I chose not to write yesterday morning. My loose plan was to write in the evening after a day at work which would not be satisfying but at least over. Once that day was over, the prospect of writing anything more substantial than a waste of both our times increased from very likely to basically inevitable. For two hours I thought I might find inspiration in watching Practical Magic. I was inspired to choose not to write after all—that was more the late hour than the material.
Going in I recalled that I liked Practical Magic, but hadn’t seen it more than twice. I guess when I’ve got nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon it’s always “While You Were Sleeping” day and not “Practical Magic” day on Lifetime. Having now seen it three times, I’d say the movie is just OK. It tries hard to be better than it is. Those stunted attempts don’t get it marked down, but they don’t get it marked up either. You can see the filmmakers’ solid efforts to remain true to a book that must have been packed with stuff while also trying to fit that all into a two hour package.
My meager schooling in older movies, black and white ones, reminds me there used to be explicit scenes showing a person in NY packing a bag, driving to the airport, waiting at the airport, on a plane, and so forth until they were finally rooted in LA. As movies have matured those travel scenes have been truncated to a telegraphing line in Central Park about moving to LA followed by a shot of the character unpacking a bag with a In and Out Burger visible through the motel window. No packing, no driving, no airport, no plane. Unless its a road movie, we never see travel much these days. Practical Magic did much of the same thing but with emotional travel. Two young girls casting a spell cuts to one of them as a young adult sneaking out and the other staying behind. That fast forwards to the stay-behind lonely and unloved which turns into a magic induced first kiss, marriage, two kids, and then a widow making. Back in the days before pausing, if you’d gotten up to pee prior to this you’d have missed the whole thing and been wondering where the hell those daughters came from.
Sometimes strategic gaps are fine. Sometimes when they aren’t fine they are still necessary. Sometimes they aren’t fine at all. As often as they were fine or needed in Practical Magic they were also jarring. I doubt anyone was satisfied with the exorcism at the end—the stay-behind had no trouble marshaling her sneering neighbors to form a coven and save her returned sister. I have little doubt the book spent time showing how those women overcame their petty disgust of the sisters’ witchery to identify with the returned ones man-trouble or how a few of them had secretly coveted their powers and saw this as an in. Or maybe there were cut scenes which showed the two-faced women of the town sneaking help from the witches in private only to denounce them in public and stay-behind blackmailed them. Whatever the motivation in pulp, it was lacking from the celluloid. And I noticed.
And I don’t know what that means.
Does it mean that I know movies aren’t books and books aren’t movies? Does it mean that I’m developing a more critical eye toward the pieces of a story? The first I knew; the second I need but don’t know how to wield.
601 words on day 837
I attribute my renewed enthusiasm for writing with my recent regular reading. This reading kicked off two and half months back with me purposefully buying the complete collection of Hemingway’s short stories. Three or four in I switched to Harry Potter. With kids and a job and competition with TV I’m looking for distraction and entertainment—bread and circuses—not thought provoking literary heft. I hold out that I could handle TPLH and might one day soon. For now though I’m content with a little brain drool.
One through five were rereads. I reread books because I have a poor memory for the details but a great one for the experience. When I reread I’m never surprised or left wondering, but I am returned to the emotional territory of surprise and wonder.
Book six of the seven sits with the Braum’s receipt bookmark well past the halfway point on my side table. With this sixth book—which I was convinced I’d never read—I’m finding unexpected familiarity about every third chapter. I’d thought this might be due to me having seen the movie adaptation and not recalling I’d done that, but yesterday at the theatre I saw the preview for the unreleased sixth movies so its not that. I don’t think it’s magic or clairvoyance or whatever they call it when you mix déjà vu with book reading, but it is uncanny. Since I have no idea where I’m going with this I’ll just drop it.
I would like to get back to the preview for the movie. Except for a single portion of the trailer I haven’t read anything int he book like what I saw on screen. I guess the later half of the book will suddenly turn into a Michael Bay flick. I can’t wait. Does anyone know if the Hemingway shorts use the guns more and the brains less after the first four?
This weekend I completed my stalled reviewing of the Matrix Trilogy. The gap of time between one and two measured in weeks, if not months. The gap between two and three only a few days. If you’ve seen them you’ll not be surprised.
Turns out that the second and third movies improved with the gap. Directors shoot for the best perception possible for their movies but I doubt they factor aging into that equation. It worked for me in this case. They still didn’t excel, but they didn’t bomb the way they did when I first saw them.
All this is a clunky lead in to what I really wanted to highlight. In the third movie there is a tertiary storyline with Tank and Dozer’s sister—Link’s wife—and an incidental woman with a shaved head. The second scene with them together has one asking the other if the other is scared. Dressed in homespun garments they crouch in a mechanical access line waiting with the other newly volunteered infantry members. These ground troops wait in line to die.
I recognized this scene as similar to how I like to start much of what I do here at 1000 Days. If I can, I really enjoy starting just a little late in a story so the reader is already missing out on what’s gone before. In the Shanty arc I’ve significantly written on here I have one character coming in for a landing, another about to board a gondola, and a third hitching a ride in the middle of the desert. Elsewhere I’ve dropped in on hunters atop a perch watching prey approach. Soldiers being shot at. Voyageurs dragging a frozen body through marshland. Old teachers overlooking the gathering of the tribe to safety. I rarely start with a wideshot—an establishing shot. I almost never start out describing scenery then follow with placing characters in that set. I guess this is my style.