Sunday, November 27, 2005


I wrote three or four pages today, so I haven't been totally worthless, but I'm poised for the climax right now and I really don't want to get into that. Climaxes, oddly enough, are rather boring to write--at least in my opinion. This is probably because a) they are usually action-heavy, which is no challenge to me to write, merely drudgery, and b) because the climax is typically the last thing I write (see "How Do You Plot?") and thus there is nothing new for me to discover, merely a lot of loose ends I have to twist together and hammer into place. It's a lot of work and not much fun, in other words.

Except for Parlor Games. Parlor Games' climax was a lot of fun to write, because it was unexpected and because I was playing fun games with languages and because I kept imagining how my writer's group would lap up all the intriguing revelations about Miss Fairweather.

The climax of Silver and Flint is just going to be depressing, I think. This story seems to have gotten away from me--it took a different tone and direction than I expected, despite my managing to cram in almost everything I had intended in the original concept--and how often does that happen? Gloomy story, really. Like, fifth-season Buffy gloomy.

Anyway, because I am procrastinating, I was reading other people's blogs, and AJ had up his comments on Movies He Doesn't Get, which I can pretty much identify with. I had to nod along with the other guy's original list, too, although I didn't necessarily agree with his high-handed and snarky reasons for tearing those films down. I must also admit that Terminator 2 is probably my favorite movie of all time, despite my reluctance to quantify things and my general distaste for Schwarzenegger. It was a kick-butt heroine movie before kick-butt heroines became a cliche. And plot holes? Show me where they are and I'll show you where you weren't paying attention. That movie is watertight.

But I digress. My contribution here is a list of Movies That Aren't as Bad as Everybody Claims They Are. It's a short list; partly because I don't watch a lot of movies any more, and partly because I don't sit around quantifying things so I don't have a ready list at the forefront of my brain. But anyway, just working off my personal guilty pleasures collection:
  1. Knockaround Guys, with Vin Diesel and Barry Pepper as two grown sons of high-ranking mafia dons. I think the only reason we saw this was because my husband had a crush on Vin Diesel. The guy doesn't affect me one way or the other, but this movie gave me a heightened respect for poor Barry Pepper, who can't catch a break to save his life. Now, the movie isn't great--the two halves are uneven, and the older mafia guys were stock characters--Malkovitch in particular was sleepwalking on the set. Still, the perspective of Pepper's character was rather an interesting one: he'd worked hard to make a life of his own but he couldn't get a legit job in his chosen field--sports agenting--because everybody was afraid of his old man. They could have improved this by focusing on Matty's inner struggle to break away from his father's shadow and done away with the betraying-uncle subplot. I think people hated this because it undercut the mystique of certain overrated but fondly remembered movies i.e. The Godfather.

  2. Waterworld. Actually, I don't own this one. But I enjoyed it, what can I say? It suffered from too many cooks in the writing, but it got the job done. The story, although somewhat holey in places, still got where it needed to go and wrapped up satisfactorily, which is more than I can say for the bulk of what's coming out these days.

  3. The Postman. Since I'm thinking of Kevin Costner and his hero complex, I may as well throw this one in. The first time I saw it I thought it was overly long and draggy through the middle section. The second time I enjoyed it a good bit more, although I still think it could've been cut down by 20 minutes. But this was better material than Waterworld, and delivered its message better. I'm not really sure why this one was so trashed, actually, other than SF fans like to beat up on adaptations of their canon material.

  4. Miss Congeniality. Spotty reviews, light as angel food and nearly as saccharine, but I don't care. I love it. I love Shatner in a comedic role, I love Michael Caine playing a middle-aged gay man, I love Bullock doing her tough-girl trying to be glam routine. I love Candice Bergen using her scary-sharp features to play a psycho aging beauty queen. The FBI plot and procedures are not the point in this, so who cares? If they were more accurate they'd only detract from the point. I confess I probably only like this because it hit pretty close to home, but my husband likes it too, so where does that leave us?

  5. Signs. People who hate this movie fall into two categories. Either they were pissed off because it didn't have the surprise-twist ending they'd come to expect from Shyamalan, or they were pissed off because the point revolved around an expression of faith in a higher power. Get over it, people. It was a deeply moving family story, in my opinion, with some good scares along the way. Stop trying to prove how smart you are by second-guessing the writer. Now we won't talk about The Village.

  6. Armaggeddon. Okay. Granted, it's strident and hyperkinetic and has justifiably become the poster child for every over-produced, over-effected, CGI'd mess that has come since. However: it works. The basic premise and science are no more ludicrous than any other sci-fi flick, and contains a plot and two subplots which all go from A to B to C with complete causality and full resolution. Again: this puts it a cut above much of what came after it.

  7. The Phantom Menace.... Damn. No, I still can't defend it. The only reason I'm even thinking about it is because I just saw Ep 3, Revenge of the Sith, and I realized that Ep 1 may have been the best of the three, but I'm not willing to go back and re-watch it to be sure. Wow. I think I just burst a blood vessel in my brain. But that reminds me of....

  8. The Matrix II, whatever its subtitle was. This one actually made the first movie better. Everybody complained about the talkiness and the pseudo-philosophy and the Christian overtones, but there was some thought in this, as well as a promise that it was going somewhere, that the writers had something in mind. We were wrong, of course, but it was nice while the illusion lasted.

  9. Roadhouse. No, I don't own this one, either, but who needs to, when it's on cable once a week? It's become a sort of Rocky Horror audience-participation venture in our house--we say the lines in unison and mock Patrick Swayze's tai chi. I particularly love the scene where the monster truck trashes the car dealership--in a movie full of unlikely events, that one takes the cake. But still: the plot and subplots are complete and make sense, people do things for preconceived and pre-explained reasons, and violence does solve problems.

Are ya seein a pattern here? I'm pretty tired of movies and stories that don't wrap up or come to some lame non-ending because the producers didn't want to offend somebody. It was a sad day when I was watching Roadhouse and realized it made more sense--and was more entertaining--than much of what I'd seen in the past five years. What makes most of these fall flat is the fact that they were merely competent, and not really memorable. They were attempting to pander and they succeeded. That's why most of us hate them--we don't like being talked down to.

Coming soon: my best and worst holiday movie list.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

begins to add, uh, clarity

As you may know, I work for a trade publisher, and one of our lines is a series of manuals for professional electricians. The guy who writes the text is a professional electrician, but he isn't much of a writer. The classic example of his style, which I have kept all these years, I give you now:
Simply reading these words about an emergency power system that we have not seen or worked with does not sufficiently describe the importance of this type of system; but putting oneself in the position of being in the emergency room of a hospital having a severed artery sewn closed when a tornado destroys the electrical utility overhead pole-type distribution system and the room turns to blackness begins to add clarity.

Indeed it does, friend. Indeed it does.