December 02, 2009

A Writer And Two Directors Go To The White House

A little late, I know — I liked it enough that I thought I'd try and get someone else to take it first (no dice… sigh).

Also, CWG will probably be a day late this week. Sorry.

The guest list [at President Obama’s first state dinner] included… the directors Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan, the writer Jhumpa Lahiri, former secretary of state Colin Powell and Indra Nooyi, the chief executive of PepsiCo.
—The New York Times
Shyamalan: Ms Lahiri! Hey, Ms Lahiri!

Lahiri [turning]: Oh. Good evening, Mr Shyamalan.

Shyamalan: Please, please — call me M. Night.

Lahiri: Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you… M. Night. I, uh, very much enjoyed The Sixth Sense.

Shyamalan: What, that old thing? [chuckles] Thanks — I’m a big admirer of your work, too. I thought Interpreter of Maladies was excellent. Especially the title story.

Lahiri: It’s nice of you to say so.

Shyamalan: How would you feel about having it adapted for the screen? I’d love to work on it with you — though I must confess I think the ending could use some tweaking. When the monkeys attack the little boy?

Lahiri [shifting uncomfortably]: Oh?

Shyamalan: I mean, you have such a fantastic opportunity, there — because earlier in the story the interpreter has his photo taken with the family, remember? And he writes down his address on a piece of paper so they can send him a copy?

Lahiri: Yes…

Shyamalan: And then after the monkeys attack, the mother roots through her purse to find something to help clean up the little boy, and the paper flies out and flutters away?

Lahiri: Right. It’s a haunting image.

Shyamalan: Okay, but picture this [holds up his index fingers and thumbs to make a frame]. Just for a moment, as the piece of paper floats away, we see what’s written on it: [dramatic pause] your son will be attacked by monkeys. [Lets his hands drop] Did I just blow your mind, or what? It was right in front of our noses the whole time!

Lahiri: I — well… That wasn’t really the effect I was aiming for. It’s meant to be a story about how our interpretation of events has a profound impact on the way we live our lives.

Shyamalan: Okay, okay, fine. What about that other one from the collection, then? You know, the one with the guy who’s always coming over for dinner?

Lahiri: “When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine”?

Shyamalan: No, I don’t think that’s it. Come on, you know, the guy’s from Pakistan but he’s living in New England and working at a university or something?

Lahiri: I’m pretty sure you mean “When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine”.

Shyamalan: Nooooo… It’s definitely something snappier. You know, and the guy’s family are still in Pakistan and there’s a war going on and he watches the news every night because it’s the only way to find out anything about them? I think it was… “The War”? No, no. “The War Watcher”. “Little Johnny War Watcher”!

Lahiri: I can assure you, it’s “When Mr Pirzada Came To Dine.” It’s a Baurdrillardian commentary on how our lives are increasingly defined by the simulacra that claim only to describe them.

Shyamalan: Right! “Little Johnny Simulacra”! Anyway, the title’s not important — you’ve got to hear my idea for the ending.

Lahiri: I —

Shyamalan: So he’s coming over for dinner every night, right? And the narrator, the little girl, is really fascinated with him — and at the end he returns to Pakistan. Except then, we tack on a little extra scene at the end, and — picture this — it turns out Pakistan never really existed. And the guy was really a gas station attendant who was killed in a robbery the year before. Little Johnny Simulacra! It’ll be the darling of the Academy.

Lahiri [waving to catch someone else’s attention]: I — Mr Spielgberg! Mr Spielberg!

Spielberg [stopping, as he passes on his way to the men’s room]: Yes? Can I help you, Miss…?

Lahiri: Lahiri. Jhumpa Lahiri. I’m an author.

Spielberg: Oh, yes, of course. The Namesake. Great book — good movie, too.

Lahiri: Thank you.

Shyamalan: Pfft.

Spielberg: No, honestly — it was a touching coming of age tale. The quest for identity; personal discovery. Really powerful stuff.

Lahiri [blushing]: Well, it’s very kind of you to say so.

Shyamalan: Pfft.

Spielberg: And the way Gogol’s name resonates through so many generations, on all those different levels. It’s just fantastic.

Lahiri: Oh, you must stop! My head will start to get too big.

Spielberg: Mind you, it could have used some aliens.

Lahiri: I — aliens?

Spielberg: Yes. Or maybe robots.

Lahiri [face reddening]: Robots.

Spielberg: Sure! Like, okay, picture this: [making a frame with his thumbs and index fingers] the train crash, the one that Gogol’s father is in, the one that creates so many ripples throughout his family’s future? Let’s say it was caused by a crashed UFO! [hands coming apart now, drawing a giant, invisible arch in the air above his head] And then much later in life, towards the end of the movie, Gogol is out for a walk, and those very same aliens appear to him, and help him fix his disintegrating marriage! [Lets his arms drop to his side, and shrugs] That’s how I would have done it, anyway.

Shyamalan [nodding vigorously]: Yes, yes! And then it turns out that they’re actually all living in a government simulation to see how people would respond to an alien encounter!

Lahiri [exploding, in a figurative sense]: That’s it! I’ve had it, with both of you! I don’t want to hear another word about how you’d “fix” my stories!

Spielberg: Hey, calm down. We’re only spitballing.

Lahiri: Spitballing! Spitballing! Fine! While we’re on the topic, then: I thought Jaws needed a tortured, loveless marriage, I thought Unbreakable needed an immigrant character struggling to reconcile the culture of her parents with that of her new home, I thought Jurassic Park needed an anguished Other figure, and I thought The Happening was just fucking terrible! [stops, wild-eyed and breathing heavily]

Shyamalan: You didn’t need to be so mean about it.

Indra Nooyi [approaching the group]: Say! You folks look like you could use a Pepsi!


1 comment:

M spaceholder said...

It could have used a 'your mom' joke.

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