22 August 2009

Too Many Cooks, Week 3

  • Finkle, Out of Sorts.  Last week I had to get someone out of an apartment.  This week I get someone inside one.  I briefly introduced a new character to provide a counterpoint to Alan’s depression.  I look forward to seeing where Maria takes this next week.
  • The Last Time I Saw Richard.  Maria develops the relationship between Richard and our narrator and sets the scene for what will no doubt prove to be an interesting conversation.  Is it just me or does anyone else think “just because you’re paranoid it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you?”  We shall see what Anaïs thinks.
  • The Letters of Rose Constance.  Anaïs - er - Snarkface continues this story of loss as we learn a little of Rose’s husband and of her sad past.  The tone fits well with what I had in mind when I began this story.  I wonder how it will end.
  • Night Vision.  Coyotesqrl brings us a lovely interplay between Gregory and Zoie, and ends with an “ooof” and an “ouch”!  The story will continue next week in Oledoc’s more than capable hands.
  • Limbs Akimbo.  Another great chapter: mother and son, flashbacks, tears.  How I’m expected to keep following up from Oldedoc is beyond me!  I shall do my best.
Tune in next week for more depresssion and mind-wandering, paranoia and friendship, sorrow and loss, broken bones and running, tears and blood.

15 August 2009

Too Many Cooks, Week 2

In keeping with our rotating writers theme, this wrapup was written by Jay, who is currently following me. Poor guy has to try to make sense of the insane scribblings I leave behind on each story!

And now it’s gotten interesting. The rotation has started, each author tackling the story of the person who posted before them, and trying to maintain a balance between continuing the original narrative and trying to bring something of one’s own to it. The results:
  • Finkle, Out Of Sorts: I (hopefully) gave us a slightly deeper look into our Mr. Finkle’s life, and added a little conflict to the story to boot. What will happen next? Paulos will have to tell us.
  • The Last Time I Saw Richard: Paulos did a great job of taking my story to the next stage, getting Richard and our nameless narrator out the door and to a very interesting place to have a drink. What happens next is up to Maria.
  • The Letters of Rose Constance: Maria’s follow-up deepened story and character, taking our most open-ended story and pointing it towards all sorts of interesting possibilities. Whose soldiers have come to the door? What happened to the children? Will Rose ever play the piano again? Anaïs has an interesting road ahead.
  • Night Vision: Anaïs’ nipple-hardening follow-up to Maria’s first chapter was a joy to read, and left us all wanting more. And she’s right: there is no kiss better than a kiss at 19. Coyotesqrl will have an interesting time following that kiss up next Thursday.
  • Limbs Akimbo: Coyotesqrl’s character work was great here, and built admirably on what Anaïs began, ending with a lovely moment between Charlie and his mother. I’m looking forward to seeing where this sparks my imagination over the coming week.
So we made it through week 2, and now week 3 lies ahead. Where will the stories go next? Is Roswell’s just another trendy New York night spot, or does it hold a deeper secret? What—if anything—lies beyond Alan Finkle’s front door? What secrets are Charlie and Rose hiding? Where will Zoie and Gregory’s running feet take them next? The answers lie in wait … but what they are, only the authors know …

09 August 2009

Um, buy my shirt?

I rehabilitated a snowclone a couple of weeks back. What? English. Can you speak English?

Sorry. I took an extremely cliché joke template and used it in a way that is fresh, doesn't appear to have ever been used before, and I believe is pretty damn funny. I liked this joke so much, I decided I wanted a t-shirt with the joke on it so I drew a (not very good) picture to go with it and designed a shirt at Zazzle.

Then I wondered, "Why should I be the only one sporting this fine design and joke? I shouldn't right?" Y'all are definitely going to want one, or maybe a coffee mug. Yeah. Anyway, take a look.

This most likely won't be the last thing I design to sell at Zazzle; it's just so damn easy and I amuse myself, if no one else.

Too Many Cooks

I've got *another* group writing blog going. This one's quite different from Sketch War and I would really appreciate it if y'all came on by and gave it a look. We've got five people writing and five stories going concurrently. This past week we started, each of us posting the first chapter - between 500 and 1000 words or so - of a story. One story for each weekday. This coming week, each of us rotates and writes chapter two of a different story. After five weeks, each of us will have written a chapter to five different short stories.

I expect we'll see a mix of ugly, awkward pieces that don't stitch together well and stories that become much better than the originator could have hoped. Regardless, I think it'll be interesting to watch. Either you see a trainwreck or a good story coming together, one chapter at a time. Here's the wrap up from the past week:

Five days and five stories started. I’m pretty pleased it all worked out, especially since we had to make some last minute schedule changes. But it will really start to get interesting this week coming up when we all switch to another person’s story.

  • “Finkle, Out of Sorts” came from me, and starts off the story of a Walter Mittyesque character. I particularly like the short scene I set in the restaurant. Oledoc will be following up this Monday.
  • “The Last Time I Saw Richard” was Oledoc’s entry on Tuesday. Paulos will be taking on the next chapter about an old friend who has fallen victim to extreme paranoid delusions. Or are they delusions?
  • “The Letters of Rose Constance” from Paulos looks to be an epistolary short story about a woman whose lover has left her. Maria will be following up this Wednesday and maybe we’ll see why he left.
  • “Night Vision” came from Maria and was our most popular story start. I think she did a great job of showing us Zoie’s personality through her actions and behavior; after the first three paragraphs, I had a very clear picture of her. Anaïs has some interesting choices to make for her followup on Thursday.
  • “Limbs Akimbo” was our final chapter on Friday. Anaïs’s story about a vet with a dark secret gives me a lot of exciting avenues to explore when I write chapter two for this coming Friday.
Will Maria’s fans come back to see how Anaïs follows up? Will Paulos delve into Richard’s psychosis or show us a massive conspiracy involving cologne? Will we hate or love where our writing partners take our stories? Yup. This is when it starts to get interesting.

500 Days of Summer review

Finally saw 500 Days of Summer today. Plenty of others have had their say - both good and bad - since the film opened but I have a few thoughts I'd like to share.

First off, let me establish up front that like any sentient straight man, I've got a crush on Zooey Deschanel. It's not even just her eyes. She's got an edge to her few ingenues possess. She'd mess you up in a bar fight if you weren't careful. The cynicism and frankness in her Summer are terrifically appealing qualities too rarely found in women. She doesn't want a relationship, doesn't believe in love, and doesn't believe in games. It's as though the tough female sidekick from a teen romcom grew up to be the star of a love story. Or, as is the case here, the traditional male and female personas were switched in a romcom.

Let me continue by saying I'm a huge JGL fan. In this role he's given room to breathe (a bit; it does tend to the emo end of the spectrum) and gives a nuanced and subtle performance. Contrasting Deschanel's manga-eyes, his are narrowed to slits throughout; nonetheless, he expresses a variety of emotions solely with his eyes. Oddly enough, I'm reminded of Clint Eastwood and the way he lets so much of his inner life show through infinitesimal variations in his squint.

In many of the two-shots, the camera subtly favors JGL over Deschanel, drawing the eye to him. (Or, I've got a secret man-crush of which I'm unaware.) This, more than the film's POV, makes the audience attempt to relate to him. Which is good, because in every other way the film's structure forces the audience to be less emotionally engaged in the story.

The too-clever third-person narration serves to separate the audience from Tom quite a bit and the time-jumping structure - with the end a given - pushes the audience even further back. I found myself watching with a far more critical and clinical eye than I normally would for a first viewing: breaking down the movie, each scene, noting editing choices, and paying close attention to the use of music (more on that in a moment.) I actually found myself bridging my fingers during most of the screening, so intellectually engaged was I. I suspect that wasn't the desire or intent of the filmmakers and isn't the reaction positive reviewers seem to have had.

I liked the movie but didn't love it. I found the willingness of the filmmakers to throw a lot of different ideas on the screen refreshing, a bit like watching a grown up version of a Savage Steve Holland movie.1 The time jumps allow for some good jokes and juxtapositions but also hide a fairly conventional story. And while they make some poignant moments really pop - the pair of Ikea scenes and the two views of the record store scene both come to mind - they mostly served to keep me at arms' length. I saw the movie as a puzzle to be put together more than a love story; that engaged my logical faculties far more than my emotional ones.

Mostly I found joy in the smaller things like the tiny shout-out to Ferris Bueller's Day Off in the musical number and the split screen party and the performances by all parties. Geoffrey Arend - clearly the manliest, most awesome man alive2 - and Matthew Gray Gubler were particularly good as Tom's best friends, providing perspectives that were more traditionally male without veering into caricature. Even Minka Kelly was good, something I've never said before. She had so few lines, it seemed their only purpose was to show how full her lips are.3

And now, the reason this movie is striking a chord with so many people: the soundtrack. Not the choice of songs, certainly. I'm frankly tired of hipster kids who are alleged to listen to the music of my youth. No, the star of this film is the score. I didn't try timing it, but it seemed the majority of music in the film was diegetic. There was an extremely spare score but - and this is the key - it was silent during all the significant moments. Instead of the constant stream of music cues we're inundated with in most features and TV shows, here nothing got between the actors and us.

That silence is powerful because it is so unusual in film yet common in life. More than anything else, the silence of the score highlights the reality of Tom's situation. Those few moments that break from reality - the dance sequence, the French film, the erasing of the world around Tom - are all scored, as are lighter moments in the film and most of the scene cuts. But when we're in the moment, almost nothing takes us out of it. This is where the film shines.

As a whole it is so-so. In each of those moments it is universal and profound.

1. Yes, you have. Better Off Dead, One Crazy Summer, and How I Got Into College. My love for SSH is deep and profound and while I love that he gave us Eek! The Cat after he stopped making movies, the Disney Channel portion of his career hurts me.
2. Those who know who his fianceé is already know this.
3. And to deliver a silly joke.
4. I'm a prick.