Monday, August 14, 2006

Just So Oddly Familiar...

One of the trailers I saw before Half Nelson was for a movie called Infamous.

If the man's posture and manner looks familiar to another recent movie, that's because the man is playing Truman Capote. Here, it's Toby Jones playing the In Cold Blood writer, based on the book by George Plimpton. While this trailer played, numerous people in the audience looked at each other, like, "Is this for real?"

Apparently, the movie was filmed at the same time as Capote, and it boasts a large cast of name actors like Sandra Bulluck (as Harper Lee), Daniel Craig (as Perry Smith), Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Peter Bogdanovich, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Isabella Rosselini. What's striking about the trailer is how many scenes look shot-for-shot Capote. The scene where Capote is on the courthouse steps watching Perry Smith go to trial, the scene where they set up the noose for his hanging is lit and shot in the same way. And since Capote has a number of anecdotes attributed to him, scenes of him drinking and flinging witticisms all around have the same ring.

And I love it when things turn out like this: I wrote the title to this blog with Quiz Show in mind. It's in the movie; when Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes) plays "Twenty-One" for the first time and believes he's playing it honestly, is asked a question he knows the producers know he knows. It's his response after being asked the question. In Quiz Show, the big break in the investigation is when Dick Goodwin (Rob Morrow) finds a former contestant named James Snodgrass (Douglas McGrath) who sent the answers to himself registered mail before the show aired. Guess who wrote and directed this movie? Douglas McGrath!

Honestly, folks, I wonder about these things sometimes. I don't think it's just an accident in many cases. Ideas swirl around in Hollywood, with numerous players, and it's not beyond the realm of possibility that a pitch gets heard all around, and one studio steals it and makes it their own, and another studio buys it legitimately.

Back in 1997, dueling volcano movies came out--Dante's Peak and Volcano. In 1998, dueling meteor movies came out--Deep Impact and Armageddon. In 1998-1999 it was dueling 24-hour surveillance reality entertainment movies--The Truman Show and EdTV. Also in 1998, two movies explored the urban legend of killing your roommate at college to get straight-A's, Dead Man on Campus, which was released, and Dead Man's Curve, which went to video. Those are the most memorable ones (wow, 1997-1999 was full of this), but now we have the dueling Capote movies, one of which has already been a Best Picture nominee and won the Oscar for Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The one pair that made me think about the possibility of the stolen ideas--and let's face it, we all know Hollywood can easily be accused of that in many ways, but when it comes to two movies coming out within a year (or months) of each other and they have eerie similarities, something's got to be going on--The Truman Show and EdTV. Not just the premise, but Harry Shearer shows up in both movies. Dennis Hopper was set to play The Truman Show's Christof, but walked off the set on the first day--then ended up playing Matthew McConaughey's father in EdTV.

Now that Infamous will be getting a release (looks like October), the question is, with a story exactly the same, why should we watch?


At 8/14/2006 09:59:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

It's a valid point because even if it's a good film it will feel as pointless as a shot-for-shot "Psycho" remake; maybe somebody should do that someday just for kicks.

It is however funny that of all the comparison movies you mentioned, they all sucked. And I'm pretty sure the only time the later film made more money was "Armageddon," which is a box office total I have never been able to wrap my head around.

At 8/14/2006 10:00:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

My bad, I forgot you mentioned "Truman Show." That is a great movie; I don't want you guys to think I'm crazy. Like I'm somebody who would reccomend seeing "I'll Always Know What You Did Last Summer," oh wait...


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