Friday, August 21, 2009

Faymiss Miss Pellingz

Editor's Note: This is the second in a two-part series of frivolous observations about Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. In fact, this editor's note is by far the least frivolous thing in either posting.

Copy editors around the country were doubtless driven cross-eyed by Quentin Tarantino's chosen misspelling of the title of his latest movie. Accustomed to correcting misspellings, they had to shift gears and make sure the words were spelled incorrectly every time the title appeared in print. What might have been called Inglorious Bastards was instead named Inglourious Basterds, perhaps creating lifelong learned mistakes among the youngest in our viewing population. (Never mind the fact that they're too young to be seeing this film anyway).

Tarantino's reasoning is clear: The film was inspired in part by a 1978 Italian film called The Inglorious Bastards, directed by Enzo Catellari. Tarantino has stressed that it's not a remake of that film -- the plot is quite different -- so misspelling the title was intended both to pay homage to that film, and to differentiate his film from it.

So it got me thinking about what other titles have been famously misspelled in the past, and the reasons behind them. Hey, in my world, that's enough for a posting.

Because it's hard to research this kind of thing from all the titles in the world, I've used my own movie list to help me narrow down my choices. Besides, that way I can also give a reason for the misspelling, having seen the movie. I'm sure this approach will mean I'm missing a couple big ones. If you think of something good I missed, I'd love to hear about it in the comments section.

Alphabetically ...

Title: American Dreamz (2006, Paul Weitz)
Reason for misspelling: It's the name of the American Idol-style singing competition parodied in the movie, which is hosted by the Simon Cowell-like Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant). The Z in the show's name is probably intended to indicate "radness."

Title: Antz (1998, Eric Darnell, Tim Johnson)
Reason for misspelling: The protagonist ant, played by Woody Allen, is named Z. Plus, the aforementioned "radness" probably played a role.

Title: Baadasssss! (2003, Mario Van Peebles)
Reason for misspelling: An homage to Mario Van Peebles' father Melvin's film, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (1971), the making of which is the focus of this excellent biopic. That movie could go on this list too, but I haven't seen it, and no movie I haven't seen could possibly have any value. Oh, and if you're googling this, be sure to include that fifth S, or you will never find it.

Title: Boyz N the Hood (1991, John Singleton)
Reason for misspelling: This is the classic in the misspelling department, with far-reaching cultural implications. Not only did it really take the Z ending mainstream -- though here "radness" is not the goal -- but it also paved the way for other inner-city themed films with loose grammatical/typographical titles, such as Menace II Society. (Ebonics-themed titles is a slightly more controversial way of describing it).

Title: The Edukators (2004, Hans Weingartner)
Reason for misspelling: Not entirely clear. There would be a temptation to say it is the German translation of "educator," but it's not -- that is actually "der erzieher." Besides, the actual German title of this film about anarchists who break into the homes of the rich and rearrange their furniture is Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei, which translates to "the fat years are over" or "your days of plenty are numbered."

Title: eXistenZ (1999, David Cronenberg)
Reason for misspelling: It's the name of a virtual reality game in the movie. I can't tell you anything more because I'm cheating here -- I haven't seen it, though I probably should. It's the one movie I thought of without consulting my list.

Title: I'm Gonna Git You Sucka (1988, Keenen Ivory Wayans)
Reason for misspelling: This hilarious send-up of blaxploitation movies, an early high for the eventually bottom-feeding Wayans, is like a precursor to Boyz N the Hood in terms of words appearing in titles with spellings accented for the street. Plus it also has one of Chris Rock's first appearances on film.

Title: Pet Sematary (1989, Mary Lambert)
Reason for misspelling: The word was misspelled on the handwritten sign for the pet cemetery depicted in Stephen King's novel.

Title: The Pursuit of Happyness (2006, Gabriele Muccino)
Reason for misspelling: Wikipedia sums this one up pretty well: "The title is intentionally misspelled, as it also appears as graffiti in a scene in the film. The misspelled phrase is actually taken from an essay written in 1776 that argued that whites and blacks were created equal. The essay, which was written by Lemuel Haynes, a biracial man living in New England during the Revolution, quoted Thomas Jefferson's well-known sentence from the United States Declaration of Independence, but spelled the last word of the sentence with a y. The sentence, as it appears in Lemuel's essay, is as follows: "We hold these truths to be self-Evident, that all men are created Equal, that they are Endowed By their Creator with Ceartain [sic] unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happyness."

There. I hope this post left you feeling enlightened.

If it did, that would make one of us.

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