@NYTimesDowd: Missing the Details -v- Missing The Point

Dowd_New-articleInlineSo at least Maureen Dowd agrees with me that things get dicey when Hollywood justifies rearranging established facts with the rationale that fact-twisting serves some auteur’s  artistic purpose.

In her column in Sunday’s New York Times, Ms. Dowd takes screenwriter Tony Kushner and Director Stephen Spielberg to task for their version of the vote on the 13th Amendment in their movie Lincoln:

Hollywood always wants it both ways, of course, but this Oscar season is rife with contenders who bank on the authenticity of their films until it’s challenged, and then fall back on the “Hey, it’s just a movie” defense…

…And then there’s the kerfuffle over “Lincoln,” which had three historical advisers but still managed to make some historical bloopers. Joe Courtney, a Democratic congressman from Connecticut, recently wrote to Steven Spielberg to complain that “Lincoln” falsely showed two of Connecticut’s House members voting “Nay” against the 13th Amendment for the abolition of slavery…

…I’m a princess-and-the-pea on this issue, but I think Spielberg should refilm the scene or dub in “Illinois” for “Connecticut” before he sends out his DVDs and leaves students everywhere thinking the Nutmeg State is nutty.

Maureen’s feathers were ruffled by the rearranging of some the historical details in Oscar contenders Lincoln, Argo, and Zero Dark Thirty, which the various filmmakers all rationalize as within the bounds of dramatic license.  She quotes Lincoln screenwriter Tony Kushner:

He said that in historical movies, as opposed to history books where you go for “a blow-by-blow account,” it is completely acceptable to “manipulate a small detail in the service of a greater historical truth. History doesn’t always organize itself according to the rules of drama.

OK, so Kushner and his colleagues think it’s OK to make stuff up on the fringes if it ultimately serves the heart of the story.  I suppose that’s arguable.

But when Maureen quotes Kushner speaking of manipulating “a small detail,” I can’t help but wonder what she would think of Aaron Sorkin (whom she dated in some past life), who twisted historical facts in The Farnsworth Invention to the point of missing the point altogether.

The true story of the origins of television – and the unbridled genius who first delivered it unto this world out of his 14 year old brain – has long been obscured by a veil of corporate intrigue and denial.

So it was exciting to learn a couple of weeks ago that the veil would be lifted some, now that the Television in Academy in Hollywood has posthumously elected Philo T. Farnsworth to its Hall of Fame.

Now guess who the Academy has asked to present the induction to the Farnsworth family at a banquet in Hollywood next month.  Why, none other than Aaron Sorkin!

Should be very interesting. I have received an invitation and my flight is booked.  I can hardly wait.



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Paul S