Archive for June 26, 2012

The Worm In The Apple

Posted: June 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro

Okay, folks, so here’s a case of my common sense and my professional knowledge trumping the emotional reaction the local media would like me to have.

The warmhearted news story teased by the local TV report involved “the youngest professional author in the United States.”

After the commercial, we are gushingly introduced to a nine-year-old girl who likes writing stories more than anything. She h…as published several books of short stories available in stores in South Florida. She certainly does seem to have the creative bug. She says she would rather write than do anything else with her life. I know the feeling.

We are then provided a few sound bites from her supportive Dad, who says that his daughter was always into writing and that when he saw she was getting scary good, he wrapped up one of her manuscripts and sent it to a publisher. The rest is history.

The little girl reads from one of her story books, a single line – it is impossible to imagine local TV sitting still for more – that with that single line establishes that something is wrong with this picture. It’s about a little boy who is “the most unique” little boy the narrator has ever met.
Ouch. But okay. She’s nine. Maybe she’ll get better. We move on.

The report concludes with a close-up of one of her books. It’s from Publishamerica.

Ahhh.

Folks, I really don’t want to get too cruel about this. It’s absolutely terrific that this little girl has the creative urge and that her father encourages it. It is even better that he has done the exhaustive legwork and gotten her opuses into a handful of local stores. You won’t find me being cynical about any of that. More power to them. I’ll buy that over enrolling the kid in beauty pageants. It’s cheaper, for one thing.

But it doesn’t take very much knowledge to find the worm in this apple, and shatter the feel-good illusion. I happen to know that Publishamerica pays a token one dollar advance. It more than makes up that money by selling copies of the book printed on demand to any friends or relatives who want any. No doubt this book is a best-seller among grandparents and indulgent uncles. Publishamerica, who will **take anybody**, counts on that.

This girl has done the equivalent of sing “Happy Birthday” in an arcade karaoke booth which spits out a burned CD. Which is fine. But if she’d done that, she would not have local TV news representing her as a local singing sensation. Instead, she wrote some books, is indulged in this by relatives willing to buy copies, and is represented by local TV news as being a professional author and a publishing sensation. To anybody who knows anything about publishing, the story is transparently an illusion…but this was no doubt NOT perceived by the vast majority of people who watched the report.

She is not a “professional writer.” The report is fiction.


A Remake Chronicles Extra by Adam-Troy Castro

Look.

It’s this simple.

Every movie is like every work of art is like every diamond in that it contains flaws, often necessary flaws.

CASABLANCA, for instance, entirely depends on the importance everybody imparts to the “letters of transit,” legal documents that are never asked for, and that the Nazis could have freely ignored by saying fuck it and dropping Victor in some alley in the dead of night. CITIZEN KANE depends on a newspaper launching a full-scale investigation of last words a dying tycoon spoke when he was alone, that nobody else was present to hear.  DIE HARD depends entirely on Hans Gruber not announcing that he will kill one hostage every thirty seconds until John McLane gives up. Flaws. Undeniable flaws. Flaws that ultimately don’t matter, but flaws nevertheless.

The nearly-universal drubbing people have been giving PROMETHEUS has prompted some plaintive responses from people who liked the film, who implore us, “Can’t I just like it? Why do you insist on ruining my enjoyment with your critical disdain?”

Answer: first of all, if your enjoyment is ruined with our critical disdain, your enjoyment is more fragile than you think, and it says something that your visceral reaction to the film is being harmed by what people say about it afterward. Maybe that pain in your head is sensible criticisms striking home, and the scales falling from your eyes.

Second: there’s nothing wrong with having the courage of your convictions. I like any number of films with an overwhelmingly negative critical consensus; I either think the critics and the audiences missed the boat, or I find other attributes that trump legitimate criticisms. It doesn’t mean I’m right and everybody else is wrong, though it can. It can also mean that my own opinion is completely off. It most often means that we’re looking at different facets of the whole and valuing them differently — the “Well, I know it makes no sense whatsoever, but the visuals are awesome” argument, that indeed works very well for this particular movie.

Third: if you are asking everybody else to indulge you by completely shutting off their own critical capacities in order to coddle your enjoyment of the pretty pictures: no. absolutely not. Complete abdication of all critical capacities and standards, as long as the pictures are pretty and the stars are photogenic, is in large part how we got all the way from the era of classic Hollywood filmmaking — *any* of those eras, in that there have been more than one — to what, for the most part, faces us now.

If you liked PROMETHEUS, you had a good two hours. Fine. Nobody hates you for it. They may think you’re screwed in the head because of it, but they shrug and move on to the next movie to argue about. In the meantime, the rest of us have the right to be vocally appalled by a setup that defies common sense, characters who consistently do the stupidest possible thing, a screenplay that seems to have failed at the premise level, and the most hackneyed of science-fictional revelations treated as if they’re unbearably mind-blowing. Me, I *did* love the visuals and *did* love the ending where Elizabeth decides she wants nothing more than to pursue the Architects to the end of the universe, because she damn well deserves answers…so, no, I don’t judge the film a total loss. Just a near-total one.

And I don’t think I’m being out of line when I want my movies to be of sufficient quality that I don’t walk away feeling conned, afterward. I want brain candy in addition to eye candy. I want an emotional experience. I miss, deeply miss, and still occasionally get, the sensation that I’ve just seen something brilliant. Given how many millions are being spent to give me that experience and how much I’m asked for in order to get my ticket, it’s really not too much to ask for.

I say to those of you who think we should just shut up and accept what we get that the solution is not to learn how to shut up and accept what we get.