What Happened to the Movies?

Thomson ?cannot hold back the realization that the movies have never been good enough.? As a form, he writes, movies are ?most acute when fixed on what happens next; whereas literature, sooner or later, is about the meaning behind events.? This explains better than anything else I know why it is that the finest movies seem to have been made not from first- but from second-rate fiction: The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett), The Postman Always Rings Twice (James M. Cain), Farewell My Lovely (Raymond Chandler), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (B. Traven). In all these books, plot takes primacy over style and penetrating observation.

Which brings us to screenwriters. ?Product,? the old Hollywood moguls used to call the movies they made. —Joseph EpsteinWhat Happened to the Movies? (Commentary)