Movies, Facts, and Auditing - Act II (or, Letting the Director Speak for Himself)

Previous matters: We introduced a successful little movie (and its sequel) called “Night at the Museum” and all agreed it was not meant to be Macbeth but a slight trifle to be enjoyed on its own merits; we brought up a related article and indicated it might speak to the undermining of our intelligence; we then sidetracked to a quiet discussion of quotes from the actors and what this said about the previously mentioned problem.

 

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program.

 

Let’s move beyond this sidetrack and discuss our somnambulant walk toward the acceptance of untruth and the expedience of ignorance — starting with this quote from director Shawn Levy. “The real Smithsonian and the real D.C. were so much more inspiring than I anticipated. I had to rewrite to better exploit how cool these places are.”

 

Stop a minute and think about what he is saying.

 

A man with millions of dollars at his disposal (the millions to make a movie) didn’t even bother doing the research necessary to understand what he was writing about. (Side note — I am assuming Levy is the writer because he talks about rewriting the script. This may not be true. But I won’t start on that rant – the lie of the auteur theory is better handled in other forums.) Again, think about what Levy has admitted. This guy sat in his director’s ivory tower and tried to remember what he knew about Washington, D.C., and the Smithsonian and, doing little or no research (or worse, looking it up on Wikipedia), built a pipe dream of what he thought might exist.

 

Okay, calm down Mike. Maybe this was just a working draft until he had a better feel for what actually existed. After all, he did eventually go to D.C. to get the real story.

 

Oh, if only that were true. Let me throw out a few more quotes, this first also from Levy. “We show hallways and tunnels behind the scenes at the museum, but we’ve greatly expanded the notion by suggesting there is a massive archive space that sits below the National Mall.” (Hit “Pause” on your DVD player and let that sink in.) He’s “suggested” an untruth. He didn’t really lie, he just suggested a lie. (Sound like any investigations you’ve been a part of?)

 

Next, a quote from the article. “Rodin’s The Thinker isn’t in the Smithsonian. But it is in the movie.” The director would probably quote “artistic license.” Nice story, but … where is that line between artistic license and falsehood? (And this was where, for me, the verisimilitude was first destroyed. Seeing the statue in the trailers I thought, “Wait. That statue isn’t in D.C.”)

 

Another quote from the article: “Naturally, paintings and, say, a giant octopus would not be housed in the same museum, but Levy ‘borrowed’ from multiple museums for the sake of the story. For the art, he assembled a crazy-quilt collection of his favorites.” Even the author of the article seems to be questioning what is going on here with the inclusion of quote marks around borrowed.

 

(And I must take a breath here and admit that, after re-reading the article one more time, the reporter has done a better job than I first suspected. The article does indeed focus on how the Smithsonian may benefit from the movie. But it also becomes apparent the reporter is trying her best to show the inaccuracies, to indicate that Hollywood plays fast and loose with the real world. Why else would she include a line such as “never mind the Hollywood polishing, the conflations and omissions.”)

 

Up to now, you and I might have been able to build excuses for these lapses in reality. Maybe the conceit of a central archive is close enough to the truth to allow this suggestion in order to better drive the action of this story. Maybe the museum had The Thinker on loan.  Maybe “borrowing” isn’t all that bad. Gosh, after all, it’s all been done in order to make a better story.

 

And with that, lo and behold, we find ourselves on the slippery curb. When truth is sacrificed to make story, there is no reality upon which to base said story. Even movies of fantasy and science fiction, often the least rooted in our current reality, only work when the internal logic of the story is maintained. As proof, look at the Trekkies who are screaming about the latest Star Trek movie, upset that facts in the movie (admittedly, many of them minor) do not match those of the original series. Even with a plot point that tries to explain these discrepancies, some Trekkies cannot accept the current movie because the internal logic of the Star Trek universe has been broken.

 

But I digress (again) and our time grows short, so we all must wait. Stay tuned for the third and final episode in which we let Levy provide the last shovel of proof for this grave and find a way to really tie this into internal auditing.

Posted on Jun 2, 2009 by Mike Jacka

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