The Movie Buffer

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bambi vs. Godzillia: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business by David Mamet


This is a book, not a film.


Over the weekend, between hockey games, I read Bambi Vs Godzilla (BvG) which is a collection of short essays about the film industry. From the set designers/prop guys to the corporate bigwigs, from concept to final product, BvG shines light on some of the intricacies, pitfalls and general craziness that happens in Hollywood.

The reason I picked up BvG is because it had received some excellent press from the New York Times and Variety, as well as film critics, Roger Ebert and Leonard Maltin, even though there’s a whole section in the book about how critics ruin films. Furthermore, Mamet is a veteran in the biz who has written several solid films (Wag the Dog, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Untouchables), so I was interested in seeing what he had to say.

Though the topics are rather varied the main thread of the collection is about the artistry and the craftsmanship involved in producing motion pictures. Mamet begins his journey at the ground level with set designers, artist and the rest of the production crew, who he anoints the unsung heroes of the industry. Then, he moves on to criticize everyone else involved with the film making process: young writers for not appreciating the essence of writing; studio script readers for debasing creative writing because the result may not be profitable; producers for being the product of nepotism and greed; directors for introducing unnecessary clutter to stories; critics for being critics.

Interspersed in his tirades against the machine that has made him famous are nuggets of advice to people wishing to break into the industry, a few opinion pieces about the roles of females/jews/the audience in Hollywood and why violent summer films are so profitable.

Mamet’s name dropping and references to his own works read rather pompously and the constant injection of French and Latin phrases draw away one from the book’s casual style. Even still, if you are a fan of his work or just want to get a little bit of a flavour of how the business works, then BvG is well worth reading.

(edit: the title comes from the animated short, Bambi Meets Godzilla, in which Bambi is stomped into shoe custard by Godzilla. Found Here)


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