Things have been going from bad to worse, here at chez nous. My local wine merchant has refused to send me a case of the 1997 Chapeau-de-neuf-plonk, citing my previous unpaid bills! I am now reduced to drinking the inferior 2003 vintage, like those poor common-or-Guardian readers who rely on the webbernet for their news, instead of getting a decent broadsheet delivered on a daily basis. Also, the local newsagent has cancelled my newspaper subscriptions, citing previously unpaid bills. In desperation, I phoned the VC of the University of Berkhamstead, begging him for a short-term cash advance to fund my new research project. He refused, even when I offered him a five percent share of future royalties! It seems corruption is not what it used to be. Also, he cited my history of failing to pay out on previous royalty bribes. I pleaded with him, explaining that there were no royalties to distribute yet, but he hung up on me, mid-sentence.
However, I am not totally discouraged. So long as I can emulate Greece, and get over this short-term liquidity blip with the equivalent of an IMF payday loan, I am confident I will be raking in the spondoolicks when my new project is completed. It is very exciting, for reasons that are about to become apparent. It occurred to me that modern academics never do proper, boring research any more. Real research is hard work, no fun, and the only people who read the resulting papers are other academics, who find them equally as boring as their own research. Unless the other academics are plagiarists, in which case they find reading other people’s papers to be very productive. Anyhow, the secret to modern academic success is to be popular. Instead of doing a lot of genuine research, my new goal is to deliver a lecture to the general public, to recycle the notes into a populist book, then turn that book into a TV series or film, like Stephen Hawking’s Moment in Briefs and Al Gore’s My Perfectly Convenient Storm in a Teacup. So I decided it was time to dumb down and reconnect with Joe Public, giving him the kind of accessible grot he loves so much. I am sure this will be my big comeback smash, returning me to the pantheon of academic A-listers. (Or, if not the A list, then it’ll put me back on the B-plus list.) And boy, when you hear the idea, you are going to love it. So much so, dear reader, that you will probably want to fund it via Kickstarter (as soon as I have sorted out a dispute about some money I owe them).
My great new idea came to me when I wandered down to the local cinema, and saw that the new Star Trek flick was showing. In true Da Vinci style, I had a flash of inspiration. I should explain, to a lay audience, the science behind Star Trek! Unfortunately, it turns out that several thousand academics have done this already. But the basic principle was sound, so I merely glanced over what other films were playing. And hence my new project: The Science behind Fast and Furious. As my new Kickstarter pitch explains:
Fast and Furious is a great film franchise that everybody loves, all over the world. But is the science realistic? If you drove around a multi-storey car park like that, wouldn’t your car suffer a lot of scrapes and dents? How often do you need to change tyres when you pull heists on four wheels? Would putting The Rock in the boot lead to a measurable reduction in acceleration? Is Vin Diesel faster than petrol? This documentary aims to find out.
Whilst waiting for the Kickstarter money to roll in, I wondered if I might get an advance from a major motion pictures studio, intent on securing a share of the smash-hit documentary film before it is even made. So I decided to seek the help of Whale and Purview, a couple of screenwriter chappies I know, to see if they can help with scheduling meetups and all that malarkey. Whale and Purview mostly write Bond films but I was confident that they would pump in loads of creative input, as we say in the movie biz. Being too busy to see Whale and Purview in person – our meeting clashed with a court appearance, concerning a dispute over unpaid cinema tickets – I sent a couple of my clones in my stead. Cube-Eric was an obvious choice to send, as he is a big moviemaking buff. And MaV-Eric is a marketing whizz, so I thought he would open doors that stay locked for most people. Alas, they botched the job, and came home with the screenplay for a romcom instead. Nevertheless, I am hopeful it will be a smash, so long as I can find a big star who is prepared to work cheap, possibly because they have just come out of drug rehab. Lindsey Lohan would be perfect, but at a pinch I will settle for Philip Seymour Hoffman (on condition that he first spends some time down the gym)…
[Cube-Eric and MaV-Eric wait outside the offices of Whale and Purview, well-known screenwriters of Bond films and other popular movies. Whale calls them inside.]
Whale: Come in, sit down. So you’re Eric’s clones? Cube-Eric and MaV-Eric is it? Great! What can we do for you?
MaV-Eric: We have this wonderful idea for a documentary…
Purview: Is it by Michael Moore?
MaV-Eric: No, it will be by us.
Purview: Then is it about nerds, video games, cyberwar, government conspiracies, or how eating burgers will make you fat?
MaV-Eric: No, it’s about…
Purview: Forget it then, you’re wasting our time.
Whale: (Laughing) My friend jokes. But seriously, you’re wasting our time. Nobody is going to make your movie. Perhaps you should try to raise funds independently, via Kickstarter, and see how that works for you. So that’s goodbye, unless you have another idea for a film – one that might actually get made.
MaV-Eric: You mean, like an action adventure, or a superhero adventure, or a (gulp) romcom?
Purview: Yes, romcoms especially. They make lots of profit, but they’re cheap as chips to make. Girls are so much easier to please than boys. Boys always want stunts, and explosions, and CGI. Girls just want to look at pretty people for two hours continuously.
Cube-Eric: Yes, I have analysed this phenomenon. Yes. Hmmm. Yes. Troubling, but profitable also. Hmmm. Romantic comedy. Date movies. Sad women dragging their unfortunate boyfriends to a dark room where they do not have to talk to each other. And so she can imagine she’s going out with the film’s leading actor, instead of her boyfriend. Whilst elbowing him, every time he gropes her. Hmmm. I have seen many romantic comedy movies over the years, but the epitome was one called The Holiday. Yes. Hmmm. It had romance, comedy, and a holiday in it. Very ingenious. And they released it in cinemas during a holiday. It was quite innovative, as far as romcoms are concerned, and set quite a precedent.
Purview: Yes it did. Since then we’ve had…
Cube-Eric: Please don’t interrupt! I was mid-thought. Where was I? Ah yes. Hmmm. The Holiday. It was a terrifyingly obvious movie pitch. Brits and Americans – hence good US domestic and overseas sales. Four big name stars. Two very attractive women, one unattainably attractive for those wanting out-and-out desire-slash-wank-fantasy, the other slightly more attainably attractive for everyone else. One very attractive guy for confident girls to slaver over. And a very funny but fat guy for the less confident girls to imagine themselves with. People swapping places and living in foreign countries and finding love. Or just staying home and finding a foreign person turns up and falls in love with them. Hmmm. Oh, and forgive me saying so, but with just two heterosexual couples, half of them British, they didn’t even need to make allowance for any affirmative action roles. Yes. Hmmm. The robots down at the Hollywood factory had a good day when they churned that one out. But I’m being horrible, of course. I’m just jealous because I could write something much better.
Cube-Eric: Yes, I could do better. Just give me… hmmm… which actors do I want?… I’m annoyed because I’d have picked Jude Law also… just give me… James McAvoy, Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and… who should be my funny guy?…. not too good looking but good looking enough that any woman would want to straighten his ruffled hair and tell him off because his shirt was sticking out of his trousers… I can’t decide between Rainn Wilson (a bit old?) and Michael Cera (a bit young)… probably Wilson because he’s got a rounder shape. Give me them and I’d write a great story about…. hmmm… something original but that takes two seconds to explain the idea and people will find it instantly appealing… an American brother and sister (Wilson and Adams) run a failing… can’t do bookstore, it’s been done before… music store in Los Angeles, which was left to them by their pop. They are always looking out, envying the surfheads who seem to have much more exciting lives than them. Wilson feigns to despise them, whilst Adams just dreams of travel. They learn of a possible inheritance that could bail them out, so they visit their ancestral home in Scotland after the Laird (their pop’s brother) passed away.
Purview: Sounds great so far!
Cube-Eric: Yes it does, doesn’t it? Now, let me see… Hmmm… The new Laird (McAvoy, the old Laird’s stepson from his second wife’s first marriage, to avoid any inbreeding complications with Adams) doesn’t want the job of being the Laird. He’d rather be a surfboarding playboy instead of living in the rainy cold miserable Highlands. He thus renounces any claim to the title and leaves a rights-of-succession crisis between Blunt (adopted, estranged, wants the job but can’t have it because she’s a woman) and Wilson (who needs the money, but hates travel and just wants to go home to watch his beloved baseball team). Adams and McAvoy scheme, out of mutual convenience, to unite Wilson and Blunt in a short-lived marriage of convenience and so solve everyone’s problems. Wilson and Blunt, on the other hand, take an instant dislike to each other and are scandalized by the very implication that they would even pretend to get-it-on, even though they are not related by blood. Adams starts to fall for the dashing wayward McAvoy. Wilson punches McAvoy in defense of Adams’ honour, towards the end of the very drunken wake. Blunt scolds Wilson but helps him drunkenly stagger to his bedroom. She returns to the tail-end of the party, where her frosty businesslike demeanour melts as she comforts Adams, who is crushed that McAvoy has run away after the fight. Wilson wakes up wondering if he had sex with Blunt and wrongly keeps on thinking it all the next day. As a result, he starts to warm to the idea of being with her.
Whale: Wow! It’s so original! And yet, it’s so familiar. Haven’t we all been in situations just like that?
Cube-Eric: Yes, hmmmm, but please stop interrupting. The next morning, Wilson goes for a walk with Adams to get their mind off things, they get lost up a foggy mountainside, they have a huge row, she cries but they hug and make up and realize they’ll always be brother and sister and in-it-together. They return for the will-reading that evening, where Blunt makes it abundantly clear that she didn’t have sex with Wilson. McAvoy returns unexpectedly, blaming the local Police bobby for apprehending him, though really he put up no fight. The will is read and it is revealed that the Laird was in enormous debt and the castle will need to be sold just to pay those debts off, leaving nothing of value to anyone. McAvoy is perversely relieved, Blunt is phlegmatic, as she didn’t expect to get it anyway, Adams and Wilson disappointed, as they spent the last of their money coming to the funeral. Nevertheless, somebody has to be Laird, and it is also revealed that none of them were in line for it, because the very old and totally useless butler was the Laird’s first-but-illegitimate-and-previously-unknown son.
Whale: That’s a brilliant twist.
Purview: Yes, and these romcoms always need a brilliant twist. Well done.
Cube-Eric: Yes, it is brilliant, isn’t it? Hmmm… McAvoy, Adams, Blunt and Wilson help the weak old butler pack away the last of the Laird’s belongings before the house is sold to its new owners. Amongst them they discover the Laird’s collection of ‘gramaphone’ records, as the butler calls them. It turns out these are a priceless collection of rare Elvis recordings. Blunt runs off with them and chucks them into the boot of her mini. McAvoy, Wilson, Adams and the butler give chase in Wilson’s rental, which he can’t drive very well because it’s stick shift (as the Americans would say) and they are on the wrong side of the road. Comedy pursuit ends in comedy accident as Blunt skids to avoid the Policeman on his bike, and ends up in a ditch instead. Wilson, without hesitation, leaps down to her rescue. She’s quite alright but is stunned by the strength of Wilson’s emotions for her. The Policeman decides not to arrest them after Adams charms him furiously and McAvoy reminds the doddering butler-Laird that he’s now the local magistrate and can let them all off anyway. The butler-Laird doesn’t want the gramaphone records as he downloads all his music from the internet, so he gives them to Blunt and Wilson as a ‘wedding gift’, something that first embarrasses them but they soon realize is a sign that their attraction was obvious to anyone who looked closely enough. Blunt and Wilson hastily arrange a trip to Gretna Green to get married, so Blunt can come with Wilson (and Adams) and run the music store in the states (where they will sell the Elvis records for enormous profit). McAvoy and Adams are the lone guests at the wedding, best man and bridesmaid respectively.
Whale: I love it! Go on!
Cube-Eric: I would, if you stopped interrupting. Hmmm… After the wedding, McAvoy and Adams never get an opportunity to speak romantically with each other, and neither makes a move. McAvoy waves goodbye to Blunt, Wilson and Adams after driving them to the airport. Six months later, Blunt, Wilson and Adams are working at the music store when McAvoy strolls in unexpectedly, explaining he’s there for a surfing tournament. In fact he’s there to promote the new surfboard and extreme sports store that opened next door, in which he also owns a minor stake. He asks Blunt, the natural businesswoman, if she might keep an eye on his investment, as she’s been very successful in turning around the fortunes of the music shop, partly by broadening its range to include video games, cosplay outfits and sex toys. Blunt says she will help, but questions why McAvoy does not stay to look after his own business, nodding him towards Adams as she does. McAvoy says he would stay, but he’s committed to his international surfing tour, which is now much more lucrative after the butler died and McAvoy become a z-list celebrity as ‘the surfing laird’. But McAvoy won’t leave unless Adams joins him on his journies. She does. The end.
Whale: Bravo!!! It’s bound to be a smash.
Cube-Eric: There’s only one problem. I refuse to do it. The world doesn’t need another romcom. What it needs is to learn the real science behind Fast and Furious. For me the true story of the science of Fast and Furious is as important to me as the story of Napoleon was to Stanley Kubrick, my near namesake.
MaV-Eric: You know that he never made that Napoleon film, don’t you?
Cube-Eric: Such is the tragedy of creative genius. There will be no McAvoy-Adams-Blunt-Wilson Laird-surfing-record-collecting-transatlantic-romantic-comedy unless the world is first willing to watch a documentary on the science of Fast and Furious.
Whale: Perhaps that’s for the best.
[MaV-Eric shakes his head, knowing Cube-Eric’s artistic integrity has cost them the opportunity of a lifetime…]