You've seen the words "based on a true story" on a movie screen, right? Well, the opposite happens too. Reality isn't stranger than fiction; it is exactly as strange, oftentimes because reality is looking over and copying fiction's homework. Sometimes life is a single twist away from you living out the exact plot of Air Bud. Like how ...
A foreigner visits Japan, learns the culture, becomes a samurai, and leaves everything behind to fight alongside their new warrior leader. Are we talking about The Last Samurai?
Even better: We're talking about the first black samurai.
In 1579, an Italian Jesuit missionary named Alessandro Valignano came to Japan accompanied by his servant, a black man of unknown name and origin, who eventually came to be known as Yasuke. Medieval Japan was not exactly swarming with black people, and this one was rumored to have the strength of ten men, because some racism is funnier than other kinds. His reputation made it all the way to then-ruler Lord Oda Nobunaga, who -- after having the man stripped to the waist and scrubbed to confirm he really was black and not just stained by some sort of ink -- invited him into his service. That's when he was dubbed Yasuke, literally meaning "black samurai."
Unfortunately, Yasuke's stint as a samurai didn't last long, as Nobunaga got himself killed when his own general overthrew him. After seeking out Nobunaga's son, only to find he'd met a similar fate, Yasuke decided he'd had quite enough of this shit and tracked down the usurping general, who scoffed that Yasuke was a "beast" and not worth even killing. So here's the big finale where Yasuke proves that guy wrong with a vengeance ... though not in the way you think. This "mindless beast" opted for peace, laid down his sword, and returned to the Jesuits, never to be heard from again. The high road doesn't make for a great movie ending, we know. Maybe in the adaptation, they'll have Yasuke kill the general with some sort of primitive rocket instead.
In Birdman, Michael Keaton plays an actor primarily known for his role as a superhero named after a winged animal. Crazy, we know. The story then diverges from real life considerably, as Keaton's character decides to show the critics he can get really real by actually shooting himself with a real gun in the Broadway play he's starring in.
Somehow he survives, and gets good reviews to boot, with his greatest critic ultimately praising his display of "super realism."
In 2008, Austrian actor Daniel Hoevels totally pulled a Birdman, if only by accident. His character in Mary Stuart commits suicide by slashing his own throat, but when Hoevels went to mime the act, he discovered a little too late that his prop knife was real. The audience, thinking this was some incredibly realistic special effects, burst into applause as blood burst from his throat.
And like Birdman, Hoevels miraculously survived, as the knife barely missed a major artery. He was back on stage the next day, presumably after some uh ... sharp words with the prop department.
It was an absurd premise at the time, as nobody had ever won the million-dollar prize in the Indian version of the show ... until three years after the movie released, when a bright young man rose out of the slums to conquer it all.
Sushil Kumar, a 26-year-old man from one of the most impoverished regions of India, decided to give the show a shot in 2011. Just like in the movie, in which millions of Indians are shown glued to their TV screens as a Bollywood star asks the final question, 27 million Indians watched the episode where Kumar won.
But Kumar's immediate future was not the stuff of Hollywood endings. Before going on the show, he was living with his wife, mother, and five brothers, making $120 a month as a tutor and clerk. After winning the grand prize, he ... continued doing exactly that. But now he has a scooter and a generator for when the power cuts out during his favorite TV shows. It's, uh ... it's a step up?
The Sandlot had what might as well be a fairy tale ending. Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez becomes a professional baseball player, while his friend Scotty Smalls becomes one of the announcers broadcasting during his games. Do you know what the odds are of anyone becoming either a MLB player or broadcaster? Much less both coming from the same childhood team?
Meanwhile, back in reality: Vin Scully and Larry Miggins were high school buddies at Fordham Prep, where they often daydreamed about what they wanted to do with their lives. Miggins said he wanted to be a professional baseball player, and Scully said he would be the broadcaster. Apparently neither could come up with any other options, so they grew up and did exactly that.
But this story gets even less believable. Scully once jokingly demanded that Miggins hit a home run if Scully was ever the broadcaster on one of his games, and they had a good laugh ... until 1952, when Miggins was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Scully was broadcasting for the Dodgers, and Miggins nailed one hell of a home run.
The Shawshank Redemption's Andy Dufresne is sentenced to life in prison for a murder he didn't commit, but escapes by digging a tunnel through the wall of his cell, which is hidden in plain sight the whole time by a simple poster of Rita Hayworth. Surely there's no way a far-fetched idea like that could work in real life ... right?
Flash-forward to 2008, when two inmates escaped from the Union County Jail in New Jersey. They had chipped away at their cell wall for weeks before making their grand exit on a cold January night, concealing their work behind pictures of women in bikinis. In the movie, the corrupt prison warden commits suicide to avoid being prosecuted for money laundering. And that's totally unrealistic. Here, it was the guard in charge of the inmates who committed suicide, to avoid embarrassment over the incident.
It was a considerably less happy ending for everyone involved, as the inmates were caught a short while later, but it could have been worse. It could have all been a dying hallucination, as it clearly was in the movie.
Saikat Bhowmik prefers truth over fiction. To know some truth about him, follow him at Twitter and/or visit his channels Amuzic II and Amuzic. Alex Perry wrote two delightful sci-fi books and is looking for an agent to sell them. You can follow her on Twitter.
Hey, if you really do want the play out the plot of Air Bud, there's a lot you can do to train your dog accordingly. Here's a guide.
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