or, Thoughts on Completing "The Night Was..."
I rewatched Throw Momma From the Train last night, after my friend and co-writer Paul Martin reminded me of the dreck the members of Billy Crystal's writing class came up with.
(Ya gotta love Mrs. Hazeltine's contribution to literature:
"Dive... DIVE," yelled the captain through the thing. So the captain pressed a button, or something, and it dove. And the enemy was foiled again!
I was freshly reminded how fortunate I am to associate with the truly talented writers in the Writing Practicum!)
Though I like "Momma," I found myself wondering how it would be reworked and rearranged if released today.
I suspect the entire opening "Writer's Block" scene would be excised completely and the movie would actually begin with Danny DeVito enduring the Momma from Hell -- all in the name of grabbing the all-powerful Reader by the throat and not letting go. In fact, it might be an interesting editing exercise to re-cut the film for "Today's Audience" and see how the story fared in the re-imagining.
Dated or not, the movie remains one of my favorite about the Writing Life. (What's not to like about Danny DeVito's hapless Owen confessing about killing Billy Crystal's hated ex-wife?: You're right. You're right, I'm no good. How could I do that? I'm a sick pers--[a billboard with a pastoral scene distracts him] Cows!)
Watching Billy wrestle with how to best complete the sentence "The night was..." got me to thinking, and inspired me to compile a quick and not-terribly-well-thought-out list of other favorite films that prominently feature writers. In no particular order, these include:
* The remake of D.O.A., which serves to remind us that people will kill for a good book.
* Atonement (though, truth be told, I tend to watch this more for Mr. McAvoy's performance than for Briony's story...)
* Moulin Rouge ::sigh::
* The hilarious and under-seen Tune in Tomorrow, with Peter Falk as the writer for a hot radio soap, and Keanu Reeves, Barbara Hersey, John Larroquette, Peter Gallagher, Elizabeth McGovern, and many, many more, as his pawns.
* Stranger Than Fiction, which is about the closest I've ever seen a movie come to the weird reality of a writer "with book."
* The inspired-by-true-life Shattered Glass (Say what you will about Hayden Christensen, I thought he was very good in this tale of a writer who fakes his way to the top...)
* Adaptation ("Don't call it 'the industry...'"),
* And, thanks to my 6-year old daughter, I would have to add both Miss Potter and Nim's Island for their accuracy in illustrating how obsessively real a writer's characters can become...
Of course there are others that feature writers: "The Muse." "Something's Gotta Give." "The Player." Even "Romancing the Stone" qualifies. Without trying too hard, you could probably rattle off several I haven't mentioned.
I suppose I should find it mildly concerning that in most movies, we writers don't come off as a terribly balanced or rational lot. But I don't. We have rich inner lives. We take reviews too seriously and ignore deadlines that we shouldn't. We're neurotic, creative, scheming, and driven. We plot the perfect murders. We manipulate kings and peons. Within realms of our creation, we decide who lives, who loves, who triumphs, and who fails. We fall in love with our words and -- subsequently -- with our characters. We are an odd but interesting lot, forever searching for the perfect way to finish the sentence, "The night was..."