True Hollywood Story: The Shawshank Redemption
September 22, 2014 9:12 AM   Subscribe

 
Yeah! I love me a good Shawshank thread. (previous discussions)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:14 AM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Surely time to use guycry tag? Although it's a bit sniffy to call it that.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 9:16 AM on September 22, 2014


Coming off the success of 1992’s A Few Good Men, Reiner saw that film’s star, Tom Cruise, as Shawshank’s Andy Dufresne.
Taking away everything about Tom Cruise besides what he's done on the screen (before and after 1992), no. Andy Dufresne could never be cocky, and that's Tom Cruise's rest state. If it had been a Reiner-Cruise movie, it would have made more money at the box office, got the same Oscar nominations, and have been utterly forgotten by the summer of 1995.
posted by Etrigan at 9:30 AM on September 22, 2014 [22 favorites]


“I find it interesting that two of the most talked-about film adaptations of Stephen King’s work [Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption] came from the same collection of novellas and don’t rely on classic horror or supernatural elements of storytelling. In an odd way, they unmask Stephen King as a writer of exquisitely observed characters and brilliant dialog.”

I'm with Reiner on this. I think Different Seasons, and to a similar but lesser extent The Bachman Books, are really good examples of how well King does "straight" fiction.

In 1998, a third novella became director Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil

The less said about that, the better. A waste of Sir Ian.

Blumhouse Productions, the company behind Paranormal Activity and Insidious, optioned The Breathing Method, the remaining novella, in 2012.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOO
posted by zombieflanders at 9:34 AM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


Presumably Brad Pitt dropped out of Shawshank to play the lead in Legends of the Fall, another guycry that is not nearly as good.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:38 AM on September 22, 2014


#brookswashere
posted by 724A at 9:39 AM on September 22, 2014 [11 favorites]


The fact that the movie was "saved" by video and cable airings makes one wonder what other films were made, released and then faded into obscurity.

This used to be one of my wife's favorite films, but she had never sat down and watched it in its entirely, and was completely unaware of the prison rape scene. When I mentioned it to her in passing, she was shocked and has found it too dark to watch again.
posted by Atreides at 9:48 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


The essay jolted me into remembering I was among the masses who went to see Forrest Gump (which I hated then and now) and Pulp Fiction (great but always hard to watch) on the big screen, and didn't see The Shawshank Redemption until it showed up on TV. And yes, it is now definitely one of the films I love most.

Why on earth didn't we all tumble to how great this movie is when it was in theatres?
posted by bearwife at 9:49 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yet Glotzer was “adamant. If what you intend is that they’re going to get together, why not give the audience the pleasure of seeing them?”

Because it's about Hope! Darabont was right, should have ended on the bus. Stoopid tacked on beach scene.
posted by IanMorr at 9:53 AM on September 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


#sowasred
posted by vozworth at 10:03 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sooner or later, I'm just going to have to watch this thing, aren't I?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:16 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I liked the ending .... because while hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies ....

getting closure is also a very good thing .. may be the best of things ... cause its very satisfactory and leaves you happy and hopeful about other things.
posted by TheLittlePrince at 10:17 AM on September 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


Why on earth didn't we all tumble to how great this movie is when it was in theatres?

That's an easy one: It was a late-September release, which is still a notorious dumping ground for movies that studios don't expect to make a lot of money and don't feel like pushing. I remember seeing maybe one or two ads for the movie on TV during its release.

Also, I think the resounding failure of another Tim Robbins movie with a "The $WEIRDNAME $NOUN" title, The Hudsucker Proxy (released March 1994), might have linked the two films in the minds of tastemakers and rank-and-file moviegoers alike, before Shawshank even had its premiere.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:36 AM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Sooner or later, I'm just going to have to watch this thing, aren't I?

Might as well get it over with and do a Darabont/King prison-films-that-are-now-tv-mainstays twin-bill and watch Shawshank and The Green Mile in one sitting.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:39 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I've probably seen the movie six times, though never in one sitting, just from flipping past it.

I think the most important purpose the movie serves is to give nerds one movie they can point to and go, "nuh-uh!" when you say that they only watch stuff with robots, monsters, thors, and elves.
posted by Legomancer at 10:39 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


"King maintains a policy of granting newbie directors in need of a calling card the rights to his short stories for one dollar." How cool is that? Good on ya, Stephen!
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 10:43 AM on September 22, 2014 [15 favorites]


“I find it interesting that two of the most talked-about film adaptations of Stephen King’s work [Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption] came from the same collection of novellas and don’t rely on classic horror or supernatural elements of storytelling. In an odd way, they unmask Stephen King as a writer of exquisitely observed characters and brilliant dialog.”

Yeah, no. Most talked about? The Shawshank Redemption and The Shining. King famously hated Kubrick's adaptation (though through the years he's been much more conflicted and actually nuanced) but what is really interesting is that King got to make his own version of The Shining - writing the script and having a say in the interpretation by the director to fit his vision. So many writers (and critics, and viewers) complain about adaptations - often justly. But rarely do they get a chance to show how to do it better. King, being a powerful man, got his wish. And... suspense...

King's version is infinitely worse than Kubrick's. Infinitely. Kubrick's The Shining is an excellent film. King's written and supervised and envisioned version sucks. There is a heck of a lot more that goes into making an adaptation, or for that matter a film, than many critics/viewers/aggrieved writers suppose. And no better illustration can be found than this real life test. So often a director might want to say "fine, go ahead and you do it better!", and of course that's never practical, so the quarrel is never resolved. Except for this time.

It really is an interesting case of tunnel vision. After all, being a very successful writer, he must have come across - countless times - of people who upon reading his stuff say things like "pfft, I could've done better!", and at least in the case of writing all it takes is a pencil and some paper though naturally, those who make those statements rarely follow up with a demonstration of how it is done (or when they do, it's all the fault of the despotic publishing mafia that their masterpiece is kept obscure). And yet, King cannot step outside of his own experience and extrapolate it to another artistic medium. Furthermore, it's not as if King has no access to the apparatus of filmmaking - because of his influence, he's like the proverbial man who only needs a pencil and paper, and he proceeds to demonstrate through is filmmaking exactly the same combination of ignorance and lack of awareness of his shortcomings as those who attack his writing - Dunning-Kruger in action.

The Shawshank Redemption is a very good script and a very well cast movie and indeed the ending was fucked up for Darabont. But for all that, from a purely filmmaking technical point of view, it's nothing to write home about. Then again, a film need not be an artistic achievement in filmmaking, to be successful or enjoyable or have a huge impact on people, or indeed be life-changing.
posted by VikingSword at 10:50 AM on September 22, 2014 [7 favorites]


I've probably heard the notion that the title sunk the film a thousand times.

I don't think I've ever heard a plausible alternative title proposed, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:00 AM on September 22, 2014


On the other hand, I think there has been some ratings inflation of the Shawshank Redemption on IMDB, because you had all those Dark Knight fanboys deliberately trying to make The Dark Knight the BEST. MOVIE. EVAR. by giving ratings of 1 out of 10 to old stand-bys like the Godfather. Shawshank Redemption may have benefited from being the "classic" just low-profile enough not to get targeted by hate-voting fanboys.
posted by jonp72 at 11:06 AM on September 22, 2014


Andy Goes To The Beach
posted by cortex at 11:14 AM on September 22, 2014 [10 favorites]


That sounds like the perfect title for having potential viewers wonder when all the prison rape is going to end and the light-hearted summer sun n' surf comedy they expected is going to start.
posted by Panjandrum at 11:17 AM on September 22, 2014


I did not like the ending. To me, Andy was just doing the same thing he was doing in prison, toiling away slowly at a task day in and day out (working on the boat). It didn't seem like he was too free other than the really nice setting. The murder conviction was still with him. The jail was just a lot lot nicer. Of course, I would want to do anything to get out of the Shawshank prison, but while he was physically out, he was still mentally in or at least as far as he ever was.

I think it should have ended with Red on the bus. Then, imagination takes over and both are free.
posted by 724A at 11:36 AM on September 22, 2014


I think it should have ended with Red on the bus. Then, imagination takes over and both are free.

That is how it ends. The beach scene takes place in Red's imagination.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:39 AM on September 22, 2014 [17 favorites]


Ah, jinx, shakespeherian!

While I'm not a fan of the ending, I've found it really does help the stomach if you see it as a dream Red has while riding the bus. If you think about it, it's shot in a sort-of idyllic style...Andy in his whites, and that long, empty sandy beach, and the endless ocean rolling in.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:41 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


How did I never spot that Captain Hadley was also The Kurgan? And Mister Krabs?!
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:43 AM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Surely time to use guycry tag? Although it's a bit sniffy to call it that.)

Oh I hate that word. Do we have to have words that prioritize specifically the stereotypically unapt way they make men act? Guycry, man cave, man-anything actually, just, unpleasant terminology all over.

Shawshank is a good movie, and has become one of those things other things casually refer to. An entertaining section of Lego City Undercover is a long reference to that movie, complete with a prisoner, "Blue" who sounds an awful lot like Morgan Freeman, and other characters refer to that. If you hang around Blue in the prison courtyard and just eavesdrop, he'll get into an argument with another Lego guy who just can't believe he's not Morgan Freeman!

Another good thing about Shawshank Redemption: it doesn't make light of prison rape, unlike a lot of other things.
posted by JHarris at 11:49 AM on September 22, 2014 [9 favorites]


I must admit I didn't think much of Shawshank the first time I laid eyes on it. It might'a been important on the outside in a big theater, but in here in my living room it was just a little turd dressed in edited-for-cable grays. Looked like a stiff breeze could blow it over. That was my first impression of the movie.
posted by spitbull at 11:49 AM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


In the same newsfeed, you could have picked 'Cary Elwes tells Andre the Giant drinking tales' and you lead with Shawshank. I've always been disappointed with how popular Shawshank is/was - I mean... we could be talking iocane powder jokes here and instead we're talking rooftop suds. There was a time when I would have thought this inconceivable!

Of course, that was before Shawshank.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:08 PM on September 22, 2014


King's version is infinitely worse than Kubrick's. Infinitely.

That word, it does not mean... Look, Kubrick's version was vastly more memorable than the miniseries, but it was in no way a decent version of the story, which remains one of King's best. Kubrick delivered a number of stunning setpieces very loosely tied together with a rudimentary story that could have been easily summarized on a postcard. It is generally true that the best adaptations of King stories are ones in which he wasn't directly involved, but even the miniseries could have been saved by having the right actor play Jack Torrance, but Steven Weber is not only not in the same ballpark as that class of actors, he's not in the same area code. But neither is Jack Nicholson; as King has noted, part of the essential pathos of the story is that Jack Torrance has a chance at beating his demons before he takes his family to the Overlook, whereas you take one look at Nicholson and know that he's fuckin' nuts.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:30 PM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it should have ended with Red on the bus. Then, imagination takes over and both are free.

Say it out loud, slowly: zihuatanejo. It sounds like a place from your dreams, the movie is damn right about that. A place where anything could, and probably will, happen.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 12:32 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


I did not like the ending. To me, Andy was just doing the same thing he was doing in prison, toiling away slowly at a task day in and day out (working on the boat). It didn't seem like he was too free other than the really nice setting. The murder conviction was still with him. The jail was just a lot lot nicer. Of course, I would want to do anything to get out of the Shawshank prison, but while he was physically out, he was still mentally in or at least as far as he ever was.

Well, you're half right. Andy's life wasnt entirely different at the end. But you've got the rest backwards. It's not that Andy is still sort of in prison at the end. It's that Andy was never entirely in prison in the first place. Part of him could never be caged. That was the part of him that shone like a light on all of the other men he served time with. And it's what changed Red's life. Because Andy may have the terrific story, but in a strict Joseph Campbell Hero's Journey kinda way, there is a very strong case to be made that Red is actually the protagonist.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:47 PM on September 22, 2014 [41 favorites]


That's exactly right, I think, DirtyOldTown.
posted by JHarris at 12:58 PM on September 22, 2014


I agree DOT. That is why I said "as far as he ever was" referring to his time at Shawshank. I thought Andy taught his fellow prisoners that prison is both a physical location but also a state of mind. That is why he fought so hard for the library. You can be anywhere and go anywhere with a library. Your imagination can run free.
posted by 724A at 1:07 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


Absolutely. And it is why he played the Mozart duet. Music is utterly liberating. In addition, it is why he "bought" his friends the cold beers, why he didn't ask for their help with his rapists (and was able to remain sane despite the rapes for a long time) and even a reason, if not the reason, he put gorgeous screen bombshells on his cell wall. Andy was a master of remaining free in his own mind, and sharing that sense of liberation, despite prison walls. What made him a memorable hero is that he did that while retaining a very firm grasp of reality and implementing a long term plan to free himself and Red completely.
posted by bearwife at 1:21 PM on September 22, 2014 [3 favorites]


JHarris, completely agree with you about 'guycry' and apologies for my flippant comment. I hadn't come across that word and liked the rhyming of it, not so much the meaning.

For those not recognizing how good a film this is, think of it strictly from a story point of view:
Alfred Hitchcock reportedly said some version of “To make a great film you need three things: the script, the script, and the script.” Robbins says of Darabont’s finished adaptation, “It was the best script I’ve ever read. Ever.” Freeman repeated a variation of that accolade—if not the best script, certainly among the top.
There are great lines, great set-pieces, great moments in the film - but they all serve to keep the story developing and rolling along. That's great scriptwriting.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:28 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


Or, to quote Tuco in Breaking Bad: "It's tight! Tight! Tight! Tight! Tight!"
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:29 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you liked the original movie, you're gonna love the remake Fortress Shawshank starring Jamie Foxx and Ryan Reynolds.
posted by um at 4:38 PM on September 22, 2014 [4 favorites]


I thought Andy taught his fellow prisoners that prison is both a physical location but also a state of mind. That is why he fought so hard for the library. You can be anywhere and go anywhere with a library. Your imagination can run free.

Spot on. Watch Andy's face when the warden is threatening him about Tommy. Andy doesn't really care about being "cast down with the sodomites". But then the warden says he's going to brick up the library. Watch the creeping horror on Andy's face. And note how the warden latches onto it, serves up the possibility of a bookburning as well. That scene always leaves me shaking.
posted by aureliobuendia at 5:07 PM on September 22, 2014 [5 favorites]


Maybe all the movie needed to be successful was a big goddamn poster.
posted by Muddler at 5:30 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


(It's a little off-topic, but -- I was probably a little hyperbolic in my distaste for "guycry," above. I had assumed it was some bit of cultural detritus floating around, like the various man-something words. Turns out j.c.i.f.a. coined it! My bad.)
posted by JHarris at 6:02 PM on September 22, 2014


I like the ending. It's corny and sappy, but how is that a departure from the previous two and a half hours? The movie is about hope, and it's a real joy to see that hope come to fruition.

#teambeach
posted by zardoz at 7:17 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's an incredibly satisfying movie. Maybe one of the mose deeply satisfying movies ever made, and it's a satisfaction that is earnesd, with the finely detailed petty tyranny of the prison, with the unshowy decency of the main character, with the lovely, heartbreaking letter about institutionalization. It ends with a triumph that we want, badly, and the film gives it to us without making us feel like fools for wanting it and getting it.

That being said, Shawshank satisfies, but The Shining climbs inside you and lives there. I can watch Shawshank anytime. The Shining I just close my eyes and it's there.
posted by maxsparber at 9:02 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]


The Green Mile? I always loved Tom Hanks' portrayal of Officer Barbrady.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:19 AM on September 23, 2014


That being said, Shawshank satisfies, but The Shining climbs inside you and lives there. I can watch Shawshank anytime. The Shining I just close my eyes and it's there.

It's absolutely the reverse for me. In fact, I wasn't really satisfied with the Shining at all. Yup, you're favorite movie may not even necessarily be satisfying!
posted by Atreides at 6:50 AM on September 23, 2014


It really is an interesting case of tunnel vision. After all, being a very successful writer, he must have come across - countless times - of people who upon reading his stuff say things like "pfft, I could've done better!", and at least in the case of writing all it takes is a pencil and some paper though naturally, those who make those statements rarely follow up with a demonstration of how it is done (or when they do, it's all the fault of the despotic publishing mafia that their masterpiece is kept obscure). And yet, King cannot step outside of his own experience and extrapolate it to another artistic medium. Furthermore, it's not as if King has no access to the apparatus of filmmaking - because of his influence, he's like the proverbial man who only needs a pencil and paper, and he proceeds to demonstrate through is filmmaking exactly the same combination of ignorance and lack of awareness of his shortcomings as those who attack his writing - Dunning-Kruger in action.

But in the end, even if you grant your relative ratings of the two projects (and comparing a film to a miniseries is as problematic as comparing a film to a novel) it doesn't really prove anything one way or the other. I mean, King could still well be right that Kubrick did a shitty job of adapting King's story to the screen (that is, Kubrick may have made a great film [YMMV], but that doesn't mean he made a great film adaptation of King's book). And King might also be right that there is a miniseries in there which really would be both a great miniseries and a great adaptation of King's book (i.e. get at something that lies at the heart of the novel). The fact that King couldn't make that happen in practice isn't proof that it can't be done, or proof that Kubrick's take on the novel was the best, the only or even a good approach to conveying the heart of King's story to the screen.
posted by yoink at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why on earth didn't we all tumble to how great this movie is when it was in theatres?

I remember seeing the poster for The Shawshank Redemption in the lobby of Lloyd Cinemas. If I remember correctly, the poster featured Tim Robbins standing in the rain, arms out-stretched in a Jesus-like way--that coupled with the "Redemption" in the title made me think it was some sort of religious movie.
I don't recall ever seeing the preview...
posted by blueberry at 10:43 PM on September 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


I've been thinking on this for days. Maybe they should have titled it Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.

Not sure how they could have saved the awful poster though.

Anyway... it's kind of easy to mock the title or the poster or the trailer. And they do have it coming. But I don't think I'd want to have the job of promoting the uplifting period prison movie full of rape and abuse.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:30 AM on September 24, 2014


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