Look to the Source

December 5, 2007

Even though I felt quite ill, I decided to spend my day doing something good for society (even though society is always the villain), and watched Fast Food Nation, one of the more unlikely movies to reach that big silver screen in quite some time. In fact, it was so unlikely that no-one went to see it. As anyone who has ever read the book can tell you, Fast Food Nation, the classic piece of yellow journalism about the acherontic (“Of or belonging to Acheron [a river of hell], infernal; hence, dark, gloomy”) processed food industry, is unfilmable. There is nothing resembling a plot, nor is there even an anti-plot. Its unclear whence some producer derived the idea of turning this expose into a movie, but it probably goes something like this: Supersize Me=no-name director+social consciousness+McDonalds=Big Hit, e.g. Fast Food Nation=indie-cred director+almost star cast+speeches+Avril Lavigne=Really Big Hit.

Though it often veers from the course of the book, the movie does stay close to the source material in one very important aspect: it also has no story. Rather, like Traffic, Syriana, and any other “hyperlink” film it has multiple disconnected storylines. Unfortunately for Fast Food Nation, these never connect in any meaningful (nay, transparent!) way. It doesn’t help that the movie’s most dramatic, tension-filled scene is a conversation between Bruce Willis and Greg Kinnear at a Burger Joint, where Bruce Willis plays the villain and offers a speech about the tyranny of poorly operated grills and the pansyfication of the American consumers. While Dash is all for peaceful resolution (Vote Biden!), really, what is the point of having Bruce Willis in your movie if he isn’t going to blow something up, or at least punch someone to death? Would a Fast Food Nation starring Bruce Willis as an animal-rights activist forced to take measures into his own hands really have been that much worse?

While Fast Food Nation didn’t succeed, Hollywood still has love for strange source material, viz: one day we may see Leonardo DiCaprio as a man who makes incredible snap-decisions in Blink, an adaptation of the Malcolm Gladwell penned bestseller about people who make excellent snap-decisions. Besides, who can forget Adaptation? But with all these wonderful, unfilmable, non-fiction properties running around, how is a studio executive to choose? A few suggestions, close to Yesterday’s Salad’s heart.

1 ) Archive Fever: Updating the late Jacques Derrida’s late classic about archives, Freud, and Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi’s Freud’s Moses, is almost too easy. Bonus: the movie would prove exceedingly marketable; as I mentioned last week, Archive Fever sort of allows for the existence of Ghosts. As I see it, Archive Fever: The Movie would be the story of a young archivist at the Freud museum in London who, whilst researching Dr. Freud’s Jewishness, begins to see Freud’s ghost. Bewildered, he seeks out help from Professor Yerushalmi, who has long been searching for a way to communicate with Freud. Professor Yerushalmi is the only one who believes our young archivist and endeavors to help him (think Martin Landau in Rounders). Meanwhile, our young archivist begins seeing an older analyst (Mimi Rogers?) only to develop romantic feelings (bordering on an oedipal complex) for her. But in the end, only the specter of Dr. Freud can help. Think Ghost meets Analyze This. Read the rest of this entry »

Things to Do on Doomsday

November 2, 2007

Given that a good many of our correspondents 362033461_4a2b699dee.jpgare patriots of and partisans for Chicago, that Somber city, and given our penchant for providing transport tips in all corners of the developed and developing world (when in Shonan try the awesome Safege style monorail, but it might be best to delay your trip to India for a few years, until that country finally takes part in the monorail revolution), it really is quite surprising that we’ve spoken so little about the horrible state of the CTA (excepting their vigilant pursuit of Dr. …butwithawhimper). As I mentioned the other day, new CTA chief Ron Huberman has shifted priorities, and significant progress has been made on the slow-zone problems (things are certainly better than they were back in March). Whilst track conditions may be improving, the CTA funding crisis goes from bad to worse. The CTA decided to accept the state’s bailout money earlier this year, removing the sense of urgency that had lawmakers on the verge of passing legislation. Or not passing legislation. Since no elected representative in Illinois can be called a leader, and no one can agree on anything (yes, that article is from May, but it’s not like anything has changed). With doomsday scheduled for Sunday, the CTA once again decided to spare their riders and take state cash, this time pushing Doomsday off until New Year’s Eve, giving law-makers two more months to do nothing. Two thoughts: where is Joe Biden when you need him, and whither penny rides?

But since everyone has New Year’s off anyway, and no-one, therefore, has to worry about missing the job or class they won’t be able to get to, YS is here to humbly suggest that shut-in former commuters kick back and relax with the two best TV shows of the season: Kitchen Nightmares and Dirty Sexy Money.

Before you, o wise and humble reader, rush in to say “Nay! Those two shows are practically the same program!” please allow me a brief defense as to why I have decided to name these sister programs the best shows on TV. Unlike last year, when Studio 60 and 30 Rock battled things out, any and all resemblances between KN and DSM are purely coincidental, rather than a nefarious network plot to advertise SNL an additional 90 minutes a week. As such, they probably deserve to be taken on their own merits, like dueling volcano or Capote movies, but for purposes of this review, they won’t be.

Read the rest of this entry »