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Wednesday, October 02, 2013


All right, so today is Whatever Wednesday, and that means it's time to break out the “Clue” cards to see what subject we will be discussing this week. As always, I will be providing the list of what each card means at the beginning of every Whatever Wednesday post.

MISS SCARLET: Sunday Jukebox
MRS. WHITE: Saturday Smorgasbord (weeks 3-5)
MR. GREEN: Saturday Smorgasbord (weeks 1-2)
MRS. PEACOCK: Friday Night in the TV Guide
PROFESSOR PLUM: Thursday Diary

So, let's see which character we will be looking at today. seems as though when I was grabbing in the bag, I happened to take two cards by mistake. One happens to be the Colonel Mustard card, and the other was the Mrs. White card. Since I can only choose one card at a time, I'll go with the Mustard card.

Although, I suppose if I really wanted to stretch it out, the Mrs. White card could also be played. After all, today's blog subject happens to be a movie that was based on a best-selling novel.

And to keep with the theme of October, I thought I'd make it a scary movie.

How do you like the new Pop Culture Addict's Guide To Life Halloween logo? I made it if you couldn't tell already.

Anyway, this week's Whatever Wednesday deals with the subject of fame.  Almost everybody that I knew growing up had some dreams of achieving super stardom.  Some wanted to become the next Madonna or Michael Jackson.  Some wanted to win an Academy Award for acting or directing.  And some people strive to be the next award winning author (which admittedly is a dream of mine).

Of course, there are many perks to being famous.  The more famous you are, the better chance you have of taking home a hefty pay day for your work.  You get to rub shoulders with other successful people and potentially network your way to better projects and opportunities.  And there's a good chance that you could live a life of luxury filled with expensive dinners, luxurious living spaces, and fancy cars.

(Well...that is if you like those sorts of things.  I would be completely out of my element in high luxury.  I much prefer a bacon double cheeseburger for comfort food over a jar of caviar.)

But there are some major downsides to being famous.  I would imagine that it would be quite unnerving to have to deal with the paparazzi and overeager photographers at every step of the way (which prompted actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner to take action over the last couple of months).  I would imagine that it wouldn't be easy to see your entire life splashed on the front covers of tabloid magazines and featured on "Entertainment Tonight".

And, while I'm sure that most famous people are absolutely grateful towards their fans, and would happily sign autographs for them, pose for pictures at fan events, or even offer them backstage passes at their concerts, there are some fans who seem to take it to extremes.  And some people end up crossing that line between harmless fan and psycho stalker and never look back.

Just ask Annie Wilkes.

Now on the surface, Annie Wilkes may appear to be your everyday woman with a heart of gold.  She lives a quiet existence, she works as a nurse, and one of the activities that she enjoys the most is reading books by one of her favourite authors.  But when an opportunity comes for her to get up close and personal with the one man she idolizes more than anything in the world, it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

In fact, as author Paul Sheldon quickly figures out, coming face to face with his number one fan can become an absolute "Misery".

Yes, we're going to be taking a look at the 1990 film "Misery", which in itself was the film adaptation of the 1987 Stephen King novel of the same name.

(I am a HUGE Stephen King fan, admittedly.  Not huge enough to do some of the things that Annie Wilkes did to Paul Sheldon, mind you, but I do respect his works of literature very much.)

As far as box office success goes, it didn't raise as much money as it probably should have, though it certainly wasn't because the movie was bad.  It was absolutely phenomenal.  Even Stephen King admitted that the film adaptation (directed by former "Meathead" Rob Reiner) was very well done.  If anything, the only thing that prevented it from topping the box office when it was released in November 1990 was that it was competing against the wildly successful "Home Alone".  But you know, for a movie to make three times its budget...I would still consider that a success.

I mean, the film did star James Caan and Kathy Bates, who in my opinion are two of Hollywood's modern greats.  What could be better than that?

Now, I've read the book and seen the movie, and I'll be the first to admit that the movie actually does stay true to the book.  Mind you, the film was made a lot less gory, and some of the scenes in the book were modified so that they wouldn't be as grotesque.  I seem to recall a scene in the book that involved the amputation of a foot that was modified in the film version so that instead of amputation, the character's ankles were merely broken.  William Goldman, the man who wrote the screenplay for "Misery" actually wanted to have the foot amputation scene included in the final film, but Reiner decided against it.

Which is just as well, because the film worked better without it.  I for one would get kind of disgusted if I saw an amputation scene played out on a film.  It's one reason why I can't sit through "Saving Private Ryan" or any of the "Saw" movies.

Anyway, back to "Misery".

No...not THAT "Misery".

Anyway, Paul Sheldon (Caan) has gotten famous by writing a series of books starring heroine Misery Chastain.  Just as J.K. Rowling had with Harry Potter and Stephanie Meyer had done with the Twilight crew, Paul Sheldon's character of Misery helped him land on the best-sellers list more than once.  But there comes a time in every author's life when he/she decides that they want to try something new.  In Sheldon's case, while he acknowledged the fact that Misery helped get his name out there in the literary world, he has already begun work on another manuscript that has no mention of Misery Chastain at all.  In fact, to make sure that Sheldon never uses the character of Misery again, he has the character killed off in his latest book, "Misery's Child".

At the start of the movie, Paul is currently staying in Colorado working on his new manuscript, but has to depart back to Los Angeles to get in touch with his publishing agent Marcia Sindell (Lauren Bacall).  However, on the way to Los Angeles, a blizzard strikes, and poor Paul loses control of his car and ends up careening off the road.  The end result is that Paul survives the crash, but with two broken legs and a dislocated shoulder, Paul cannot go very far.

At first, Paul thinks his time is up.  But then he sees hope coming in the form of nurse Annie Wilkes, and he feels great relief over seeing someone willing to help him get out of the car, bring him back to her own home and have her nurse him back to full health.

This feeling of relief lasts all of twelve minutes, might I add.

Paul, at first, is flattered by Annie's devotion to him.  Annie constantly showers Paul with praise, telling him that she is his number one fan, and that she goes on and on about how much she loves his books, as well as the character of Misery Chastain.  Touched, Paul decides to give Annie an exclusive look at the new manuscript he is working on.  Annie leafs through the manuscript and shows the first sign that all is not right in her world when she comments about how she dislikes the use of profanity in the manuscript.  She also grows concerned when there's no mention of Misery at all within the novel. 

So when Annie goes to the store to buy "Misery's Child" and she discovers that her favourite author has killed off her favourite character, she goes absolutely postal.  And, I don't mean postal as in mailing a Christmas card, Mr. Man, I mean she goes absolutely cockadoodie postal!  To add insult to injury, Annie reveals to Paul that she has purposely made it so that nobody knows where he is and that nobody will come looking for him.

But Annie also reveals that there might be a way in which Paul can live to see another day.  She happens to have a typewriter stashed away inside her home, and she happens to also have endless reams of paper scattered around.  After forcing Paul to set his other manuscript on fire, she forces him to write a new novel entitled "Misery's Return", in which her beloved Misery is brought back from the dead.  It's a project that ensures that Paul's life remains a living, breathing misery itself.  But when your choices are life and death, it's amazing how fast those creative juices start flowing, isn't it?

Unfortunately, the trade-off is having Annie constantly at your side at every given moment.  That would be annoying for me as a writer myself to have people constantly bothering you.  I don't know about many writers out there, but I like to write without being disturbed by anything.  A little music playing in the background is fine, but I tend to tune everything else out.  But again, when your only choices are life and death, you essentially have to bite the bullet and work, work, work.

Mind you, this doesn't stop Paul from finding ways to escape captivity.  Once his legs heal up enough for him to be able to get around, he manages to locate a way out of the bedroom.  As well, he manages to come up with many excuses for Annie to leave the house (running out of paper, or an ink ribbon for the typewriter), and he uses that opportunity to try and find a way out of his predicament.

It is on one of these opportunities that Paul discovers that Annie is not as saintly as she believes she is in her own mind.  Through a series of newspaper clippings that are glued inside a scrapbook, Paul discovers to his horror that Annie was suspected and tried for the deaths of several toddler aged children while working as a registered nurse in various hospitals.  Escape for Paul Sheldon has never been more important.  But before he can get his bearings together, Annie puts two and two together and deduces that Paul has been sneaking out of his room - which leads to the ankle breaking scene (which is NOT for the faint of heart, might I add).  

So, with Paul being completely immobile and forced to finish the manuscript, it seems that all hope is lost.  Or is it?  A snooping sheriff (Richard Farnsworth) tries to find out the truth.  And just because Paul's legs won't work didn't mean that Paul's brain was damaged as well.  In fact, it is Paul's brain that keeps him sane throughout his entire ordeal, as he has to rely on it for one final confrontation with Annie Wilkes.  I will not spoil the ending, but I will say that it is probably one of the most satisfying endings for a psychological thriller that I have ever seen.

Now here's some trivia for all of you.

James Caan was clearly not the first choice for Paul Sheldon.  The following actors turned down the part; Kevin Kline, Michael Douglas, Harrison Ford, Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Redford, Richard Dreyfuss, Gene Hackman, Warren Beatty, and William Hurt...twice!

Anjelica Huston was offered the role of Annie Wilkes, and very much wanted to be a part of the project, but unfortunately had to drop out as she was committed to "The Grifters".  Amusingly enough, Bette Midler was also offered the role, but she turned it down.

In the movie, the typewriter that James Caan uses has a broken "N" key.  Stephen King's first typewriter also had the same problem!

This would not be the first time that Kathy Bates would star in a production based on a Stephen King novel.  She played the main role in "Dolores Claiborne", and she had a bit part in the television miniseries adaptation of "The Stand".

Kathy Bates won an Academy Award for her performance as Annie Wilkes in 1991 - the first woman to win the Best Actress award for a horror/thriller film.  This film was also the only Stephen King film adaptation to WIN an Academy Award.

Stephen King once fought a battle against substance abuse, and it was his pain with trying to overcome it that inspired him to write "Misery".  Let's just say that painkillers play a role in the movie adaptation as well as the book.

In the "strange, but true files", "Misery" was originally intended to become a Broadway play with...get this...Julia Roberts as Annie Wilkes.  Yeah, can you see why it would not have worked?

There was actually a scene planned where Annie Wilkes kills a police officer by repeatedly running over him with a lawn mower, but the scene was cut as Reiner felt that it would be too humourous.  I could see his point because of the fact that death by lawn mower sounds like it would be in one of those "Scary Movie" parody films.  Bates was disappointed that the scene was cut.

And that wraps up our discussion on "Misery".  A book and film which exposes the dark side of fame in the worst way possible.

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