And the Oscar won’t be going to…
by Barry L. Levy
This has been a pretty awful week professionally, but I am writing to let you know that the three of you have helped me rise to the occasion. I have always loved you with all of my heart, but today I owe you an enormous debt of gratitude. Because of you, I am a better man.
See, my latest movie is a bomb. Rotten Tomatoes, which is an aggregator of reviews, reported that only 2% of the critics actually like the movie. Ticket sales have been equally bleak. The only real silver lining in this is simply that the movie got made. That, in this difficult financial time, I’ve managed to achieve.
To me that seems rather lame. It’s the equivalent of receiving an award at school for “best attendance.”
I know Woody Allen wrote that 98% of life is just showing up, but today that doesn’t quite resonate. This sort of critical consensus almost guarantees me Razzie consideration.
My favorite sports talk show host, Colin Cowherd, often swears by the axiom that “if you can’t be good, at least be interesting.” With that in mind, I wondered aloud what might happen if I contacted the 2% of critics that publicly declared their support and asked them if — after having had time to think about it — do they stand by their reviews? Are they sure? After all, if I’ve already got the lowest score of the year, why not go for perfection?
But the truth is, it hurts. I’ve read some of the reviews. I sent along one review to a writer friend of mine that expressed that the movie could’ve been saved if they actually had a screenplay.
Here’s the thing, I know my script. I know that the author of the book, whose work I attempted to honor, was thrilled. He wrote me and expressed as much. I know the producers were thrilled. I know the financiers came on board, the director signed on… all of it, on account of my work. And I know that my screenplay was a game-changer for me personally: new jobs, new representation, newfound growth in the work I do. I know this to be true.
I often talked about this project as being a turning point for me. A moment when my work reclaimed a bit of my earlier swagger and strength. Since then, I’ve never looked back. Never doubted myself. This script was, and remains, a seminal moment for my work.
So then, what happened? How did a script that was so beloved turn into… well, a 2%-er?
The answer is simple: it doesn’t matter.
If you haven’t already heard it, I promise you that you’ll hear the expression some day, “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” But the thing is that expression is actually missing something… what about the moment when you’re handed the lemons? What do you do right then and there… before you make lemonade, because I’ve gotta be honest with you, that is the real life lesson.
That’s the moment when it’s easy to cast stones, point fingers, assess blame — only it doesn’t matter. No matter what we’re talking about in life — be it a break up, a fight… anything… who’s responsible, why something happened doesn’t change that it happened.
Yes, there are emotions entwined. And sure, I hope you always take your moment to acknowledge the lemons set forth before you. But then, equally, my wish for you all is that you move on.
See, the truth is what I wrote isn’t gospel, it isn’t revelation. The Almighty didn’t come down and inspire me (although with four scenes of Liam Hemsworth shirtless — there are some who wonder if the Divine had some say). The bottom line is that to blame anyone requires me to blame everyone. Including me.
And this is what I realized. In the past when I’ve read the criticism of my work, I’ve often found myself blaming others for my failings. But if I want to raise kids who stand up and are accountable for their actions, then I need to do that as well.
My name is on the film. I’m responsible. I reaped the benefits of being a working writer, then I need to be accountable for the “costs” as well.
And so while your mother may get excited about buying a new dress for another red carpet affair, if I am so fortunate (and I use that word tongue-firmly-in-cheek) to be nominated for a Razzie, then I suppose I need to go… and I owe you all that.
Like I said above, I’ve been sent reeling in the past by critic’s reactions. But I’ve always hid under the cover of — well, it’s someone else’s fault. But I don’t want to do that any more. Truly, in the past I’ve almost wished I could’ve apologized to filmgoers as they exited the theater… handed out “my version” of how it should’ve gone.
But the thing is — what I wish for you is what I’ve learned through this process. Take a moment. Acknowledge the lemons. Know internally right from wrong. And find the strength to move on.
If you stand accountable, you’ve got nothing to apologize for, nothing to explain away.
So… if we’re lucky enough to be invited for this one, I hope you all join Mommy and me on the red carpet.
I love you all always and always,
Your FatherTags: Barry L. Levy, Entertainment industry, Film that bombed, Hollywood, Screenwriter