I went to see a movie the other day. My date and I got there with plenty of time to spare and caught every preview. In 5 previews, three of the films used the line “Inspired by a true story” towards the end of the trailer. One of them was about an animal in the desert that runs like a hyena but hunts like a man and likes to kill indiscriminately. A racially balanced team of scientists voyage into the African wilderness, with nothing but questions. They’re searching for something, but more importantly, they don’t know what they’re doing, and as soon as it becomes a good idea to turn around and stop getting killed, they run out of gas or something like that. It was “inspired by a true story”.
Actually the true story was probably about how some non-Africans went to Africa, and got torn up in Africa by something indigenous to the continent of Africa. They might have even been African, and what killed them could’ve been a gun. Actually they might have not even been killed. Maybe they ate something that didn’t agree with them and in the movie, getting killed was a metaphor for food poisoning. And Africa was a metaphor for the condo they rented in Telluride on an Easter weekend ski trip. They were probably all sexy, but probably not racially balanced. Maybe there was a black guy there.
Based on a true story is adequately vague. It attaches the movie to a person or a time or a place or a thing or all four, or any combination of the four. There’s plenty of room to wiggle away from reality or any fact based set of restrictions that might reign in any sensational or extravagant story lines derived from the original idea. Inspired by a True Story is so vague its absurd. What isn’t inspired by a true story? Any movie that uses this phrase is a guaranteed piece of shit trying to distract you from one of the only entertaining things that it might have to offer; the terrific exaggerations and poetic license of the production company; the lifeblood of crappy-movie making and poor plot twists; mindless crap. It serves a valuable purpose, if it’s allowed to be crappy. Now, not only do we not get to attribute these preposterous shit piles to the executives that made and marketed them, but we’re also being asked to imagine endless plausible scenarios that could possibly be sighted as the inspiration for there implausibility. Nope. No thanks. How about, your movie was, inspired by a Bad Idea. Or even a good idea, or a good story. But then you’d probably be able to use the aforementioned Based on a True Story to describe it.
I think I’m going to make a movie about a team of scientists, that go to Greenland to do research on a type of crane that stops there while flying from Canada to Scandinavia. But while there, they’re witness to an execution style murder of a wildlife activist by some seal poachers who’ve paid off the local authorities. Its Inspired by an afternoon I had in college, when my friend Andres and I went over to his friend Crappers’ to do acid and watch him feed his boa constrictor a whole chicken. His roommate’s girlfriend started freaking out and telling us we shouldn’t feed the chicken to the snake, so Crapper’s roommate broke up with her on the spot. She started crying and refused to leave. Then they got back together and we all ate acid. Three hours later we remembered that we hadn’t fed the snake yet. We got so excited we put on face paint. She started crying again. Then they broke up again and we fed the snake. It was kind of boring. She watched the whole thing and didn’t say a word. Then we bought her a gyro.
The authorities in that story were obviously inspired by the snake.