Hollywood’s Highs And Lows: June 11, 2010
Welcome to today’s Highs and Lows, where I single-handedly make our website 108% nerdier
Alfred Hitchcock Is Charming, Pervy
Okay, I’m a bit behind on this one, but cut me some slack because it is hilarious. In this video, Alfred Hitchcock tells an adorably old-timey “that’s what she said” joke, or as he puts it, “as the lady said to the sailor.” (Fun Fact: in England, rather than saying “that’s what she said” after a double entendre, the response is “said the actress to the Bishop”) I love how flustered Anny Ondra gets, and how even though Blackmail was one of the first all-sound movies ever made, it’s clear that Hitchcock didn’t get too hung up on taking the process seriously.
TV And FMA: An Equivalent Exchange
Bear with me for a minute while I get really nerdy on your guys. Fullmetal Alchemist, Hiromu Arakawa’s manga (Japanese comic book) series that’s been going on for the past 9 years, just ended yesterday. Well it technically ended before then, but the English translation only hit the internet yesterday through ENTIRELY LEGAL MEANS THAT ARE ENTIRELY LEGAL. If comics aren’t your thing, I can forgive you for not checking it out, but otherwise get your bums on over and take a look at one of the best things to come out of Japan since Uniqlo.
So, this doesn’t technically fall into the film, TV, or celebrity categories I usually stick to (though there is an animated version of the series currently airing on Adult Swim). But I’ve included it on Highs and Lows today, both because reading it was genuinely one of the high points of my week, and because it is a great example of how to end a long serial story effectively, which is some thing that TV shows often struggle with.
The world of manga is very different than that of TV; Ms. Arakawa had more control over her product than most television writers, and did not have to deal with the perpetual threat of cancellation that often dominates the environment of network TV. But the strength of the FMA ending is something that can be applied to the world of television as well, because it really came down to the basics. The series began with a simple premise, a single goal, and it ended with the fulfillment of that goal. The show may have added a large ensemble of characters and gone through a number of plots, but Arakawa remembered that the premise of the show is a promise to the audience, and if it deviates too far from that we’re going to get pissed. Now, this all seems really, really obvious. But a lot of shows have serious problems with remembering what their premises in the beginning even were. Take Lost, which began by asking “What’s is the Island?” and ended by answering “It’s kind of magic, and maybe evil. Definitely glowy though.” Or Heroes, which did pretty well as long as it was saving the cheerleader, but started to fall apart as soon as the goal changed to saving the world from a series of ill-defined and often-changing threats.
It’s really tough to wrap up a long-running series with tons of characters, and not everyone can create a satisfactory conclusion for both the characters and the plot. And while Fullmetal Alchemist doesn’t have a perfect ending, (tell me what happens to Hawkeye and Mustang, damn it!) it’s pretty damn close. Hiromu Arakawa managed to create a tense, moving conclusion to a nine year long saga, and one that made logical and emotional sense. And it’s the type of ending that TV writers could learn a lot from.
Warner Bros. Hates Terry Gilliam
Warner Bros. and Joel Silver announced today that they are planning an action film based on the classic Spanish novel Don Quixote. Well, there are a lot of problems, which I’ll get to later, but the most important one is that Terry Gilliam has been trying to make a Don Quixote film since 2000. The difficulties that Gilliam had with his first production, which included hail, flash floods, and the serious injury of the star, were so absurd that they actually made a film about it called Lost In La Mancha. After years of trying to get the project back on track, Gilliam had finally made some progress recently, signing Robert Duvall and Ewan McGregor for the film. And now Warner Bros. is making a competing film that is likely to kill Gilliam’s project before it even gets off the ground.
Not content with dashing the former Python’s dreams, Joel Silver and Warner Bros. also want to piss off literature fans everywhere by changing the plot of the story so that the windmills actually are giants and Quixote is a real knight, therefore turning the story into a generic adventure film and kind of missing the point. It would be nice to believe that there’s room in the world for both films, if it comes down to a choice between Gilliam’s highly personal, undoubtedly quirky film and a formulaic blockbuster with a lot of exploding windmills it’s pretty easy to guess which way the studios are going to go.