now deceased, spoke about this problem one time. Someone asked him about the difficulty of producing good movies when so much of the public demanded bad or low-grade movies. He told the story of an old man that sat in the doorway with his old hound dog. Another old man shuffling down the street carried a paper bag full of candy. He looked at the man's dog and said, “That’s a mighty nice dog you got there. You think he might want some of my candy?” The man in the door said, “Well, he eats garbage, so he ought to be crazy about candy.” The dog sniffed at the sweets and walked away. Houston drove home his point “Unfortunately the taste for garbage can be developed like the taste for olives.”

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