Stranger than fiction

This just in: Hollywood sucks.

Harsh? Hah. Here’s why. It’s this phony, cavalier, we-can-do-what-we-want-with-reality attitude surrounding all these flicks that are “based on a true story.” These days, when you see that phrase you can pretty much figure that what you’re about to see is based on (1) a person’s real name, (2) one or two events in that person’s life, and (3) that’s about it. Everything that happens in the movie between those noteworthy events is usually (1) sanitized for your politically correct protection, (2) romantically enhanced for date night, and (3) bullbleep.

Case in point: A Beautiful Mind. Nice flick, good acting, intriguing story, capped off with an emotional speech extolling the power of true love. Too bad the speech is a heapin’ helpin’ of the aforementioned bullbleep.

Yes, John Nash won the Nobel Prize in 1994. And yes, the author of the book A Beautiful Mind, Sylvia Naser, says that the movie’s focus on wife Alicia “without whom, of course, Nash would have perished, is exactly right.” But that tear-jerking ode to undying love? Never happened.

In fact, Nash didn’t say anything at the Nobels. Most winners usually don’t. But hey, a shot of the guy just grabbing his check and nodding to the old lady and his entourage of schizoid homeys (one wonders if Nash asked the Nobel folks for five round-trip tickets to Oslo) wasn’t going to result in much hanky-honking, so the writers whipped up the standard slather about true love conquering craziness. It’s also interesting to note that Alicia actually divorced her nutty hubby in the early ‘60s (although she took him back a few years later when he got real messy, and they did re-marry … in 2001!)

How about that stirring scene where the Princeton professors all march over to Nash’s table and honor him by setting their pens, one by one, on his table? Sorry. It never happened to John Nash, only to Russell Crowe.

Another chunk of steaming bleep lands on the heads of all who see Ali. Here, director Michael Mann perpetuates the complete crap that Sonny Liston put evil stuff on his gloves to blind Cassius Clay. According to Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, the fight doctor who was there in ‘64, this scene “… was pure Stallone, a cheap Hollywood cliche. It never happened. Liston’s shoulder was hurting … and his corner was rubbing it with oil of wintergreen. Ali was clinching repeatedly, and a bit of it got into his eye. It burned like hell and blurred his vision.” Whose version of reality do you want to go with?

Of course, producers and directors have every right to do whatever they want to make a good movie. That’s indisputable and untouchable, as is my right to assert that every time I see the phrase “based on a true story,” I will assume, in order to avoid being played for a total sap, that I’m about to watch something that is as tethered to reality as an episode of The Flintstones.