My lunch schmooze with Dane Cook starts out badly when it turns out I’m actually talking to a Danish chef and not the incredibly talented comedian. Suddenly an evil military squadron attacks, and I’m running through hallways as explosions and gunfire rip the walls apart.
I lurch through a door and I’m in a fancy hotel room, and there’s Leonardo DiCaprio. Ah Leo! It’s been a long time since I’ve dreamt of you! There’s something wrong with the shape of his head.
“Hello,” he says.
“Hello, Leo! What’s wrong with your head? You look like a pumpkin.”
“I’m acting. When I get emotional, usually over guilt involving my wife’s death, my head puffs up.”
“So why are you in my dream?”
Leo fixes me with an icy stare, “I need some information. I’ve designed a safe in this dream, so you’ve automatically put your secrets into it. That’s how dreams work. Now tell me the combination, and I’ll open the safe on a deeper dream level.”
“A dream within a dream.”
“Why don’t you just…”
“Within ANOTHER dream!”
“Wow! Why don’t you just ask me?”
“Okay, I will. What’s up with the titles?”
“What do you mean?”
“The titles to all these movies: Shutter Island? Inception? Even Infernal Affairs got turned into The Departed, which isn’t half as good. Why are the titles so awful?”
I feel the world slanting. Leo is so close to the secret.
“Don’t make me go into the dream within a dream and open your safe!”
“Okay. I’ll tell you, but you mustn’t tell anyone. If they find out, there could be pandemonium!”
“Tell me, and I’ll decide.”
“Okay. The reason the titles to movies suck is…we’re out of good words.”
“You think anyone would choose to call a movie Inception? There was nothing left. All the Dream titles got used up. Half of them are in Nightmare on Elm Street movies. Christopher Nolan had that script for years, looking for something better. Working titles were Planters; Subconscious, Subconsious; Sweet Charlotte; and Dream Thingy.
“I don’t believe you!”
“Believe it, Leo. It’s the grim truth. Movies are never going to have any decent titles again. Titles that would normally go straight to video are hitting the big screen, because there’s nothing else left. Do you think there would really be an action franchise called The Transporter if there were any other names available? Even movies with cool titles, like The Fast and the Furious have to get saddled with subtitles like Tokyo Drift. It was only a matter of time before a movie got hit with Port of Call: New Orleans.
That’s why there are so many remakes—no one wants to name anything new.”
“I don’t believe it! We’re going into the dream within a dream!”
So he hooks me up to a device to make me dream. As I’m nodding off, I ask, “Isn’t this a lot like ExistenZe? And doesn’t that prove my point?” Then blackness.
I wake in a hotel room, almost exactly like the one before. Dreams are so surreal. Leo’s there, and he’s opened a safe on the wall. He’s pulling out scripts.
“What are these!”
“They’re all the scripts I’m working on, or even thinking about working on.”
He throws them to the floor. There they are. The Rubix Moog. Convalescence. Kritter Patrol. Sunsplashers. Jimmy Constantine: Dinosaur Eater. Hot Dog Halo. And my epic, important film, Crime and Peace.
Leo collapses into a not-embarrassing facsimile of weeping. “These titles are horrible! Is this all I have to look forward to? Do any of these scripts have a protagonist who lives in an illusionary world because he killed his wife? If you’ve got anything like that, I’ll sign on to the project.”
This is my moment. I envision the vague outline of just such a script, and sure enough, lying in the pile of scripts is my latest half-formed creation: Wifekill-Land. I hand it to Leo. He takes it and smiles.
“That’s not even a half-bad title.”
“If you think so.”
“I’ll do it!”
And that’s how I got Leonardo DiCaprio signed on to my latest project. Or was it all a dream? Or WAS it?
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