Saturday, October 8, 2011

Watched ET for the umpteenth time and still found it a delightful movie but there is one thing I’ve always wanted to ask Mister Spielberg: the corn field in which Elliot comes across ET, where in the geography of the town is it located? There are panoramic shots, wide-angle shots, and extra long shots but nowhere is there a corn field to be seen. Yes, there is open countryside and forest but a corn field? Elliot walks from his back yard into a corn field? No. I presume it is in the picture simply to provide a somewhat sinister location for Elliot to explore with his torch and to suddenly come across this weird creature. Something else that worries me: Elliot’s brother cycles into the forest to find ET which he does but the alien is sick and virtually unconscious lying half in, half out of a stream. How does the boy, all on his own, get ET, a dead weight, back to the house?

Well, they’re only small points I suppose. The performances are good all round, Drew Barrymore was a perfect little gem and for Elliot Spielberg could not have chosen a more angelic looking child than Henry Thomas who seems to have made the grade from child actor to adult, something that doesn’t always happen, having appeared in a number of movies: Legends Of The Fall, All The Pretty Horses, Gangs Of New York to name but three. Also in that latter film of course was another actor who started his career at a very tender age and made the leap to adulthood and, in his case, stardom, namely Leonardo diCaprio.

An interesting piece I came across; Horace Walpole who wrote amongst other things ‘The castle of Otranto’ reckoned to be the first Gothic novel in the English language, said: ‘I have learnt and practised the humiliating task of comparing myself with great authors; and that comparison has annihilated all the flattery that self-love could suggest. I know how trifling my own writings are and how far below the standard that constitutes excellence … My simple writings have had better fortune than they had any reason to expect; and I fairly believe, in a great degree, because gentlemen-writers are treated with some civility if they do not write absolute nonsense.’

‘My simple writings have had better fortune than they had any reason to expect.’ I wonder, of the thousands of books published every year by hundreds of writers, how many authors today would in all sincerity make a statement like that, even best selling authors. Would Jeffrey Archer whose latest novel is already in the top ten? Would Dan Brown whose writing (what I have read of it) is simply appalling? And what about the writers of romance and so-called chic-lit. Celebrity biogs, mostly ghost written, don’t even come into it. All these people however must have something, are laughing all the way to the bank and back, whereas I, eighty years old, the author of twenty six straight plays, not including television and film, the book and lyrics for seven musicals plus eight other works am still grubbing for every penny. Somewhere down the line I went badly wrong. Like Walpole I have practised the task of comparing myself with great authors and have been found wanting, but after such a lifetime of so much effort and body of work, a little success certainly wouldn’t come amiss.

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