Monday (8/24/09) 4:29pm - ... wherein Peter posts a Weekly Media Update.
Movies: Some Kind of Wonderful
Books: Henry V [Arden, 3rd ed.]
Some Kind of WonderfulSome Kind of Wonderful
is the last of the John Hughes 80s teen dramas. It's not as well-known as movies like Pretty in Pink
and Ferris Beuller's Day Off
. In fact, I hadn't even heard of it until Hughes' death (*sigh*)
a couple of weeks ago. I'd heard good things about it, so I figured I would give it a shot.
It wasn't that promising at the start. The characters seemed simple and broad -- in particular, the 'small child with a 35-year-old's vocabulary' has become a tiresome cliché.
And then there was the stalking.
I'm irritated that I have to deal with yet another romance that glorifies stalking. Yes, Keith spends the first act of the movie following Amanda around, staring at her constantly, spying on her house, drawing her in his sketchbook. Really, just a slight alteration to the breezy-synth soundtrack and you've got the audience warning Lea Thompson, "Don't go in the house! He's got a knife!"
And frankly, I wonder what romance writers are supposed to do these days, because stalking is all but built into the 'movie romance' formula.
Yeah, I can hear all of you grousing, "No it's not!" and "A movie romance can be whatever it wants to be!" -- but here's the thing: no, it can't. Movies, all movies -- even the awful ones, even the arty ones -- are as rigidly structured as limericks. A movie is about somebody who wants something, and wants it really really badly, and works to get that thing, and faces crazy obstacles to get it. Sure, you can write a script that doesn't follow that formula, and somebody who's batshit insane might decide to shoot it, but that's not a movie: that's just ninety minutes of footage.
Even the Dude wanted his rug back.
So when you're putting together a romance, and you expect people to actually watch it, it's really easy to fall into stalker territory. It can't just be "boy kinda-sorta likes girl". Go that route, and you don't have a movie, you just have the sort of meandering teen anecdote that makes you wish the teen had responded with a standard/curt "Fine." when you asked them how their day was. No, it has to be "boy desperately likes girl." And how are you going to show this without making people think uncomfortably about stalking?
And then, once you've got "boy desperately likes girl," where do you go from there? Well, you could say that "then the girl likes the boy too and off they go," but that isn't a movie. That isn't a story. That isn't wanting something and fighting to get it. That's just *waves hands* stuff happening. So there has to be adversity, and the simplest way to introduce adversity that is to have the girl reject him. And now the boy has to take extreme action to pursue her, and the whole thing feels even more stalky.
So even if there's no conscious or even unconscious *desire* to glorify stalking behavior, it still just shakes out from how movies are put together.
Lord knows what effect it has on society. All I know is that it felt creepy, watching Keith silently follow Amanda and her boyfriend around all day.
Maybe screenwriters will unravel this problem someday. For now, we have Twilight
Once the movie gets going, I'm much more on its side. Some of the characters get layers and nuances. For example, we see the younger sister deal with her family, and her friends, and the cool kids. The biker gets the best line of the show when he gestures at the detention hall and says, "I don't *live* here." So that's something.
But mainly what I liked was how quickly the plot becomes a great big mess -- and I mean that in a good way. This is not "Boy meets girl; boy loses girl; boy gets girl back again." This is more like "Boy pursues girl who's already with a jerk; girl goes with boy to irritate jerk and get jerk into line; meanwhile, other, more self-conscious girl pines fruitlessly over boy; then things get complicated." That feels accurate to high school, where the interpersonal drama requires several chalkboards' worth of football diagrams to properly explain.
Granted, sometimes the movie feels like it's on autopilot, showing standard-issue confrontations between (say) the cool rich kids and the outsider. Yeah, never seen that one before. But occasionally it hits these perfect, Freaks and Geeks
-like scenes where everything feels uncomfortably real. When Keith first asks Amanda out, he can barely force the words out. When Keith and his dad have their no-holds-barred argument about college, it's one of those arguments where both parties actually listen to and respond to each other instead of just repeating themselves.
So all in all, I liked the film. Also, I should watch Freaks and Geeks
again.Henry V [Arden, 3rd ed.]
After my brief foray into new material, I retreated back into reading a play I'd already read. This might be the most accessible of the history plays, just by dint of its clear, obvious structure: England fights France; England wins. Even though the play takes erudite detours into Salic Law and monarchial negotiations, an audience is hard-wired to follow a story of two bunches of guys who are trying to kill each other with pointy sticks.
The introduction to this edition is -- well, it's not all that great, but it's different, and that's something. Editor T. W. Craik takes detours into speculating about how the audience responds to the play in performance
and what Shakespeare might have intended by structuring it the way he did. It's not necessarily rock-solid academic scholarship, but it makes for a welcome break from the usual dry dissertations about disputed authorship dates, obscure putative sources, and vacuous "figurative-language clusters".
The play itself was an odd little read for me. It's just really tough for me to get into the standard "rah rah, our country is at war" story, since modern times are characterized by far more ambivalent meditations like Generation Kill
. Shakespeare tells us outright not to worry, that it's a just war, and that this isn't about any uncomfortable questions you might have along those lines, but I just can't shut off that part of my brain.
This is not to say I didn't enjoy it. I liked switching back and forth between the noble king and his noble war, and the comic characters bickering in his wake. I liked having an exciteable chorus in place for to skip over all the dull parts. (I suspect that this is the best possible usage of voiceover.) And the bits that are famous and constantly quoted are justly so.
All in all, it was a pleasant read.
Side note: the footnotes were rather extensive in this edition, though not as insane as the Arden Richard II
. Again, I took the liberty of skipping the footnotes' extensive quotations from Holinshed in the original Early Modern English.
More Intelligence Squared
this week. I find myself getting pissed off when panelists argue badly. It's not quite to the point where I'm shouting "YOU'RE ANSWERING A DIFFERENT QUESTION FROM WHAT YOU WERE ASKED" at the car stereo, but it sometimes gets close.
For next time: more Intellgence Squared, more Pushing Daisies
, and I'll start in on Coriolanus
(A play I haven't read before! Aieee!). Then: off to vacation-times, and very little media consumption.
________ Give the kid full-on Asperger's Syndrome, and maybe we're getting somewhere. Ah well.
 Oddly I'm reminded of a joke that apthorpe told me:
Q: Why are there so many phallic symbols in Top Gun?
A: Because it's hard to make a giant metal vagina go Mach 2.
 Craik's description of a hypothetical audience's profound and constant confusion while watching a performance of the quarto edition of Henry V was one of the high points of the introduction.
contemplative · Music: