Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Unmitigated Disasters - or How I Nearly Won An Oscar

I just to start by saying that when I was at university, I took a course in film studies. I watched films with A Message, with Symbolism. With subtitles. And sometimes all three at once! And not only did I do well in the course, I was actually top of the class. So be gentle when you judge me.

My little cinematic treat is a nice disaster film. The more preposterous the better. And I've amassed a rather impressive collection of disaster movies - and what is more impressive is the fact that I have not paid more than €4 for a single one! (Although, on second thoughts, that mightn't be very impressive at all.) If you ever wanted to pop over to the Gingerbread House for an evening of movies-slash-crafting, you could practically choose your catastrophe and I'd not only have a film about it, but could offer you a couple of disasters you've never even considered. Yes, sirree: forget your standard run-of-the-mill disasters like tornadoes, floods and volcanic explosions, I can also offer you films about global warming-induced climate change, unwieldy asteroids entering the earth's atmosphere, alien invasions, zombie viruses, abandoned ships inhabited by bloodthirsty demons and - my favourite - genetically-altered mutant super sharks that not only possess razor-sharp analytical skills but also the ability to open doors!

As you know, I've already had a go at writing romance novels, but for a long time I also toyed with the idea of becoming a screenwriter. Using my excellent diagnostic skills - not unlike those of a mutant super-shark - I had compiled a list of surprising similarities that these movies share. VoilĂ ! (or as I'm seeing on a frighteningly regular basis in cyberspace: Waalaah!)

  • The Male Lead
    ... is an Expert in Something. Something that regular punters like you and me vaguely know exists, but we're not exactly sure what it is and are too embarrassed to admit it. So when Male Lead marches into his lab/lecture hall (because he's inevitably a scientist or a professor) and says that his area of specialisation is Geothermal Genetic Astronomy, or some such random collection of sciencey words, you nod and say, "Oho! Geothermal Genetic Astronomy! I've always wanted to study that myself!"
    Or maybe not. (Suspend disbelief, readers.)
    Anyway, more unbelievable than his makey-uppy sciencey title is his physique: the filmmakers would have you believe that this man is a veritable lab-rat, yet when the time comes for him to strip off his shirt - and trust me, this time will come - observant viewers will note fantastic muscle tone, an even tan and a waxed chest. Astonishing.
  • The Female Lead
    ... is either (a) his ex-wife, who divorced him because he was married to his job but she secretly still loves him or (b) an uptight executive in a too-tight business suit, who will come to love him, despite their witty sparring for the first half of the film. She's in a position of power - an astronaut, aide to the president, the USA's first army generalette - but she's actually looking for a man to save her. (Because, like, we all are.) When she removes her ugly glasses and shakes her hair loose, you'll discover that she's a stunner. With fantastic muscle tone, an even tan and, probably, a waxed chest. (But we don't get to see that.)
But that's not all - you need a bevvy of sidekicks! A good Hollywood film has at least half-a-dozen of these and they get picked off, one by one, during the course of the film. I'll just give you the four most important. You can add more yourself as you please.
  • An Expendable Fat Person.
    As someone who veers more towards the Squishy side of the scale myself, I take umbrage at the fact that the chubby co-star always gets killed first. (And have you ever noticed that when the asteroid/alien ship/burning lava suddenly plops down in the middle of downtown Spokane, there's always a close-up of a rotund person tucking into a mountain of fast food, just seconds before they're hit by volcanic rock or the tailgate of a UFO? True fact.)
  • A Silly Woman, Usually Blond.
    She might be the female lead's assistant. She gets killed next. She's attractive, but not terribly attractive. Likable enough to make the ridiculous circumstances of her death somewhat saddening. (She's on the phone to her kindergarten-age child when the giant squid pops up out of a drain and eats her. "Eeeeeek!" "Mommy? I yuv you, where are you? Mommeeeeee!" etc.)
  • Person From A Minority.
    In recent years Hollywood has had to cover a lot of bases in order not to offend anyone (except, it would seem, The Squishy.) As a result, they try fall over themselves in a fit of abject tokenism. Ideally you might have a person of some colour other than white (Black. Latino/Hispanic. Asian. Indian. Irish - I think this is because we're not strictly white, but more pink with freckles. I haven't figured the demographics out on this one, but apparently we fall in this category, too.) This person should also be a minority religion (Jewish. Buddhist. Rastafarian) and/or have a disability (Blind. Deaf. In a wheelchair) and/or some sort of special ability (The Best Software Programmer on Earth. Ace Navigator. Advanced Memory.) Play around with this one. Some combinations work (Blind Hispanic Buddhist who can hack the FBI's super computer) and some don't (Deaf Vietnamese Scientologist who can bend spoons with the power of his mind.) This person will get killed next (but not too early in the film, or you'll offend someone.)
  • And Morgan Freeman. I'm not sure why, but Mr Freeman (or lesser thespian copies of Mr Freeman) pops up a lot in disaster films. I think he and his ilk lend a certain gravitas to the genre. If someone told you that we had but hours to live because an asteroid the size of Texas was rocketing its way towards earth or a pack of mutant sharks were swimming up the Hudson River to eat the population of NewYork, you would guffaw in mirth. But if Morgan Freeman announces our imminent destruction in his gravelly tones, you tend to believe him. He is an asset to any disaster film.

Then you just need a disaster. That's where I'm stumped. I'm normally a creative person, but this one has really slowed me down. I can't think of a disaster that hasn't already been covered. I thought I was on to something good last year when I remembered that what scares people most is not aliens, zombie viruses, asteroids or super volcanoes. It's not tornadoes, biblical floods or - strangely enough - attacks by door-opening mutant sharks. It's actually...

... public speaking! Yes, apparently the thoughts of standing behind a microphone in front of a room full of strangers frightens the living daylights of the average Joe Soap. So I sharpened my HB pencils and grabbed a brand-new notebook and set about writing the film that would change disaster films as we know them. But I struggled, readers, I struggled. I admit, I was already desperately trying to come up with a scenario that would involve scaring the bejabbers out of the human race with the power of rhetoric, when I sadly discovered that there was a disaster film in the making that exploits that very fear - my very idea! The cheek! And to add insult to injury, last weekend I watched the Oscars and was very displeased to see that the idea they pinched from me had not only done well, but had been a cinematic triumph. Snort!

Therefore I would like to call upon all of my loyal readers to boycott the film The King's Speech because a film about the horrors of public speaking was my idea and - footstomp - I had it first. Take note, Colin Firth, you are struck off my Christmas card list!
Harsh words, but I think it's justified, don't you?

One of the reasons why I've dipped into my litany of disasters is because I'm going home to Mammy and Daddy Gingerbread for a week tomorrow. As you know, we missed brother Johnny Gingerbread's wedding last year because of the darned Icelandic volcano and spent Christmas in Germany thanks to a blizzard. I'm trying to prepare myself for the next disaster - forewarned is forearmed and all that. So fingers crossed that the next post you read from me will be from the Gingerbread Homestead, on Daddy Gingerbread's new laptop in his chair by the fire:


Quinn said...

I love your )appropriated) film idea! But to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum, in a film I'm sure I needn't mention:

"Must write faster."

Have a lovely, disaster-free trip! With no dinosaurs! (That was a hint.)

Anonymous said...

So you are Dan Browns ghostwriter?

Paul & Carla said...

As pretty much a non-disaster film viewer, you have opened my eyes to all the great possibilities of the cinematic world. How COULD I have missed all this? On the other hand, our "disaster" movies around here focus on the documentary type, involving real people, real governments, and real stupidity.

I think ours are scarier.

By the way, have a disaster free (both types) of trip! Say hello to your parents!

Anonymous said...

Given my name, I'm sure it won't come as a surprise I simply adore mutant super sharks ;)

The Gingerbread Lady said...

Am I Dan Browne's ghost writer? Ridiculous. Dan - I mean, Mr Browne and I are just good friends. Honest.

cshell said...

Boycott Mr. Darcy, errrr, Colin Firth? Has the chill finally gotten to you?

Going to put index finger to thumb to ponder where my loyalties lie. :D