Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Underground Film

Mark my words. You can take this one to the bank. There will be a movie made about the just-announced heroic rescue of 12 coal miners trapped deep underground in West Virginia for 41 hours. This event has all the trappings of a great melodrama. A terrible explosion! A race against the clock, as ominous news of Carbon Monoxide build-up is announced. "It will take a miracle," rescuers say. Forty-one hours tick by and still a thousand feet to go! Droves gather in churches to pray for a miracle. Then...Bells ring out!. "They're alive. They're found alive." Tears of joy begin to flow. A spontaneous chorus of singing erupts. This is the stuff of true melodrama. The kind of stuff you can't make up. (Because if you do, no one would buy it.) Is it exploitation? Absolutely! But exploitation is what Hollywood does best sometimes. So, this is not a question of "if," it's a question of "When?" The only suspense left is who will sell the movie rights first, the rescuers or the miners? Don't think this can work as a film? Rent Apollo 13 again. Paging Ron Howard! Film for Mr. Ron Howard!
Addendum: This is a dark day for American journalism. When I wrote the above piece, like the rest of the country, I believed the reports coming from reputable news organizations of the successful rescue of 12 coal miners trapped for 41 hours. Then came the sad fact -- it wasn't 12 miners alive and one dead, but in fact, the opposite, 12 miners dead and one alive (and critical). The news media of this country, so rabid to report the story first, didn't bother to get the story right. Even The New York Times, on its cover, reported the miners were alive. Does anyone check facts or sources anymore? This is an outright disgrace. How can a new organization ever engender trust when it doesn't care enough to get the facts right? Will a movie still be made? My answer is still yes, but now that depends on whether or not the sole survivor, Randal McCloy, lives to tell it. I think a documentarian should be willing to step up and uncover the immense screw up that resulted in the joyful (but false) headlines that dominated newspapers around the country today. Instead of Ron Howard, what this story now needs is Michael Moore.

I'm positive you're right. In fact I bet the contracts are signed literally by the end of this week. But my strong guess is that it will be an M.O.W., CBS Sunday night feel-good kind of thing, not a theatrical feature.
Never mind about those contracts.
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