Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Always the Writing

Most forms of artistry done for entertainment or commercial purposes are collaborations. Even books and articles and stories aren't solely the product of the writer, because editing and packaging are essential.

But the more collaborative a thing is, the more important the writing.

Three examples.

One is something I've discussed before. The most-named episode of Firefly is "Out of Gas," which was written by Tim Minear. It was amazing. Three timelines, layers of meaning and conflict and emotion. The acting and the set design and the lighting all ensured the story was portrayed well. But without superb writing, it would have failed miserably.

My next example is the TV show Arrested Development. It was a huge critical success, with Entertainment Weekly, in particular, extolling its virtues constantly, and begging people to see it. It was a Fox product, so I kind of assumed that was the problem. I started watching the show last week, and finished the first season. And it's good. The acting and lighting and even the shooting are very well done. I laugh a lot. I have a crush on Jason Bateman. But when my husband calls it my "latest obsession" I have to say it's not. I have no desire to leave my computer (no matter how hard I'm procrastinating writing today) to go watch the new disk I just got. And he, himself, hit on the reason the other night as he went up to bed.

"Nothing good ever happens to these people, does it?"

And he's right. No matter how amusing the characters and their lines are, it's a really depressing show. Every so often the writers attempt to ease the load by making Mom come through for Michael, or making Gob redeem himself. But overall, it's one big hit after another, and that weighs on the viewers. It's stuff that's close to home, too. Divorce, and money, and cousin-crushes. That's too hard to sustain, even if Ron Howard is the one doing the narrating.

And finally, the bomb. The proof that it's always the writing. The Break-Up.

I went to see this two nights ago, and I couldn't believe how bad it was. The acting was fine. The condo marketing told us they were fighting over was divine. And Jennifer Aniston was just too sexy to be real.

But OH MY GOD I hated them. Every word out of both their mouths was so cliché, so stupid, and unimportant, and eye-rolling. There was nothing likeable about either person, and even their supporting cast was bad. They had nothing to do, and the things they said were just stupid. The worst part was that near the end, there were two touching scenes between the main characters, and one really insightful scene between the "hero" and his best friend. I even had tears. But it was empty, because nothing that had come before supported the sentiments in those scenes.

It makes me wonder. There are three writers credited on this movie, and who knows how many more might have been involved but not gotten credit. I think those three good scenes were written by a different person than all of the fighting scenes.

Man, I can't wait for Pirates of the Caribbean. Sequels are rarely, rarely as good as the first film, but this one was written by the same screenwriters as the first one, and I have high hopes.

The rest of the summer...let's just hope The Break-Up was the worst of it.


Ciar Cullen said...

Note to self--skip the Break Up. I hate what's his name, and now it's settled. I love watching this one DVD about the making of Seinfeld, the early years, because it really shows the evolution of something that started out pretty rocky and ultimately...well, Jerry made $8 million last year or some such. So you're an Orlando fan still? With dark hair and all? After those really average movies? Hmnn, one of the great tragedies of the last few years for me (therapy hasn't helped)--the disappointment that is Orlando Bloom. Take off the blonde wig, and poof! Magic spell is broken. ;o)

Natalie Damschroder said...

I actually didn't become an Orlando fan until well after the second LOTR movie. My obsession with LOTR built slowly, and was about the entire phenomenon, not about any particular actor.

But the more I read about him during the course of that obsession, the more he intrigued me. I didn't think those movies were average. I loved Kingdom of Heaven, and didn't think he had much to do with the failure that was Troy. I liked him in Elizabethtown, and loved him in Pirates of the Caribbean.

I think he's a very subtle actor most of the time, saying a lot with a flicker of a cheek or the look in his eyes. He may not have the intensity of a Russell Crowe or a Colin Farrell, but his appeal for me is as much his off-screen, nice guy personality as his performance.

So. Still magic? For me...hell, yeah. :)