By Tom Stempel
COMING UP IN THIS COLUMN: Flame & Citron, A Woman in Berlin, Inglourious Basterds, District 9, Sense and Sensibility, Mad Men, The Code, and Hollywood Under Siege (book), but first:
FAN MAIL: There were a couple of comments that came in on US#30 after I had sent off #31, so let me respond to those now. "Manu" would like me to review a Hindi film or two. If I see one I want to write about, I certainly will. Keith gives me a lot of freedom to write about what I want to, which is one of the many reasons I love this gig. Olaf Barthel thought the problems with Public Enemies script were from the book. I have not read the book, but I think the script problems were more the doing of the screenwriters. After all, the job of the screenwriters is to make the book work as a screenplay. There is a great example of that later in this column.
On to #31. Craig thought we did not get a precise view of Summer in (500) Days of Summer because we are getting Tom's view and he is an unreliable narrator. He may have a point, but I think it may just be the way the writers structured the script to give us a "true" insight into her at the end. "-bee" made a very good point that Leslie Mann in Funny People just does not have the "requisite charisma" to bring off the part. Since I whacked Apatow's kids in the film, I have no trouble whacking his wife as well. "DS" responded to my "Be careful what you wish for" as to my eventually reviewing one of his scripts by noting that if I did review it, it would mean it had been made. And he looked forward to learning from my comments. He added, "I want to keep on learning," which is exactly the attitude you have to bring to the table. For one of the great "keep on learning" stories, look up the anecdote from Nunnally Johnson at the end of the appendix in the third edition of my FrameWork: A History of Screenwriting in the American Film.
FLAME & CITRON (2008. Written by Lars Andersen and Ole Christian Madsen. 130 minutes by IMDb and Los Angeles Times count, 135 minutes by my count): Army of Shadows goes to Denmark.
Ole Christian Madsen, the director as well as a co-writer of this film, said in an interview in the Los Angeles Times that his film about two of the best known Danish resistance movement fighters in World War II was inspired by Jean-Pierre Melville's 1969 classic Army of Shadows. Melville was one of the first filmmakers to look at the darker side of the resistance, and for his troubles his film was banned for years in France. What both filmmakers do is avoid the standard heroics of traditional resistance films and look at the queasy moral ground that was part of the fight, even by the good guys in the Good War. I found Army of Shadows both admirable and chilling, and in some ways Flame & Citron is even better. It is not as exciting as Paul Verhoeven's 2006 film Black Book, but Verhoeven was dealing with people having to make complex moral decisions instantaneously. Flame & Citron takes its time to turn the screws on its characters, and us.
The film begins with newsreels of the Nazi invasion of Denmark in 1940, but with a particularly disquieting voiceover narration. It is not the Voice of God you might expect from a film set in the forties, but rather someone—and we don't find out who for a while—whispering intimately to someone else. Only later do we learn the voice belongs to Bent, nicknamed Flame because of his red hair, and only at the end do we learn to whom he was, well, I don't want to spoil it for you. The film proper starts in May 1944, so we get none of the glamor of the early years of the resistance. It has been going on for a while and while killing has become commonplace, it has also begun to exhaust Bent and his partner, Jorgen, nicknamed Citron. Here is the first surprise: they have not been killing Germans, but Danes who collaborated with the Germans. (In traditional resistance films, all the civilians were in the resistance and nobody collaborated. In Army of Shadows and this film that's not true.) Now they get the word from their boss Winther to kill three Germans. The attempted killings do not go well, to put it politely. Bent, meanwhile, is attracted to a shadowy older woman, Ketty, even though it is not clear whom she works for. As the film progresses, a common question several characters ask other characters is, "Who do you work for?" Sometimes they get answers, sometimes not. Sometimes the answers are true, sometimes not. Sometimes the answers are only partially true, sometimes partially false. While the movie starts out a little slowly, it gets better as it goes along. Yes, there is a traditional shootout involving one of the men, but mostly the writers have given us a collection of great scenes. Late in the picture, Bent has a meeting with his father that gives us in a nutshell the reality of the Nazi occupation and how people dealt with it. Jorgen finds out he is losing his wife, since he has so little time when he can be with her, and the writers give us a great, unsettling scene where he ensures she will be taken care of properly. There is a scene in Stockholm in which the various leaders of Danish Intelligence and the Army try to work out what to do with Flame & Citron; it recalls the final scene between Feisal, Allenby and Lawrence in Lawrence of Arabia, and I cannot give it any higher praise.
As screenwriters, here is why you should do your research. The writers talked to the surviving members of the two men's families, and looked through various archives. In a Stockholm archive they found a final detail about Ketty that gives us her final scene. The picture would be poorer without that scene.
A WOMAN IN BERLIN (2008. Screenplay by Max Färberböck and co-writer Catharina Schuchmann, based on the book Anonyma-Eine Frau in Berlin by Anonyma. 131 minutes): Not exactly the feel-good movie of the summer.
The book Anonyma-Eine Frau in Berlin was published in Germany in 1959 to howls of outrage. The anonymous author wrote of her experiences at the end of World War II when the Russians captured Berlin. She and many of the women she knew were raped, multiple times, by various Russian soldiers. The story she tells is how she decided to be the one to choose who raped her, and how she formed various liaisons with Russian officers, ending up with a major. You can see why readers on both sides of the Iron Curtain would not have been happy. It is not surprising it took another fifty years for the book to make it to the screen. Max Färberböck , who also directed, was the writer and director ten years ago of Aimée & Jaguar, in which a German woman falls in love with a female Jewish resistance fighter in Berlin in 1943/44. So he is familiar with the territory.
The current film, like the earlier one, is based on a true story, which in this case gives it a very episodic structure. The writers use that very effectively at the beginning of the film to help capture the chaos of facing the Berliners as the Russian army arrives while the war is still on. We, like the women and old men, are kept off balance. This means the script depends more on individual scenes than a single through-line. The scenes are compelling, and not just because we have not seen much like it before. Billy Wilder's 1948 film, A Foreign Affair, comes closest, but without the explicitness we get here. The writers here are more sympathetic to the German women than Wilder was three years after the end of the war.
After a long sequence that both sets up the situation and lets us know we as well as the women cannot escape, we begin to see how accommodations are made by everybody. Late in the first hour, "Anonyma," as the heroine is listed in the cast, meets an old friend, Elke (played by Juliane Köhler, Aimée from the earlier film). Anonyma asks her simply, "How many times?" and Elke replies equally straightforwardly, "Four times." The two women join others in Anonyma's building for a, well, you can't quite call it a party. A get-together, group therapy, whatever. They talk openly about their experiences with the Russian men, laughing about the men and even the experiences. Wilder never had a scene like this.
About 75-minutes into the film, the war ends, and we get a brilliant set-piece of the celebration of the Russians and the Germans. When you think of set-pieces in films, you tend to think of directors showing off (the crop duster sequence in North by Northwest), but here it is a writers' set-piece, not unlike the laying out of the narrative elements in the first half hour of The Godfather. We get not only the variation of emotions the characters feel, but how those emotions change as the party and scene progress. Like Black Book and Flame & Citron, the scene and the film pull us into the moral complexities of human behavior in the desperate environment of war.
The major, whom Anonyma develops a kind of love for, is eventually sent away, possibly to Siberia, possibly worse, probably at least in part for his relationship with her. Her husband returns, and the difference in his look between an early flashback of him going off to war and how he looks now summarizes the damage war does even to those who manage somehow to survive. The writers have provided great opportunities for all the film's actors.
The film is not perfect. There are scenes that go on too long, and it was made on what appears to be a limited budget. We are stuck on the street where Anonyma lives and the Russian army seems to hang out. It looks as though it might have been one of exterior street sets from The Pianist. It adds to the claustrophobia of the women's situation, but when Anonyma does take a ride on a bicycle, she never seems to leave the street. Those are minor flaws.
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009. Written by Quentin Tarantino. 153 minutes): No, I am not going where you think I am.
You probably thought that since I love and admire Flame & Citron and A Woman in Berlin, particularly for their complex and subtle look at war and what it does to its participants, that I am about to rake Tarantino over the coals for making a silly, shallow, appeal-to-the-twelve-year-old fanboy movie. Like most people, I have a taste for a wide variety of movies. Tarantino is less interested, not to say not interested at all, in writing a subtle look at the morality of war. Like many American screenwriters, who are after all part of the American storytelling tradition, he wants to tell a tale. And as much or more than any other American screenwriter, he wants to tell off-the-wall, wildly entertaining stories. Americans do this better than screenwriters in most other cultures. It is part of our DNA. And different as Inglourious Basterds obviously is from the two films above, it is maybe not as different as you might think.
The opening scene could have come out of either of the two European films. SS Colonel Landa comes to a farm in occupied France and questions the owner about a Jewish family he has not been able to track down. The scene is slower and less obviously violent than the openings of the other two films. It is much more a suspense scene than an action scene, as are several of the scenes in Basterds. Tarantino has been saying in interviews that his film is more about dialogue than action. The dialogue is not the wild and crazy stuff that we expect from Tarantino, but it does tell us about the characters and the situation. Landa, a wonderful character beautifully played by Christoph Waltz, is a descendant of all those suave Nazis that showed up in films made during the war, and he takes his time talking to the farmer before guns get fired.
American Lt. Aldo Raine, whom we meet in the next "chapter," talks completely differently. He is a redneck, part Native American from Tennessee, and he sounds like it. In US#16 I made the distinction between Brad Pitt the movie star and Brad Pitt the character actor. Boy, am I glad Pitt was smart enough to bring the character actor along, since Tarantino has given him a great character to play. Pitt delivers a marvelous performance, which has been a bit overshadowed by Waltz's Landa. They are both terrific, and Tarantino has, more than in any of his previous scripts, made sure they do not talk alike.
I mentioned that there are great suspense scenes in this script. One is when Shosanna, the sole survivor of the farm scene and who now runs a movie theatre in Paris, is brought to a lunch with German army hero Frederick Zoller and Joseph Goebbels. Landa shows up in the middle of the scene. I think Tarantino took the cheap way out by letting us know before this that Shosanna was the survivor, since it probably would have been more dramatic just to throw in the quick flashback we do get in the middle of the scene. I always get my screenwriting students to write in reactions, and Tarantino has given Mélanie Laurent, who plays Shosanna, a great reaction at the end of the scene. I would also like to see the rest of the shot, since Tarantino and his editor Sally Menke seem to cut it short.
I am not spoiling anything at this point by letting you know the ending is VERY revisionist: Hitler and the German high command are killed in an explosion and fire at the movie theatre. Maybe it was that I knew that going into to see the film, but I found that Tarantino had set up and told his tall tale in such an entertaining way that I not only did not care that he had changed the course of history, I felt it did not have the impact for me that it might have had if I had not known. That's a problem for writer when you come up with such a twist. Especially these days with tweets and such it is unlikely to remain a secret.
So if this is such a tall tale, how is it like those two European films? One of the problems I had with Tarantino's earlier films is that he seemed unaware that violence hurt people. He took this, I suspect, from the kung fu movies he loved as a video store clerk where nobody seems to be hurt from all the damage done to them. As much as I loved Pulp Fiction, after the shootout in the street I kept thinking, "These guys have lost so much blood they should at least be in shock, if not dead." I often said jokingly in the nineties that Tarantino should get shot in the foot so he would know the cost of the violence. In Basterds, for all the exuberant action, there are moments when we are aware of the emotional damage, such as Zoller's reactions to the film of his real-life adventures. No, the film is not as good as others in dealing with this, but the fact that it is there gives at least a little substance to what is otherwise a rousing, American adventure film. Tarantino is maturing, but thank God not too much.
DISTRICT 9 (2009. Written by Neill Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell. 112 minutes): Killing three birds with one stone.
Not being a big fan of science fiction movies, CGI spectacles, or movies in which slimy things jump out and go boo, I usually end up seeing only one in each genre over the course of the year. District 9 combines all three in one film and throws in social comment and satire as well. And I loved it.
You may know the backstory of this one. Blomkamp was supposed to direct a big-budget version of Halo, but when the project fell apart, producer Peter Jackson asked if he wanted to do something else. Blomkamp suggested a feature based on a six-minute short he had made in 2005 called Alive in Joburg. Jackson agreed and Blomkamp and Tatchell came up with the current script. According to a joint interview with the writers in the August 14th issue of Creative Screenwriting Weekly, Blomkamp was interested in doing a science fiction movie in South Africa, while Tatchell focused on the characters.
A traditional problem with science fiction films is exposition, specifically setting up the world of the film. If a man on a horse with a gun rides over the hill, we know we are in a western until you tell us otherwise. But science fiction films have to establish the world we will be living in and the rules of that world. Star Wars does it by plunging us right into the action and letting us figure out what the rules are. The David Lynch film of Dune spent so much time setting up the world that a friend of mine kept mumbling "They're only up to page 20," "They're only up to page 40." What the writers do here is throw an enormous amount of exposition at us, but in a great variety of forms. Some of it seems to be television news coverage. Some of it seems to be talking heads from a documentary made after the events. All of this is broken up into very short bits, with snippets not only of information, but also of humor and character. When we first see Wikus, we think he must be a minor bit of comedy relief, which is a wonderful bit of writerly slight-of-hand. Look at the information and opinion we get from MANY people about him. All of that information comes together when we find out why he was selected to head the unit that will resettle the aliens.
Matt Maul and several of the folks who commented on his August 17th review of the film at HND felt the film lost their interest after the first half an hour or 40 minutes. I felt that by that point in the film we had gotten to know Wikus and I for one was rooting for him. Blomkamp and Tatchell have created a variety of problems Wikus has to deal with and then used them in inventive ways. He spritzes some fluid on his hand, and it begins to turn into an alien hand. Which on the one hand makes more people chase him for various reasons, but it also gives him a weapon or two or three. Matt and several people commenting on his review thought the film gives up the faux-documentary style and becomes more conventional. It does not give it up all together, but there are scenes done in a more conventional style, particularly those with the aliens, which I think makes them more sympathetic.
Part of the reason for the sense that the film loses something after the opening is that the opening uses the special effects brilliantly to suggest a much larger scale film than District 9 really is. One thing I LOVE about this film is that the SFX are ENTIRELY at the service of the content of the film: the story, the characters (especially of the aliens) and the ideas. One of the reasons I avoid movies like Transforming the Terminator into G.I. Joe is that the SFX spend a lot of time calling attention to themselves. Because Blomkamp as director is working on what for Hollywood would be a small budget (around $30 million), he does not have time and money to waste on what is not needed.
You can see why Peter Jackson, the director of the 1987 Bad Taste, would be willing to produce this. There is a lot of gore, but as with the SFX, it is only what is needed. The writers and the director do not wallow in it. And it is done humorously. Never underestimate the uses of humor, and by that I do not just mean wisecracks. Here the character humor and the political satire are a nice counterbalance to the action and gore. And the political satire is not heavy-handed. We can see that the aliens have been put into the same kind of slums that black people in South Africa have been put in. We don't need to be hit over the head with it.
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY (1995. Screenplay by Emma Thompson, based on the novel by Jane Austen. 135 minutes): I think I was wrong about both Jane and Emma.
In writing about Clueless, the 1995 modern dress version of Austen's Emma in the book Understanding Screenwriting, I admitted I had problems with Austen as a writer. I had loved the films made in the mid-nineties from her novels, but when I finally got around to reading Emma, "It cured me of being a Janeite forever. The woman is one of the wordiest writers in the English language, never using five words when she can use five hundred or a thousand. You have to wade through so much verbiage to get to the wit and the characters it is hardly worth the effort." This summer I got around to reading Sense and Sensibility. It is a great airplane read, by the way. You have to concentrate on the language just hard enough to distract you from everything else on the plane. I liked it a lot better than Emma. It is wordy, and you still have to wade through a lot, but I began to appreciate what Janeites see in Austen. Reading the novel also made me appreciate even more than I already did Emma Thompson's screenplay.
Austen's novel is dramatic (she loved theatre), but she does not write in scenes. Thompson had to create a number of scenes out of Austen's general descriptions. In Austen, Edward Ferrars is given no entrance; he just shows up at Norland. Look at his introductory scene in the film. Likewise, Austen's wordiness extends to her dialogue scenes, which go on forever. I could only find one scene (Elinor telling Edward of Brandon's offer of a parish) that uses much of Austen's dialogue. And Edward's great lines to Elinor at the end, "I have come with no expectation. Only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be yours," is nowhere to be found in Austen. Sometimes Jane needs a real screenwriter to help her out.
MAD MEN (2009. "Out of Town" episode written by Matthew Weiner. "Love Among the Ruins" episode written by Cathryn Humphris and Matthew Weiner. Epiosode "My Old Kentucky Home" written by Dhavi Waller and Matthew Weiner. Each episode 60 minutes): Oh joy. Oh rapture. It's back.
I found it rather interesting to read the episode recap of "Out of Town" on the official AMC website for the show. It gets all the facts down and even makes the opening seem to me clearer than it did when I watched it, but it misses what makes Mad Men unique: the overtones, the nuances. By the way, the official website will also give you a cocktail guide, tell you how to have Mad Men parties, show you videos of the premier, and give you quizzes to take. It will not, however, give you either the writing or acting credits for the show. If I were the agent for the actress who played Shelly, the stewardess, I would be on to both AMC and IMDb about getting her on the cast lists (in fairness to IMDb, within a week, they did have Sunny Mabrey, who plays Shelly, up on the cast list).
Nuances. That's why we love the show. Sterling Cooper has been taken over by a British firm and look at how that is dealt with in "Out of Town." Look at the different ways Ken and Peter come into the office of Lane Pryce, the leading Brit. One sits, the other doesn't; who knows what is the proper etiquette for the Brits? There are constantly little linguistic misunderstandings between the Brits and our guys. Hooker, the "secretary" to Pryce, keeps explaining that he is more than what the Americans mean by secretary, which leads to Joan's withering "We know." Which later leads Hooker, who is nicknamed by the female staff "Moneypenny," to look baffled and to say about Sterling Cooper, "This place is a gynocracy." You have to love a show in which even the idiots get off perceptive lines. Great writing is profligate with ideas, scenes, dialogue, characters, everything.
After both Pete and Ken have been separately told they are going to be head of accounts, they ride in an elevator and exchange small talk, but we know what each one is thinking. The same with Don seeing Sal in the hotel room, semi-dressed with the bellhop. And listen to the scene with Don and Sal on the plane back to New York. Yes, Don is talking about an idea for the ad campaign for London Fog (and do you think for a second the choice of that brand is coincidental?), but we and Sal know what he is really talking about when he says, "Limit your exposure." And listen to Sal's reaction to the mock-up of the ad. Yes, we are watching the sets, costumes, drinking habits, but Mad Men is also a great show to listen to.
In "Love Among the Ruins" I was particularly struck with how the writers are beginning to show the changes in society that the first two seasons have been setting up. Some of the SC guys are dealing with the plans to tear down the old Penn Station and put up the new Madison Square Garden. Roger's daughter is getting married, and Roger notes the wedding is set for November 23rd. I was suspicious as soon as I heard that, and my suspicions were confirmed at the end of the scene where we see a copy of the invitation. Yep, November 23rd, 1963. Check your history books if you do know what that's all about. When the younger guys screw up the Penn Station deal, Don steps in and convinces the head of the project that they just need to change the conversation about it in the public eye. And then the London office has Pryce tell Don that they want to drop the project all together. When Don then asks Pryce why the British company bought SC, he simply answers, " I don't know."
The greatest change we are seeing is in Peggy, who is not only speaking up in meetings, but going out to a bar and picking up somebody to have sex with, just like the guys do. The AMC synopsis has her parting line as "This was fun," but I got it in my notes as "That was fun," which suggests her distance from the act. What did I say about it being a great show to listen to?
In "My Old Kentucky Home" Don is at a party (or is it Roger and Jane's wedding?—the AMC synopsis says party, but there are hints that it is a wedding) at a country club. He is put off by Roger's singing "My Old Kentucky Home" to Jane. In blackface. As the AMC synopsis says, "Don wanders off to an untended bar where he meets an older male wedding guest. Don prepares Old-Fashioneds while the two swap stories about their modest beginnings." Yes, but that does not anywhere near capture the richness of the scene. The man, Connie, is a rock-ribbed Republican from New Mexico who still feels out of place. He talks about going by a mansion like the club as a kid in his small boat and hearing the parties. He now thinks it is less interesting on the inside. Don of course is used to being a fish out of water, but as we are constantly seeing, he may be the most adult person on the show. He and Connie may be the most together people at the party, able to see what is going on more clearly than the others. Perhaps in Don's case, this comes from trying to create himself all these years. In 1991 I happened to meet Christ Cosner Sizemore. That name may not mean anything to you until I tell you that she was the real-life "Eve" of The Three Faces of Eve. She was by then a little dumpling of a grandmother, but she was also one of the most together people I have ever met. Well, I thought, she has had forty years of working on pulling herself together. What the Connie-Don scene does is showing us two men who have pulled themselves together. Self-made men.
THE CODE (2008. Written by Ted Humprey. 104 minutes): Leaving money on the table.
This was originally intended as a theatrical film, and it opened overseas in the first half of this year. Its title then was the infinitely better Thick as Thieves; The Code sounds like one of those bland titles the folks in marketing come up with. You just have to keep knocking those away as a batter hits foul balls until you get something you like. I will grant you that the title The Code does refer to one of the more interesting scenes in the middle of the jewelry store heist when the thieves are guessing at the safe's code (you know the writer is doing it right when he has you on the edge of your seat while the actors are just reading numbers), but you have to have already seen the film. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark.
So it is a heist picture, and we have not had a good one since Inside Man in 2006. Humphrey's script is not up to that, but it does give us the pleasures of the genre. There are a lot of twists, including one in the middle of the robbery that I was totally not expecting. The head of the two-man operation, Keith Ripley (a tip of the ski mask to Patricia Highsmith, perhaps), is a wonderful opportunity for Morgan Freeman to throw off that nobility he has been dragging around and show us his badasssss side. He's not as nasty as he was in Street Smart (1987), but is still not someone you would want to double cross. His partner, Gabby, is Antonio Banderas, and try to avoid thinking early in the film that he may be too long in the tooth for a character who seems to be the junior partner. Robert Forster also shows up to deliver what is probably the only Jules Dassin joke in the history of movies.
The reason I picked this one up on DVD is that the director, Mimi Leder, is a former student of mine. She made her bones directing episodes of LA Law, China Beach, and ER, the latter one winning her an Emmy. She moved into features with The Peacemaker (1997) and Deep Impact (1998), but after the failure of Pay It Forward in 2000, she went back to television. She has always handled both action and character well and she does so here.
The picture probably could have done O.K. if it had been released theatrically in this country, but it ended up going straight to DVD. We are probably going to be seeing more of this, since in the recession companies will not have as much money to open a film theatrically as they had in the past. As for The Code, when it was released in June, it became the first direct-to-DVD release ever to go to number one in the rentals for its week. Somebody left some money on the table, but it may have cost them too much to pick it up.
HOLLYWOOD UNDER SIEGE: MARTIN SCORSESE, THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT, AND THE CULTURE WARS (2008. Book by Thomas R. Lindlof. 394 pages): A tin ear.
Lindlof's book is a fascinating look at the making of The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and the protests stirred up against it by the religious right. It does tell us enough near the beginning about the writing of the film to help explain why it was so awful. The first writer on the film was Paul Schrader and we get a few lines of dialogue from his script. The idea was to avoid the fancy literary style of most Biblical films, but the dialogue quoted is so everyday it becomes flat. Jay Cocks's revisions did not help. The dialogue simply was not very believable in the Biblical context. Scorsese did not help matters by letting them sound like New York working class guys. He and Tom Pollock, the new head of the studio, had a long phone conversation about it. Pollock told Lindlof, "I was one of those who did not want Harvey Keitel as Judas. I thought the accents would be totally jarring and take you out of the movie. Marty had an idea that somehow this would show that the people who followed Jesus were the proletariat of the time, the common workingman. I said, 'All right, Marty, I get it, but why do they have to talk like they're the common workingmen from the Lower East Side? What's wrong with just sort of straight-on American?'" Pollock, alas, decided not to push the issue. Too bad, because he was right. I have never seen the picture in full, but I caught about five minutes one night on cable and was so put off by Keitel's accent I could not stand to watch any more of it. Scorsese does seem to have a tin ear about accents. How else do you explain him letting Michelle Pfeiffer, who can do very good accents, sound like a California surfer-girl in The Age of Innocence (1993)?
The heart of the book is about the controversy and protests when the film was released, and Lindlof has done a great job of researching both sides. So much so that he comes up with this interesting fact. While Universal made only about a $700,000 profit on the film, the man who made the most money off of the situation was Donald Wildmon, the head of the American Family Association. The AFA got $3.2 million in donations in 1988, the year of film, 30% more than the year before. Wildmon's use of the film as a wedge issue to boost donations was quickly picked up by both the religious and political right. Thanks Marty.
Tom Stempel is the author of several books on film. His most recent is Understanding Screenwriting: Learning From Good, Not-Quite-So Good, and Bad Screenplays.