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Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business

3.6 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1400034444
ISBN-10: 1400034442
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400034442
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400034444
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Mamet's numerous plays include Oleanna, Glengarry Glen Ross (winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics' Circle Award), American Buffalo, Speed-the-Plow, Boston Marriage, November, Race and The Anarchist. He wrote the screenplays for such films as The Verdict, The Untouchables and Wag the Dog, and has twice been nominated for an Academy Award. He has written and directed ten films, including Homicide, The Spanish Prisoner, State and Main, House of Games, Spartan and Redbelt. In addition, he wrote the novels The Village, The Old Religion, Wilson and many books of nonfiction, including Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose and Practice of the Movie Business; Theatre; Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama and the New York Times bestseller The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture. His HBO film Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino and Helen Mirren, aired in 2013 and earned him two Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Directing. He was co-creator and executive producer of the CBS television show The Unit and is a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Company.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
This book is great. It is basically a scathing critique of Hollywood and perhaps of modern America in general. The book is funny, sometimes profound, and full of surprises (just like a David Mamet movie). This book could also be called "David v. Goliath" with David as in Mamet and Goliath as in Universal Studios or something like that. Or perhaps, Mamet v. the contemporary cultural mainstream.

So, the basic theme of the book is that the ever-precious creative impulse constantly has to fight for its life, constantly under threats of suffocation by the shrinking boundaries of social propriety. Anyone can write about this; that's just common knowledge. What makes the book interesting is that Mamet has experienced it first-hand, since he belongs to the deep inner circle of Hollywood screenwriters in direct contact with the production machine of the studios.

Mr. Mamet is an interesting character. He presents the very rare combination of being a nerd while at the same time being blessed, or cursed, with a tremendous warrior mentality and an absolute disgust for modern conformism. I am left with the impression that he wanted to be an actor. What kept him from being a Marlon Brando? The lack of a good nature. Mamet calls the good nature an unnamed "idiosyncrasy" and does not identify it as the main trait of the true movie star. It is good nature that allows the stars to audition to studio people who know nothing about art, and to express things that are forever inaccessible to the masses, while never taking any offense in the misunderstandings that make or break their careers.

And of course a Frenchman like me was touched by his frequent, if short, incursions in the territory of the langue de Voltaire, always with remarkable timing and a-propos. But your style, Mr. Mamet: simplifiez, simplifiez!
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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was so wonderful, I took it out from the library, read it, and then had to buy it. I never do that. It's a book you'll want to read over and over, have other people read (at least certain essays) and refer to the filmography repeatedly. Mamet is so amazingly astute about everything, but particularly about things relating to theater and the movie business. If you are a movie buff at all, read this book.
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Format: Hardcover
David Mamet's "Bambi vs. Godzilla" is a hard-earned look at the collapse of the movie-making machine and its declining audience. The accomplished writer-director shares his experiences in the Hollywood jungle while offering valuable lessons in cinematic technique (further explored in his excellent 1992 book "On Directing Film"). Along with his admiration for legendary directors such as Preston Sturges and Michael Powell, he shows his disdain for Laurence Olivier's soulless movie acting, religious epics and film criticism. You may not agree with some of Mamet's observations, but you will understand why the popcorn tastes so bad these days — and why more viewers prefer to enjoy cinema in the privacy of their own homes.
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