The Worst Ideas. Updates every Monday!

Your weekly source for terrible ideas.

Tag: movies

Become a sophisticated cinephile AND appreciate the finest movies that cinema has to offer in only ONE-NINTH the expected time, thanks to this bizarre invention! You will be the envy of your friends and countrymen.


There are hundreds of famous and excellent movies, but almost no one has seen them all!

It’s possible to laboriously go through the extensive backlog of classic movies, but with the current volume of media, this would be a major endeavor.


By splitting a screen into N segments (for this example, let’s say 9 segments), different sections of a single movie can be played simultaneously.

Audio would probably need to either be turned off or limited to a single screen at a time. Subtitles would be a requirement.


Fig 1: All nine sections of the movie will play at once, allowing the dedicated viewer to see every scene from a movie in a fraction of the expected time. Depicted: the 1977 Woody Allen movie “Annie Hall.”

So if a movie is 100 minutes long, the top-left screen (#1) would start at time 0:00, the next screen would start at 10:00, …, and the bottom-right screen (#9) would start at 80:00. Then the 90 minute movie could be viewed in its entirety in only 10 minutes!


Fig 2: Look how much time you’ll save! You’ll be able to watch the entire director’s cut of Das Boot (3 hours and 29 minutes) in just over 23 minutes! That frees up 3 hours and 6 minutes in your day, which you can use to post arguments about the film online.

VERTIGO 1_modified_2_small_numbered.jpeg

Fig 3: This proof of concept shows what the simultaneous-watching system would look like for the famous 1958 Alfred Hitchcock film “Vertigo.”

Additional option:

Since movies invariably have scenes of both high and low intensity, it might be possible to adaptively set the screen timing so that only one dialog-heavy section was on screen at once. For example, one screen would show a complicated and plot-crucial scene that required viewer attention, while another showed a long establishing shot that could be mostly ignored in comparison.

PROS: Cinephiles will love it. You will appreciate movies in RECORD time now.

CONS: Probably would not work for certain types of movies with intricate or non-straightforward plots; for example, The Departed (2006) or Memento (2000).


Nine (9) insane books that you read in high school with TWIST ENDINGS that leave you speechless! Or, a way of bringing excitement back to classic literature.


When reading any book, there’s an unavoidable spoiler: the number of pages left in the book!

Specifically, the number of remaining pages gives you a strong clue as to how the narrative is going to go. If you are only 25% of the way through a book, but the main character is dangling from a sheer cliff, odds are that the character is going to survive. This substantially reduces the tension. (Note: exceptions exist, such as Game of Thrones.)

This also applies to movies—if there’s still 90 minutes left in a film, you can be pretty sure that whatever plan the protagonists are up to is not going to resolve without any complications.


Here are two proposals to fix this “length spoiler” issue:

First Proposal: Add blank pages to a book to hide the location of the ending

Fortunately, we can easily maintain the narrative excitement and tension with just one weird trick! All that is necessary is:

1. For a book, pad out the book with a substantial number of blank or plot-irrelevant pages, so the reader won’t know where the plot ends. (This approach was inadvertently done in the third Lord of the Rings book (Return of the King) by J.R.R. Tolkien: the book’s plot ends at the 75% mark. It is then followed by an extensive set of appendices such as “Appendix D: Calendars: Shire Calendar for use in all years”).

2. For a movie, include many minutes (or hours!) of still frames at the end of the film, so that the the remaining length is not immediately obvious if you pause the video. (Or you could watch the movie on VHS.)

Second Proposal: Publish multiple variants of each book, with hasty resolutions

So the problem with the first proposal is that if a book is to follow certain narrative structures, we still know that certain things will happen—the hero won’t just stay home in the first act.

But with modern technology, we can now provide variants of books (and movies) where different events occur, prematurely ending the plot.

Then, the reader can’t use their meta-knowledge of how narratives are normally constructed—the book could end unpredictably at any time! (See the Conan-the-Barbarian-inspired example in Fig. 1).

failurebookFig. 1: The blank pages hide the fact that the narrative actually ends on page 206. The savvy reader, seeing hundreds of remaining pages, probably assumes that the story is going to continue, but it is not so!

Additional Examples of “early book endings”:

The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), alternative early ending:

There he lay, a vast red-golden dragon, fast asleep; thrumming came from his jaws and nostrils, and wisps of smoke, but his fires were low in slumber, until they roared up in an instant, incinerating the burgling hobbit before he could even recognize the danger.


(124 blank pages follow)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling), alternative early ending

They inched toward the message, eyes fixed on a dark shadow beneath it. All three of them realized what it was at once, and leapt backward with a splash. Mrs. Norris, the caretaker’s cat, was hanging by her tail from the torch bracket. She was stiff as a board, her eyes wide and staring. 

For a few seconds, they didn’t move. Then Ron said, “Let’s get out of here.”

Later, the trio transferred to a much less dangerous boarding school in New Hampshire.


(144 blank pages follow)

Solution to the main problem with this approach:

Since there will be dozens of variants of the book (with premature endings at different spots), different readers may actually get different versions of the book.

In order to prevent readers who got one of the “early ending” copies of the book from being unsatisfied with the book due to the poor conclusion, the publisher would make the second half of the book available online for free, so that even the unlucky readers can still experience the full narrative.

booktreeFig 2: An example of how the narrative could be constructed. Perhaps point “F” is the book’s original ending: now we just need to hire a few fan fiction authors to fill out endings A, B, C, D, E, J, G, H, and I, and we’ll have all the benefits of a Choose Your Own Adventure (™) book with the literary merits of the finest fiction.

Note that this specific example may be overly expensive due to the extremely early divergence in plot between the (A, B, C, D, E) branch and the (F, G, J, I, J) branch. For economic reasons, probably only one of those branches should be included—otherwise there are essentially two totally different books being written here.

Current state of the art:

The application of divergent and/or user-selected narratives has been long neglected, with the only recent noteworthy examples being the Shakespeare-inspired “Romeo And/Or Juliet” ( and “To Be or Not To Be” (Hamlet) (, both by Ryan North of “Dinosaur Comics” fame.

PROS: Adds much-needed dramatic tension to formulaic plots!

CONS: Does not work with non-fiction.

Appreciate a movie as it was meant to be seen, or maybe you can just watch an amateurishly cut version tailored to your specific preferences!


With the introduction of DVDs, it first became possible for a movie to contain user-selectable arrangements of scenes. This was a rarely used feature, but it did have a few interesting applications, such as a feature on the Memento DVD that allowed the movie to be watched in reverse order from normal (i.e., in normal chronological order).

Although this feature has not been widely used, nor has it made it to any common streaming video service, it demonstrates that the functionality for swapping out sections of film while watching does exist.

It would be ideal to take advantage of this in a way that would enhance the viewer’s experience.


A video streaming site could provide an on-screen dial to allow the user to select a number of movie parameters.

Among the most basic are:

  • Cut (“Theatrical” vs “Director’s”)
  • Rating (“PG13” vs “R” vs “Unrated”)

But with the ability to arbitrarily swap out scenes, we have more elaborate options as well.

For example, the genre of a film could be changed by judiciously switching out crucial scenes. Although this may sound ridiculous, has happened at least once: the 1977 Woody Allen movie Annie Hall was changed from a murder mystery to a romantic comedy entirely in post-production (Wikipedia: : “It was originally a drama centered on a murder mystery with a comic and romantic subplot. […] Although they decided to drop the murder plot…”).

Fig 1: Two example genre dials: these labels might be common options. Annie Hall (1977) would perhaps have a dial labeled “Romantic Comedy / Murder Mystery.”

genre_dialFig 2: A more comprehensive genre dial that would handle the selection of various combinations of scenes / outtakes.


Fig 3: Movie length can also be controlled by a dial. We can choose a length ranging from an ultra-long 5 hour extended edition (like the uncut 293-minute version of “Das Boot”), to a theatrical edition, all the way to a trailer-length / recap version of the film in five minutes.


Fig 4: Movie ratings dial. A rudimentary version of this already exists—some movies are available in “unrated” form, which may be accessible from the same disc as the “rated” version. However, this dial would allow more granular control over rating, and would enable the movie to be stripped down all the way to a G rating (perhaps all that would be left would be the title card and a cut to the credits).

PROS: Allows movies to be tailored more specifically to the viewer’s preferences.

CONS: Would require substantial work to annotate and dice up scenes in a fashion suitable for swapping in and out at the viewer’s whims. Directors would probably be unhappy about the loss of creative control.