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Wild Things

28 Jul

Every times I watch the trailer for the forthcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie, I get chills. And watching the just-released featurette gives them to me, too. I get a little welled up. I think this is because the movie (from these two brief looks at it) seems as though it will capture the deepest heart of the book: the uncertainties, the desire to let our inner selves–our Wild Things–out, and to find the place where that Wild Thing belongs.

My favorite part of the featurette? That Maurice Sendak told Spike Jonze that the movie should be dangerous, because kids deserve it–they can’t be talked down to.

Sweeping Music Is Really Hard to Resist

9 May

Last weekend, during some bonding time, my sister and I got to discussing some of the movie trailers airing on tv at the moment. Now, I realize that the whole point of trailers–and I guess marketing in general–is to manipulate the audience into wanting to see the movie. But there are a couple that so blatantly do it that I can feel myself being manipulated into considering a movie that I know I don’t want to see.

Like, say, The Soloist. I know that I do not want to see this movie. I cannot watch Jamie Foxx (I’m not sure what it is, exactly, but I just don’t like him). The story looks predictable and saccharine. I know, I know, it’s a true story, and I’m sure the true story is remarkable & uplifting, but the movie looks like its entire point is to play on the heartstrings rather than have any substance. But.

I do love Robert Downey, Jr. And there’s something about the song that they play during the trailer that every time makes me think, “Oh, well, maybe I should go see that.” And the one line they keep showing about having passion. But I’m staying strong.

The other one is the trailer for the dvd release of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. I did see this in the theater. And while it’s a nice love story, that’s all it is, and I was disappointed and wish I could have those three hours and $12 back. I certainly do not need to spend another 3 hours watching it again. But that trailer! The sweeping music! The beautiful shots of cinematic love! Argh!

I know that there are lots of people who like, if not love, both of these movies. But I’m just not one of them, and so feeling like the trailers are trying to get not only those who will like the movie, but also those who won’t but can be falsely convinced they might feels icky to me.

On the other hand, one trailer that I think may be pretty brilliant is the one for the new Star Trek movie. I have never, ever in my life wanted to see a Star Trek movie. I have never watched the tv show. I know who Kirk and Spock and Picard and Scottie are because, frankly, who doesn’t, but that’s about all I really know. Yet, every time I see that trailer, I think “Wow, what movie is that? It looks pretty incredible.” And every time I’m surprised that it’s Star Trek. What makes this one different than the other two for me is that it doesn’t seem to be misrepresenting itself just to get viewers. It seems to be distilled into what it really is, but appealing to people like me, who wouldn’t normally pay any attention at all to a new Star Trek movie, as well as to its actual fanbase. I also always like “beginnings” stories, so that’s a part of the appeal for me. Maybe if I see it I’ll end up having an entirely different take, but right now…I kinda want to go spend my $12.

I mean, come on, check this out.

Adversaries, opponents, archenemies, nemeses

25 Mar

Ever since I went to see Frost/Nixon a few weeks ago, I’ve been thinking about adversarial relationships. (In fiction, of course.) The movie is brilliant all around, and of course, the focus is on a series of confrontations between David Frost and Richard Nixon. Each is trying to get the best of the other, each trying to come out on top. But only one of them can win. They are two very different people, yet also similar in ways, too. They both want to be in the spotlight of their circle. They both crave “ratings” of a sort. They’re both able to captivate other people; they’re both charismatic. And though it seems like Nixon should be able to easily win in this confrontation, Frost, in the end, has equal strength.

That’s what makes for a worthy opponent–someone who is equally strong, or witty, or what-have-you–and I think that often lies in the similarities between two adversaries rather than their differences. Some amount of sympathy for the other is necessary, too. In Frost/Nixon, we can see that Frost does feel for Nixon by the end, and even that Nixon sympathizes with Frost. We couldn’t have had James Reston opposite Nixon because Reston didn’t see Nixon as human; to him, Nixon was purely bad. And we couldn’t have had Frost opposite Jack Brennan because Brennan saw Frost as a joke.

It works the same way in any story, I think. There has to be equal strength, wit, intelligence, and each has to be able to see the other as a person–at least a little bit. Vulnerabilities and flaws in counterpoint to strengths and attributes make characters more interesting and complex, whether they are protagonists or antagonists. The Dark Knight also sparked this thought last summer, during that scene when the Joker outlines how he and Batman aren’t so different deep down. (Which is an admittedly chilling thought.)

Anyone else have great examples of worthy adversaries in books? Harry and Voldemort, obviously. And I’d say the king and queen of Attolia have one that’s breathtaking (and romantic, too!). Blair and Serena in Gossip Girl? Who else?

Dark Knight & Tension

12 Aug

I saw The Dark Knight a couple of weeks ago, and have been a little haunted by it ever since. It’s disturbing and amazing and as interior as it is exterior, which I think is pretty incredible for a superhero/comic book/action movie.

One of the reviews–I think the NYTimes one, but I’m not sure–had a line that stuck with me as I watched. Superhero movies find both their key and their downfall in the ultimate conflict between the hero and the villain. We all know that’s where it’s going, in any movie of this sort. It’s barreling toward the final showdown. That’s what hooks us, and sometimes it’s what disappoints us. So I had that in mind while watching Dark Knight, and was fascinated by how tense I was through the whole thing, regardless. Even though I knew what the climax was going to be, and even though I knew that somehow Batman had to come out on top, I felt the suspense winding me tighter and tighter, and keeping me on the edge of my seat. (Or, maybe more like curled in a ball in my seat.)

This got me to thinking about building tension and keeping your reader in suspense as far as books go, too. As the old saying goes, there’s only a certain number of stories in the world, and we all know what those stories are. In children’s and YA, maybe even more so than adult, we can often make a good guess as to where any given story is going. Voice and playing within the story make each new one fresh and compelling to readers, but how do they maintain the tension?

I’m not sure I have an answer to that question yet, but my idea is that it has to do with that interior/exterior balance. If we can predict what the exterior climax is going to be, then we need to be surprised by the interior one. Maybe it works the other way around, too. It’s all about the layers, and how they work each on their own and together as a whole. There has to be both friction and connection to keep interest. If we have an idea of how one could go, we need to be surprised by the other. And perhaps this is something that can switch back and forth even within the same work. As the Joker and Batman raced toward their final conflict, the balance of power shifted between them constantly. As the Joker told Batman in their last scene, they need each other to survive; they’re the two sides of human nature, and each needs its foil. Because it goes so psychological, we never really know which one we can trust–extremes in either way can be harmful and wreak havoc. This aspect–the way two sides can push and pull at each other, and the way exterior and interior conflicts do the same–is certainly something to keep in mind for stories that need the suspense to work in the best possible way.

Hunger Games is one that I’ve read recently that does the same thing so well–the whole premise tells us where we’re going as far as final conflict, but Katniss is in such opposition to it, that we are wound tightly through the whole experience as her internal battle intersects with the outside plot events. And it doesn’t turn out perfectly–just as Dark Knight didn’t turn out entirely great for Batman. Hm…maybe this is one of the reasons Breaking Dawn didn’t so much succeed. But that is a whole different blog post.

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