A Civil Action

This is not quite so bad as The West Wing, you will say, unless you’re a fan, in which case you will say, this is not quite so good as The West Wing (not that there are any fans of The West Wing, really, but when it comes to “the military-industrial-entertainment complex”, if you don’t eat everything on your already overfull plate, you get something even more unspeakable to eat, and double helpings).

It’s films like this that have begun to persuade one that there really is some sort of divine wrath against the auteur theory. Now, it’s always been known that you can’t make a silk film out of a sow’s script, which is why directors who are script doctors fare better than the rest, and those who write their own do best of all, if they are any good at it.

But no-one’s good at it any more, with just a few exceptions that prove the rule. Television is so bad for want of even remotely competent writers that it’s completely unwatchable, and films founder on scripts no child would read without feeling very badly imposed upon by a small person on a very large box of soap with a bullhorn muttering. That’s why the latter incarnation of Cosby was so genteel, it took a load off the Guild by letting the cast work out some details.

Really, it’s like something Ayn Rand made up. What if the writers, all the writers, went away and never came back? What would they do with themselves all day, soak their briefs?

Everyone remembers Monroe Stahr in The Last Tycoon saying about writers, “I’ll give them money, but I won’t give them power.” Oskar Fischinger proved you can make films without scripts, actors, crews or computers, nonetheless.

Nabokov’s Lolita screenplay and Pinter’s Proust screenplay are still two of the greatest movies never made, like the desk drawer full of scripts that Orson Welles couldn’t get financed at a time, he said, when Spielberg was buying a Rosebud sled at a studio auction for scads of money.