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To my mind, this whole business of recutting movie trailers to produce weird meta-satirical cultural artifacts is the coolest DIY trend of the new millennium. I’m talking of course about stuff like Brokeback to the Future, Sleepless in Seattle, and the one that started it all, Shining (all available at YouTube.) Not only are these clips genuinely clever and funny, they effectively illuminate the essential lie of the movie trailer, which is: Movie trailers are not designed to preview the actual movie in question, but rather the movie the marketing people think you want to see.


Anyway, it reminds me of a game we used to play back in the halcyon days of the early-‘90s, before broadband Internet and cheap editing software. This was a more notional, less multimedia stab in the same direction amongst our small group of disturbed, minutia-obsessed film geeks. It was called the Movie Blurb Game, and the idea was to combine the titles of two or more well-known films, then improvise a blurb for that movie that might appear in the newspaper, or TV Guide, or what have you. The object of the game was to piece together the title of the new combo-movie from the blurb. The only rules were that you could not use the actual words of the movie name in the blurb, you had to use theatrically released films, and you had to stick to that dopey style of breezy entertainment journalism. I sense an example is in order:


In this cross-genre fairy tale musical from maverick director Terry Gilliam, Matt Damon and Heath Ledger star as 18th-century Chicago musicians on a mission from God to write timeless children’s stories featuring the music of Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles.


Answer: The Blues Brothers Grimm


We got really into this game for a while, and there were some hall-of-fame creations that strung together four, five, even six films into one ridiculous clusterfuck. Over the years, we became aware, via the Internet, that our idea was not totally ours, anymore. That is to say, other people had come up with pretty much the same concept. Still, I stand by the fact that we invented this game, even if someone else also invented it. Like the recut trailers, it was an idea that was ready to happen.


Anyway, it’s great fun and a good way to pass the time if you’re with a friend while waiting in a line, or on a long hike, or killing time in the surveillance van while tapping the phone lines of innocent Americans without a warrant.


Here are a few examples to get you started, answers are provided at the end of the page. Style points are awarded for incorporating particularly weird combos, admirable brevity, inspired lack of brevity, or Cher.


+ + +


1.) Michael J. Fox stars as a time-traveling teenager in this second installment of George Lucas’ original space opera trilogy.


2.) M. Night Shyamalan adapts Jane Austin.


3.) Quentin Tarantino remakes Russ Meyer’s sexploitation classic, starring David Carradine.


4.) Kirsten Dunst stars as a high-school cheerleader on a family vacation, desperately trying to reconnect with her emotionally distant father, played by Henry Fonda.


5.) Jodie Foster and Barbara Harris trade off the mother and daughter roles in this tweenage classic of gore and mayhem, boasting the first appearance of legendary slasher Jason Voorhees.


6.) Robert Altman directs this Jimmy Cliff reggae classic starring Cher and Sandy Dennis as devotees of a tragically deceased screen star of yesteryear.


7.) Peter Jackson makes the dubious decision to remake two of his blockbuster movies into one forgettable sequel.


8.) This infamous vampire courtroom drama pits the noble Atticus Finch against the vicious Count Orlock.


9.) Tom Hanks directorial debut chronicles the fortunes of a 1960’s pop band during racial tensions in New York on the hottest day of the year.


10.) George Lucas’ debut film, directed for some reason by Federico Fellini


11.) This WWII Steve McQueen classic introduces the character of Snake Plissken, with Liza Minelli as a lounge singer and Martin Scorcese directing. (three films)


12.) This indie political/sci-fi/military mash-up, codirected by Ridley Scott and Jim Jarmusch, stars Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as Washington Post alien-hunters whose helicopter is shot down in Somalia. (four films)


13.) Based on the Alice Walker novel, Steven Spielberg directs Prince in this touching tale of an autistic man and his brother, featuring Jim Carrey as comedian Andy Kaufmann, with Nicholas Cage and Cher as star-crossed lovers. (five films)


There are some advanced variants on the game, in which you can play a little more loosely with the rules (for example, The Truth About Cat People and Reservoir Dogs). It may also occur to you that this game works perfectly well with song titles, books, TV shows, or future Bush administration criminal defendants—pretty much any category where you have a lot of names to work with. (It also works with porn films, but tends to get repetitive.) Have fun! Good luck! No whammies!


Answers:


1.) The Empire Strikes Back to the Future


2.) The Sixth Sense and Sensibility


3.) Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill Bill!


4.) Bring It On Golden Pond


5.) Freaky Friday the 13th


6.) The Harder They Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean


7.) The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Kong


8.) Nosferatu Kill a Mockingbird


9.) That Thing You Do the Right Thing


10.) THX-1138 ½


11.) The Great Escape from New York, New York


12.) All the President’s Men in Black Hawk Down By Law


13.) The Color Purple Rain Man on the Moonstruck

Glenn McDonald writes about popular culture from his home in lovely Chapel Hill, NC. His humor essays have been described as "grammatically consistent" and "remarkably frequent". He is editor of the Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me daily news quiz at NPR.org, and a film critic at the Raleigh News & Observer. He lives virtually at www.glenn-mcdonald.com.


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