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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Ultimate Movie

Over the years I've entertained myself with a silly daydream: What if I somehow had enough influence to create a film-within-many-films? That is, what if enough directors, producers, actors, and other creatives were willing to work with me over the course of many decades--ideally, a full century--to tell an epic story running in the background of other movies? 

I'll illustrate what I mean if this had happened in the 20th century. Let's say The Great Train Robbery (1903) plays out exactly as you'd expect, but in a single shot in the background, a mysterious cloaked figure charges through the woods, shooting at something offscreen. The cloaked figure appears in other short films through the aughts, always in the deep background chasing something, his or her face never revealed. Keep in mind these appearances would not be obvious, but nor would they be unfair; ideally, the casual viewer's attention will be focused on the real action, but the sharp-eyed members of the audience will gradually, over the course of years, realize that something strange is going on at the movies. 

As the years and decades go by, the cloaked figure's identity face is eventually seen - but more than once. The cloaked figure's identity shifts with the years, sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes one ethnicity, sometimes another. Other characters start to interact with the cloaked figure; in Frankenstein, some of these recurring figures appear in the mob besieging the mad scientist's castle. In Casablanca, they're at the airport, perhaps bribing someone. They're on Mount Rushmore in North by Northwest. Over time, as actors age and die or retire, the overarching background story will continue, but with new actors and new characters. Until, as the century closes, their stories will begin to interact in larger ways with the worlds of the films they inhabit. They might try to shake Kinkaid back to reality in Total Recall. They'll work against - or are they really working with? - Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible

Naturally I don't know the actual plot of the gigantic meta-movie I'm describing here, but just imagine more and more pieces of the puzzle revealing themselves over the years. Of course, no one would be able to predict which films would include part of the mystery; naturally they would not all be hit movies. It's just as likely for this storyline to inhabit A-list, B-list, C-list, and even Z-list pictures - and all the better for it! But the closer you get to the end of the century, the greater the chances movie lovers will be able to puzzle out what's happening. And ideally, given a brilliant writer (someone more brilliant than me), the story will wrap up in grand fashion - a satisfying conclusion not only from an entertainment standpoint, but one that say something about film and the world we inhabit. 

I'm putting this idea out into the universe because obviously I'll never be the one driving it. But maybe sometime in the future, if somehow The Earliad survives and humanity itself makes it through our various existential crises and keeps telling visual stories, maybe some future genius will like this idea and bring it to fruition, entertaining audiences for literal generations. 

Would that be grand, or am I crazy? 


Jeff Shyluk said...

Jessica Fletcher did all of the murders. You mean something like that? Or more like Detective Munch is in Homicide, Law & Order, The X-Files, 30 Rock, The Beat, The Wire, Sesame Street, and The Addams Family?

Really, the ultimate TV movie would have to have Munch taking down Fletcher on the wing of an aircraft where John Lithgow and William Shatner are both looking out the same window. The aircraft runs over Burgess Meredith's eyeglasses, however, as it avoids hitting Henry Blake's chopper. The in-flight movie has Sammy Davis jr. kissing Carroll O'Connor, with a voice-over by Fred Savage.

Okay, that's silly. But I would watch a show where John Munch tracks down and finally runs Jessica Fletcher into the big house in handcuffs and leg irons, and maybe a Hannibal Lector mask.

Jeff Shyluk said...

... Or maybe Mike Kellerman offs her with the same gun he used on Luther Mohoney... "You have the right to remain silent." Best that Munch gets to her first.