If there’s one thing I’ve learned about Hollywood in my many years of waiting for movies to wend their way from theaters to video to cable to free late-night TV, it’s that boffo films spawn imitators. So it should come as no surprise that this year’s Tinseltown top-grossers are already being imitated, or at least paid homage to, even by Minnesota lens jockeys. Here’s a quick preview of some of the derivative stuff we can expect to see from Gopher State auteurs in the coming months.
The 40-Year-Old Aspersion
The film opens with a shot of an old man, Gunnar, sitting in his kitchen and staring at a rough-hewn table. Fade to a flashback, 40 years earlier: young Gunnar in the same kitchen, with a hammer in his hand. He’s just built the table. His wife, Anna, is there with him, and we watch transfixed as, in a bravura display of cinematic tension, Anna reaches out and presses down on a corner of the table with her thumb. The table rocks slightly, and Anna cocks an eyebrow at Gunnar. Over the course of the next four decades, this unspoken slight eats away at the poor man, until, at long last, he snaps like a Scandinavian Buford Pusser in an Ingmar Bergman–directed Walking Tall. Viewers will not soon forget the stunning denouement, in which Gunnar, trembling with bottled-up rage, kneels to slip a matchbook under the table’s one short leg, then stares out the window in a magisterial snit as the scene fades to black.
The (Pork) Producers
A shady South St. Paul hog magnate, Hocks Bellystock, has been buying up enormous lots of molded soy protein as a hedge against creeping vegetarianism. In fact, he’s become so smitten with soy that he’s neglected the pig end of his business, and when Food Network cutie-pie Rachael Ray’s latest cookbook (Make Mine Swine!) sparks a national mania for pork in all its permutations, Hocks’s business, OinkInc, seems headed for that big containment barn in the sky. Unless, that is, he and his milquetoasty product development manager, Neo Shroom, can convince American eaters that his faux pork is the real squeal—which they do, thanks to loads of chemical additives and MSG. But then, in a bizarre career move, Ms. Ray goes vegan, taking Katie Couric, Jay Leno, and most of America with her. Bellystock and Shroom are exultant; they own more pork-flavored soy solids than anyone on the planet. Ah, but there’s the rub: OinkInc’s phony pig parts taste too gloriously unhealthful for anyone to believe they’re meatless. Still, it’s a musical, and it ends with a gala production number: “Springtime for Microwave Chitlins.”
A few other titles you may wish to put on your Netflix list: Alexandriana, a taut thriller about machinations on the world lefse market and a secret message encoded in the text of the Kensington Runestone; Fun with Spic and Span (okay, this is a public-access how-to show); and a brooding, evocative coming-of-age story, set in the heady milieu of DFL fundraising, with the working title Memoirs of a Booya.
To share your comments, write a letter to the editor.