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Feb 27 2013

Maybe if they sink a lot of the budget into special effects…

There is no accounting for taste or credulity. Universal Pictures is planning to make Eben Alexander’s book into a movie. You remember Alexander; the Proof of Heaven guy, the surgeon who ‘died’ on the operating table and claimed to have visited heaven?

It might be interesting to see the effort. The whole tone of Alexander’s fantasy is one of vagueness, ineffableness, incomprehending awe — he talks about seeing indescribable beings like birds or angels that he can’t do justice to in words, for instance…I don’t think crisp CGI is exactly going to work in his favor.

55 comments

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  1. 1
    glodson

    Hmmm.

    I’m going to trip and see visions that I can’t quite describe or do justice to in my own words so that I am able to fulfill the mission given unto me by god.

    To make a shitload of money by writing a really shitty book which I will sell the rights off to a studio to make even more money.

    It will be a real Proof of Heaven.

  2. 2
    kevinalexander

    I’m still pissed off about the latest episode of Bones. Here we had a perfectly good atheist character who has an NDE which she knew that was just a dream except that the writers included proof that she had actually met and talked to her dead mother.
    ARRGGGHHH!!!

  3. 3
    Anthony K

    It might be interesting to see the effort.

    Fucking optimists.

  4. 4
    auditorydamage

    Think I could take a salvia divinorum trip and hawk it for big bucks?

    Now I just need some salvia…

    Alternatively: didn’t Stanley Kubrick already do this in the last twenty minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey?

  5. 5
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    kevinalexander, it wasn’t particularly good proof. Anyone who had met her father for five minutes could have guessed that.

  6. 6
    Larry

    Just hire Michael Bay to direct it. You’ll never believe how many explosions heaven has!

  7. 7
    Dick the Damned

    I’ve heard this guy talk about his experience of ‘dying’, on the radio. It was very convincing, to the credulous. And of course, before his NDE, he’d been an atheist. (I guess that shows he’s a liar for Jebus.)

  8. 8
    Ingdigo Jump

    if you’re a lazy writer just say stuff is indescribable. Don’t tell and don’t show either

  9. 9
    ChasCPeterson

    It might be interesting to see the effort. The whole tone of Alexander’s fantasy is one of vagueness, ineffableness, incomprehending awe

    bah, Kubrick did it already (the end of 2001).

  10. 10
    Ingdigo Jump

    @Kevin

    BONES already had a genuine real psychic. What did you expect from that show?

  11. 11
    Gregory in Seattle

    I can see this as a “Last Exorcism” kind of project. If they do a “documentary”, though….

  12. 12
    Caveat Imperator

    If Lovecraft is unfilmable, then so is this. And Lovecraft is a superior writer, horrible racism notwithstanding.

  13. 13
    glodson

    If Lovecraft is unfilmable, then so is this. And Lovecraft is a superior writer, horrible racism notwithstanding.

    If Twilight can be made into a movie, anything can be made into a movie.

  14. 14
    robro

    Not to worry. Hollywood rarely cares about the original work beyond title and author’s name, and even that’s up for grabs. “Based on a true story…” is Hollywood speak for “we made it up.” Similar to the “true stories” in the bibles. I’m sure they’ll do fine. Who knows, perhaps they can fit in a car chase scene or two.

    Why does the guy reporting this rumor think it’s an “interesting angle” that the doctor didn’t believe before his coma? Humans fall for a lot of baloney on a lot less pretext than misunderstanding their mental rambling while on the edge of death. I’ve been told that flip-flopping is quite common among humans anyway, not just politicians.

  15. 15
    Caveat Imperator

    If Twilight can be made into a movie, anything can be made into a movie.

    But not everything can be made into a GOOD movie. Twilight cannot be made into a good movie without taking significant liberties with the source material.

  16. 16
    Bronze Dog

    I’m also curious how they’ll handle it. Boring balls of light? Painfully generic fluffy cloud heaven? Altered States’ crucified nine-eyed goat head Jesus? LEGO bricks?

  17. 17
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Bronze Dog:

    My eyes!!! My aaaiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiizzzzz!!!!

  18. 18
    markr1957

    How is anyone going to turn a proctology exam into a 90 minute movie? That’s the only way anyone will see where this story came from – by shoving the camera lens up the good doctor’s arse!

  19. 19
    Ingdigo Jump

    a better director and script tweaking could have made the first Twilight a good movie. It would be a different tone than the book but you know pacing is different from novel to film

  20. 20
    glodson

    But not everything can be made into a GOOD movie. Twilight cannot be made into a good movie without taking significant liberties with the source material.

    But it is still a movie. Hell, they made a multi-part Atlas Shurged Movie and multiple Jackass movies.

    Now as for it being a watchable movie, that’s a problem.

  21. 21
    rr

    Maybe what really happened was he fell through a hole in the space-time continuum, and the angels were actually alien warriors, battling giant birds armed with LASERS.

  22. 22
    Jafafa Hots

    Maybe I should write a screenplay about what it was like during the weeks I had anterograde amnesia.

    It wouldn’t have much of a plot though. Just all plot hole.

  23. 23
    Jafafa Hots

    Hell, they made a multi-part Atlas Shurged Movie

    Coolest part of that movie is that it lost money.
    I hope they make more like it.

  24. 24
    eric

    Working title: I Dreamed A Dream.

  25. 25
    Bronze Dog

    Hell, they made a multi-part Atlas Shurged Movie

    Ugh. I hate being reminded of that. Did a stream-of-consciousness review thing of part one on my blog, watched via Netflix streaming, and I am not looking forward for part two. I’m morbidly curious how they’re going to handle Galt’s giant author tract since I heard it takes hours to read out loud.

    …If they chained me to a director’s seat and forced me to direct it, I suppose I’d have snippets of it voiced over relevant actions in the plot. (I haven’t read the book, so feel free to ridicule my naive assumption there is a plot.) …On second thought, I’d consider gnawing off my limbs to escape. On third thought, I’d try to make it a subtle parody. On fourth thought, I’d reconsider gnawing my limbs off, since I doubt the Randroids would catch onto the parody and question their dogma.

  26. 26
    No One

    Let me guess, he floated above his body and saw a clock with his time of death. *yawn*

  27. 27
    leftwingfox

    Did they already do this in “What Dreams May Come?”

  28. 28
    vaiyt

    @27: “What Dreams May Come” also had a vision of Heaven that is far superior, in concept and morality, to the usual Christian concept.

  29. 29
    Jafafa Hots

    and it still looked like a deadly boring place to be sentenced to spend eternity in.

  30. 30
    ChasCPeterson

    Let me guess, he floated above his body and saw a clock with his time of death. *yawn*

    wrong.
    wake up.

    A quote from the good doctor:

    Higher than the clouds—immeasurably higher—flocks of transparent, shimmering beings arced across the sky, leaving long, streamerlike lines behind them.
    Birds? Angels? These words registered later, when I was writing down my recollections. But neither of these words do justice to the beings themselves, which were quite simply different from anything I have known on this planet. They were more advanced. Higher forms.

    See? 2001.

  31. 31
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @glodson & Jafafa Hots

    Hell, they made a multi-part Atlas Shurged Movie

    Coolest part of that movie is that it lost money.
    I hope they make more like it.

    Proof positive that selfishness can sometimes lead to good results!

  32. 32
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Objectively good results, even!

  33. 33
    Marcus Ranum

    Wasn’t there a horrible movie about heaven with Robin Williams? I saw a bit of it and it looked like Disneyland meets World of Warcraft except without any adventures or wandering monsters to smash.

    Maybe what they’re hoping to do is collect a lot of money to make the movie, spend it on themselves and their friends, and let it be a flop. After all, it’s still pretty cool to get to make a movie!

    I think they should get Ben Stein, too. He could play god. Nothing would cement the idea that the afterlife is boring as all fuck, better than having heaven be Ben Stein’s idea of interesting.

  34. 34
    Marcus Ranum

    Hell, they made a multi-part Atlas Shurged Movie

    Excellent! You could have a ton of fun coming up with titles for the parts!

    Shrug Harder (Altas Shrugged II)
    Shrug Another Day (Atlas Shrugged III)
    Sometimes You Gotta Shrug (the broadway musical show)
    Atlas (the arthouse black and white movie starring Johnny Depp directed by Jim Jarmusch)*
    Atlas Twisted (the rollercoaster ride at Six Flags amusement Park)

    *I’d pay to see that!

  35. 35
    johnrockoford

    I have a question for those who are smarter and more knowledgeable than me (reading, PZ?): What the fuck is wrong with surgeons?

    Beyond Alexander, there’s Ben Carson, undoubtedly a gifted and celebrated surgeon who’s also a moron of the highest order. He was on NPR’s “On Point” (http://onpoint.wbur.org/2013/02/26/dr-ben-carson) yesterday and he could not have been more incoherent and stupid. For instance, on Evolution, he neither gets it (“never seen a species turn into another species”) nor accepts it.

    He spouted some other nonsense about his views not being conservative but beyond labels and simply common sense (they were common but hardly sensible) and he seems to think that the biggest problem we face today is political correctness — what the fuck does that even mean? It sounds like he wants to say sexist and homophobic things and not be criticized because that would be political correctness.

    Here’s my question: Can you be stupid and smart at the same time? How do you become an accomplished professional in a challenging filed like surgery and be stupid about everything else? Is surgery like carpentry, a skill that does not imply superior intellectual prowess (with all due respect to carpenters, for whom I have the utmost respect)? I’m really perplexed about this.

  36. 36
    johnrockoford

    One time when I was in college in the 1980s I had a dream that I knew the answer to all the mysteries of the universe. Honest! So I had a pad and pen next to me just in case I had the dream again. I did! And I even woke up enough to write the answer down. I was a single word, “Alfani” which at that time meant nothing to me but I have come to now realize it is a Macy’s clothing brand my son favors because of the slim cut and fitted shirts — unfortunately I’m rather more substantial than my son and Alfani shirts look ludicrous on me.

    You think I’m joking but I’m honestly recounting my experience. Do I take it seriously? Of course not. The tired brain of a college student can come up with all sorts of nonsense, just like the brain of a surgeon that’s under the influence of narcotics and probably suffering from hypoxia.

    The difference between Alexander and me is that after I woke up I was lucid enough to have a good laugh and I remain lucid enough to know that Alfani shirts won’t solve even minor sartorial conundra, let alone the mysteries of the universe.

  37. 37
    gregpeterson

    Nothing effs up the ineffable like trying to make it look real–Ang Lee partially exempted. It exists at all because it exists in a mind, where it is safely guarded from the disinfecting sunlight. Take it out, turn it around, hold it up, and now all the seams of absurdity and cracks of implausability start to show.

    I’m going to commit heresy here and say that I thought that, for what it was, “The Passion of the Christ” was a damned fine movie. Its only serious flaws came out when trying to show the supernatural. My favorite scene being one of Lucifer in the underworld looking up “Wrath of Kahn” style when he realizes that that wascally savior has defeated him. The best supernatural effect? An exceedingly subtle view of a risen Jesus–a glimpse of pierced hand and little more.

    So by all means, exploitative jackals. Bring on the CGI, put it in 3D and Imax. Nothing makes the supernatural look as phony as it really is quite like trying to portray it as you really believe it to be.

  38. 38
    glodson

    Objectively good results, even!

    That was the worst joke I’ve read all day.

    How could I tell?

    My first reaction to reading it was “I wish I had wrote that.”

  39. 39
    Randomfactor

    I’ll wait for the 3D edition.

  40. 40
    twas brillig (stevem)

    re johnrockford @ 35:

    Is surgery like carpentry, a skill that does not imply superior intellectual prowess (with all due respect to carpenters, for whom I have the utmost respect)? I’m really perplexed about this.

    errrr, like the stories by John Varley, where medicine and surgery are simply a “mechanical” skill with technological tookits. Not unlike a carpenter with fancy power tools.

  41. 41
    Zugswang

    The whole tone of Alexander’s fantasy is one of vagueness, ineffableness, incomprehending awe

    I assume Damon Lindelof has been pulled to write the script, and true to form (both for Lindelof and this book) the movie will end having asked far more questions than it tries, or even knows how, to answer.

  42. 42
    Don Quijote

    Hollywood is pretty good at NDEs. Mel Gibson as William Wallace was one of them.

  43. 43
    Ichthyic

    Beyond Alexander, there’s Ben Carson, undoubtedly a gifted and celebrated surgeon who’s also a moron of the highest order.

    Don’t forget Michael Egnor, former sub-head of neurosurgery at Stonybrook, now Dishonesty Institute hack.

    Stonybrook… the same institution Douglas Futuyma, who wrote the most used textbook on evolutionary biology on the planet, is from. boggles the mind sometimes.

    still, I compare MD/surgeons to “biology” like one would compare “engineer” to “physics”. surgeons, like engineers, tend to only focus on the mechanics of things. Not saying that some don’t go on ahead to examine the underlying principles to what they do, but a LOT don’t, because they simply don’t need to.

    This of course, leads to the ability to highly compartmentalize some really stupid shit.

  44. 44
    obscure1

    Does Marcus Ranum have a molly yet?

  45. 45
    Randomfactor

    Wondering how this will go over with the Serious Christians. “No hell? No judgement? What kind of heaven is it where you can’t spit on the wicked?”

  46. 46
    Eamon Knight

    Damn, Ichthyic @43 beat me to it. Agreed: I figure docs are another candidate profession for the Salem Hypothesis — not actually scientists (except to the extent that some of them get in to the research end of the field), but practitioners of a science-based art, which is close enough for some of them to fool themselves (and others) into mistaking them for such, and enabling them to blather authoritatively on subjects considerably beyond their actual expertise. Add in the social prestige that comes from being well-remunerated, and you have the ingredients for an authority figure.

  47. 47
    unclefrogy

    Hollywood has a long history of making shit movies and messing up good stories with bull shit additions and complete re-writes.
    They also try to “cash in” on perceived trends in popular culture.
    they also have a very successful history of making box-office flops.
    the first thing this idea brought to mind was “The Producers” only for real
    Now if they dispense with dialog of any kind and go for more abstracted images with lots of fades
    and go for a score by Philip Glass, Brian Eno and Pink Floyd it might be good

    uncle frogy

  48. 48
    birgerjohansson

    I once had several dreams in a row where I learned to fly, or possibly levitate. Maybe I should write a book…
    .
    OK, so Heaven is a very large version of the Fortress Of Solitude. With flying relatives of Kal-El soaring above. It would be more original if it was a construct inside information space, like the Matrix.
    Philip Jose Farmer noted it would take the surface of a whole planet (To Your Scattered Bodies Go) to house just the adult dead. Since those who died in infancy far outnumbered them, they had been raised on a separate world after resurrection.

  49. 49
    Marcus Ranum

    Philip Jose Farmer noted it would take the surface of a whole planet (To Your Scattered Bodies Go) to house just the adult dead.

    Mark Twain writes about the insane crowds (you can’t even see the Big Stars) that show up whenever there’s an apostle putting in an appearance somewhere…
    http://www.gutenberg.org/files/1044/1044-h/1044-h.htm

    “Mighty few people that you and I will ever get a chance to see, Captain. Not a solitary commoner ever has the luck to see a reception of a prophet, I can tell you. All the nobility, and all the patriarchs and prophets—every last one of them—and all the archangels, and all the princes and governors and viceroys, were there,—and no small fry—not a single one. And mind you, I’m not talking about only the grandees from our world, but the princes and patriarchs and so on from all the worlds that shine in our sky, and from billions more that belong in systems upon systems away outside of the one our sun is in. There were some prophets and patriarchs there that ours ain’t a circumstance to, for rank and illustriousness and all that. Some were from Jupiter and other worlds in our own system, but the most celebrated were three poets, Saa, Bo and Soof, from great planets in three different and very remote systems.

  50. 50
    F [is for failure to emerge]

    From Larry @ 6:

    Just hire Michael Bay to direct it. You’ll never believe how many explosions heaven has!

    But to keep with the tone of vagueness, ineffableness, and incomprehending awe , do the whole flick in soft-focus.

  51. 51
    Akira MacKenzie

    Caveat Imperator @ 12

    Actually, HPLHS’s film versions of “The Call of Cthulhu” and “The Whisperer In Darkness” proves that Lovecraft is quite fimable. All you need are people who “get” the material.

  52. 52
    Dabu

    The worst thing this film could do is treat Alexander’s views with reverence, which is exactly what I expect will happen.
    The late British film maker Derek Jarman made one film with no picture (a solid blue screen) & a soundtrack, and another with images & no soundtrack. A worthwhile movie about heaven would combine these two approaches, resulting in no picture and no soundtrack. We can’t expect Universal to be that daring, sadly.

  53. 53
    julial

    Marcus Ranum @ 49

    Mark Twain writes about the insane crowds (you can’t even see the Big Stars) that show up whenever there’s an apostle putting in an appearance somewhere…

    This takes a little more thought….it looks wrong to me.
    Because there is eternity ahead, and only a finite number of prophet-groupies, all you have to do to see one is wait your turn. Because of the infinite time ahead, you can even spend an infinite amount of time with your selected prophet.
    How you handle the situation where the guy in line ahead of you wants to spend an infinite amount of time with your prophet, this I don’t know. Cloning?

  54. 54
    Stacy

    Here’s my question: Can you be stupid and smart at the same time?

    Oh, yes. It’s quite common.

    My mother was a bright woman with an advanced degree.

    She was also a Christian Scientist. She died at the age of 44 because she refused medical care for spinal meningitis.

    How do you become an accomplished professional in a challenging filed like surgery and be stupid about everything else? Is surgery like carpentry, a skill that does not imply superior intellectual prowess (with all due respect to carpenters, for whom I have the utmost respect)? I’m really perplexed about this.

    Surgeons are known for being…single minded. Remarkably bright in some areas and dim in others.

    Case in point: Harriet Hall. She’s not a stupid woman.

    People: Do not underestimate the human capacity for compartmentalization.

  55. 55
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I’ll wait until the Rifftrax comes out.

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