Sunday, November 8, 2015

Why I write: on movies and writing. A confession

 This is a confession more so than an essay or critique... I suppose that I should expect as much on a cold and wet autumn day; those rain-smeared glass windows mimicking their stained counterparts by splashing that confession-dark-lighting upon my soul.

I feel that the last few years have seen a definite uptick in movie quality. It would also seem that many of those movies are scifi. Given the natural topics that scifi has usually covered, it would seem that scifi should only increase in popularity as it moves towards becoming ever more relevant [1].


But, as much as I loved the movies, they were no more than deeply entertaining. This isn't entirely derisive, but it does lay bare the weakness of the visual medium. This is more a statement about myself rather than about the movies (it may be that I'm more insufferable than I think). 

As entertaining as these movies were, and as deep as they tried to be, my brain whirred away at the background, dicing and splicing that which they said, acted and compared it to my dismal model of the world [2]. In other words, I couldn't help but see provincial frames and frames of minds when I saw these good movies. Mind you that this isn't an accusation or criticism, but, like I said above, a confession.

For example, when I watched Interstellar, I was thoroughly entertained by the tight plot and sentimental, but somehow realistic ending. But, as my better half says, I am a Grinch and so I couldn't leave well-enough alone. 

The point that got to me was that a pilot claimed he would not bomb the starving masses, or something to that effect, and somehow the world worked towards a more inclusive method of dealing with mass starvation or refugees. Right. This framing, which Hollywood and other mass media tend use (with good reason, for, as James Baldwin says, mass psychosis—& the market—demands such views) does not sit well with me. 

Nevermind that bombing the poor has been nothing short of a tradition [3]. No, that's not my point here, nor is mocking the heroic action of one man saving the world the point either (speaking of that specific pilot). Rather, one should point out that a pilot declining such an action would only lead to another pilot, or a remote-fired denotation filling that role.

And once I see that framing at work, I know the movie is neither serious nor introspective. For it's merely more of the same, and what it excels at are good scenes, good plot, and good acting. Nothing to sneeze at, but nothing else, either.

Is this a matter of a writer whining about a medium that trumps his own? I'm not sure. IMHO, writing has more power and more potential, but when I look at many contemporary writers, I see similar variables at work: all deep on an individual level, yet none moving from the standard framework. [4] 

My own jealousy at work? Perhaps. Mainly, though, it's a wake-up call for me to keep digging and striving to improve myself and my writing and that which I impart upon my audience. Even my most recent scifi effort, Labyrinth of Souls, might not have come close to reaching the, admittedly diffuse, standards I mentioned above. In that book—though I tried my hardest to label the unspoken, and to work through a character of lasting import in the main robotic character—I'm still not sure that I managed to achieve that. So keep working and keep improving, for I have not reached the level I want to attain. That is the confession. So beat on, rain drops, upon my window, and pull more out of me.


[1] In the visual sense, for scifi has always been relevant to social topics and other matters.

[2] Note that I understand fully that my expectations taints my objectivity that I may lay claim to.

[3] One that has been so empowered that cottage industries provide us with enough slogans to paint the bombed as deserving, paint the survivors as deserving of no pity and should a weakness (aka kindness) arise within the bombers, there will be food and weapons thrown strategically to divide and conquer. 

[4] We writers give ourselves too useless a task (those trying to be deep, at least) if we state that it is only a story of a human or place we're trying to import, rather than actually trying to dig into some sort of truth, or that which is unspoken.

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