Peter Mehlman, a former writer for “Seinfeld,” on how living as a Hollywood insider changes the way you view movies…
Before moving here, I loved the movies. The sheer joy of rapt focus on a story in the dark, my natural gift for playing hooky and sinking into the Baronet on Third Avenue.
Well, so much for that. Five, 10, 20 years in L.A., and you suffer the -itis or -osis of knowing too much. You’re so inside baseball, you know all about script structure, studio notes, budget overruns, star quakes, fired directors. It’s like you’ve seen the movie before its release.
Funny, I only vaguely remember the green me who absorbed movies so deeply. A year or so ago, I tried to reawaken that me by seeing “Lethal Weapon” at a revival house but couldn’t stop noticing all the lines looped in during postproduction. Mel Gibson must have slept in that sound booth!
I vividly remember, however, the moment my cinema innocence ended. Year 3 of show business employment on an aisle seat in Westwood, amid killer Jack Nicholson acting and whip-smart Aaron Sorkin dialogue in a movie I actually liked, a rogue thought arose: Boy, this movie should have been called “A Few Good Close-ups.”
It was the kind of involuntary thought that infuses Hollywood movie viewing, the kind of low-impact snark that signaled the end of leaving myself behind in a movie. Permanent antennas grew out of my head, signal catchers that beep at the first blip of ham-handed exposition, in-your-face character development or feel-emotion-now screen tricks.