Summer films are supposed to be good for distraction, nothing more than that; however World War Zis sewer water at best. The plot is derivative, the development tedious and, most disappointing of all, the tension non-existent. Once again, it’s all about the effects, thousands of zombies like moving ants.More disappointing is Kon-Tiki, a wonderful story by explorer Thor Heyerdahl, which is fictionalized badly with laughable changes from real life to make the characters less than they are and a stupid amount of sharks. Both of these films suffer from the disease of CGI, essentially denied the artistic magic of what to do if your shark/zombie doesn’t work.
I’ll just have to miss out on the rest of this summer fare – The Lone Ranger, Man of Steel and Elysium – and watch Jaws, Alien andDog Day Afternooninstead.
“And he was like, you’re such a dummy.” “Dummy? He said that?” “Yeah, you’re such a dummy. Get it?” “I can’t believe he said that.” “He was like, ‘Dummy’!” “Dummy?” “Exactly. Dummy.” “Dummy? You’re serious?” “Yeah, dummy! Get it?” “I would have kneed him in the balls.” “Dummy!” “It isn’t funny.” “Yes, it is.”
Robert Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky is a most terrible book.
The characters are ridiculous and flat, the setting is barren while the prose are plodding, and that’s putting it nicely. On the few occasions when the scientist priests who ruled the ship under Jordan’s Captain met in full assembly they gathered in a great hall directly above the Ship’s offices on the last civilized deck.(93)
The plot elements and unimaginative prose are indeed so bad as to remind me of my own work as 12-year-old when I concocted the Secret Spitballer’s Society series and for which Mr. Bacon regularly gave me grades of “C” and lower. I only wrote two installments before abandoning ship.
To top it off, there isn’t a single woman in Orphans of the Sky, that is until the final ten pages when the heroes escape to a planet and remember the need for procreation. Hugh’s younger wife bore a fresh swelling on her lip as if someone had persuaded her with a heavy hand. (120) Keep those damned women out of the way. (122)
Writing is a business. Nothing more than that. It doesn’t matter how great the story is nor what a clever little wordsmith I might be. If I can’t pitch the idea, that’s it. It all boils down to the hook, the copy read by that deep-voiced movie trailer guy: Deirdre Sinclair must come to terms with a moment she cannot remember, a past she cannot forget. I think I did all right in the end, getting the interest of three out of four editors, each of them noting my spin: It’s The Happy Hooker meets Born Free in the style of Cormac McCarthy.I gave them a minute to think about that and then went back into it: “She was orphaned as a baby. She’s into performance sex. And she has an exotic cat! A serval! Do you know what that is?” As my coach pronounced, “Everyone loves a cat. Does he live? Whatever you do, don’t kill the cat!” I couldn’t. I love that crazy cat.
In the midst of a four-day conference on engineering the pitch, I take stock of where I am, in a complex of multi-use studios where others act, dance and sing, an ideal location for a Robert Altman film. The starting point of the conference is a work-shop circle, focusing on editing the pitch, ensuring the set, hook, complications, plot points and cliff hangar are in place, re-writing that again and again until the essence of my bad side is razor sharp or dead. The second and third days are devoted to pitch sessions, the first done in front of the group, the second and third in one-on-one speed meetings with my group leader as coach. There is a lot of sitting and staring, waiting for the door to open and my chance to go in. And when that comes – in the room for a second, maybe two – I can’t remember any of it except that I had said something about not wanting to change my sex and then went on about the wonder of science fiction, which my book isn’t, in other words, the bits that I would like to have back. Another session awaits, another chance to shine or collapse, and of course regret everything in the end.
The Partridge Family is a dated show (1970-74) – the setup, characters, story arc, yes, even the songs, all pure camp. And yet the magic of the show persists, some kind of secret of innocence left…
Shirley Partridge singing pure
The elixir found in the transitions, the brief seconds of music that open the show, take it in and out of commercials, right the way through… Pure, oddly so, opening an alternate world of interior childlike rhythms, proclaimed out loud, walking in the door, down the stairs…not to mention a loving mom looking over all.
It’s not often an athlete waxes any eloquence, more rarely so as Shakespearean in their use of repetition as Allen Iverson was some 10 years ago. “We’re talking about practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We’re talking about practice.” “Not a game, not the game that I go out there and die for and play every game like it’s my last. Not the game. We’re talking about practice, man.”
The room is long, a rectangle of weak fluorescent light, smoked glass and metal slats, the desks tucked tightly together, bottles and urns in smart ready rows, cameras pointed at each other, waiting to blink. “I honestly can’t remember the substance of the meeting.”
The stasis of the event settles in at length, turns on itself, the focus on the banal, to prove a point – my point! – no matter what, to win the fight of fights, which is no fight at all. The door leads into a hall back into a room like this, another door, another corridor, this room again. The faces stare back, featureless, trapped in the dull light and sound. “No, don’t strike that.”
I’m off to another writing conference this weekend and have put together a first draft for a book jacket blurb on my bad side:
Deirdre Sinclair comes home late one night to find her sister’s drunken boyfriend armed and her prized exotic cat bleeding at his feet. She decides to shoot and asks questions, then fleeing the city to Canada. Dazed and injured, she remembers her tiny legs dangling from a high chair, her infant sister, Crystal, pulling cereal off the counter and their mother dead on the floor, pills scattered about her head. Deirdre’s journey with Apollo to the barren landscape of Newfoundland forces her to confront her fears and loneliness, bringing to mind her isolated childhood, her years at a boarding school and an aborted practice as a veterinarian before moving to New York in an attempt to reconnect with her sister. Immured in alcoholism, Crystal shuns her sister and keeps the world at bay with her boyfriend, Derek, a fire fighter who lost his company in 9/11, and who has developed a chronic obsession from working at the site. Deirdre makes a dramatic turn from working with abandoned animals to the escort industry and performance sex in her attempt to come to terms with her traumatic youth and a moment she cannot remember, a memory she cannot forget.
You may have noticed, in riding the subways of New York, that the MTA has posted a clear warning in every car. Why so many reminders? Is it because of the incessant delays? The changing of an express to a local, a C to the F Track, without an announcement? Or is it perhaps the conductors’ proclivity toward closing the doors just as the other train arrives on the other side of the platform?Whatever it is, seven years is a long time to wait.