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Spout About: “Captain America 2” and Fish-Out-of-Water Heroes; How We All Live in “The Truman Show”

Spout About: "Captain America 2" and Fish-Out-of-Water Heroes; How We All Live in "The Truman Show"

I don’t usually pay much attention to stuff like this, but circulation of an MTV interview with Chris Evans on the plot of “Captain America 2” makes me feel like a stranger in a strange land. One where people aren’t aware that a large percentage of movies, particularly those based upon the myth of the hero, are fish-out-of-water stories. But the big news here is apparently that the sequel to “Captain America: The First Avenger” will involve the superhero traveling through time into the present, where he will deal with being out of place. Sounds like “Just Visiting” and a thousand other films. Hopefully he won’t mistake cars for dragons, wander a shopping mall in great wonderment or drop his shield and have to use an iPad in its place. By the way, how is there no montage anywhere online that pieces together memorable fish-out-of-water movie moments such as Madison eating lobster in “Splash,” Mick curiously studying the bidet in “Crocodile Dundee” and E.T. raiding the fridge (and getting drunk) in “E.T.,” among countless others.

Within the whole gamut of films using the fish-out-of-water trope, aren’t superhero movies especially highly represented? Hellboy, Superman, the Silver Surfer and on and on and on. Look at one of the trailers for “Thor” and you’d think it was just another comedy where an alien arrives on earth and hilarity ensues simply based on his lack of familiarity with customs and gadgets (they don’t have coffee in Asgard? — Wait, would a god even need a mortal breakfast, let alone coffee?). At first I recalled this scene from “Enchanted,” mistakenly remembering Evans rather than James Marsden as playing the prince (they’re easily confused).

More notes, links and things up for discussion after the jump.

Speaking of fish out of water stories: according to this Movie Ages chart, I should feel old because the release of “The Little Mermaid” is closer to the date of the moon landing than to today. I’m more concerned with how rapid time is flying at this point in my life. It’s already been five years since “Snakes on a Plane”? At least based on the upcoming doc “Life in a Day” we know that in those five years Internet-dictated films finally work.

I’m with John Nolte at Big Hollywood regarding Entertainment Weekly’s call for cinemas to save themselves by serving healthier popcorn. I’ve been a movie theater popcorn junkie all my life and it remains one of my favorite foods, in moderation. And the claim that all upscale cinemas are healthier is just untrue. They often have some of the more decadent offerings. Also, anyone who likes the option of “killing themselves” through popcorn should get to Brooklyn’s reRun cinema for the bacon-fat-drizzed corn. I thought I was going to have a heart attack, but it would have been a great way to go.

I also disagree with this way, since as always I’ll remind people that many of the greatest remakes of all time came out of already great works:

2. Don’t remake good movies; remake bad ones

We’d be wasting our breath if we told the studios not to remake old movies — the lure of that built-in name recognition is simply too powerful. But if you are going down that road, here’s a rule of thumb: Remake a movie that had a great idea at its core but was poorly executed or has aged badly — not a movie that was actually good. Films that follow this rule succeed: True Grit, 3:10 to Yuma, Ocean’s Eleven, The Fly, The Thomas Crown Affair. Films that don’t, fail: The Women, The Longest Yard, Planet of the Apes, Sabrina, The Pink Panther.

Speaking of that, Cracked’s latest list, 5 Trends You Think Are Ruining Movies (Are Older Than Film), reminds us that remakes have been around for millennia. And of course, Shakespeare was the best at it:

The world remembers the Romeo and Juliet that Shakespeare gave us in 1595 but has long forgotten The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet — which came out more than 30 years earlier — possibly because of that stupid title. Hamlet was taken from a centuries-old legend, and some think the play we know and love was just purchased by Shakespeare’s company and that Shakespeare just gave it a rewrite. And so on.

Also: apparently 19th century literature had its own equivalent of The Asylum’s blockbuster knock-offs, too.

We’ve been down this road many, many times before, but in honor of “The Greatest Movie Ever Sold,” The MRQE Blog takes another look at the most famous product placement moments in cinema, including the prior satires:

Infused with satire, The Truman Show was well ahead of its time. While the film did not feature any real-life products, it did explore how far reality TV would go for corporate sponsors. From Truman’s wife basically running a Julia Child-esk cooking show in their home kitchen, to the car Truman drives, everything is marketed to the audience. Truman is unaware of the product placement around him so he simply appears to go along with it, that is, until he “wakes up.”

What I find interesting about this supposed gag, though, is that real life is so infused with product placement that we typically don’t even realize. Look to Spurlock’s doc for a “wake up” call when the filmmaker visits Sao Paolo, a city that has banned outdoor advertising. Now look back at your everyday world, whether you’re in Times Square or an average sized town: there is what could be considered product placement EVERYWHERE. Spurlock and I brought this up a bit in my interview with him from Sundance:

One thing that’s interesting about documentaries is they can’t always control the products appearing in the frame, because there is product placement in real life. It is real life right now.

And products in general are real life. There was a great conversation I had with someone last night at the premiere. They said, “What do you think about this trend, especially on television, where they’re blurring stuff out in docs?” I think it’s terrible. It’s such a step away from capturing reality. MTV blurs everything that doesn’t pay to be on their network. It’s insane. If you’re making real documentary programming, you have to be able to capture things in real life, in real time. I shouldn’t have to worry about if, oh my god, that guy’s wearing a Nike or that guy’s got a Tommy Hilfiger shirt and I can’t show that. You can’t have crap like that drive your narrative.

So the irony here is that we live in a world like “The Truman Show” but where the most natural product placements can’t actually be featured naturally.

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