A. Reading Comprehension
What characterizes almost all Hollywood pictures is their inner emptiness. This is compensated for by an outer impressiveness. Such impressiveness usually takes the form of a truly grandiose realism. Nothing is spared to make the setting, the costumes, all of the surface details correct. These efforts help to mask the essential emptiness of the characterization, and the absurdities and trivialities of the plots.
The houses look like houses; the streets look like streets; the people look and talk like people; but they are empty of humanity, credibility, and motivation. Needless to say, the disgraceful censorship code is an important factor in predetermining the content of these pictures. But the code does not disturb the profits, nor the entertainment value of the films. It merely helps to prevent them from being credible.
It isn't too heavy a burden for the industry to bear. In addition to the impressiveness of the settings, there is a use of the camera which at times seems magical. But of what human import is all this skill, all this effort, all this energy in the production of effects, when the story, the representation of life is hollow, stupid, banal, childish?
Excerpt from The Language of Hollywood by James T. Farrel
picture = film, movie
to compensate for = to make up for
Nothing can compensate for the loss of one's health.
to impress = to have a strong influence or effect upon
This book did not impress me at all.
impressive (adj.) = that can cause a strong influence or effect upon
The President made an impressive speech.
impression (noun) = idea, what one thinks of somebody or something
We got the impression that he was avoiding us.
First impressions are often misleading.
impressiveness (noun) = ability to have a strong effect upon
There is an obvious impressiveness in all Harry Potter films.
grandiose (adj.) = splendid, glamorous
They live in a grandiose mansion. (= a large impressive-looking house)
- show mercy to - The poor man begged the burglars to spare his life.
- afford to give - Can you spare me a few minutes of your time?
- save money or effort - Jane's parents spared no expense on her wedding.
Proverb : "Spare the rod and spoil the child." (= if you never punish a child you'll spoil him)
surface (adj.) = of an outward aspect
I wasn't taken in by her surface politeness.
- the top layer of an area of water or land - Pieces of trash were floating on the surface of the river
- the outside layer of an object - a frying pan with a non-stick surface
- side of an object - A level surface is never curved.
absurd (adj.) = illogical, unreasonable - We were asked to pay an absurd sum of money.
trivial (adj.) = not serious, unimportant, superficial - Don't waste your time on trivial matters.
- with an empty space inside - a hollow tree
- unreal, insincere = hollow words / hollow promises
plot = story in a book or action in a film or play - The plot of the play was quite superficial.
credible (adj.) = that you can believe - His story sounds quite credible.
motivation (noun) = power that pushes someone to do something - Without motivation nothing can be achieved in life.
disgraceful (adj.) = not decent, not respectable, shameful - She told him such disgraceful lies. / That was a disgraceful thing to do for the family name.
censorship (noun) = action of examining officially the content of books, plays or films and cutting out anything regarded as immoral
- Books, plays and films should be considered under common law, not under special censorship code.
- something heavy which is hard to carry - The donkey didn't seem to mind the burden on its back.
- something difficult to bear causing trouble or expense - We're in no position to take on another heavy financial burden.
skill (noun) = ability to do something well - The teacher explained how to develop writing skills.
banal (adj.) = ordinary, usual, not special - Banal essays will bore your reader to death.
factors (noun) = circumstances helping to bring about a result - Consider the factors in the making of a nation.
(a) Answer the questions on the text in A. Complete sentences are not necessary but your answers must be accurate.
1. Why, according to the author, do Hollywood films seem extremely realistic?
2. What does the author find wrong with the way people are portrayed in Hollywood films?
3. What effect does the censorship code have on Hollywood films?
(b) Write sentences to bring out the difference between the following pairs of words:
1. emptiness / vacancy
2. costume / suit
3. entertainment / amusement
4. effects / affects
Adapted from Fluency in English by L.G. Alexander