Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wisdom from the 80's

Got to pull out a Ferris Bueller here:

" Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it"

Life DOES move too fast, and you know what? WE LET IT HAPPEN!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Spin, the Sizzle, the Story

When I watch a movie, read a book or invest myself anything involving a story; I find myself increasingly absorbed by the telling of the story while the plot, climax and denouement become secondary interests. I know that storytelling has been around since figures were carved on cave walls or symbols scratched onto papyrus. Were there favorites among these artists and scribes?

And when histories and fables were passed on by oral tradition, surely some performed better than others? I do know of this Jewish guy, before the glory days of the Borscht Belt Catskill comedians, who excelled at stand up. (Although he often sat down among his audience.) He could craft a story that had crowds enthralled, asking questions, wanting more. He'd perform tricks too, well not really tricks - no Houdini stuff. He caused a bit of a stir at a wedding once - switching jugs of water with wine - something like that.

But the thing is, the basic theme of his stories was not so unusual, it was his delivery that impressed folks back then. Even today, he's quoted often. Good stuff from that carpenter/story teller. Good stuff.

And still, it's the process that intrigues. Why will one filmmaker use lots of bridging shots, and another favors the slash cut? CGI? Animation? Gritty urban dialogue or drawing room monologue?

This all goes to my frustration towards the average consumer and/or critic. When someone dismisses an effort, let's say a film - for example M. Night Shyamalan's apocalyptic The Happening - they might say, "goofy plot", "not enough gore", "woeful clunker of a paranoid thriller*". OK, fair enough. To each his own and all that. Personally I hesitated after hearing all this panning. So, I ended up seeing The Happening on the small screen. Well it was amped up a little bit. Surround Sound and a 40" flat screen.

But here's the point. Shyamalan's work is fascinating. The story itself was flimsy. That didn't bother me. Flimsy has it's place. But it had so much going for it. Zooey Deschanel's eyes. (Yeah, her big sister Emily is the title character on Fox's Bones.) Anyway, Zooey's got a crazy kind of flat-affect delivery, but I find it charming. Her eyes though, they were really sooo - appealing in The Happening. She could express so much with just her huge eyes. Also - the falling bodies. Amazing shot, that. Chilling in a -- straightforward way. Hey, I could go on and on. But I'm trying to keep to a point, as hazy as that's starting to become.

There is an old adage among the admen. "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." So does that imply that the message is better recieved in a slick package? It just could be so.

*This from The Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern