Thursday, April 19, 2018

Story 234: Fender Bender Mender

            (Friend 1 and Friend 2 are driving down poorly lit streets)
           Friend 2: (In the passenger seat, looking at phone) All right, it’s says there’s a right turn coming up soon.
            Friend 1: (In the driver seat, squinting out the windshield) I can’t see any street signs.  And where are all the street lights?!
            Friend 2: (Ominously) Maybe the people who live here don’t want to be seen.  (Looks out the windshield) Slow down; I know we’re late, but you shouldn’t overdrive the headlights.
            Friend 1: You think I don’t know that?!
            Friend 2: Clearly, I do think you don’t!  (Checks phone) OK-turn-right-here.
            Friend 1: (Squinting to the right) Where?
            Friend 2: Here.  Now.  Right-here-turn-now!
            Friend 1: OK!-OK!-OK!
            (As the car screeches around the corner after almost missing it, headlights momentarily blind the Friends as their car shears the front fender off the incoming car; both vehicles spin around and stop, facing the opposite direction from where they started.  Everyone involved sits there for a few moments; Friend 2’s phone dings to indicate that they completed the turn)
            Friend 1: (Shaking head) Oh no – this didn’t just happen – I can’t have caused an accident – I need to go back in time 10 seconds – oh no – oh no – oh no –
            Friend 2: I’m fine, thanks.
          Friend 1: (Shuts off the car and looks over at the other vehicle) Ooh, I don’t wanna go out there; they’re gonna kill me!  (Gasps and turns to Friend 2)  Unless I just killed them?!  Did I just kill somebody?!!  Did I commit vehicular homicide without meaning to?!!!  Am I an accidental murderer?!!!!
            Friend 2: (Slaps Friend 1’s face) Knock it off.  Look, he’s fine, see?
          (The Other Driver had jumped out of his car, run to the front to see the damage, run to the trunk to retrieve a toolkit, dropped it on the ground near the front of the car, and run to the fender that is now 20 feet away)
            Friend 1: (Gingerly taps the button to roll down the passenger side window; in a weak voice) Are you OK?
            Other Driver: (Freezes while holding the fender) Yeah-I’m-fine-you-OK?
            Friend 1: Yes.
            Friend 2: (Simultaneously) No.
            Other Driver: `K.  (Puts on a face shield and begins reattaching the fender with duct tape and a blow torch)
            Friend 1: (Pulls insurance card from the glove compartment and gets out of the car, followed by Friend 2.  Watches the flurry of activity for a few moments, then clears throat) Need any help?
            Other Driver: (Over the sound of welding) Nope!
           Friend 2: (To Friend 1) I can’t believe your teeny car caused that much damage.  And just look at it!  (The front of Friend 1’s car is smushed) It may never drive again.
            Friend 1: (Covers the car’s headlights) Ssh, don’t listen.  (To Friend 2) Well I can’t believe my life is over when five minutes ago it was just beginning!  And a mile away from the party, no less!
            Friend 2: Forget the party; I’m probably in for a lifetime of back pain and inevitable painkiller addiction, thanks to you!
            Friend 1: You mean thanks to your sloppy navigation, don’t you?!  You don’t tell someone to turn as they’re passing the street!
            Friend 2: You were going too fast!  In the dark!  You weren’t giving me anything to work with!
            Friend 1: And I bet you’re lying about your back pain, everyone else does!
            Friend 2: Just because I don’t feel it this exact second doesn’t mean I won’t in a year!
            (The Other Driver begins hammering the right side of the front of his car)
            Friend 1: (In a lower voice) And what about him?
            Friend 2: What about me?!
          Friend 1: We’ve already covered you; what if he, you know, (Whispers) S-U-E-S me?  For perpetual damages?
            Friend 2: (Staring at the hammering) I don’t think you have to worry about that too much.
            Friend 1: (To the Other Driver) Excuse me?  (The Other Driver pauses mid-hammer) Listen, I am so sorry about all this –
            Other Driver: Don’t mention it.  (Resumes hammering)
            Friend 1: Well, I have my insurance info right here, and we’ll call the cops to come over –
          Other Driver: (Stands and points the hammer at them) Don’t call the cops!  (The Friends freeze; the Other Driver’s eyes dart back-and-forth a bit) I forgive you.  (Resumes hammering)
            Friend 1: That’s very… kind of you, but I think it’s the law.
            Other Driver: (Gathers his tools back into the kit and throws it into the trunk) It’s unnecessary, no harm done, here’s something for your trouble (Tosses some large bills in their direction), and I’ll be on my way.  (Slams the trunk shut and heads back to the driver seat)
            Friend 2: (Nods at the bills and mutters to Friend 1) Don’t touch those.
            Friend 1: (To the Other Driver) I don’t think this is a good idea....
            Other Driver: (Re-enters his car) I don’t see the problem here, it’s win-win, you’ll never get a better offer in an at-fault accident, gotta go!  (They hear sirens approach; the Other Driver whips around to the Friends) I said no cops!
            Friend 1: (To Friend 2) What’d you do?!
          Friend 2: I didn’t even!  You’ve messed me up so much I keep dialing 999 and getting England!
            Friend 1: (Looks warily at the surrounding houses, shrouded in darkness) Maybe one of them called….
            Other Driver: Whatever; peace!  (Floors the gas, spins the car around to the original direction, and peels away with the reattached fender occasionally sparking along the ground)
            Friend 1: That was odd.
            (A police car pulls up next to them)
           Police Officer: Which way did he go?  (The Friends point in the direction the Other Driver departed)  Curses!  Always a step behind!  (Peels away)
            Friend 2: (After a few moments) So, want to go to the party?
            Friend 1: I thought you said forget the party because of your lifetime of pain!
            Friend 2: Yeah, but this night might as well not be a total loss.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Story 233: The Lone Honest Film Critic

            Interviewer: (Seated at a table, facing the camera) Welcome, movie lovers.  Today, our guest is someone with whom all of you should be familiar: she is the one whose taglines appear at the top of every poster of the films that matter, and even of those that do not, and whose reviews take up five pages of newsprint or, equivalently, 10 minutes of scrolling down the screen.  The sole, the unique voice in all of film-reviewer land: Veracity Von Impartial.   (Interviewer and camera turn to her, seated at the opposite side of the table) Thank you for joining us today.
            Veracity: Thank you – it’s a duty but also a mild pleasure.
           Interviewer: For those in our audience who are not familiar with your work: you, in essence, write film reviews that are honest.
            Veracity: (Nods) Yes.
            Interviewer: Not disingenuously praiseworthy, not unnecessarily cruel, just – honest.
            Veracity: Exactly.
            Interviewer: Please elaborate for us, on your methodology.
           Veracity: (Shifts in her seat as she warms to her subject) You see, there are so many reviews out there that… over-emphasize the good in a particular film while ignoring the bad.  And, conversely, there are so many reviews that… dwell upon the bad while disregarding the good, usually for the reviewer to, and I hate to sound like I’m betraying my peers, usually to demonstrate their own writing skills that they think they have.
            Interviewer: (Nods vigorously) Oh yes, we know those.
           Veracity: In all that chaos, I uncovered a need: a need, for the movie-going public, to be told the truth about a film so they can make an informed decision on whether to invest their precious time, their hard-earned income, and/or their uncomfortable date night on it.  The bottom line is, and you’ve heard this before from me, there is no film so good as to be “The Best Film of the Year.”  That’s your opinion, maybe.  Or, “The Best Such-and-Such of the Entire Series!”  (Shrugs) How do you know?  Is the series over yet?  You don’t know if that one will continue to be the best.
            Interviewer: (Shakes head) You don’t know.
        Veracity: In some reviews of series, I have been compelled to write along the lines of: “Entertaining – But the Last One Was Better Overall.”  Or: “A Weak Entry, With Exciting Action Sequences.”  Or even: “Enjoyment Equal to Parts 1, 4, 7, and 12.”
            Interviewer: I remember those.
            Veracity: And on the flip side, I have yet to see a film that has not one redeeming feature in it.  There is no film so bad, where I can neglect my duty in communicating to the audience that “The Costumes Were Historically Accurate,” or “Contains a Realistic Depiction of Ennui,” or “The Special Effects Were Sufficient to Overcome the Lack of Plot,” or, now I remember, “The Lead Compensated for the Deficiencies of the Rest of the Cast.”
            Interviewer: (Looks through papers) There was one film, which we won’t name but probably almost everyone here and watching at home can figure out which, that was universally panned when it was released.
            Veracity: Oh yes.
          Interviewer: And I mean panned: I’m not exaggerating when I say that everyone had something negative to say about it: the reviewers, the audience, the cast, the crew, the screenwriters, the producers, the studio – it was an unnatural disaster.  However, suddenly, one good review appeared, which stated: (Reads from paper) “This is the best movie I have ever seen in my entire life and the rest of you can all go to – ” I won’t read the rest.
            Veracity: Mm-hm.
            Interviewer: It later was revealed that... that reviewer was the director’s mother.
            Veracity: (Quietly) Mm-hm, scandal.
        Interviewer: However, your review also stood out from all the others, in its… non-condemnation, if that’s the word I want to use?
            Veracity: That about sums it up, yes.
            Interviewer: With your permission, I’d like to quote it in its entirety.
            Veracity: Go right ahead.
          Interviewer: (Holds up a different piece of paper) Your review, on what has been decreed by nearly all of humanity as the worst film ever created in the history of the medium, is as follows: (Reads from paper) “Eh.”
          Veracity: It was not a decision I made lightly: it took a lot of soul-searching to properly express what… feeling this film evoked in me.  I can’t speak for everyone else, but I had to remain true to my beliefs and not join the rest of the world in their vitriolic snark, which was so easy for them to do in this case.
            Interviewer: So easy.
            Veracity: Yes.
            Interviewer: Because it was pretty bad.
            Veracity: So bad – and yet –
            Interviewer: Here it comes!
            Veracity: (Laughs with him and the audience) And yet – there was something about it that was still… watchable.  I felt as if everyone involved with its mistaken creation was trying to tell me something, which I just couldn’t figure out, through my own failings –
            Interviewer: It was everyone else’s failings, too.
            Veracity: – that I just could not hate it.  I couldn’t like it either, so it left me… “Eh.”
            Interviewer: One of the most… apt, descriptions, I have ever heard.
            Veracity: (Looks inwardly) Thank you; that means a lot to me.
         Interviewer: Before we go, I must ask: how did you embark on this path of honest film reviewing?
            Veracity: Well… there is no school that will teach you this.  I mean, you can learn all there is to know about effective mise-en-scène, or failed sound mixing, or when Method Acting is working and when it is the worst, or improper use of Dutch angles, or understanding the dramatic irony of a scene even when the screenwriter seemed to have missed it, but, what I do, is take all of that, and use it to uncover the heart of what the film truly is.
            Interviewer: (Nods intensely) Yes.
            Veracity: I am proud to serve my country, in informing them of what they are actually getting into when they embark upon their very personal journey into the world of a film; I’ve dedicated thousands of hours to this, and soon will be completing a tour of 24 straight when all the parts of the new Medieval Future World series are released simultaneously next month....
            Interviewer: No – I heard that absolutely no one wants to see that!  Even the trailers look… (Catches himself) poorly produced.
            Veracity: (Nods) I agree; however, the music was composed by ----- ---------, so I expect that at least to be non-grating.
            Interviewer: Thank you again for speaking with us today – and, as always, thank you for your honesty.
            Veracity: Happy to tell it like it is.