The pen is mightier than the CGI sword

Well, there’s strange: workaday director par non-excellence, the late John Hughes, wrote short stories in his spare time and published some of them pseudonymously. Stranger still, they’re actually not all that bad; certainly not as bad as you might expect of a man who inflicted Pretty in Pink, Uncle Buck and Some Kind of Wonderful on cinemagoers.

Hughes’ fiction isn’t quite Dostoevsky, granted. But it’s nicely crafted, wryly humorous, with an easy, breezy style, reading sort of like a not-quite-as-talented Douglas Coupland.

It appears, contrary to mine and everyone else’s presumptions, that Hughes – once described as the most pathological ideas-recycler in Hollywood – really did have more than one string to his bow.

Which gets me to wondering: are there other Renaissance men and women in La La Land, their literary talents unheralded and ambitions unfulfilled? Could the greasy till of the movie industry have crushed other hands, hands yearning to pick up the quill and give life and letters to their innermost thoughts?

And I don’t mean the quasi-literary directors – yer Allens and Linklaters and Coens and Hanekes and so on – but rather those mediocre thumpers, those shills for the corporation, those rapacious vulgarians and cynical old chancers who churn out the soulless drek that has colonised our picture-houses.

I wonder does Michael Bay, for instance, ever look up from admiring his gold-plated voice-activated gunship helicopter and muse to himself, “Will I ever get around to crafting that collection of villanelles on the theme of the subjective observer’s inability to know, absolutely and in the ontological sense, whether something does not exist? Or will this damn moneymaking continue to get in the way?”

Has one of the Farrelly brothers ever said to the other, “You know what, Bobby/Peter – let’s ditch this gross-out comedy about a fat midget who can only metabolise the earwax of horses, and get cracking on that epic poem in dactylic hexameter about the lifecycle of the Jacobaea vulgaris, also known as the Ragweed, Stinking Nanny or Stammerwort, that we’ve always talked about? Come on, whaddya say, Peter/Bobby?”

Is the ludicrously named McG, right now, hunched over a rackety old manual typewriter in the bowels of a Bel Air mansion that cost all the money ever to exist in the history of mankind, hammering out a stream-of-consciousness magic-realist fable about a vagrant wandering through 15th century India in search of a persimmon tree imbued with mystical powers?

Has Renny Harlin started work yet on his homage to Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds, in which the narrator now not only comments on the text but comments on the fact that he’s commenting on the text, thus creating a self-self-self-reflexive miasma of meta-textuality leavened only by pastiches of Irish lyric sagas increasingly indistinguishable from the original and thus positing the question, is a pastiche within a homage to a pastiche/homage actually a pastiche and/or homage?

And does that sentence even make any sense?

Is Brett Ratner, as we speak, bashing his temple with an old-style revolver and tearfully chugging from a bottle of sour mash as he wrestles with a fiendishly difficult, and perhaps unsolvable, artistic dilemma: does the Petrarchan or the Spenserian sonnet form better suit the subject of architectural formalism during the Kamakura Shogunate? Or is he about to lower the bar and settle for a lively, charming little volume of Wodehousian whimsy?

Being realistic about it, probably not. It’s more likely that – per my previous post about Ahn-hult Schwarzenegger – Michael or Renny or G will take a quick skim through The Iliad for Dummies and retool it as “an adrenaline-fuelled mythical thrill-ride crammed with thrilling sword-on-sword action, hot babes carrying grapes, and unintentional but nonetheless hilarious homosexual undertones”.

Readers/viewers/whoever will be exhorted to “get ready for the ball-busting, wall-to-wall thrill-ride of your life”. Cue thousands of despairing classical scholars killing themselves by the time-honoured and retro-chic consumption of hemlock.

Thanks a lot, John Hughes. Like giving the world Judd Nelson wasn’t enough.


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