Top 10 Body-Swap Storieson December 12th, 2010
This list is probably going to feel a little tossed-off. I realized about halfway through it that it was going to be the last one in Fans for a while. The reason is simple: I started these lists as (1) fun, (2) a bit of promotion and (3) a way to focus my ideas for the sake of upcoming comics. I promised myself I’d let them go if they seemed to be getting in the way of more important things, and I can definitely feel that starting to happen now. For all that I like to impress you guys with volume of output, there have got to be priorities.
Still, as we head into the conclusion of “Singles Night,” honor demands tribute to some of the body-swap stories that have inspired us up to this point.
10. Mulholland Drive. This is a beautifully WTH movie, so much so that I’m only 70% sure it qualifies as a body-swap concept. I find David Lynch’s brand of insanity wears thin with multiple exposures, but his originality means it’s worth seeing one picture of his, and you could do a lot worse than this one.
9. Face/Off. The ridiculously over-the-top plot outline and the mixed history of its stars almost kept me away from this one. I’m glad I gave in. John Woo delivers the action, and the actors deliver their goofy, funny lines with all the panache the exercise requires. Plus: doves. Many, many doves.
8. All of Me. This film is to Steve Martin what Aladdin is to Robin Williams: an ideal vehicle for his personalized brand of comedy. It is not really that great of a plot and the characters aren’t overwhelmingly likable, but the witty episodes, and seeing Martin play two parts in one, make it all worthwhile.
7. I Will Fear No Evil. This classic Heinlein novel is something of a mixed bag. The concept of a deceased personality lingering in a recycled body with a new inhabitant, and their peaceful coexistence, is nifty, and some of Heinlein’s ideas about technology and sexual relations are very forward-looking. It might be one of the most important works on this list. But man, the internal dialogues just go on and on and on.
6. Justice League Unlimited: “The Great Brain Robbery.” I could do a top ten list composed of nothing but quotes from this episode. Its two sides are perfectly balanced: Lex Luthor-as-Flash comes within inches of escaping the JLU headquarters to wreak havoc on Earth (action), and Flash-as-Luthor tries to fool dozens of dangerous supervillains into thinking he’s their leader (comedy). The best part is how it’s set up: Luthor-as-Luthor was already seeming unstable, so it’s just barely conceivable that Flash can pull off his con for as long as he does.
5. Teen Titans: “Switched.” Teen Titans the cartoon was a frustrating series, wildly inconsistent about its characters’ power levels. But when it was on, it was on, and “Switched” was one of its best installments, sticking sunny Starfire and emo Raven not only with each other’s bodies, but with each others’ emotion-dependent powers.
4. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Who Are You?” In the course of stealing Buffy’s body and identity, Faith finally learns two important things she’s always refused to learn before: 1) Good people exist. 2) She is not one of them. Sarah Michelle Gellar turns in one of the best performances of her career.
3. Futurama: “The Prisoner of Benda.” This episode had a new mathematical principle written for it, fo’ reals. And not even to keep track of its six plots. Like many of the best Futuramas, this one takes an SF concept further than anyone ever has, making it absurd and functional all at once.
2. Freaky Friday (book, 1976/2003 films). Don’t make me choose. The book is, moment by moment, the funniest incarnation of the story. Something crucial was lost when the movies took the story out of the teenage protagonist’s voice. But something crucial was likewise gained when the films conceded that Mommy doesn’t always know best, and that the body-swap might be equally difficult for both parties. One film has Jodie Foster and a flavor of Disney schmaltz that went best with the Seventies. The other has Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan back before Lindsay got embarrassing. In any version, it’s a story about compassion, like many of the others on this list, only more focused on that.
1. Being John Malkovich. Man, I don’t even want to spoil it. You deserve to see this movie. It’s good for you.