Real movies, fake stories

Posted: December 19, 2012 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
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In my free time I watch a lot of sports. I watch a lot of movies. I read a lot of books. I read a lot of newspapers and magazines. Sometimes, thanks to our three laptops, iPad, two televisions, Netflix subscriptions, HBO Go access and NBA League Pass, I might do all of those things at once.

And often times as I watch a movie, I sometimes wonder: What if this story was happening in the real world? This isn’t about based on true life movies or inspired by real events movies or anything like that. It’s wondering about movies based on nothing but a screenwriter’s imagination, and wondering how real-life writers would handle the chaos, crime, love story, thrills, action, bravery and cowardice that takes place in the films. To break it down a bit more, how would a feature writer at a newspaper or a longform writer at a magazine handle the tales we see once on the big screen and then a hundred times on a small one?

Part of this is also about asking what if? What might have happened to these fake characters? And who would have been there to document it?

Example: A few weeks ago — on TBS or TNT or AMC or one of those channels that’s obligated to show this movie once every two months — I watched about 90 minutes of A Few Good Men. It was about the 78th time I’d seen this particular part of the movie — Markinson dies (despite federal marshals guarding him), the defense falls apart, Tom Cruise gets drunk, he bounces back, makes Jessup admit to giving the Code Red. At some point, probably because I was reading Esquire, I started thinking about how a writer like Chris Jones would approach the story if A Few Good Men had happened in real life exactly as it happened on the screen. And I wondered: Who would make a more fascinating 6,000-word profile? Lieutenant Kaffee, the brilliant young lawyer with the legendary dad who defends the two marines, or Colonel Jessup, the fast-rising military man whose career is derailed because of his old-school ways? I wanted to read that story, preferably two years after the trial, so I know if Jessup was court-martialed. I picture the final scene in the piece taking place with Kaffee on a softball diamond.

I want someone from the New Yorker — probably David Grann — to write Andy Dufresne’s story five years after his escape and subsequent redemption from Shawshank prison. Since Dufresne would likely still be a fugitive from the law, Grann couldn’t reveal his location in the 10,000-word piece, which details, for the first time, just how Dufrense pulled off his escape. Included in the profile is an update on Andy’s good friend Red. In Mexico, is he still the man who knows how to get things?

How about a movie like Seven? What if some serial killer actually did manage to pull off all those murders, including the final one with the help of a box. What would the headlines be in the Post and Daily News? If you’re a magazine editor, do you want a major profile to focus on the psycho, the shattered cop who lost his wife or the old wise detective who’s seen too much but still wants to chat, and also looks suspiciously like Andy Dufresne’s friend Red?

Watching Inception, I wanted it to be real so an investigative reporter from the Washington Post or New York Times could figure out if Leonardo’s team really did implant an idea into the mind of a business heir or if it’s all in the head of a patient at a psychiatric facility who’s still stuck in a dream.

Imagine Albert Brooks’ The Scout was real, and there really was a guy who could hit home runs whenever he wanted and in the World Series struck out all 27 hitters he faced — on 81 pitches. Who tells his back story? S.L. Price? Or old-school Frank Deford, who would also bring in the story of the has-been scout who discovered this raw talent named Steve Nebraska. I want to know what Nebraska was thinking when he went to the roof at Yankee Stadium before his World Series start, and I want it in a piece of longform journalism. Gary Smith could get in his head too.

Sidebar on a what-if and some movie implausibility and something I’d really want a feature writer to explore. A few years ago I wrote about the ending of Jagged Edge (which involves a murderous newspaper editor). Now I’d like a lawyer reading TVFury — or someone who’s watched a lot of Law & Order – to explain why Jeff Bridges’ character tries killing his lawyer after she discovers a typewriter that proves he killed his wife and housekeeper. But this is AFTER he’s exonerated in the trial. Double jeopardy applies, right? Why didn’t he just say, “a typewriter? What’s that prove?” And this man was the editor of a metropolitan newspaper? And how long is the paper’s ombudsman’s column going to be the Sunday after the editor is shot in the home of his attorney?

Now I’m going to watch some James Bond — while reading the new issue of Vanity Fair. A 10,000-word feature on 007 that includes interviews with M, Q, and Jaws and includes a classy photo spread with the Bond girls? I want to read that story.

  1. Rich Jensen says:

    If The Scout were real, George Plimpton would have to write the piece:

    And don’t say “George is dead!” because The Scout is a fictional character, conventional rules do not apply!

  2. shawnfury says:

    Ha, good call. We need a sabremetric breakdown about who was better: Steve Nebraska or Sidd Finch.

  3. Jerry says:

    I think a more interesting followup piece on A Few Good Men would be whatever happened to Lt Kendrick. My theory is that after being dishonorably discharged from the Marines and serving a few years in Leavenworth he was a drifter looking for meaning in his life. He then changed his name to Jack Bauer…and I think we all know what happened after that.

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