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« There are Seven Shots of Julianne Moore in the Seventh Son Trailer. Just Saying. | Main | Cinema Swimwear: Dr No »
Friday
Jul122013

Burning Questions: Fictional Art You Want to Experience?

Michael C. here to share another question for your collective answer. Every film that portrays creative people at work faces the same conundrum. In order to tell the story of an artist at work the movie has to depict the product of their labor, and making that convincing can require just as much effort as making the film itself. If you can make a painting that is believable as the work of a master, maybe you should just do that and skip the film altogether? You know what I mean?

"uh oh... we just lost the family audience"

There are various methods with which films skirt this issue. The simplest solution is to show nothing and simply have the characters talk about the brilliance (or lack thereof) of the work in question. We never do hear a passage from Grady Tripp’s acclaimed "Arsonist's Daughter" in Wonder Boys (2000), just as we never witness any of the actual stage performances from All About Eve (1951). Then there are those films which give just enough of a taste of the work without doing the heavy lifting. In the great All That Jazz (1979), for example, we see enough of Joe Gideon’s erotic work-in-progress to know why it’s an investor’s nightmare without ever learning much more about it.

In rare cases, films do such a good job suggesting a work of art that you leave the theater disappointed that the work doesn’t exist in reality. Here are three examples of fictional works of art from movies that I would happily shell out the cash for should they magically appear at multiplexes, book stores or on the Great White Way… [more]

“God of Our Fathers” from Bullets Over Broadway (1994)

I guess I’m a sucker for critical hype even if the play in question doesn’t actually exist. I have the urge to buy a ticket every time I witness the awed reactions when the characters read the draft of God of Our Fathers rewritten by Cheech, Chazz Palminteri’s hired goon/ dramatic genius. I would be especially fascinated to contrast the Broadway smash with the earlier draft by John Cusack’s talentless David Shaye, the one Helen Sinclair so delicately dubbed “the eunuch version”

“Old Custer” from The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Well, everyone knows Custer died at Little Bighorn. What this book presupposes is... maybe he didn't? “

Question: How much inane literary pretension can Wes Anderson cram into a few lines of a pretend alternate history novel? Answer: a truly impressive amount. Maybe it’s tortured prose like "busted leather flintcraw” and “friscalating dusklight” or perhaps it’s the smug satisfaction with which Owen Wilson’s Eli Cash lays out the inane premise like it is solid gold genius. Whatever the case, I’m convinced a full novel of this faux Cormac McCarthy blather would be the funniest book since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

“The 3” from Adaptation (2002)

Charlie Kaufman: How could you have somebody held prisoner in a basement and working at a police station at the same time?

Donald Kaufman: [pause] Trick photography. “

I can’t be the only one disappointed when Adaptation ends without showing so much as a clip from Donald Kaufman’s high concept thriller. Of course the joke is that Kaufman’s concept is so ridiculously high that it is essentially impossible to film, with the big twist being that cop, killer and victim all turn out to be the same person. Yet at the time of Donald’s tragic demise The 3 had sold for somewhere in the high six figures and it was being fast-tracked into production (with Catherine Keener rumored to star) so something has to end up on the screen. Ideally it would be a Mulholland Dr type mind fuck, but given what we see of its production history a sub- Shyamalan train wreck seems more likely. The least Charlie could have done to honor Donald’s memory would have been to write some footage from The 3 into to the screenplay of Adaptation.

I’m curious to know what you think. Do you want to see the result of whatever Marcello Mastroianni ends up filming in 8 ½ or do you want to go on a DVD binge of five classic seasons of Fox Force Five? Let us know in the comments.

Previous Burning Questions
You can follow Michael C. on Twitter at @SeriousFilm. Or read his blog Serious Film

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Reader Comments (24)

I've got a few, but the first three that come to mind are the full show Joe is working on in "All That Jazz", as well as the entire odiousness of "Songbird" in "Death Becomes Her", and all of Esther's TV special in the '76 "A Star is Born". Don't even get me started on "Boogie Nights". Just Kidding.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJohnnyBS

Johnny BS -- oh no kidding here. I would watch the shit out of any of the Boogie Nights films. ;) but my number one here is of course the musical that houses AIR-OTICA in all that jazz. so i'm glad Michael mentioned it.

i would also love to see that gone with the wind musical they joke about in "irreconciliable differences" which just popped into my head just now.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNathaniel R

One that I didn't mention in the post is the "Evening of Vegetables" Hoffman mentions in Tootsie. I'm dying to know what that could that possibly look like.

"I played the best tomato, the best cucumber. I did an Endive salad that knocked the critics on their ass!"

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Not sure if it fits, but I really liked to hear the musical piece Binoche's character wanted to complete in Three colors: Blue. Also, any play/silent film within a film from Almodovar's. a play from Margaret (which for now I forgot its name). And I am truly interested to see the play that earned Margot Tenenbaums a 50 thousand dollars prized in the 9th grade.

July 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTombeet

Great topic :)
"The Dueling Cavalier" from Singin' in the Rain.
The film that Alexandra Del Lago has just completed (and thinks she is terrible in) in Sweet Bird of Youth.
"Home for Purim" from For your Consideration
and my favorite: "Chubby Rain" from Bowfinger

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTravis

The Love Canal play which is also from Tootsie.
The production that included the "I did not ask for the anal probe." speech from Passion Fish.
The entire Richard III from Goodbye Girl.
And the Granddaddy of them all. The entire production of Springtime for Hitler from The Producers.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHenry O.

Sunny Hall by Alvy Singer.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

I would love to see Donald Kaufman's The 3, too.

Donald: "The killer flees on horseback with the girl, the cop's after them on a motorcycle, and it's like a battle between motors and horses, like technology vs. horse."
Charlie: "An they're still all one person, right?"

On a more serious note, I'd like to read Miles's novel in Sideways and Wendy Savage's play in The Savages.

Since you mentioned 8 1/2 at the end of the post, I have to say that I have absolutely no interest in seeing the film that Guido is making in it. There was nothing in 8 1/2 to convince me that he's anything more than a sex addict, let alone a great artist. I do have to respect that movie for being the first of its minigenre that later produced great films such as All That Jazz and Synecdoche, New York, though.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan

@Nathaniel - Atlanta! Oh my, yes, yes, yes. (I also would *love* to read Lucy's novel.)

And no one has mentioned any of the "programs" in Network, which are so DVR-worthy, not to mention the opera in Birth.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Mareko --OOH good call

July 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Jan - I would love to read an excerpt from "The Day After Yesterday" but is there any way the whole novel isn't an interminable slog? Even Giamatti said in the commentary that he's certain Miles is a mediocre writer.

If I were going for a serious novel James Leer's Love Parade from Wonder Boys would be my choice.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Michael - I'm not at all sure that Miles's novel and Wendy's play are actually any good, but the films made me care so much about those characters that I'd be willing to give them a try, at least. (By the way, I just remembered Maya's hilarious response when Miles tells her the title of his novel: "You mean... today?")

Mareko - from what I understand, the opera scene in Birth uses music from an actual opera by Wagner.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Christopher Guest takes the cake here: I'd probably die trying to contain my laugher watching the entirety of "Red White & Blaine" from Waiting for Guffman live, but I think it'd be worth it. I would also listen to most of the albums featured in A Mighty Wind. But what I really want to see is Home for Purim Thanksgiving and the performances that beat Marilyn Hack for Best Actress nominations.

Followed by Wes Anderson: I would kill to read any of Suzie's books from Moonrise Kingdom, or to see a production of Margo Tenenbaum's original award-winning play.

I also really want to try the Chef Gusteau cookbook from Ratatouille.

Also, STAB from Scream 2. Just 'cause.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Denny - GREAT call on Anyone Can Cook from Chef Gusteau. Jealous I didn't think of it.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C.

Well, obviously, Spectacular, Spectacular from Moulin Rouge. ONE NIGHT ONLY. Colors! music! Drama! Wondering why the lead actor changed in the middle of the show!...It will be a bit of a bummer though when you hear the lead actress immediately died after the show ended.

If we're counting TV, then the full version of Bombshell from NBC's Smash with Megan Hilty in the lead role. It would be a dream come true. Doing it live would be murder, so let's go with a filmed stage version.

and for not so great works:
Megan's deliciously trashy soap opera on Mad Men.
Angels With Even Filthier Souls from Home Alone 2
Daytime TV drama, The Sun Also Sets from Soapdish.
The published journal of Sebastian Valmont from Cruel Intentions.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

Denny - I STILL laugh at how they cast Tori Spelling as Sidney in the Stab movies.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck.

WAIT.

How have we all forgotten the glory of GODDESS from Showgirls?! The question is, would you rather see it with Cristal Connors or Nomi Malone?

Derreck - I know, right? Always makes me chuckle thinking about that.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

The book Jesse writes about his and Celine's first night in 'Before Sunset'.

I know, SHOCKER.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBeau

Beau -- i'm even almost as interested in that really complex one he's describing in Before Midnight

July 13, 2013 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Yes. The Airotica musical from ALL THAT JAZZ, Goddess from SHOWGIRLS, and the entire STAB franchise-within-the-SCREAM-franchise. Especially part five (i think it was part five) which went into space.

I also wish I could see the musical that Travolta's character works on in STAYING ALIVE if just to prove that there's no possible way it could exist on the Broadway stage.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

I felt a bit guilty during The Player because I'm the type of person who would totally watch Habeas Corpus.

July 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

Stephen Sondheim's Company, as performed by the overenthusiastic but talented tweens and teens of Camp. Real, existing work that we get a sip of in The Ladies Who Lunch number with Anna Kendrick but still, c'mon.

Stop the Planet of the Apes I Want to Get Off from The Simpsons. Of course.

Also, The Simpsons is pretty much the king of this with such delicious numbers from Kickin' It: A Musical Journey Through The Betty Ford Center and Oh, Streetcar!, the Streetcar Named Desire musical starring Marge as Blanche.

Helen Keller! The Musical from South Park. "1800s Alabama..."

And to complete with animated tv-committed answer, Blood Crieth Unto Heaven from American Dad, which we saw in all its theatrical glory but still. That episode was PURE GOLD this past season.

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMark The First

No Barton Fink love?

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDeborah Lipp

The AIROTICA musical is playing right now on Broadway . . . PIPPIN. That's the show Fosse was fictionalizing in ALL THAT JAZZ. Stephen Schwartz was VERY unhappy with the dark/sexual overtones Fosse put in the show. You even see the composer/lyricist in the movie get pissed off at the number.

I believe the number in question is a dance sequence after "Simple Joys" or "With You" -- I don't know the show super well.

NOTE: Obviously there's some fictionalizing going on because Gwen Verdon was not in PIPPIN, so I think he may have extrapolated her experience in CHICAGO into the ALL THAT JAZZ.

July 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAle-Alejandro

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