The current issue of Harper’s reprints, in the Readings section, “Adult Situations“, by Brett Fletcher Lauer, a poet and friend of the L. It’s a found literary object, of sorts: a poem comprised of movie synopses drawn, occasionally slightly paraphrased, from online viewer guides such the imdb TV listings, and places like this. (Sample: “Rival reporters mix romance with work as they hunt an apartment-house killer.”) It’s a terrific compendium of inadvertent artistry and endlessly suggestive description. (It’s also rather reminiscent of John Ashbery’s “They Knew What They Wanted“, in which every line is a movie title.)
The poem was originally printed in the lit mag jubilat, and in fact is online there now. Go, read it, and then come back.
Now, if you are like me, you probably took a minute to appreciate the piece, but mostly tried to figure out which movie each line describes. Some of them are comically straightforward descriptions of classics; there’s some straight-to-cable dreck, soon-to-be-forgotten recent releases, and neglected late-show classics. So, as a public service, we have provided an answer key for you, after the jump. (In the interests of full disclosure, I correctly guessed 10 of the movies. You?)
A former soldier tries to rescue a kidnapped nuclear physicist from a terrorist who wants her to create warheads.
U.S. Seals II (Isaac Florentine, 2001)
A corporate climber, whose boss and others use his apartment for hanky-panky, aids a young woman.
The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
A litigious brother-in-law urges an injured TV cameraman to sue.
The Fortune Cookie (Wilder, 1966)
A declared-dead man hides out with a widow after his wife and her lover botch his murder.
Impact (Arthur Lubin, 1949)
The Russian inventor of a new marine propeller falls in love with a woman in 1939 London.
The Demi-Paradise (Anthony Asquith, 1943)
The amateur sleuth has a killer, a gangster and the police on his trail.
The Shadow Strikes (Lynn Shores, 1937)
An assistant New York district attorney works and flirts with his adversary and her kooky artist client.
Legal Eagles (Ivan Reitman, 1986)
A checkout girl covering for a co-worker faces danger from a drug dealer she double-crosses out of desperation.
Go (Doug Liman, 1999)
Evil partners experiment on an infant and send his twin to a reputable research nursery.
Baby Geniuses (Bob Clark, 1999)
Two Navy SEAL rivals go on a Persian Gulf mission, to seek and destroy weapons stockpiled by Iraq.
The Finest Hour (Shimon Dotan, 1991) (But partial credit if you guessed Navy Seals )
Four teenage outcasts use mental and physical powers to punish their high-school tormentors.
The Source (S. Lee Taylor, 2002) (But partial credit if you guessed The Craft )
An insurance salesman joins would-be heirs and the butler in a mansion with a millionaire’s corpse.
One Body Too Many (Frank McDonald, 1944)
Three inept private eyes try to catch a killer gorilla at a spooky mansion.
The Gorilla (Allan Dwan, 1939)
A law enforcement officer from Earth seeks vengeance for his brother’s mysterious death on Mars.
Mars (Jon Hess, 1997)
A dishonest lawyer must prove he is not a killer.
A Murder of Crows (Rowdy Herrington, 1998)
A conspirator turns an arrogant ruler into a llama.
The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000)
Genetically engineered piranha head for a beach resort.
Piranha Part Two: The Spawning (James Cameron, 1981)
A man takes singing lessons from drag-queen neighbor.
Flawless (Joel Schumacher, 1999)
People hide in a house from carnivorous walking corpses revived by radiation fallout.
Night of the Living Dead (George A. Romero, 1968)
An innocent couple faces life in prison after false accusations of child molestation.
Just Ask My Children (Arvin Brown, 2001)
Explosives ace helps woman get revenge in Miami.
The Specialist (Luis Llosa, 1994)
A giant mutated lizard wreaks havoc in New York.
Godzilla (Roland Emmerich, 1998)
An undercover policeman tries to thwart an old friend, now a Los Angeles gang leader.
King Rikki (aka The Street King) (James Gavin Bedford, 2002)
David and Kathy spend half of their third date lying and the other half confessing.
Cross My Heart (Armyan Bernstein, 1987)
Mystery writer and her friends are stalked by a faceless throat-ripper in a haunted house.
The Bat (Crane Wilbur, 1959)
Rival reporters mix romance with work as they hunt an apartment-house killer.
A Shriek in the Night (Albert Ray, 1933)
A doctor injects himself with ape fluid and turns hairy; he needs human fluid to turn back.
The Ape Man (William Beaudine, 1943)
While blackmailing a corrupt police officer, a man becomes involved with two women.
An American Affair (Sebastian Shah, 1997)
No-frills policewoman is ordered to protect a pampered actress who has witnessed a murder.
The Cover Girl and the Cop (aka Beauty & Denise) (Neal Israel, 1989)
From a sanitarium morgue slab, a corpse tells how she died and who was involved in her death.
Scared to Death (Christy Cabanne, 1947)
Sent to a Wyoming summer camp, troublemaking surfer twins are mistaken for forest-ranger recruits.
Meet the Deedles (Steve Boyum, 1998)
A 14-year-old orphan becomes an NBA basketball player after he finds a pair of magic sneakers.
Like Mike (John Schultz, 2002)
An all-powerful New York gossip columnist gives a press agent some dirty work.
Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick, 1957)
A nightclub singer turns alcoholic after quitting her career to marry a rising singer.
Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (Stuart Heisler, 1947)
A woman gives etiquette lessons to her reluctant granddaughter who is heir apparent to a throne.
The Princess Diaries (Garry Marshall, 2001)
… and there you have it. Have I ruined the piece by recontexualizing the summaries? Probably. Sorry, Brett.