Shoes And Observation

Perhaps, my favorite novella is Rita Heyworth and the Shawshank Redemption (tough to have an all-time definitive best so need the caveat). It’s in a collection of stories by Stephen King aptly titled Different Seasons. Most know the movie. As a film critic in my own mind, Shawshank should have won best picture. I so wanted it to win. Maybe, this was the King fan in me. I grew up reading his work. It. The Gunslinger. Misery. Cujo. Christine. But what a movie line up that year. Take the following:

Forrest Gump (Winner)
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Pulp Fiction
Quiz Show
The Shawshank Redemption

Any of these movies could have won any other year. Sad, they all competed at the same time. I wonder what made 1994 special. The 67th Annual Academy Awards shined that year. In the book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell argues the importance of a convergence of events over individual contribution. Upbringing. Cultural heritage. Location. Timing. Yes, Bill Gates is a genius of a man, but other factors played a role in his rise too. Consider that most of the founders of Apple, Google and Microsoft were all born the year Marty McFly went back in time, 1955. Right now, a convergence hovers around 1973. Google. Yahoo (sort of but a giant in its day). George Orwell’s book/year, 1984 seems to have a convergence coming too. Can you name companies with founders born that year? Do you feel it? An awakening? I love that line from the new Star Wars film.

If you haven’t seen Shawshank, I’d probably quit reading this post. 1-2-3 stop. Wanna keep going? By all means, read on.

There is a scene in Shawshank when Andy Dufresne (convicted to life in prison for falsely killing his wife), played by Timm Robbins, is finishing his day in the warden’s office. Let me take you there, quick recap and scene setup. After managing through the beginnings of his incarceration, his accounting degree becomes valuable. How? He starts doing the guards’ taxes. Isn’t that what life is all about? Death and Taxes? Eventually, he becomes a key piece of the warden’s corrupt operation, setting up kick-backs shell companies. Throughout the movie, he puts the finishing touches on cooking the books, puts the records back inside the safe, and shines the warden’s shoes. The warden locks the safe up and sends convict Andy back to his pent house cell. You see the same scene a few times. Do the books. Shine the shoes. At movie end, you see Andy holding a noose in his cell after a hard and trying day’s work. You think he might end it all. When the guards inspect his cell the next morning, they don’t find a dangling body. Instead, Andy had up and vanished. The perfect prison break.

Eventually, he becomes the ultimate whistle-blower and brings the corruption inside the prison to a head. But there is this moment when Morgan Freeman reveals what happened. The film maker goes back to that special scene. But the camera shows all this time. We see Andy Dufresne swap out the accounting books for his bible (inside it had a tiny rock hammer, which he used in his escape-a little bit each day goes a long ways) and walked right out of the office wearing the Warden’s well shined shoes. No well-worn prison issue. I love this freeman line:

“I mean how often do you really look at a man’s shoes?”


It’s a true movie moment. The great reveal. If you read novels, I call this the twist.

Recently at the Game Developer’s Conference, the video game industry had its “how often do you really look at a man’s shoes moment.” Videogames are big business. Franchises can last forever. Each Call of Duty brings in a billion plus in revenue between digital download, game expansions, and console services like XBOX Live and the PS4 Network. Most new IPs cost millions to design, build, and produce. These launches are bigger than most big name movie releases. Call of Duty gives even Disney a run for its money.

Between rabid video game fans, media pundits, and stock market watchers looking for the next big thing, IP rumors are all over the net. People closely follow Twitter handles for employees at Microsoft, Sony, Rare, Activision, Nintendo, Valve, (Half-Life 3 has to be coming. Then again, maybe a unicorn will win the next Kentucky Derby) and more. Bioware is one of these companies too. Never heard of Bioware? Think Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. And Mass Effect was an important game, pushing the XBOX 360 to success in the last generation of console wars. I’ve played neither.

Alistair McNally, a developer at said company, tweeted out that he had a great conference. And then, a few seconds later, tweeted that he wore a T-Shirt with Bioware’s next big IP on it. And nobody noticed. Even if turns out to be a hoax or a cancelled project, that’s a true twist (or turn). The world moves fast. At times, we pay more attention to our phones than the world around us. I mean, how often do you really look at man’s shoes, or in this case shirt. Movie magic come to life.

Note, Different Seasons had more than a little magic inside the pages. The Body, better known for the movie Stand By Me, is part of the collection too.

Check out Bioware. The company is known for killing a few hundred hours if you got the time.

And how often do you really look at a man’s shirt?