Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Shoulda stuck with "Untitled Jodie Foster Project"

Talking of lousy film titles: I see Jodie Foster's latest tough-girl drama is called The Brave One. Based on what I've read, Foster stars as a woman who turns vigilante after losing her fiance to a violent crime. But if I had to guess what a movie called The Brave One would be about, I'd say it was probably a war movie, made with a small budget in the 1950s, with no women in it at all. My second guess would be that it's some kind of animal picture, about, say, an intrepid sled dog who must cross treacherous terrain against great odds to find food for his litter of helpless pups. When I hear The Brave One, I don't think "movie with female characters," which may be the point... But I also don't think "well-made movie" or "movie I'd like to see," which is my point. Are we running out of available titles? Is that the problem?

Another recent film title that fails to impress me is A Mighty Heart. That movie, in case you missed it, stars Angelina Jolie as Marianne Pearl, the real-life widow of slain journalist Daniel Pearl. The film is based on Marianne Pearl's book, which I have not read, and it's certainly possible that the title sounds deeply resonant, and appropriate to the subject matter of international terrorism and personal tragedy, after one reads the book or sees the movie. But with nothing but the title to go on, I don't think "gripping and relevant tale of real-life violence and loss, with Oscar potential." I think, "touching made-for-TV movie based on the real-life story of a teenager with Down Syndrome who competes in the Special Olympics despite a congenital heart defect." Either that or, as above, something involving an animal -- in this case, I would expect the story to center on the bond between a human and his/her unusual pet or service animal. I guess I'm thinking of something like Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken -- which, for the record, also strikes me as a terrible title, unwieldy and too clever by half. Remember that movie? About the hoydenish Depression-era girl who dives horses off high platforms, even after [SPOILER ALERT] she goes blind? IMDb says the tagline was "The inspiring true-life adventure of a courageous young rebel who defied the odds...and won." And I say, that's the movie that should have been called A Mighty Heart. And if they wrote the movie from the horse's perspective, they could have called it The Brave One. But I propose that movies for grownups that star Oscar-winning actors should not be released with titles that suggest cheaply-made films for preteen girls.

Jill Hunter Pellettieri wrote about "movies with the same name" for Slate in 2005, when the Will Ferrell movie Kicking and Screaming borrowed its title from 1995 Noah Baumbach film. It occurs to me that either or both of the films discussed above could have been improved by re-reusing the title Kicking and Screaming. Do you have other suggestions? (And don't you kind of want to rent Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken? You know you do.)

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