Monday at the Movies – Inside the In-Joke

I love a good inside joke in a movie – you know the ones only the real movie geeks (yeah, geeks like me) get. Whether it is an ongoing theme in a series of movies, inserting lines or dialogue from movies of the same genre, or hilarious cameos – I love them all.

So I had an idea to list 5 of my favourite ‘inside jokes’. The 5 that I have listed below are not neccessarily my absolute favourites, to be honest they are just the first ones that popped into my head. So without further ado: 

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    Back to the Future: Seen it? Well I am sure you have. Back to the Future is full of clever tidbits. One of the best is when Marty McFly goes back in time. The movie theater in 1955 in playing two movies, “A Boy’s Life” which was the original title of E.T. and “Watch the Skies” which was the original title of Close Encounters Of the Third Kind. Also when Marty hitches a ride on the back of a pick-up while riding his skateboard to school the driver is producer Stephen Speilberg. [btw as a side note did you know that virtually the entire movie was filmed with Eric Stoltz playing the part of Marty McFly? They decided it wasn’t working and put Michael J Fox (who had been their original first choice) in the role. His parts had to be filmed entirely at night as he was filming Family Ties during the day – I know what a font of useless information I am]

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    Scream: Classic film (which I know I have mentioned before – you might guess that it is one of my favourites). During a scene in the school the janitor says to Principal Himbrey “Talking to me?” the principal replies with “Not you Fred.” The janitor is played by none other than the immortal Wes Craven (director of Nightmare on Elm Street and of course Scream) and he is wearing the famous red and green stripped shirt worn by Freddy Krueger (the shirt is also visible in Scream 2 in Sidney’s wardrobe). There is also a classic reference to the fictional director ‘Wes Carpenter’ which is an amalgamation of Wes Craven and John Carpenter (director of Halloween).

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    Enchanted: I think the reviewers gave this movie a rough time when it was released. This movie is gold – but perhaps only for people who love Disney films. The film is a parody of every Disney movie ever made. This movie is so full of jokes and movie trivia that I could dedicate an entire post to it – but I will just mention a few. Of course there are the obvious references to Cinderella’s slipper and the apple from Snow White, but it is the obscure references, that only movie nerds like me even notice, that I love the most. My favourite part of this movie (apart from the hilarious prince played by James Marsden) are the cameos. Patrick Dempsey’s secretary in the film is played by the fabulous Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid (and Barbie in Toy Story 2 & 3). There is a scene in the movie where Timothy Spall is watching a soapie on television. In the soap the part of Angela is played by Paige O’Hara, who voiced Belle in Beauty and the Beast (the other characters names are Jerry and Odgen, the three of them named for Angela Lansbury, Jerry Orbach and David Odgen Stiers who voiced the Teapot, Candelbra and Clock respectively). Also when the prince is looking for Giselle in the apartment block one of the doors is answered by Judy Kuhn, who is the singing voice of Pocohontas.

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    Cars: All pixar movies have numerous references to other pixar films (and Disney do this aswell and I am sure I will go through many of these in later posts). Some of my fav’s from Cars include the use of Dinoco (as The Kings sponsor) which was the name of the petrol station in Toy Story. The tyres used by the cars are Lightyear’s (after Buzz). The number of Lightning McQueen is 95 after the year Toy Story was released. Both Mater’s number plate and the train that almost runs over McQueen contain the number A113, which is a room number for the animation room at California Institute of the Arts (this reference is in all pixar films). I could go on and on…

  5. Jack and the Beanstalk: This is actually the movie that made me think of writing this post in the first place and probably contains my favourite references of all time (this is the 2010 version of the story and to be honest the film was pretty ordinary but it is worth it just for this line). Wallace Shawn (who by the way plays two of my fav characters of all time Rex from Toy Story and Vizzini from The Princess Bride) plays the owner of the pawn shop and the man who gives Jack the Beans. At one point Shawn offers to trade Iocaine powder, the same fictional powder that kills his character in The Princess Bride. I love it!

I love in-jokes so much I have actually inserted some into my own novels. In each of my books there is a description of my kids at the age they were when I first drafted the scene. And there is at least on character in each novel that is named after someone that I know.

Do you have a favourite in joke or cameo? Are there any other in jokes you particularly like from the movies mentioned above. Do you have any in-jokes in your novels? As always would love to hear from you.

Jody Moller


Wednesday’s Rambling Writer – Why You Need to Kill Your Darlings

Hello all and welcome to the first edition of Wednesday’s Rambling Writer. Today we are going to discuss Murder – don’t panic as far as I am aware no one has ever served time for killing off a fictional character but sometimes doing just that can take your book (or movie for that matter) from mediocre to outstanding!

So, why is killing your darlings so important? I hear you cry. Well, think of the question from the other perspective. Imagine if everytime you picked up a book you knew that every character was going to survive. Kind of puts a dampner on your climactic scene where the protag has a gun held to her head doesn’t it? As the reader, nothing increases the tension better than knowing that there is every chance that someone might not make it through the scene, particularly once we have come to care about the main characters.

Don’t get me wrong – I am not saying that you should immediately go and rewrite the happily-ever-after ending of your novel and kill off your protag. Rather I am saying that it is important to leave all options available and not rule out murder as a possible outcome.

How do we know that Killing Your Darlings works? Well, let’s think up some examples shall we?

My first example comes from the world of film. It is a movie that most of your have probably watched (or if you haven’t you have probably seen the parody take-off version) and it has one of the most memorable opening scenes of all time. The movie is ‘Scream’. [If you haven’t seen it be warned the following contains ‘spoilers’]

If there is one thing that we all know it is that main characters don’t die in opening scenes. Not even in the opening scene of a horror movie. For younger generations, who didn’t see this movie when it first came out, the opening scene probably didn’t have the same impact as by then you knew that Sidney was, in fact, the main character. When the movie was first released, however, Drew Barrymore was given top billing and when she died in the first twenty minutes of the film we were all gobsmacked. It completely rewrote the rules. If the top-billed actor dies at the start, obviously anyone can die! (even the sequel wasn’t afraid to kill of recurring characters). It’s why the movies worked (and spurned an entire new genre of parody films!)

As for books. Here I am again going to use my favourite author as an example. Matthew Reilly has no problem Killing his Darlings and openly admits if you want your readers to believe that the characters are in genuinely in peril then occasionally you have to kill one of them off. [Warning the following contains spoilers for the book ‘Scarecrow’]. Scarecrow is the third book in the ‘Scarecrow’ series. By this point we are attached to the main characters. We have followed Schofield, Mother and Gant into numerous battles, watched them lose numerous friends, welcomed new members to the team. We know these characters, and we don’t want them to die!

For those of you not familiar with Matthew Reilly I will give you a quick run down of his style – he loves to leave you hanging. His chapters always end on a cliff-hanger – a bullet heading straight for someones head, a person literally falling from the sky, a nuclear weapon a second from detonation – always with no seeming method of escape. You get used to this style and the characters incredible escapes from the inescapable. So when the chapter leaves us with a guilotine blade falling towards Gant’s neck we expect escape. When the next chapter reveals her head rolling across the floor – shock sets in. OMG he just killed Gant – without exageration I must have reread it 10 times thinking I was missing something. But no, she was dead.

Did I like the fact that Matthew killed her off? NO! Did it take the book to a whole new level? YES! Did it give Schofield a whole new level of emotional depth that could be delved into now his lover was killed? YES! Did it change the way I read the rest of that book and subsequent books by that author? YES!

(by the way I highly recommend Matthew Reilly to anyone who likes a good action book – in particular if you want engage teenaged boys in reading – these books would be a perfect choice!)

Killing Your Darlings is a powerful tool that can be used at any point to increase the tension in a book and sometimes it can make a book truly Great!

Are you afraid to kill your darlings? Are you too attached to them? Do you have a favourite book/movie that follows this simple rule? As always let me know.

Jody Moller

(The Exasperated Novelist)

[Yes I have stolen William Falkner’s quote which refers to not getting too attached to text that you are unwilling to edit it out – but I think it works for the more literal sense as well. And before you get uppity at me for stealing someone elses ideas just let me say that Falkner stole the idea from someone else in the first place – apparently theft and murder go hand in hand!]