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July 6, 2008:

THE LONG HAUL

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, just when you thought you were having a long July 4th weekend, it’s suddenly over. But, it was nice while it lasted, and I, for one, had a lovelier than lovely weekend and got lots of relaxation time in, and was a good boy and jogged every day and ate reasonable meals and I finally feel like I’m beginning to lose weight. It’s going to be a long haul, but I’m in it for the long haul, just as I was two years ago when I dropped twenty-seven pounds. Speaking of twenty-seven pounds, yesterday was quite a fine little day. I got another good night’s sleep, I got up, had a long telephonic call, jogged two miles, wrote down some more ideas for the current short story (I’d been struggling with what occupation to give the protagonist of the story and figured out one that was perfect whilst I was jogging). I then showered and left for the DGA for a screening. Now, last time they showed a very popular family film, the new Indiana Jones film, I got there an hour and twenty minutes early only to be greeted with a line that stretched almost out the door. I still got the seat I wanted but this time I decided to get there ninety minutes early because the film, Wall-E, had a very big opening last week and was the recipient of nearly unanimous raves. So, I park, take the elevator to the lobby and am greeted with – wait for it – emptiness. No one there but the security guard. 0 people in view. Nobody in the jernt. So, I waited for the hordes of people to arrive. They opened the theater an hour early, at two. At two, I went in and got my usual seat and the three other people who’d arrived went in and got theirs. About fifteen minutes went by with no one entering. About forty-five minutes before show time, people finally started arriving. Now, with Indiana Jones, the theater was completely filled thirty minutes before show time, and they actually started the screening twenty minutes early. Fifteen minutes before show time there was a half a house. At show time, it was three-quarters full. But, I’ll be if I’d arrived a half-hour before, the damn place would have been completely full. That’s the way it always is. In any case, I was happy to have my usual seat.

Yesterday, I saw a motion picture at the DGA entitled Wall-E, the latest film from Pixar Studios. Here’s my Pixar scorecard: Toy Story – great. A Bug’s Life – eh. Toy Story II – great. Monsters, Inc. – great. Finding Nemo – great. The Incredibles – almost great. Cars – okay. Ratatouille – great first half, okay second half. I’d read a couple of the rave reviews, and had seen a couple of less than stellar postings on one of those silly theater chat boards. None of that matters to me, however – I just go in to enjoy and I either do or don’t. So, did I enjoy Wall-E? Let’s start at the beginning (a very good place to start). From the opening shot, accompanied by Put On Your Sunday Clothes from the film soundtrack to Hello, Dolly! they had me. The first twenty to thirty minutes of the film have but a couple of lines of dialogue – yes, you heard that right, someone had the courage in this day and age of the ADD moviegoer to actually do some visual storytelling. And what splendid visual storytelling it is. The film’s inspirations should be pretty obvious to film buffs, but everything feels organic and natural and never cloying or self-referential. The posts on that silly chat board mostly complained about the film’s second half and I couldn’t disagree with them more. No one gets more irritated than I by plot mechanics that are just thrown in to have drama and cause the hero endless annoying obstacles (as in Ratatouille), but that isn’t the case here. Yes, it’s a lot of action, but it works. There’s no villain just to have a villain – the villain in Wall-E is just doing what it was programmed to do. But there is a goal, and the getting of the goal is always compelling but never trite and clich├ęd, and it never feels like Screenwriting 101, or the Robert McKee/Syd Field school of nonsensical writing. The characters are wonderfully realized, especially the two leads. And thank the Lord – no stars doing the voices. Just good actors. It’s a beautiful film – basically perfect in every way, with nary a false move. The only area that left me wishing it was something else was the musical score, but Thomas Newman’s work is fine, if tuneless (contrast with Randy’s scores for the Pixar films, which are filled with good melodies). The only thing that actually annoyed me had nothing to do with the film proper – it was the awful Peter Gabriel song that runs over part of the end credits. I’d rather have heard some more of It Only Takes A Moment or Newman’s score. The way in which the Hello, Dolly clips are worked in is wonderful and they actually work better in Wall-E than in Hello, Dolly. The end of the film is very touching and sweet, but not cloying – that’s the marvel of the film: What could have been cloying in someone else’s hands, is just right here. The film is not over plotted; the plot is, in fact, wonderfully simple. No real back stories for the characters, no over explaining what we’re seeing – the film just trusts that the audience has some intelligence, and that’s a very rare thing in films today. In fact, it’s something that the majority of filmmakers underestimate (well, them and their studios) – that there is an audience for films that don’t pander to the lowest common denominator. So, just in case I haven’t been clear enough, I’ll say that Wall-E is one of the best films of the last twenty years – they don’t get any better than this, especially nowadays. I only hope it does the business it deserves – there aren’t all that many laughs, there are no fart jokes, nobody burps or behaves stupidly just because the writers need them to. See it – see it now. See it again. It’s one for the ages.

What am I, Ebert and Roeper all of a sudden? Well, why don’t we all click on the Unseemly Button below because I must get up quite early and head off to a little Sunday morning meeting. And, of course, I must continue to jog and lose weight, for I am in it for the long haul and will not deviate from my plan – Plan 10 – A Perfect Plan.

Today, I shall attend a morning meeting at a little jernt I’ve always passed but have never entered – the Yukon Mining Company coffee shop in Hollywood. I’m meeting with two writers who are going to have a show in NYMF – they saw The Brain here in LA at LACC, and their show is similar in certain ways, from what they’ve told me about it. I’ve had a couple of long conversations about NYMF with them, and they have to make their final decision on Monday, even though NYMF is already including the show in their listings. So, I’m basically telling them my experience, what worked, what didn’t, what to watch out for, what they need to do, and what they shouldn’t do.

After the meeting, I shall come home, jog (or I may take the day off, as I’ve now jogged seven days in a row – we’ll see how I feel), pick up a package at my mail place, and then sit on my couch like so much fish and watch two motion pictures on DVD.

Tomorrow, I must ship quite a few packages, and I think I’ll continue on with my short story – I haven’t written since I wrote the opening, because I had to make notes on various character and plot details before moving on with the actual writing. I’m ready now, though.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, have a morning meeting, jog (maybe), and watch two count them two motion pictures on DVD, whilst eating a reasonable meal. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s free-for-all day, the day in which you dear readers get to make with the topics and we all get to post about them. So, let’s have loads of lovely topics and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I continue the long haul to losing at least thirty pounds.

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