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.