Saturday, September 29, 2012

Movie Musings: Looper and Expendables 2

So this past week was a bitch.  I'm recovering from a nasty sinus infection and feeling very low energy.  Work was super busy.  Yesterday evening I decided to ditch my plans for the a productive evening at home and saw Looper and Expendables 2 back to back.  Ah yes, nothing like a super smart, probably ground-breaking sci-fi thriller and an over-the-top nostalgic action flick to help blast away those don't-fuck-with-me-anymore end of the week blues.  I marched straight to the snack counter and got my medium popcorn with extra butter along with a large Cherry Coke and plopped down in my theater seat.  Bliss.


Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have a tense conversation
What can I say about Looper (see trailer here) without giving it all away?  It's a time-traveling movie set in the near future.  A Looper is an assassin who kills people sent back through time.  Issues of free will, destiny, how people are affected by the past, and whether personal choices really exist figure prominently in this film.

It's ultra violent and the plot can be a little confusing at first but that's only because it's a time-traveling movie.  Director Rian Johnson, who also directed a favorite film of mine called Brick (see trailer here) which I've mentioned before on this blog, goes all out with this film.  He managed to shock and surprise me, make me jump, and make the action sequences feel fresh.  The sound, editing, and lighting in this film are particularly excellent.  A really interesting story.  Probably warrants at least one more viewing.


This movie was everything I hoped it would be (see trailer here but do you really need to?). Ultra ultra violent, cheesy one-lines and jokes flying around, action stars, big ass knives, super loud shotguns, other guns, explosions, plane crashes, tanks, martial arts, a whole lot of bad guys, and The Muscles from Brussels doing his signature roundhouse kick.  Oh yeah, and Arnie and Bruce Willis mocking each each other with back and forth one liners.

I had really, really a good time.  Sure, the body count is crazy high, sometimes you can't understand what Stallone is saying because his trademark mumble, the testosterone addled macho shit goes overboard, the story regularly veers off into impossible territory, the editing is a bit too enthusiastic, and there are plot holes big enough to drive several tanks through but who cares?  I was there to be completely entertained and I got what I came for.

I think figured out why I love action movies so much:
  1. I'm an adrenaline junkie and action movies are the best way for me to get my fix.
  2. Since I'm a writer I'm always taking everything in like a sponge.  I'm always looking for the story in art, music, movies (of course), books, in our day-to-day lives.  The writing mind is always on and can be difficult to turn off.  ACTION movies are the one place, the one kind of story where I don't have to think about these things.  Who needs to think about story or characters when you're watching two guys kick the shit out of each other?  I don't. Who needs to think about dialog or even depth when all the characters are firing at each other? Not me. At an action movie, I can completely relax and allow myself to be entertained.
  3. They're evidence that I'm not a snobby, high-minded, elitist movie bitch.  At least not all the time.
  4. They're super fun.
I'm sure you all know I take movies very seriously.  I watch film surveys and have seen my share of "deep" movies but it's nice to relax for a couple of hours; it's nice not to have to THINK about being entertained for a little while.

UPDATE:  Oh yeah, just so we're completely transparent, I did get a thrill from seeing Arnie back with a big shotgun.  Back when he was making all those action movies in his prime, he was my favorite movie star.  I will confess I have seen something like 99% of all his movies, including movies he only made cameos in and Pumping Iron.  I could qualify this confession by stating that one of my exes is a bodybuilder but fuck that.  The truth is I enjoyed Arnie while he was making action movies and I still own a few from those days (Terminators I, II, and III, Predator, Total Recall).  As for my views about his tenure as the governor of my state, well, I'll just say the dude is a republican and I'm not, BUT that's not going to stop me from going to see his upcoming movie, The Last Stand.  In addition to being Arnie's "debut" movie it's also directed by one of my favorite Korean directors, Kim Ji-Woon.

All right.  I'm sure there are going to be some people who won't like these views.  *gets into combat stance*  Come at me with your offended ass, I'ma ready for ya.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Writing Life: The Long Sentence

One of my friends from my writing group posted the following article on Facebook:

The Point of the Long and Winding Sentence, by Pico Iyer (L.A. Times)

Since it was after midnight when I read this article, I just had to try my hand at a long sentence.  My writing has been described as having short sentences, to the point.  Here's what I came up within a few minutes time:

We went out with a bang, with a squeal or a big noise but regardless of the noise and the clamoring and tripping over stones and piles of neatly cut two by fours, we paused, over-awed and amazed, staring up at the sky at the impossibly perfect vision, an inhuman light shining above us, otherworldly, occult, insane to some eyes, for there above us, by only a few feet above our heads, hovered someone in ghostly white shimmering robes of almost fiery intensity, glaring out from its own light source, spreading and pooling itself into the diamond-laden midnight sky. (99 words)

Writing in this way for me feels unnatural.  I can't tell you how many times I wanted to lay down a period but I kept going linking words and phrases.  Commas too.  I like the sentence and I like that it could be used for the opening of a novel or story.  As I read it now I wonder about it.  Who is "we"?  And why are "we" making so much noise?  What is the "impossibly perfect vision"?  Ghost, UFO, Angel, something else entirely?  Are these people even on our planet and does Earthlogic even apply?

Maybe I'll write about it someday.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Writing Life: The Wrong Novel

The backstairs at Fembo House in Nuremberg, Germany
I'm using this house, the City Museum, as a model for the house in my story

I'm flailing again.  This is not a surprise.  Another story is out being reviewed by a friend right now and I've happily turned to my historical novel again.  Well, I happily turned to it last week but I'm feeling unhappy about it now.

My usual refrain:  I don't know what the hell I'm doing.

I've been working on this novel for years.  I crossed the Atlantic to research the setting and I have laid out scene after scene.  I've also written back stories for the two main characters...and the back stories are more cohesive than this huge mess of a novel I've been staring at.  On the bright side, I have an embarrassment of riches will which serve me well later.  But it's not later, it's right now, and I have to figure what to do with the current story.

In a way this is a really good place for me.  The historical novel was my first real novel and the first draft was a complete story with character development, a comprehensive plot with twists, and a story arc.  It was also the wrong story.  How does that work, you ask?  How do you write at least 125 pages of a novel where everything fits and there's plenty of suspense and character development, and it's a complete story?  How can that story not be the right one?  Another writer (most likely an inexperienced one) might also say "But you have a novel!  What's wrong with it?"

Here's the thing, at least for me:  just because you write a story with characters and setting and stuff and you manage to write a story (beginning, middle, end) with some decent elements doesn't mean it's the right story.  What's important to note is that this particular story, the wrong one, isn't wasted time.  You've learned something about your characters and the world you've built and hopefully you can take some story elements and use them when you draft the right story.

I attribute this "write an entire novel but not the right one" as a combination of my formidable imagination, innate ability for telling stories, and simple writerly inexperience.  I will note that I have not had this problem since.  Usually my first draft is pretty much on par with the story I want to tell.  I may have to do some major expanding of certain story elements or add some scenes to flesh things out but I'm generally right there with the story.  The current novel is not right there. I knew the story I drafted wasn't right but I didn't know why and tried many things (and many tangents) to figure out what was wrong with it.  I wandered around in the desert of my novel for a good long time before the characters did something to scare the hell out of me and everything came to standstill.  I was so freaked out that I didn't know what to do and attempted to write myself out of that particular situation but that didn't work so I finally made peace with things and moved forward in that direction.  Or rather I ran to catch up with my characters.

And it's the right direction BUT I now have all these bits and pieces from laying down so many earlier scenes.  Some might work, some definitely won't but I don't even know how to start the clean up.

I signed up for a revision writing course online (Holly Lisle - How to Revise Your Novel) which is comprehensive and a ton of hard work.  This past week I've been debating about whether I should continue to work on this novel by working my way through Holly's course or if I should continue to flail.

Right, so I've obviously answered my own question there.  By the way, the course costs money but in my opinion is money well spent.  I recommend checking out her website for tons of free writing articles.  Her methods may not work for you but I like her nuts-and-bolts approach.

I made a comment earlier about this being a good place for me.  What I meant is I can see that I've progressed in my writing because I'm not writing entire novels where the story is completely wrong anymore.  This is a gratifying thing to notice about yourself as a writer.

So what am I going to do now?  How am I going to stop wringing my hands and wondering where to start?  I suppose I'll get my money's worth and finish Holly's very intense but I'm sure exceptionally useful course.  All six months worth of lessons and more of actual work.  I keep telling myself I can do it faster on my own but that's just bullshit.  I can barely write a 100 page story in less than a friggin' year much less something that's more than double that page count.

Everything takes so damn long.  Oh well.  I guess I better get cracking...