Behind the hero on the screen

With Oscar night approaching, it’s worth reflecting how the cultural values of Hollywood are so violently opposed to the values of its most successful movies.

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  1. #1 by jgo on February 27, 2009 - 2:26 pm

    I might be able to offer some insight. I “touched” over 40 major movies, mostly in the 1990s.

    The thing is that a movie is a humongous collaboration. Watch the list of credits as they scholl by and you’re still not getting the whole of it. In many of the movies I “touched” my contribution that made it to screen was limited to a single sentence. My material was not used in the same context or spirit as that in which it was created, or in which I imagined it being used, with possibly 1 or 2 exceptions.

    The sub-text in “Jerry Maguire” involved some difficult issues in labor economics. How productive does a person need to be to make it worthwhile for someone to employ him? What is that quantum of value? How does it change over time and why? What factors make it higher or lower?… became “materialize the coin”, that last word pronounced in the French way because I was living in a community with a French name at the time. And “Why haven’t I been paid for these previous projects that made several billion at the box office?” I boiled down to “Show me the money.”

    When the filming of “The Mask of Zorro” was delayed because the Mexican government had seized their stage-swords, it inspired a cross-reference, with the mental image of the black-caped hero stuck trying to ride a donkey rather than his stallion Toronado, “If I’ve got to ride your a** like Zorro, you’re going to show me the money.”, which took me about 20 minutes to edit down to that (and that’s exactly how I submitted it, with the asterisks).

    Chris O’Donnell asked, “[But then, if he’s not a maniac,] why does Bruce Wayne need to be Batman?” and I responded “He doesn’t NEEEED to be Batman! He CHOOSES to be Batman. He could have reacted in any number of ways to the murder of his parents. He could have… but he chose to study criminology and chemistry and martial arts and engineering…” which became “you see, I’m both Bruce Wayne and Batman, not because I have to be, now, because I choose to be.”

    Several bits in “Conspiracy Theory” and “Men in Black” came from joking around, playing word-games, or recalling incidents that had happened to friends or to me, like having worked 37 hour days as a software analyst. “I don’t know. That’s why they call them “they”, and, uh, “them”.” and “We’re “them”. We’re “they”. WE are the men in black, the 1st, last & only line of defense against the worst scum of the universe.”, contained both playful cross-reference, and a plea for people to take up responsibility for improving their apartment complex or neighborhood, city or state. Each of us is Batman, Zorro, Blade, the hero who acts to try to improve the situation. Don’t sit back and expect the government or whatever to do everything for you. Be a good person, yourself.

    We were discussing philosophy when someone asked whether the assertion that everyone is capable of rationality meant I expected everyone to be great, to be perfect. “You don’t have to be a great man. Just be a man, a fully-functioning human being, conscientiously exercising your abilities…” but it got chopped short in “Star Trek: 1st Contact”.

    A similarly arcane philosophical discussion generated the “5th Element”‘s oft-repeated “Time is not important. Only life is important.”, taken out of context, of course.

    Dialog in movies has to be edited down to its bare bones. I’m also nearly certain that the directors just liked the sound of the lines, and did not really understand or appreciate the full context or spirit in which they were written.

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