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Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business Hardcover – February 6, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0375422539 ISBN-10: 0375422536 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition edition (February 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375422536
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375422539
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mamet's a veteran screenwriter and director (currently producing The Unit for CBS), but that doesn't mean he has any great love for the industry—his Hollywood is the stereotypically corrupt and cutthroat world where screenwriters willingly change their stories to accommodate every stupid suggestion from producers, who are blatantly lining their own pockets, while stars bicker over who has the bigger trailer. But his stories are entertaining even when they're unsurprising, and though loosely organized, a few broad themes emerge. He expounds at length, for example, upon his well-known penchant for straightforward storytelling, where drama boils down to "the creation and deferment of hope," and every scene should be able to answer three questions: "Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don't get it? Why now?" At other times, he's happy simply to explain why he thinks Laurence Olivier was a terrible film actor or to test out a theory that the early film industry owes its development to Eastern European Jews with Asperger's syndrome. As usual with Mamet, each word is precisely chosen for maximum effect, and nearly all hit their mark. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

By anyone's measure, Mamet is a prodigious writer, somehow finding time for the occasional essay amid his ever-expanding repertoire of plays, screenplays, and novels. His latest essay collection focuses on the movie industry, and his stance is that of someone who has seen Hollywood's facelift scars and whose advice to eager novices just off the bus can be summarized thusly: "Go back." This might appear self-serving, for a man who has found success in a cutthroat industry may want to discourage potential competition. But Mamet's cynicism comes off as genuinely hard-won. He outlines the Hollywood caste system with a precision that reflects the bitter experience of the person at the bottom--the screenwriter. Scorn, betrayal, and subjugation--this is the lot of the writer, who, according to Mamet, is resented by nearly everyone in the business. Miraculously, though, great drama is occasionally realized on the screen, and Mamet offers writers some guidelines on how to approach it. However, be warned that those seeking a screenwriting method will be greatly disappointed--but, then again, that is perhaps ideal training for the job. Jerry Eberle
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

I found this book pedantic.
Jeanne D'arc
I didn't realize until reading this book that he doesn't have a clue what truth is.
Richard Taylor
If you are a movie buff at all, read this book.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 50 people found the following review helpful By C. Hutton on February 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
David Mamet is a playwright who won the Pulitzer Prize for "Glengarry Glen Ross" and an Oscar nominated screenwriter for "The Verdict" and "Wag The Dog." It is no wonder that, as a wordsmith, "Bambi vs. Godzilla" is a delight to read. This book is a series of opinated essays by a Hollywood insider who attacks the industry for favoring profits over art. There are times that the author overwrites a simple thought into a complex paragraph that leaves one shaking their head. It is still an entertaining read.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By B. Hayes on July 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I love David Mamet's plays. He's an excellent writer. So I was enthusiastic about getting the chance to read his personal views of Hollywood. And while I agree with him that the studio machinery is all about profits and very little about art or craft - when was it ever different? - I was ultimately disappointed by his book. There were times when I just didn't know what he was talking about. I think his writing here is often inaccessible. I may not be the most erudite reader, but Mamet left me cold. I just couldn't get into the style of his writing. I felt distanced rather than drawn in. When I read a book like this, I want to devour it, not pick at its little pieces. You may feel differently, that's fine. The book didn't pull me in the way I'd hoped it would.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. Shepard on February 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
David Mamet is an excellent writer, one of our best. The prose in this book gleams. There's not a word out of place. Every aspiring essay writer should read it.

There's much outrage in "Bambi vs. Godzilla," primarily about the state of the homogenized, dumbed-down modern film industry, but the book never feels like a rant. Mamet's reflections on the movie industry allow him to touch on many, many other subjects - such the state of the unions in America, the importance of craft, Jewish identity in America, and so on. I don't think Mamet expects readers will agree with everything in the book. Likewise, I don't think he is being controversial for the sake of controversy.

His provocative ideas will stimulate some truly interesting discussions, as well as reflections on America, our big movie industry, and what is says about us.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By garwood on February 18, 2011
Format: Paperback
It is with reluctance I admit I am having an awfully difficult time with Mamet's 'Bambi vs. Godzilla'. Rarely have I been so irked, and I am only on page 9.

First, his writing is not easy to follow. Jerky, self-absorbed, and smug, the prose lurches from topic to topic within the space of a page (even a paragraph). What may have been a witty aphorism when spoken, falls leaden on the page. Has he ever read his own prose aloud to others?

His central thesis, that the American film industry is in its death throes, has been a constant topic of cassandras for, oh, about 75 years now. Proponents tend to be self-deluded nostalgics with poor memories. As with the novel, or painting and sculpture, the 'art is dead' (or dying or decaying) crowd always look foolish in retrospect. Clearly, Mamet hasn't figured this out.

In the case of film, it has been declared `dead' since the time of `Roman Holiday', if not before. Yet somehow there has appeared `The Godfather', `2001', `The Apartment', 'The Blues Brothers', `Shrek', and host of others (to use only studio films as an example). Does Mamet think they're all junk?

Worse still, the anti-business attitude is off-putting, especially from someone who has made some serious 'shekels' (as he might say) himself in film. Evidently Mamet is unwilling to acknowledge business is a part of life, not to mention human nature.

I should also note, for someone who is so hyper-critical of others, Mamet lacks a genuine humility about himself. He speaks with such inflated self-assurance that clearly he doesn't allow that he could ever be wrong.

Yet he is wrong, wrong about a lot (even beyond his overall thesis).
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on March 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Perhaps the best way to understand this book is to go see the cartoon Bambi Meets Godzilla. But if you haven't seen it. It opens with Bambi prancing and dancing through the forest. Then Godzilla big foot comes down right on top of Bambi. Bambi's legs twitch a couple of times and the credits roll -- that's the whole cartoon.

If this kind of humor suits you, or maybe the kind that's in 'Wag the Dog' you'll love this book. It's full of irreverence about the biggest names in the industry. Don't take the book too seriously, it's a romp through little stories about movies, people, and the industry. It's a light read, and isn't going to fill you with deep serious thoughs. But it is a fun read.
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13 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Tom Moran on December 27, 2007
Format: Paperback
David Mamet is a celebrated playwright, a renowned screenwriter and, for the last twenty-plus years, a director of his own scripts. He's taken the accumulated experience of his quarter-century in the film industry and distilled it into "Bambi vs. Godzilla."

Given that Mamet is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, known for his coruscating dialogue, and given also the fact that this book has a tone that can be rightly called conversational, you're surprised to find so much of the prose to be so sloppy - slovenly, even. Count the number of times he uses variations on the word "opine," for instance. Or consider the following doozy: "I myself don't respond to the Georgian in film and will addend a condign comment attributed to Harry Cohn." That's just bad writing. Or consider his use of the term "films noirs" on page 145, which is both illiterate and bad writing.

In addition, Mamet is more often than not sloppy with his facts. His confuses two different shots in Godfather II (on pages 94-95), and claims on page 110 that Don Ameche was "the world's biggest star in the early talkie era" which is just nonsense. He also claims that "The Birth of a Nation... helped endorse the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan" which, again, is both bad writing and historically inaccurate (change "endorse" to "inspire" and it's at least debatable, but both D.W. Griffith and Thomas W. Dixon went out of their way to repudiate the revitalized Klan). He disputes the claim of Robert Evans that the best films seem to come from the most troubled sets, when anyone with the slightest knowledge of film history (and who knows how such films as "Gone With the Wind," "Some Like It Hot," "The Godfather" and "Jaws," among countless other examples, were made) knows that Evans is just stating a fact.
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