Adapted From The Novel Of A Different Name

With an entirely new plot. And characters that the original author would have been ashamed to think up. Now brought to you on any screen that will take it by an actor who cannot get hired by anyone else other than himself.

If you thought that ” singer-songwriter ” were the most frightening words in the English language, let me horrify you further.

” actor-director “.

Or worse…

” actor-director-producer “…with their own studio and the backing of a semi-religious organisation. Let us hope the film is about the making of sausages because with a business and artistic model like this one can certainly expect the wurst.

I am accustomed to seeing real writers lured to Holly, Dolly, or Bollywood to churn for the studios. Churn out novels, scripts, re-writes, butter, stomachs…whatever. They have long wailed their piteous complaints about it as they pocketed the cash and we’ve seen some reasonable novels and a funny movie made about it. But so far we haven’t an actor-director-producer-studio combination with the nerve to admit their sins that clearly. It needs another Spinal Tap fake doco to put the put the wunderkindern and wunderaltern in real perspective.

Or at least CGI them smooth…

 

It’s Hard To Find A Universal Bad Guy

And this is a real problem for the entertainment industry – particularly the television and movie ones that hope to make money.

The audiences for the visual stories are all over the world today; the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia. And Manangatang. A bid to get them to watch some action thriller needs to have a good guy who triumphs and a bad guy who dies – but it is awkward trying to place praise and blame these days – everyone wants their country/culture/religion to be on the good side. Few accept being cast as villains…or worse – as savages. Even if they have been eating raw human livers until last Tuesday they still want to be seen as modern, cool, and sophisticated.

As a practical illustration, who would you portray as baddies; the Chinese or the Japanese? Depends entirely on which century you’re filming, which decade, which war, or which government. And where you expect to sell the most screenings.

That idea gets even murkier for other countries in the Asian market: Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, or any one of the numerous Koreas. They are all sensitive people who try to be polite and never cause trouble to each other unless they’re sure they can get away with it.

So no Asian villains. Russians? Well, Slavs in general are angered by any suggestion that they are not peace-loving, and they have the tanks and anti-aircraft batteries to back that up with. Plus they may have invested heavily in the film production company. It’s safer to have babushka dolls and balalaika music and let it go at that.

Jews and Muslims? Israelis and Arabs? Well, there you go. Choose your side and whoever is on the other one is wrong…but if you want to sell your film in their cinema you can’t say that.

Of course you can always go the classics: Kaiser Wilhelm II if your audience is into period films and smart enough to tell the difference between Wilhelm and Edward VII. Even there the German audience will boo you out as they know the truth about Willi and Eddy.

Hitler? Good choice. Nothing there to like…but you can’t add him to every film or people will start to realise that you have run out of ideas.

The Americans? Well, you can sell them as enemies to the UK, Canada, Australian and New Zealand, and any other former allies – they’ll accept the idea. Bit awkward if you need them again, but if push comes to shove you can always destroy the video tapes. And blame the CIA. Or General Lee.

Or you can get Mike Myers to be evil. He’s Canadian so it’s easy.

It’s All The Fault Of…

San Andreas.

” Wait? What? ”

The San Andreas Fault. The geological crack that is going to split open one day and drop California into the Pacific Ocean. The favoured bogey of the Hollywood disaster movie maker. The sliding magma plate that we have all come to loathe and fear. All the fault of the San Andreas.

” You’re mad. You’ve finally gone mad. How could the San Andreas Fault be responsible for the world’s troubles. It hasn’t even shifted yet. ”

Exactly. By delaying the shift it has condemned us to decades of California. Years of Hollywood. Years of Los Angeles and smog and Watts and Tijuana. Years of San Francisco and drugs and socio-sexual city councils. Years of Mexican migrants and anti-Mexican presidents. Years of Ansel Bloody Adams and boring Sierra Club landscapes.

” But…”

If the blessed thing had shifted fifty years ago the painful sixties could have been devoted to blasting Castro and area-bombing Hanoi and Jane Fonda would have been  Barbarella instead of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gunner. We would likely have been spared LBJ and Nixon. And Whitlam and Abbott for that matter. Though they might have been seen as  purely Australian faults.

” I can see your point. Perhaps if we all go to Santa Barbara and jump up and down we can get the damn thing started. ”

Hang on, I’ll get my shoes.

What Do You Do When…

  • When Facebook is not an option: When you have committed yourself to a month of no FB to see what the effect on your life will be.
  • When you do not want the latest toy that your toy retailer has put out on the shelf because your current toy is working just fine.
  • When the motion pictures on offer at your local cinema are too juvenile for words or too politically correct to stomach.
  • When every new trendy drink costs $ 20 and every new trendy food in the restaurant costs $ 50.

Answer? You blink twice, knock the water out of your ears, and come to your senses.

  • Firstly, you do things that do not involve Facebook. Hobbies, for instance. Or reading. Or writing. Or visiting friends. Or going for little trips. The things you did before you first bought one of Mr. Zuckerberg’s nickel bags.

You’ll have time for things that you ran out of time for prior to Facebook eating your day hollow. Or to put it in another way, you can call into a bar for a drink and walk out again or you can live in a bar and venture out for brief periods. Same bar, different life.

  • If you are playing with your toys so hard that the wheels fall off and all the paint is gone, you may need to get new ones at regular intervals. If you are not, the old ones can serve a great deal more time than you’d think. The money you save using the old ones can be put to other uses.
  • A motion picture is someone with millions of dollars in the bank telling you a story for ninety minutes while you sit in the dark and cringe at the price of a chocolate ice cream. The story may be well worth the telling and well worth the seeing  – if the story teller and the tale are good. If they are new, they gain a whole dimension.

If the tale is not new – if it’s a re-hash of something you saw in a comic book in 1957 – or if it’s so puerile as to suggest a Little Golden Book worth $ 4,000,000, you are perfectly justified in giving it a bye rather than a buy. With ninety extra minutes and the price of the ticket and the chocolate ice cream in your pocket you can immerse yourself in the best of new or classic literature and feel a lot more adult for it.

  • At the end of spending from $ 70 to $ 120 at dinner time you are entitled to feel both full and foolish – but in some cases you’ll only get the latter. Some restaurants do, indeed, see you coming. And then they see you off.

You need not spend that much to feed yourself, either at home or on your travels. You need not eat badly, unless you’ve fetched up at a country town that has nothing on offer at all except a blood pit pub. If you’re going to be on the road, take an emergency pack of beer, soup, crackers, sausage, and cheese, and  even if the town has closed for the night you should be able to go to bed fed. If you are in a strange city look for a Chinese, Vietnamese, or Greek restaurant and eat what they cook.

If you are at home, consider the advantages you have – your own pantry, your own icebox, your own cellar. Your own expertise at preparing something that you like. Your own schedule. Do not sacrifice these for those fast-food lights winking down the road.

The Animatronic Version Of Jesus…

Delivering a simplified version of the Sermon On The Mount. In Florida – or Tennessee – or Queensland…

What a wonderful thing. Why, it would make people stop, stare, and marvel. They would be in awe of the mechanism and the lifelike realism that was created in silicon, plastic, metal and cloth. It would be as if a fairy tale had come alive – right there in the theme park.

Would they be quite as enthralled with a mechanical version of Buddha sitting there and not moving? Or an electronic Tom Paine asking them to damn all religion and just be moral themselves? Would they react with as much favour if it were a Houdin sculpture of Voltaire just sitting there minding it’s own business…?

I am increasingly amused, disgusted, and intrigued by the entertainment industry that feels it needs to draw its power from religion and/or philosophy. And I don’t mean just the rubber figure dolls of Disney’s amusement park – think of the popular culture motion pictures that have grasped some thin concept of morality, art, or intellect and puffed it out with mysticism and petrol explosions. And done very well at the box office, thank you for asking.

If you think this is sneering at Hollywood alone…you’re wrong. It is sneering at Hollywood’s customers as well. Been to the movies lately?

Hint: By all means be moral and historical and intellectual-for-ninety minutes. But do it with the original material – the books of the masters – and not with the videos of the mistresses.

Not So Much The Nudity…

As the shrieking…but then I have not attended that many church services or shareholder’s meetings to know whether it was normal procedure. I’m guessing not, if the reaction of the guard dogs and their handlers was any indication.

I will say that it was entertaining to a certain point. The music was nice, for a harpsichord, and the lighting was actually well done. I thought the follow spot on the guillotine was a real bit of theatre. I appreciate lighting.

But there comes a time when you start to wonder what reaction is expected of you. I mean, apart from buying a chocolate ice cream or a big orange drink at the snack bar. I try to limit myself to a small box of chocolate-covered raisins as I never carry more than $ 50 cash anywhere. In the past I have been known to sneak a candy bar into the show in my pocket but I think they scan the seats with an IR scope to detect this…

In any case, I appreciate it when they have a placard out the front stating when the actual sacrifice is to take place, so that if you need to go to the toilet, you do not miss out on the cutting or the blood spurts. I’ve been to these things before and timed it wrong…and it just seems like an anticlimax if you get back into your seat and there is nothing to see but entrails and a guy with a mop.

I think that these affairs are getting better since the 70’s. Now that the old-school promoters are retired there is a more modern feel about it all. Gone are the days of the hatchet. Now you can do twice as much in half the time with an electric chain saw from Bunnings and the pace is much faster. I’ll bet the cleanup crew are happier too, what with the pressure-wash Karcher units and modern detergents.

 

The Invisible Man Vs The Invisible Woman

Well, I looked as hard as I could, but I didn’t see anybody there.

I knew that they were fighting, or making love, or possibly doing laundry. There were a series of bumps and gurgles and at one point something viscous spilled on the floor. I decided that it would be more discreet to just leave and read about it in the newspaper next week.

That’s the problem with super-powers. They are bound to cause trouble sooner or later. The entire collection of Marvel and DC characters, together with the Japanese anime figures, seem to be incapable of living quiet lives. They are either fighting crime or committing it – and mostly to the detriment of the environment and people surrounding them. I cannot think of anything worse than being neighbour to a super hero or super villain. No matter what they did it would break fences and scatter the street’s rubbish on Bin Night. And you can just bet that it would never be during business hours – I’ve read enough Batman comics to know that whenever he roars out of the secret tunnel at 165 dB it is the middle of the night. Who sleeps?

The business of radioactivity and strange oriental poisons is another thing. I can take the average hazards of suburban life – the magpie swoops and the blood-and-bone fertilizer on the garden beds in Spring. The repeated attacks of the Mr Whippy van in summer. The drains backing up in winter. It is the price you pay for having a bit of space about you. But with a super-whatever on the street you are just as likely to glow in the dark, turn sterile, or keel over foaming and choking as soon as they open the basement vents. You can be certain that they have a secret laboratory down there because nothing grows in a radius of 50 metres of their property.

Of course there are those who say having a super-hero will be good because it means the neighbourhood is protected. What they don’t figure into the equation is the fact that the superhero attracts their opposing number 100% of the time and you end up avoiding two men in tights instead of just one.

I could actually enjoy super women in tights, but I’ve seen the muscles on some of them and I don’t think I would survive…

A Live Action Version Of…

Of a cartoon that was drawn from life.

Do you ever find yourself thinking that the motion picture, television, and entertainment industry has long since been given over to pre-pubescent teenage accountants?

I’m drawn to the conclusion when I see advertisements that tout valueless depictions of equally valueless source material and aim it at an 11-year-old’s mind. While asking the viewers to pay a day’s wages for a ticket and a chocolate ice cream.

It is either the best thing since sliced bread for the investors or the worst thing since smallpox for the customers. Both might get what they want, but I should be happier if they both got what they deserved.

A modest proposal; if you are going to base a modern motion picture upon a historical Disney cartoon, or a modern Disney cartoon upon a historical motion picture, at least have the goodness to charge the original ticket price for the remake. If ” Dumbo” was selling for 15¢ a ticket in 1939, make that the charge for the modern version.

In any case, if it is live action movie, don’t cast Jim Carrey as the mouse. Rodents deserve more dignity.

PS: Yes. I’ve seen an elephant’s fly, but I don’t boast about it.

How Much Is Your Name Worth?

If it is Elon Musk or Richard Branson, apparently quite a lot.

If it is Harvey Weinstein, somewhat less…

And for those of us in the middle? Well, it’s worth just what other people think it is. And therein lies the danger. If you have been a good person forever and are a good person now, your name and reputation will still be available for people to throw darts at as long as you are within range. You are not in control of the darts nor of their throwing arms – you can only control the range.

This is a sad thought if you are a people person. If your life needs human contact and constant approval, you are always going to be within range of the very human trait of animosity. You need not provoke it – it is there all the time ready for use. Sort of the frozen pizza of emotions. Just stand still for long enough, close enough, and there you go.

How to protect yourself from it? Either stay far enough away from others so that you never fall under their notice, or please everyone in every way all the time, or put safeguards in place. Never see anyone alone. Never say anything remotely objectionable to anyone. Never borrow anything , nor lend it. Never win a contest. Never write a book, blog, or laundry ticket. Never ask and never tell. Never know.

For those of you out there contemplating sex, forget it. Cold showers and prayer are your only recourse. Shun dating, marriage, adultery, celibacy, and strip joints. Avoid the movies, particularly if you are producing them. Do not send pictures of any portion of your body to anyone at all, ever. Avoid stimulating foods like lukewarm gruel and dry toast.

As far as finances go, remember about not being a borrower or lender. Also do not spend any money and take particular care that you are not seen to be saving it – you would be a miser.

Of course politics are a minefield of offence. Minefields are also a minefield. In fact just plain fields will get the more committed ecologist quite livid with anger. You may be wise to curl up under your desk and make no sound whatsoever.

But cheer up – do all this and you will have a good name. King Tutankhamen has been quiet for centuries and no-one has a bad word for him.

Life Goals For The Cynical

1. To feature as a particularly unsavoury entry in the Urban Dictionary.

2. To win the Oscar Levant Award.

3. To be black-balled simultaneously from entry into the Ku Klux Klan, the Greens, the Black Panthers, and the Myers Christmas Club.

4. To discover a new food ingredient to which people can become intolerant. As discoverer you get to name it. I am going to incorporate Shirley Temple into the name. As people are bring violently ill in the gutter they’ll be crying out ” Shirley Temple ” !

5. To finance a re-make of “ A Night At The Opera ” with a script that makes it into a serious social documentary. But I’ll still keep the stateroom scene.

Now, nearly everyone I know, with one notably cynical exception, will have to go and google at least one of those references to see what the joke is about. Thus I have done my part today for wider education in a post-literate population. It will last no more than the time that it takes for the next mental squirrel to scamper across their vision, but if I do it often enough they will eventually be curious enough to dial up a page on ” Brainy Quotes “.

And then I’ll have em…