Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sunday Recommendations

Last week's Sunday Recommendations was devoted to . . . no, I'm not going back into it.

But there was another list of things I wanted to recommend, based on a film I saw, Source Code, which inspired last week's list but which I forgot to include. This list is: things I would have improved if I'd have been given a chance to work on them.

You know the feeling when you come out of a film that was so almost-good, but, I don't know, they slapped on a happy ending or had some Jar Jar Binks-like character that should have been written out in the second draft, and you think, "This would have been so much better if only I had been given a chance to direct/edit/write/star in that film [or edit/write that book, or edit/write/cameo in that television show]?"

There are a couple of problems here.

1) I have this thought very often, probably daily, and yet somehow, as I try to recall good examples, I can't come up with many.

2) I have a humbling awareness that if I were actually allowed into the creative process and put in the director's seat or given the screenwriter's usual spot in Starbucks, I would probably come to understand the decisions that were made, however bad they seemed when I was watching from a critical distance. That's actually a very generous and self-satisfied way of saying that I would botch it horribly if given the chance; people would have been yearning for the sophisticated comedy and social commentary of Jar Jar Binks if they saw what I had in store for The Phantom Menace.

The Phantom Menace is a bad example, though. I'm not really talking about things that are fundamentally, deeply, pervasively flawed. The Chicago Code, a few episodes of which I've recently seen (or had playing on some part of my computer while I surfed the web), was terribly weak, and I wasn't inspired to think "This show needs my help." Oddly, it received some very good notices, including this one in The Guardian, posted the day after it was cancelled in the US, although I agree with the majority of the commenters bothering to post a response: it was a really lousy show. No, I'm talking about things that were really good, except something, somewhere gets in the way.

Anyway, for right now, I can think of three examples of works that would have been better if I had been given a chance to work on them:

1) Source Code. I won't say what/where/when I'd like to intervene to make this film better because I really am recommending it; and don't read the linked-to Ebert review unless you want a full plot synopsis.

2) The works of Stephen Adly Guirgis prior to The Motherfucker with the Hat. I never came out of one of his earlier plays, almost all of which I've seen, without thinking that if I had been given an hour or two with Guirgis and the cast, I could have helped them craft something sharper and more defined. But! Remember point 2 above. Guirgis is a master of raw, undiluted, and very human excess; tightening his plays up into something pristine would probably be like cutting Samson's hair to make him look fashionable. One of several great things about his plays is that you're not watching some crafted by a committee; he doesn't need an apparatchik.

3) Morrissey's lyrics over the past decade. My intervention: simply change any first person references to second person references in the titles and make corresponding grammatical and contextual changes in the body of the lyrics, except in cases where both "You" and "I" (or "Me") are in the title.

For example, from You Are The Quarry, songs would become You Have Forgiven Jesus or You're Not Sorry, but You Know I Couldn't Last would remain the same; from Ringleader of the Tormentors, songs would become At Last You Are Born, You Just Want To See The Boy Happy, On the Streets You Ran, You'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now, but I Will See You in Far-Off Places and To Me You Are a Work of Art would be remain the same.


Daniel F said...

You saw Source Code last week in Islington, and you quite liked it, and you thought you more or less understood it, and then last night your friend Lucien explained it to you, and you realized you hadn't understood it at all, and now you sort of do, and you like it even better.

sw said...

I would love to hear the explanation; I, too, thought I understood it, but that's precisely the risk of my vanity: I think I could improve upon something, when in fact, I didn't even understand it in the first place!

Steven said...

If you don't want people to read a plot synopsis, don't link to a bland and uninteresting review that is mainly plot synopsis?

So what would you have changed in Source Code? I'm all ears!

sw said...

I must admit, I almost didn't link to the Ebert review, because I thought it was such a bland plot synopsis of a review, but then I thought: maybe I'm being too judgemental?

But, no, there's no bloody way I'm going to say what my interevention was (end the film just before they kiss, except for a quick cut to the penultimate scene of Vera Farmiga's Colleen with Jeffrey Wright's Dr Rutledge, where they discover the whole thing has failed, but they don't know it failed because it worked: in other words, you have the countdown to the explosion, cut away right before the fateful kiss, end movie, with tiny fragment of Colleen and Rutledge over the titles saying the whole thing failed, but we know it didn't - mind-blowing!) before I hear how I am supposed to have understood the film?

sw said...

And yes, that means re-thinking the role of Anish Kapoor in the film.