From the case-log of FBI Special Agent Will Graham:
This job, it never ceases to amaze me. As a psychological profiler for the FBI, I have to deal with some real wackos. This week I’ve been researching a case, a tough one, trying to get into the head of some guy who likes to wrap houses so tightly in tinsel that the brickwork bulges. I get into his mindset, see what made him into the sick son-of-a-bitch he is, and I realise he wasn’t allowed to wrap his Christmas tree in tinsel when he was a kid. It was okay for him to hang ornaments and lights and angles and whatnot, but not tinsel. So now he’s the West Coast Tinsel Terrorist, and five innocent victims had to claim insurance on their bulging houses. There’s no such thing as a victimless crime.
While I’ve been dealing with all this crazy, I get to thinking about childhood, and what it means to be a kid in this day and age. The world’s a scary place, believe me. I’m an expert on this. That’s the thing, though. You need a little scary, like a vaccine against the world. You need to rub up against weird stuff when you’re that small. It makes you a better person.
So what do I find out when I get home to my wife and kid? That the internet has been tearing itself apart over Where The Wild Things Are, a film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s book about monsters. I never read it. Too busy reading and re-reading Mark Felt’s book about the FBI, which my young brain interpreted as being kinda hinky. I read it over and over and over, and for some reason I couldn’t explain at the time, it struck me that this guy was someone who would not be able to keep a secret, would you, you son-of-a… Anyway, I never read the Sendak book. Maybe I should have.
Seems a lot of film lovers out there, people who understand art and think that this Spike Jonze guy is the real deal thanks to those amazing Charlie Kaufman adaptations, they’re getting upset because you guys at Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures are rumoured to be considering reshooting the move, because kids think it’s kinda scary. Well, I say scare them. Reading all of those books on serial killers when I was a kid freaked me out, but look at me now. The FBI’s top criminal profiler. I caught The Tooth Fairy! And Hannibal Lecter! What has your kid done today, faceless corporate art-hater, other than watch Spongebob and drool a lot while you stare at Bloomberg on another TV and count huge numbers in your head?
So, you get a little worried because you showed the movie to some people and they didn’t like it. Fine. Be worried. You should be. Investing in movies is never a sure thing. It’s a gamble. You’re all gamblers. Anyone is who puts up money. The difference is that this time, yeah, you may win or lose, but there’s a damn good chance you’ll be creating something of lasting value anyway, something that might pay off big-time in the long run. Jonze and Eggers are no slouches. They’ve been doing pretty good for a while now. Have you seen Being John Malkovich? Have you read A Staggering Work of Heartbreaking Genius? And by “read” I don’t mean “optioned because you saw it on the New York Times bestsellers list”. We’re talking some serious talent that is only now beginning to bloom. You’re obviously used to taking a chance. Hell, you invested in a truly crappy script by Shyamalan even though other executives backed off, so why can’t you just take a leap of faith and stick by a film made by a talented director with an acclaimed script that has already been shot and just needs some post-production work done on it?
But you’re not going to do that, are you? Why take chances creating something different when you already have an idea in your head of what kid’s movies are like. They’re garish. They’re not realistic. They’re noisy. They’re not contemplative. They talk down to kids. They don’t treat them like perceptive beings. They have a lot of fart gags. They’re not bothered with addressing what it’s like to be a child. They have a soundtrack by Danny Elfman. They don’t have a soundtrack by Carter Burwell and Karen O from The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
They star some loud formerly funny actor bellowing tacky jokes and winking at the camera every two minutes. They don’t feature voicework by the brilliant Lauren Ambrose and James Gandolfini. They wreck a beloved book by adding ad-libs that “appeal” to adults that you think would be horrified by the thought of having to sit in a cinema with their kids watching something they might not understand. They don’t adapt a book by honouring the themes and tone of that book, or risk alienating the adults by making something that will speak to the intended audience in a visual language they might find appealing, thus sticking in their minds and affecting their lives for the better.
But that’s understandable. The last kid’s movie that I remember treating children with respect was Babe 2: Pig in the City. It was released poorly by a studio scared of angering the audience that had turned up to see a carbon copy of that wonderful original only to find animal death and sadness and surrealism and bleak honesty. It failed at the box office. It cost a lot of people their jobs. Not what a studio that has been damaged by the writers strike wants to think about, especially during the absorption of Bob “Shady” Shaye’s New Line.
Forget that movie, right? Except no one who saw it could, because it is a work of goddamn genius, you sons-of-bitches! It was like nothing made before, and it treated kids like smart, growing, curious, resilient human beings who love to be challenged way more than adults do, and its fanbase has grown over the years, enough so that a discussion about Richard Kelly’s overrated Lynch-lite Donnie Darko will get derailed by excitement over the thought of this lost classic being reappraised by a classy hipster from the AV Club. But what chance does love of a work of genius have against the possibly of the third quarter of 2008 showing a drop in revenue that can be attributed to one of those gambles you are always making? I’ll tell you, you son-of-a-bitch! No chance! That’s right, isn’t it, you son-of-a-bitch! No chance at all!!!!
Well, it doesn’t matter in the long run. Even I know it’s just a film, even though I’m pissed at you all. Hopefully this is worry for nothing. Perhaps the movie really is crap and it has nothing to do with your cowardice, and you’re actually right for a change. Perhaps you do intend to release it properly, and all this worry is for nothing. But we’re watching you. There are those of us have been alerted to your possible strategies, and we’re aware you’re capable of doing to Jonze what you did to Paul Schrader on that crappy Exorcist movie, and we’re already getting mobilised, albeit slowly. So know this. You’re on notice, executives.
Oh wow! It arrived! The new Lost game from Ubisoft, Via Domus! I’ve been looking forward to this for months. Everything’s going to be alright. Everything’s going to be just fine.
::Cue “Heartbeat” by Red 7::