Friday, May 16, 2008


A couple weeks ago FoxyJ checked out The Prestige from the library. A very cool movie, but the first thing I thought when I saw the cover was "Hey! It's Batman versus Wolverine! And look, there's Alfred!"

Then shortly after that Ken Jennings posted about "superhero crossover" movies where actors who have starred in superhero movies show up together. Besides The Prestige, Ken alluded to Wonder Boys as the movie that made one of his blog readers proclaim, “Holy smokes, Spidey and Iron Man are doin’ it!” So of course I went right to the library website and put Wonder Boys on hold.

As it turns out, this movie has more than superhero sex that should have made me like it more than I did. Besides having some great performances by Tobey Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., and Katie Holmes (Batman's girlfriend, by the way), this film has the Mr. Fob advantage of being about writers and writing. Once I realized this, I was excited--I'm a writer, so maybe this movie would somehow speak to the depths of my soul and tell me something wonderful and profound about writing. Perhaps it was this high expectation that left me feeling most disappointed in the movie with the aspects that had anything to do with writing. I don't know what it was* specifically, but it felt to me like a movie about actors pretending to be writers, not a movie about writers.

I remember feeling similarly about Finding Forrester, which like this was a great movie but felt somewhat artificial to me as far as representing anything like the world of writers that I know. Is it just that these are particular representations of a larger topic that I have a particular experience with, and because the particulars don't match up it seems fake to me? Or is it that they just don't do a good job of being movies about writers? My friends who (like me) are pretentious enough to call yourselves writers, have you seen movies about writers that rang true to you? Have the rest of you had similar experiences with movies about some other subject in your personal domain?

And is this why I was also disappointed by Unbreakable, which everyone told me I'd love as a comic-book fan, but ultimately felt like the work of an outsider to the genre?**

*After writing this post but before publishing it, I've figured out what I don't like about the portrayal of writing in either of the films mentioned above. In both writing is made out to be this magical process that somehow transcends the experience of mere mortal non-writers, but I don't know any writer for whom this is the case. You come up with an idea, you force it onto paper (or onto the screen), it's crap, and then you work and work until it's less crap than it was at first. There's nothing magical about it.

**Notice how I nicely brought the post back to the theme of superheroes, which is what I'd started with but otherwise had nothing to do with anything? Isn't that wonderfully literary of me?


Earth Sign Mama said...

Perhaps this is the reason I will never be a professional, make-my-living-as-a-writer. I find it almost impossible to write on-demand. Oh, I finished college all right. But whenever I've written anything that was successful, it had to be "born" in me, almost like a pregnancy. It just showed up in my head and it took "labor" to get it on the paper. But the ideas just pop into my brain. So far, I don't do well when I'm told the subject and what I need to produce.

Julie said...

I think anytime you have training/experience/expertise in a subject is almost turns into a snob on the subject and makes you more critical than the average person. For example, most people listen to a song in church and think it's great, while I often think it is not good. Most people look at a building and think it's nice, my hubby looks at and says how terrible it is. Or when women have babies in movies/tv shows. That is so not how it goes for most people! I've found the more expertise you have the harder it makes it to enjoy the thing because most things aren't done superbly well. Kind of ironic, I think.

Mr. Fob said...

ESM--I guess the part that I see missing in a lot of movies is the "labor" part. Sure, it's a bit of a romantic trope for writers to have writers' block, but even then it seems to be a process of having the magical tap turned on or off, not a matter of forcing yourself to vomit words onto a screen and then cleaning up the mess.

Julie--That's exactly how I feel when I see men having babies in movies or on TV.

Scot said...

I know what you mean, when I see scientists in the movies, they aren't nearly portrayed with enough megalomania or bumbling.

Gay superheroes aside, have you seen anything lately about lesbian vampires? I hear they're featured prominently in the new Narnia movie.

Mr. Fob said...

The best ones are the bumbling megalomaniacs.

And you know I'm an expert on lesbian vampire movies.

Rebecca said...

Movies make everything look easy. And they skip all the boring parts.

Mr. Fob said...

I want more boring parts!