As I Wish

I just finished one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a long time. It wasn’t just the book by itself, but the entire experience. It combined two of my great joys: books and film. This was a book about the making of a film from a book. The book and film are “The Princess Bride”.


“The Princess Bride” is among my favorite films. In fact, I consider it a perfect film. Every part of this movie is as good as it could possibly be. William Goldman’s original book is great, his screenplay brilliant, the cast impeccable, Rob Reiner’s direction inspired. It’s funny, exciting, romantic, poignant, and very, very smart. Reading about what went on behind all that merely added to the whole package.

asyouwishCary Elwes, who exquisitely portrayed farm boy Westley, the Man in Black, and Dread Pirate Roberts wrote “As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride” – as unwieldy a title as your bound to find, yet appropriate for this tale. It’s a memoir of his experiences as a very young actor in his first starring role.

Although the movie is now (can it possibly be?) 27 years old, his recollections, like the movie itself, have the freshness of today. He captures the same innocence, excitement, and naiveté with which he approached the filming. It had all the immediacy and enthusiasm of a kid’s essay about hitting the winning home run in a little league game. But that little league game didn’t go on to become one of the most precious cultural icons in American history.

Clearly, making the movie was as much fun as watching it. I have to confess a bit of envy as I read. Those are the kinds of experiences anyone who loves film would love to be part of. In my own life, I’ve experienced the fun, camaraderie, and passion that goes into a dramatic presentation. It’s really quite unparalleled. I couldn’t even imagine what it must have been like to be involved in something as magical as “Bride”. At least, I couldn’t until I read Elwes’s wonderful book.

If you don’t like the movie – an “inconceivable” thought – I suppose the book won’t mean much to you either. Clearly, you don’t have a beating heart. If, however, you’re a fan of Fezzik, Vizzini, Miracle Max, Inigo Montoya, and all the rest, this is a must-read.

Anyone who tells you different is selling something.

This changes everything

Here’s a little news item you probably missed. This Congressional resolution, issued just today, will change all our futures. We knew it had to happen eventually.


2nd Session

H.R. 99

Initiating updates of names and labels for humans, pets, and all organizations and establishments to reflect the era of technological ubiquity in which the nation finds itself.


October 22, 2014

Mr. BOEHNER (for himself and Mr. BROOKS) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology


That all names and labels currently in use as of passage of this bill shall forthwith be changed to reflect the era of technological ubiquity in which the nation finds itself. Names and labels yet to be assigned shall adhere to the same set of new “futuristic” names, giving preference to words such as “space”, “jet”, “planet”, and other names of that futuristic ilk.

Whereas it has been several millennia since the Stone Age ended and since the previous name shift when sobriquets favoring words such as “rock” and “stone” were deprecated;

Whereas we recognize that today’s technology-dominated culture should impact naming processes at all levels;

Whereas we all expect soon to be traveling in flying automobiles powered by quiet, unobtrusive little circles;

Whereas living in saucer-shaped homes supported by single posts reaching beyond cloud level will soon be commonplace;

Whereas robotic technology already exists in nearly every product we consume from automobiles to toasters, soon to perform all our errands, household chores, work, and recreation;

Whereas archaic names such as “Smith” and “Wright” referring to anachronistic professions will engender tremendous confusion and wreak havoc on the education of our children whose knowledge extends no further into the past than the advent of the DVD;

Whereas even words such as “sprocket”, though hardly high-tech, promote an engineering bias in keeping with our culture of innovation and will be acceptable;

Whereas the future has arrived and we have little time to spare before it overwhelms us with its strangeness: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives —

(1) shall enforce the renaming and relabeling of all existing entities whether living or inorganic through whatever means necessary, whether punitive or compensatory; and

(2) shall propose acceptable names for newly created entities, whether living or inorganic; and

(3) shall provide thorough guidelines for the new naming paradigm; and

(4) shall henceforth refuse to recognize names that do not meet the proposed criteria; and

(5) shall change the National Anthem to “Rocket Man”; and

(6) shall change even the name of our nation to “The United States of Astromerica”; and

(7) shall add an amendment to the Constitution, er, Cosmotution to further reinforce this critical need.

Cogressional update: Submitters henceforth to be known as Cogressmen Frederick LASER and Mo COMETS


With your new space-name, you’ll be as happy as these folks.

Game Over

vidgamemovieI like movies but I don’t much care for video games. This isn’t an unfounded bias based on my age or a disconnect from current culture. (My video game experience goes back to the pre-Atari days). No, the reason is my preference for story.

Aristotle had it right, in my opinion. A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That separates it from pageantry, which is a continuous display without a plot. Thus, I prefer plays to parades and Olympic competition to opening ceremonies.

This bias extends to my preference for baseball, which I see as a plot-driven competition (complete with 9 “chapters” with no clock) as opposed to basketball, soccer, and hockey, which are continuous action.

Today, the line between the movies and video games has become blurred, if not invisible. Movies are made based on video games. Screenwriters write for video games. Actors voice video games. It seems that, now, gamers are writing some of the movies.

This struck me when I recently watched the movie “Divergent”, a film made from a YA novel of the same name. Not surprisingly, it echoes many features of the wildly successful “Hunger Games” series: onion-skin-thin YA characters in a dystopian society trying to kill each other off. If you think the similarities in these logos is a coincidence, I have an Amway franchise you’d be interested in. (I’m not alone in this. SNL noticed the connection, too. Check it out.)










I can’t speak for the book because I haven’t read it, but “Divergent” the movie was mind-numbing for me. As I watched, it felt like I was trapped in a video game. The protagonist, Tris (rhymes with Katniss from “Hunger Games”; get it?), has to survive multiple levels of challenges not a whole lot different than those faced by Mario Brothers. In case the obvious isn’t obvious enough, she even gets a score for each level. All middle, no beginning or end; not exactly Aristotelian.

There is a plot buried somewhere under all the mundane action, one-dimensional characters, and hackneyed relationships but it’s as trite as it is uninteresting.

And, guess what. Like a video game, it doesn’t end. The vapid protagonist and all her shallow cohorts simply set themselves up for the next level, er, sequel. Oh joy.

From all appearances, a movie in a similar (i.e. exactly the same) vein is “The Maze Runner”. This flick dispenses with any pretense. The name is a game and the plot appears to be trying to play a game.

This one is also based on a book. The usual suspects: YA, dystopian, trilogy (i.e. built-in franchise).  Once more, I have to confess that I haven’t read this book. It could be a YA classic that will make us all forget “The Chocolate War”, “A Catcher in the Rye”, and “The Giver”.

I’m betting not.

This class of pulp seems to be churned out at a factory somewhere and judged not on their ability to challenge or inspire, but on their potential for selling cookie cutter movie franchises and tangential tchotchkes to gullible adolescents.

Mario would be all over them.


Start at the beginning…

harehatterSpeaking of movie trends that annoy me (which I was, though you’d have no way of knowing since you aren’t here listening to me rant) in recent years, a lot of films have messed around with the order of things. They obviously haven’t listened to the sage advice of the March Hare and Mad Hatter in Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland,

Mad Hatter: Something seems to be troubling you. Won’t you tell us all about it?

March Hare: Start at the beginning!

Mad Hatter: Yes, yes….and when you come to the end…..STOP!

It seems that once “Pulp Fiction” came along, the whole space-time continuum was thrown to the wind with scenes falling wherever they landed. The value of that gimmick can be debated in PF, but it doesn’t always work. (Opinion: It does more than work in “Memento”; it’s crucial and brilliant.)

bttfThe only places where messing around with time is always excusable are time-travel movies: the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Déjà Vu”, “Terminator” movies, and all the rest, some good and some (and I’m thinking here of “Somewhere in Time”) excruciatingly bad. The only truly meaningful time-travel movie is the one that treats the concept with the flippancy it deserves: “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. (Good news: There will be a third B&T movie with them as adults… or as adult as they could possibly be, I’d guess.)

Less adventurous directors have decided they can hedge their bets by swapping just one scene: The end.

I can’t even count the number of films I’ve seen post-PF where the first scene is the end of the movie. This technique has been used effectively in great films such as “Sunset Boulevard” and “Citizen Kane”. None of the movies I’m thinking of are “Citizen Kane”.

Here are a few possible reasons directors use this cliché:

  1.  It was used in successful films such as “Sunset Boulevard” and “Citizen Kane”. Wrong answer.
  2. The last scene is usually a “grabber”. There’s no point grabbing the audience’s attention at the end of the movie. That could be too late. Grab’em right up front.
  3. You’re unsure whether the audience will stay awake until the end so you want make sure they see it ASAP. If that’s it, you got bigger potatoes to fry.
  4. No point waiting for critics to give away the “spoilers” when you can do it yourself.

That last one is the one that bugs me. Should these movies have a warning at the beginning the way some reviews do? Warning: This movie contains its own spoilers. They all want to be Lucy, the ultimate spoiler:rosebud

I’m waiting for this movie opening:


I have the mixed blessing of a miserable memory. True story: My wife and I were watching a movie not too long ago. As it approached the denouement, I called out – as I am wont to do – what I thought would happen next. My more able spouse corrected me. “No, he gets shot. Don’t you remember they showed it at the beginning?”

sunsetboulIt wasn’t ruined for me, but it was for her and all the other non-brain-damaged folks who watched it. The “good” news is that the movie was a flop and pretty much no one saw it. So much for copying “Sunset Boulevard”.

As a public service, I’d like to list here all those movies with built-in spoilers… but I forget what they are.

Where did that come from?


(This isn’t a post-day, but this hit me out of the blue.)

Just minutes ago, during a football game I was watching, a commercial came on for very large bank – you know, one of those that’s too big to fail. Serving as sonic backdrop to the inane activity in the ad was a 41-year-old pop song: “Shambala” by Three Dog Night.


I already ranted about this phenomenon in a previous post on my other blog, so I won’t do it again, but each time one of those old songs pops me into the Wayback Machine, I’m amazed.

And grateful. 🙂