Announcing the I Can Do It Better blog-a-thon!

I’ve participated in enough blog-a-thons by now that it’s time I gave something back to the blog-a-thon world. Mine’s called I Can Do It Better and will take place on February 28th through March 2nd.

At first I was going to confine this blog-a-thon to screenwriting. “Write about a movie whose script was good but not great, and explain how you would improve it” were the original instructions. Then I thought, why not extend it to all creative endeavors? And so I shall.


  1. Please choose a well-known movie, book, painting, sculpture, speech, song, performance, or other manifestation of human artistic expression.
  2. Describe how it fails to attain perfection.
  3. Describe your remedy.
  4. Publish the article on your blog between February 28th and March 2nd. Be sure to state that you’re participating in this blog-a-thon and include a link to this page.
  5. [Updated] Return to this page during those days and you’ll find a form you can fill out send e-mail to <> to let me know about your post and where it is.
  6. I’ll then list it at the main blog-a-thon page to be posted on February 28th.

No easy targets please; I don’t want to hear how Meatballs III could have benefited from the addition of some talking animals. Of course it could have benefited from the addition of some talking animals. Any change would have been an improvement. (Except for casting someone other than Patrick Dempsey in the lead role, now that he’s all hot and stuff.)

Also, no mere technical problems please. It’s not very interesting to hear that you would take better care to keep the boom mike out of the shot, or aim the camera away from the shadow of the helicopter it’s in. And don’t simply catalog the faults of an otherwise good work of art (as I have done on this blog from time to time). Anyone can criticize; only a few can correct.

No, please stick to movies (et al.) that are already pretty good and require only some creative input from you to realize their full potential.

For example:

One day many years ago I turned on the TV in the middle of a World War II spy thriller, 36 Hours, starring James Garner and Rod Taylor. (Spoilers follow.) James Garner wakes up in an American army hospital five years after the war; he’s been in a coma. He’s delighted to hear that the Allies won. The D-Day invasion, which was still in the planning stages when his coma began, was a big success. His doctors and nurses chat him up on the subject, testing his memory.

In fact the hospital and its staff, the newspaper showing the date to be 1950, even James Garner’s greying temples, are all an elaborate ruse by the Germans. The war is still on. James Garner had been drugged and abducted and is being tricked into revealing secrets about the Normandy invasion, which the Germans know is imminent. We learn this about twenty minutes or so from the point where I started watching. James Garner realizes it himself soon after — and then must continue to play dumb and plant misinformation to counter the secrets that (he realizes with horror) he’s spilled. Very suspenseful.

Those of you who know the film can predict what’s coming. Years later I saw it again, this time from the beginning, and I saw nearly a full half hour of setup and exposition I hadn’t seen before — absolutely none of which was needed to appreciate the remainder of the film. In that first half hour we see that James Garner is a dedicated Army intelligence officer. We see him come by the D-Day knowledge that will later be of such interest to his interlocutors. We see him get a seemingly inconsequential paper cut which is what tips him off later to the fact that not so much time has passed. And then we see him abducted and the German ruse put into effect.

In my first creative writing class in high school, my teacher, Mr. San, taught that after writing a story, we should throw away the first act, because it will only ever contain plodding exposition that the reader would prefer to find out along the way anyway. That should have been done with 36 Hours. There’s nothing in the first half hour that we can’t infer from the rest of the film; and the abduction of an Army intelligence officer is a much smaller first-act dramatic development than the whopping revelation that everything we’ve seen so far has been a lie.

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