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Poor Banished Children of Eve

I am sitting at a custom Parnian Executive Desk in my office at DreamWorks. I recall that I am President of Production. I observe the object dimensions and study the intricate knotted pattern of the desktop’s Carpathian elm burl. It is 4 feet wide by eight feet long. My secretary rings to tell me that “Mr. Spielberg” has dropped by the office for a visit. He is interested in discussing the post-production details of something starring Jessica Alba. I remember that it is a motion picture involving a fictional story of some kind. Mr. Spielberg enters my office. He is below average height. One percent of his body mass is comprised of bacteria. His words and body language reflect comfort with my presence and the space known as my office. If he understood my mental condition he would not be so comfortable. If he knew that I experienced a level 1 head trauma this morning due to a two ton automatic garage door falling directly on my head as I attempted to realign the chain mechanism, and that I stopped in at a sporting goods store on my way to Universal City and purchased a Ruger 10-22 with an extended magazine and a brick of hollow point bullets, he would be alarmed. His life is in my hands, just as the post-production is in his hands. I begin to wonder why we are making this movie. I am the arrogant general played by Adolphe Menjou in Paths of Glory, sending our audience into the maw of Ludendorff’s machine guns. The details of the film are too tiresome to relate. It will receive a combined Rotten Tomatoes score of 57. I can see the end from the beginning. I am Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, I am a god. I will say that the 81% of men respond favorably to Jessica Alba’s ass based on a sampling of 150 respondents in a market test conducted by Frank Luntz. The frames depicting Jessica Alba’s ass will translate into 35% above break-even DVD sales volume, off-setting a likely 8% below margin theatrical gross. This is because of masturbation. The Director’s extended cut will have extended ass frames. In other words, for reasons unrelated to artistic merit, Spielberg will never confront the fact that he produced a movie that should never have existed. Masturbation lines my pocket with gold as well per the post-theatrical gross clause in my contract with DreamWorks. Mr. Spielberg discusses the production and I am encouraging. I am Brad Dourif beguiling King Thioden of Rohan.

“Mr. Spielberg” of course is a type of reference common in Hollywood. If he were not both powerful and famous his first name would be included in third person references. This has a mark of irony which is an anachronism, as if it could refer to any “Mr.” Of course, the irony is long forgotten and it has become an empty practice of obsequiousness as mindless as the movement of a cow to a feeding trough. I am dead set against wit. The wag who first used the form referring to “Mr. Selznick” or “Mr. Hitchcock” never anticipated the custom being a shackle of malaise confining souls in Hollywood hell for generations. All wit descends into malaise as it becomes emptied of its original discovery.

At this moment I am feeling like a bent thing. While Mr. Spielberg is talking in a casually self-conscious master of the universe way, my mind organizes the factual content of his words, which is not substantial, and I wonder about his life force and how a single act of will can take it away and how strange I would be to myself during a brutal act of murder. Cold blooded murder. Star Trek II said that revenge is a dish best served cold. Murder could be just a word with a value judgment attached. I am Hannibal Lector, a moral superman. I live in feudal Hollywood. Mr. Spielberg is now discussing a new property in pre-development. He is following a pattern I have previously analyzed; initial enthusiasm followed by diligent effort becoming complete disinterest masked by a face-saving mock enthusiasm. It would be at the disinterest phase that my real work will begin. What had started as an innovative script will become a pre-packaged running cliché that could just as easily be generated by a computer. This is a necessary work of spiritual destruction which must occur prior to the invasion of my people from Gamma Six. I have been sent as an advanced force to bring about spiritual lethargy and make the Earth an easy spoil for my humanoid race. Right now, a brilliant scientist who doesn’t play by the rules has come to this conclusion, but no one will listen. I must stop him from getting to the President. We have conquered many planets through their entertainment industries. At the beginning we offer novel concepts to impress the masses as fresh and self-referential. However, these modes are dead ends. Furthermore, once universal self-consciousness has been achieved there is no going back. The fruit of the forbidden tree has been consumed. The average man will occupy the main part of his precious life watching the most venal individuals imaginable, actors who smoke crack and shave the pubic hair of prostitutes, actors who have been carefully selected to be objects of fantasy. Jessica Alba was created on this basis, her butt genetically designed to distract a docile Earth population from seeing our insidious work right before their eyes.  Many people might be inclined to believe that once dominance is complete we will destroy or enslave the human race. This is not true. We seek only to control it that we may harvest its spiritual life force at the point of death. It is in the fourth dimension where our lives are primarily spent. We use the souls of other races as dumb beasts of burden to ride and haul cargo. As Mr. Spielberg discusses the property, tentatively titled Children of Eve, my secretary brings in coffee and teacakes. The property is about a corporation which has been taken over by aliens. I realize immediately that I must assume control of the project and begin a diversionary brainstorming process. Fortunately, Mr. Spielberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, is one of us. Perhaps my secretary is too. Or, maybe I am experiencing severe head trauma. I am viewing myself participating in a Hollywood executive discussion and believing that I am an alien and also experiencing the pain and abstraction resulting from a severe head injury. I have a Ruger in my top desk drawer and can shoot Spielberg right now. Then I can go across the hall and shoot Chief Executive Officer Stacey Snider. I could shoot myself. Or not. I have the power to green light a wonderful film about a boy without a father and lonely star in the night sky. I also have the power to green light my own death.

The office I occupy is twenty by forty-two feet. Here, my sins are hidden behind glass and steel. I could walk out in the street in front of Universal City Plaza and hold a sandwich board listing all the horrible things I’ve done. It might read, “I dishonored my parents; I have committed numerous acts of adultery; I have bore false witness against my neighbor to advance my career.”

I could leave the office without explanation and begin my mid-life crises. It could be an adult comedy.

I could shoot Spielberg while he raptures, then cut to me having never shot him. The audience will realize that it was just my fantasy. It could be Adaptation, or Up the Sandbox. I reach for the pistol in the top drawer. Something tells me no. How close you came Steven. Capture that on film. Try 3-D.

“Steven, I was reading Thomas Aquinas on falsity this morning. Aquinas says that no falsity can exist in things that belong to God. It can only exist in voluntary agents who withdraw themselves from what is so ordained.”

He looks at me as if waiting for a punch line.

“There is no punch line,” I say. “It was a stand-alone statement.”

“What are you getting at,” he asks.

“Kate is one of us.” I am the villain and this is the moment of revelation. “Now at the last you understand.” I ponder my professional demise. My career will be destroyed for an unrelated reason like Gentleman’s Agreement. What to do, what to say? There is meaning or meaninglessness. God is the Word or God is the Void. I choose. I am free. I am getting lightheaded.

“DreamWorks should make movies that are true and beautiful, beautiful and true. We shouldn’t make movies to make society better. I don’t even know what ‘society’ means.”

“I disagree,” he says.

“I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.”

“Pardon?”

“Fred Zinnemann.”

“What about him?”

“A Man for All Seasons.”

“Good film.” Spielberg looks alarmed now.

I realize that my fingers are numb. “Call 9-1-1,” I say.

“What’s that?”

“Do you have a cell phone?”

“I have Blackberry Satellite phone.”

“That’s good. Can you dial it?”

“I can speak a number.”

I am losing consciousness. “Would you speak 9-1-1?”

“I don’t get it.”

“There is something wrong with me, will you call for help.”

“I get it.”

“I can’t move my arms, please call for help. Dear God, forgive me for the horrible things I’ve done. Jesus save me.”

“David, if you’re not happy here…”

“You’re a nitwit. I should have shot you. I forgive you.”

Spielberg removes the phone from his belt. He tells the emergency operator what is happening, and sheepishly asks me the address.

“You don’t know the address of your own company?” The world is going dark. “One Hundred Universal City Plaza, Building Ten, eighth floor” I say with my dying breath. I am the redeemed Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi. This is the end of the movie.

 

Epilogue

It is a surprise ending. I wake from a coma. I have a subdural hematoma. I have been asleep for three weeks and awake for three hours. My ex-wife, Corinne, is sitting at my bedside. It took something like this for us to realize the love that was always there. I hope it is a happy ending. Somebody knocks and comes into the room and asks how I’m feeling. It is Steven Spielberg. Corinne kisses me goodbye and tells me to call her if there is anything I need. I feel happy.

“How was the Dead Zone?” Spielberg asks.

“Shake my hand and find out,” I say. He laughs.

“Stacey and I have been talking…”

“Stacey and I” can’t be good. Of course he doesn’t fire me after being in a coma. That wouldn’t look right. They are making me head of a new development company for “serious films.” It will be called Buried Treasure. They will put me in a basement. They will bury my projects. I broke the code of silence and must be punished. I respectfully decline.

“I’m going to buy a motorcycle,” I say.

“That’s great,” he says.

“I’m going to ride around the country and help people.”

“Like Then Came Bronson.”

“Or, Sam Jackson in Pulp Fiction, except real,” I say.

My wife and I will not get back together. She remarried. I will never remarry. Spielberg offers me a sip of water.

“I don’t know what Spielberg means in the big life picture, Steven. Maybe nothing. Maybe I don’t mean anything either. When I see a hungry child on one of those infomercials I think that he might be poor for a short time and that I might be rich for a short time and it makes me very worried. I also know that eternity is longer than a movie. By the way there is something you should know.”

“What’s that?” he asks.

“Shindler’s List was fakey. Public virtue is a conceit. We are not good people, you and I.”

Spielberg stands up, touches me on the shoulder, tells me to get better soon and leaves the room. I am alone. The camera pulls back slowly to show how small I am in the big picture.

FIN.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Matthew Lickona says:

    Addendum: Jessica Alba has stated that she will never do a nude scene, due at least in part to the fact of her familial Catholicism.

    “All wit descends into malaise as it becomes emptied of its original discovery” is freaking chilling and brilliant.

    Like the rest of this. Thank you. I fear I have gotten dumber about movies since I became a critic.

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says:

    Walker Percy by way of David Foster Wallace. Two great tastes that taste great together.

    Bravissimo, Mr Webb.

  3. Jonathan Potter says:

    This could be the title piece of your collection. Nice work, especially the dialog — maybe put a little more of that in?

  4. Wow, really well done.

  5. “The Player meets American Psycho – with a heart!”

    I second Matthew’s praise of that sentence – it never stopped ringing in my ears throughout the reading of the thing – to the point that I wondered if I – I – had been hit in the head with a garage door.

    Oh, Mr. Webb, so effortless, you make it, so very effortless.

    Please, please, please publish!

    JOB

  6. Jonathan Webb says:

    You people are nice. Thanks a lot.

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