When I lived in Washington, DC, I remember there being a slew of excitement in the local newspapers and in local bookstores when a book like Primary Colors came out. Local interest is a big seller in books, especially when there’s scandal involved. Here in Los Angeles this means that books about Hollywood get top billing, and there are lots of them on the local bestseller lists at any given time. They come in a few different flavors. There’s the now-we-can-finally-make-all-those-juicy-stories-public, recent-history-of-Hollywood books. These books come out a generation or so after the action depicted in the book takes place. The main players have either died or they no longer wield any power so their stories are fair game for the reading public. Connie Bruck’s biography of Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman, When Hollywood Had a King and A. Scott Berg’s biography of Katherine Hepburn, Kate Remembered are two recent examples. Then there’s the down-in-the-trenches, you-have-to-be-there-to-really-get-it, borderline-inside-joke, behind-the-scenes-entertainment-industry-workplace-dramas. Take David Rensin’s book The Mailroom, which, as far as I can tell, you would only want to read for one of two reasons. You once worked in Hollywood mailroom and you want to reminisce about those high-energy, low-pay days back before you became a high-powered agent, or you desperately want to become a high-powered agent and you want to read up about what it’s like in the mailroom, your first step on the road to glitz and glamour. Finally there is the true story thinly disguised as fiction like producer Robert Cort’s recent novel, Action!. I got to thinking about all of this Hollywood literature because of a recent review by Caryn James in the New York Times that assesses the latest crop of Hollywood lit. (LINK). Wading through big-selling tell-alls like Peter Biskind’s Down and Dirty Pictures and Joe Eszterhas’ Hollywood Animal and all the rest, she finds a novel that transcends the Hollywood genre in The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters and also mentions that when it comes to books about Hollywood, The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West is “unsurpassed.”
Scott Rudin the Hollywood producer known for bringing adaptations of contemporary literature to the silver screen – he was responsible for Wonder Boys and The Hours, for example – may be on his way out at Paramount. This means that several forthcoming literary adaptations could be in jeopardy, including big screen versions of three new books: Ian McEwan’s Saturday, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Farther along in their development are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon and, of course, Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. Though adaptations can be a risky proposition, I do hope that some of these end up getting made if only to satisfy my curiosity. Here’s the story from the Hollywood Reporter.
Overboard, sensational, witty, funny and not-so-objective Sicko is a Michael Moore classic. It is also a lesson in how to take a not-so-controversial issue (providing health care to all) and turn it into a provocative subject (by suggesting that Cuba, France and Canada’s universal coverage works wonders).But there is something inherently good about Sicko’s provocative approach: it prompts debate about universal health care in the context of a government’s duty to its citizens. Moore questions the humanity of denying care to patients on financial grounds, i.e., your insurance plan. Private insurance companies are in the health-care business to make a profit and can only do so at the expense of the sick, Moore contends. Then, he embarks on a tour of Canada, the UK, France and Cuba to debunk theories that government-based, free care is detrimental to the well-being of society and health professionals.Along the way, Sicko visits families and individuals whose lives were deeply affected – emotionally, physically and financially – because of the for-profit system in the U.S. Moore asks why America, the world’s wealthiest country, is incapable of providing a service that a range of other countries – from similarly minded Western allies to Caribbean foe Cuba – regard as a birth right.Moore blissfully ignores certain aspects about other countries’ national plans for a more favorable view of their virtues to amplify his message. Inevitably, this leaves Sicko vulnerable to attacks from the director’s opponents and risks reducing an otherwise meaningful movie to preaching to the choir (e.g., Botched Operation, Crazy Moore Offers Wrong Prescription, says the New York Post).But whether you like him or not, Moore definitely shines a light on an issue that needs and deserves public and political attention in the U.S. – dare I say, a la Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. No wonder Moore was at Capitol Hill flanked by more than 10 Democrats Wednesday, all screaming and kicking for universal health care. (Yes, I wrote about it here.)As per usual, A.O. Scott of the New York Times nails it in his review. So, I’ll stop my gibberish now. Before I depart: I expected the Post’s criticism to stick, but after seeing Sicko I came to think that one has to be heartless and inhuman not to be moved by – or at least think about – the issues Moore raises.Sicko opens in the U.S. Friday, June 29. See it for yourself and let me know what you think – don’t worry, it’ll be worth your 10 bucks, you’ll get a laugh out of it as well as some food for thought.