Friday, June 23, 2006

Truth, justice — etc., etc.

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Nobody mention Superman to me for a while. I'm not talking to him right now.

Why am I so bitter? Mostly because the new “Superman Returns” movie is going to be a big fat stinking load of success next weekend and I won’t share in any of it. The filmmakers rejected my brilliant screenplay.

See, my story idea was to draw viewers into the world of Superman — I mean, really get into it more than any mere mortal has before. Everyone knows about Superman’s disguise, his glasses. But what about Superman’s optometrist? Everyone talks about how lightning-fast Superman can move. But did you know he has the power to move extraordinarily slowly, too? And does Superman keep his spare change in a jar like the rest of us? If so, does he roll it himself or just take it to a Coinstar machine? It was in my script, but now you’ll never know.

There’s something else. Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, is a reporter. That’s something I know about, Hollywood! I’m writing from experience! In fact, most of my script took place in the newsroom of The Daily Planet. Think comic book adventure meets “The Office.”

Fly with me now to that very newsroom, already in progress:


Scene. The newsroom of The Daily Planet, Metropolis, USA. It’s a cozy place: the carpets flea-infested, the air thick with muttered profanity. Reporters are milling about, attempting to look busy so as to avoid detection in case actual news breaks. The sound of gum-chewing from the girls in the steno pool is like holding your ear against a bowl of Rice Krispies.

At one desk, pecking away at a computer, is our story’s hero: Drake Miller, executive city editor of
The Daily Planet. He pretty much holds the joint together. Short, very hairy, fiery European temper — in summary, women want him and men want to be him, and a handful of women don’t want him but still want to be him, and a couple of men want him and want to be him also.

DM. (feels his own wrist) Bah! My heart rate’s down to 150 bee-pee-ems! I need coffee. Kent!

(In flies Clark Kent, cub reporter. He’s 7-foot-1, 350 pounds of muscle, a shock of thick black hair, built like a U.S. Army tank, except he could actually stop bullets. But he wears glasses, so that makes him a nerd.)

CLARK. You called, sir?

DM. Time for another journalism lesson, Kent. It’s your turn to get the coffee.

CLARK. (pushing his glasses up) Really, sir? I mean, it was my turn an hour ago...

DM. Finally bought yourself a watch, eh? Good man. Mocha Coolatta, no whip — off you go!

(Clark Kent immediately vanishes and reappears with the drink. Drake, who is checking his e-mail listlessly, glances over.)

DM. God, what was the effing holdup? (hands him a buck) We’ll continue with the journalism lesson later. Right now, aren’t you supposed to be covering the Smallville Wastewater Commission meeting?

CLARK. (looking at the dollar bill) But…but…it was $3.59.

DM. (not looking) Yeah, yeah — keep the change, kid.

(Kent slowly cocks his right fist and slides his glasses off with the left — but he’s interrupted by the entry of one Lois Lane, ace reporter!)

LOIS. Boss! I heard on the police scanner that billionaire supervillain Lex Luthor is on the loose with an army of Destructo-Bots! He’s going to destroy Metropolis one city block at a time until we elect him Supreme Ruler of Earth!

DM. Just a sec. (unties and reties his shoe) OK now. Is this an election story? Because Jones is on the election beat.

(From outside, we see the sky flash red for a second, then hear a tremendous crashing sound. Pictures tumble off the walls.)

LOIS. I’m pretty sure it’s not.

DM. Then you cover it. And be sure to wrap up this whole world domination thing in seven paragraphs or less. I gotta make room on the front page for a photo of kittens in a basket.

LOIS. I betcha Superman will be there! He always saves the day. Plus, he’s so handsome and daring. Not like you, Clark. You’re a nerd. Those glasses make you look timid and ugly. I only enjoy your company as a friend and work acquaintance. Superman, I’d want to marry and have hot sex with. You, no way in hell. (exits)

CLARK. (easing his way out the door and fingering the buttons on his shirt) I, uh…better get to that wastewater meeting.

(Drake sits back, puts his feet up on the desk, and we have scene after thrilling scene of him fixing spelling mistakes with Microsoft Word! At the climax of this 30-minute section, he looks up a tricky word in the dictionary and finds that, yes, it is spelled correctly. Meanwhile, more laser flashes and explosions rend the sky outside, blah blah blah. Eventually, Lois and Clark re-enter the newsroom, Clark with his hair mussed and shirt half-tucked.)

LOIS. Boy, you missed a hell of a story covering that wastewater meeting, Clark! The whole city was in jeopardy, and Superman got there just in time! First he took one Destructo-Bot and clobbered it! Then he used it as a clobberer to clobber the other Destructo-Bots! Then Lex Luthor imperiled my life just long enough to escape while Superman rescued me! Then Superman accepted the gratitude of the mayor and the school full of orphans he pried out from under the rubble! (sighs wistfully) That Superman. I have a huge throbbing crush on him. I'd be all over him in a minute. Not you. I don't think of you that way, not even a little, because of your nerd glasses. Him, I do think of that way. You, I don't. Oh well. (exits)

DM. Superman. Pfft. That guy’s such a media whore.

CLARK. (staring off into space) Um.

DM. So about that Smallville Wastewater Commission story...

CLARK. I already covered it. And wrote it. (hands him some papers gruffly) Somehow.

DM. Good. I could’ve used it 10 minutes ago, but good. (thumbs through the story, skimming the text) Overall, not half-mediocre, Kent.

CLARK. Thanks, sir.

DM. (gasping) My...God!

(A blast of musical tension from the orchestra!)

DM. “Wastewater” is one word. You have it here as two. (clicks a red pen) Not sure how a grown man makes that mistake...

CLARK. (turning purple, clenching and unclenching his fists)

DM. (hands him a buck without looking at him) Mocha Coolatta, no whip, and a frosted coffee roll.

(Clark exits slowly as Drake corrects the spelling in his story. And the world is safe once again from sloppy grammar and egregious spelling errors, thanks to — Drake Miller, executive city editor!)

Friday, June 09, 2006

My First Dishfest: Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt interviewed

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Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt — how did society get by before she floated gracefully to the top of the birthing tub and filled her famous lungs with that first breath of Namibian air? What lessons can she, as the baby of celebrities, teach us, as humans? What makes this teeny-weeny-Brangeleeney so bloody fascinating? Is it the name? I bet it’s the name. It’s the name, isn’t it? Yeah. OK, let’s just say it’s the name.

Since her humble $4 million birth, the headline-grabbing lovechild of extra-mega-jumbo-stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie has captured the hearts of everybody who has room in theirs for another celebrity newborn.

We regular people have been content to survive on the mere scraps of information about her we can glean from the celebrity dirt television shows, newspaper pages, tabloid rags, gossip glossies, the Internet, radio and watercooler theorizing. But I know what you’re thinking: “It’s not enough! You’re still too interesting, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt! There’s still 15 minutes or so of daily media time you haven’t conquered yet!”

Consider it conquered. While the tabloids have been scrambling to get the first pictures of The Brangelina Baby published, I’ve been hard at work getting a few minutes of face time.

It cost me every Namibian dollar I’d been saving to buy her a first-class plane ticket, but I have scored the first Brangelina Baby interview. Now I know what Neil Armstrong felt like.


Q. Thanks for talking to me, Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt.

SNJP. Thank you, Dan. Always a pleasure.

Q. And thanks for coming all the way to Fall River. I know it’s quite a hike from Namibia...

SNJP. Not at all. I found it OK. Right off 24, like you said.

Q. First thing I wanted to ask. I know the tabloids have told me I should be giving a crap about your birth, but why should I — really? I mean, you look like pretty much any other baby I’ve seen.

SNJP. Wow! (laughs) They said you were tough. Well, I’d have to say that, for one thing, I was born out of pure celebrity love. So there’s that. It sort of makes me a kind of higher degree of creature, in a way. One that should be respected — feared.

Q. Right, right.

SNJP. I think every person is very special, though. It’s just that, with someone like me, rich, famous — you know.

Q. I do know!

SNJP. (hastily, getting a little bit defensive) I’m just saying it’s not every day that celebrities have babies together.

Q. Actually, movie stars produce offspring pretty habitually by my watch. But let’s talk about the star power magnitude of your parents. They’re probably the most famous couple since Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson — or, as we liked to say back then, Burloni.

SNJP. Who?

Q. (slapping forehead) Right — you’re like 2 weeks old.

SNJP. Listen, I don’t think of Brad and Mom just as bankable stars who can open up a picture to a guaranteed $70 million weekend. They’re nice people, too.

Q. That’s so down-to-earth. Let me ask you about your out-of-this-world name. Forget the sinking economy, immigration, health care, schools closing down for lack of funds, the war in Iraq — your goofy name is the biggest news in America today.

SNJP. What’s the war in Iraq?

Q. Um ... how to phrase this. Men faw down, go boom.

SNJP. Oh! (sips from a bottle of Fiji Water with a rubber nipple on the top) I’m bored.

Q. Do you like stuffed duckies?

SNJP. I do. Actually, I collect strange ones.

[I give her a stuffed ducky. She puts it in her mouth and holds it with her feet for several minutes, giggling and chirping. Eventually, she comes up for air.]

Q. Can I ask, what was it like to be a media sensation even before you were born? Did you read any of the Hollywood gossip pages in ... in there?

SNJP. Some. I’m not going to lie to you and say I don’t pay attention to what the media says, even if 99.9 percent of it is totally fake — just garbage those slimeballs write to drag good, decent people down in the mud. And I don’t know why some of these paparazzi don’t all get put in their cribs and left there until they behave.

Q. So — yes?

SNJP. (eating her foot) Hmm?

Q. What sort of projects can we as a democratic nation look forward to from The Brangelina Baby? You know what would be cool? If you guys did a sequel to “Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” except it could be “Mr. and Mrs. Smith and a Little Lady,” with you in there. I’m making a pitch here, so I expect some money and co-writing credit if it works out.

SNJP. No, that movie was poopy.

Q. Yeah, you’re right. Anyway, what’s in the pipeline?

SNJP. I’d like to concentrate right now on learning to walk — I think that would help my acting career should I go that way, and there’s a great coach Brad and Mom know. Also, if I could not poop myself eight times a day, that would be fantastic. But more than anything, I want to help people.

Q. (tears welling up) Such a brave little girl.

SNJP. One thing I learned when I was growing up in Namibia — the world is bigger than Tinseltown. Be a big tipper when you visit poor countries, Mom says. And when you go to the UN to ask for millions in government aid, dress nicely or they’ll think you’re just there to bank on your fame. (spits up baby food junk on her Elmo bib — I wipe it off her chin) After that, I’ll be working on my first pop single, “The Wheels on the Bus.”

Q. That’s a classic I’m sure you can have a lot of fun with. So, inquiring minds want to know — are you seeing anyone?

SNJP. (pause) Well, I’m seeing you right now, here in front of me.

[I hide my face in my hands.]

SNJP. Aaaah! Where’d he go? I’m confused and tired! Waaah!

Q. [uncovering my face] Peekaboo!

SNJP. (relieved) There you are! Kind of startled me, dropping off the planet like that and all.

[I hide my face again.]

SNJP. Help! Somebody! He vanished again! I’m alone! My perception of reality is underdeveloped!

Q. [uncovering my face] Peekaboo!

SNJP. Whoa! You came back! How’s that work? (claps her hands) Again!

Q. No more. Dan’s tired.

SNJP. Again! Again!

Q. No — my, uh ... my hands are broken.

SNJP. Again again again! (crying) Waaaaah!

[I indulge Shiloh for several minutes of peekaboo until her publicist enters and puts her in a kangaroo sling for a nap.]
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