More Than Words

The WordsHow does one find the words to discuss the film, The Words?  This is a tricky one to talk about, as the good and bad cancel each other out to equal my least favorite of all emotions when it comes to entertainment, the dreaded “MEH.”

Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana star as Rory and Dora, a young (and ungodly beautiful) couple trying to make ends meet in NYC, while Rory fulfills his dream of becoming a published author.  This is no easy task, and the strain takes its toll on them both.  Dora is crazy supportive though, and before long, they get married.  They shoot off to Paris for a honeymoon (despite the fact that narrator Dennis Quaid – in a moment that perfectly exemplifies where this flick fails – just finished explaining how poor these two are), where Dora finds this gorgeous old leather case that she buys for her new husband as a kind of wedding present.  Some time later, back at home, Rory discovers a weathered-looking, typed manuscript in one of the folds of the case, clearly overlooked by Dora and the shop owner who sold it to her.  This film’s greatest success lies right here, in these moments of wonder and discovery wherein Rory, the writer struggling tirelessly to find his voice, to come into his own and gain success at his chosen craft, becomes so captivated by this hidden work that he decides to preserve it by typing it all out on his computer.  At this point, his intentions are only to see in on the screen and to keep it from being lost again.  A day or two later, he enters his apartment to find an emotional Dora who showers him with praise for the beautiful work she saw on his computer and read without his permission but it was so compelling she couldn’t help herself and finally! it’s the kind of story she always knew he had in him, the depth and beauty she never doubted was there and now he finally released it onto the page!  Rory begins to contradict her, to explain that the work isn’t his, but who can resist such ardent enthusiasm?  In a moment of profound weakness, Rory allows her to believe the story is his.

Dora eventually convinces Rory to submit it to his publisher and he foolishly gives in.  Somehow, Bradley Cooper and directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal manage to convey Rory’s insecurity and doubt, his being swept away in the search for recognition and success.  Because he isn’t just some schmuck who steals someone else’s work and passes it off as his own.  Yes, he does present this work by an unknown author as his story and he does gain tremendous success from it but his drive for doing so – his longing for the success he never reached on his own and the years of relentless hard work without reward somehow make it seem understandable.  That is, until the day an older gentleman approaches him in the park and begins to tell him a story, his story, in fact, that so closely resembles the one Rory printed and published and for which, he is now famous.

Jeremy Irons plays the nameless old man whose work is ripped off and he is such a captivating presence on screen, Cooper’s performance suffersThe Old Man by comparison.  Anyone who has seen Silver Linings Playbook knows that Bradley Cooper is capable of truly great acting but in The Words, he doesn’t quite deliver.  The real defect of the movie, however, lies in the third layer of this story, the one containing the narrator.  Remember the narrator?  The famous, adored present-day author Clay Hammonds (Quaid) tells us Rory’s story and it quickly becomes obvious that Hammonds is the real-life Rory, telling his story to a star-struck lit student, Daniella (Olivia Wilde), making this a story within a story within a story, which sounds so much more interesting than it is.  It would have been leaps and bounds more enjoyable without the Quaid-Wilde layer, which added nothing to the story itself and whose scenes felt like filler, a useless distraction.

The Words isn’t a total waste of time; it’s just one of many films that aims higher than its reach.  Much like its leading character, it wants and strives for a level of greatness that simply isn’t there.

~Annie & Nikki

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If Only My Eyes Were Not Pinned To Your Page

Being the intense fan of the horror genre (in either visual or literary form) that I am, I’ve recently decided to read a Stephen King novel in honor of the upcoming, most hallowed of contrived holidays.  I’ve actually only read two and a half of King’s works: Pet Sematary (one of my favorite books, EVER), Under The Dome and half of The Stand.  I’ve always wanted to read countless more but the list of books I plan to read is ever growing and his novels just seem to continuously get pushed to the side.  But not this October!  I’ve endeavored to read Salem’s Lot and now, slightly more than half-way through it, I know I’ve made one damned fine choice.

Not only have I not read Salem’s Lot before now, but I’ve never seen the film on which it’s based and haven’t really heard anything about the story except that it involves vampires.  Not the wimpy pseudo-vampires of Twilight fame but real, dangerous, predatory, blood-sucking, life-taking creatures of the dark.  As they were meant to be written.

What stands out more than anything, though, and no doubt what has made King the iconic author that he is, is King’s ability to slowly weave together a story.  His sense of timing – the pacing of the tale’s unraveling is sheer perfection.  It is damn hard to make words on a page scary but King has had no trouble.  He times it perfectly, giving enough suspense, enough eagerness, enough slow-burning interest to ignite your imagination and immerse you into the scene.  I’ve read a few books in recent years that made me wonder how the hell their author ever got published, let alone gained enough momentum to make a buck or two.  Never do I wonder such a thing while reading a Stephen King book.  Whether his work is for you or not, there is no question of talent.

I’d love to know which of his many, many novels is your favorite.  It’s too soon to tell how Salem’s Lot will rank on my short list, which means Pet Sematary is still number one for me.  What’s yours?

~N.

Tired Of Not Being A Millionaire

Do you remember that scene in “Office Space” during which Peter asks his neighbor, Lawrence, what he would do if he had a million dollars?  The idea being that whatever you’d do if money weren’t the main motivator is what you’re ideally suited to do, or be.  (By the way, I love Lawrence’s response: “Two chicks at the same time, man.”  Classic.  Maybe that means he should be in porn?)  I’ve been thinking about this lately because things at my place of employment are somewhat unstable and, though I genuinely love the work I do – I am a science-nerd, after all – what I would do if I could magically pay my bills without having to punch a clock day in and day out, is write.  I would write story after story, blog post after blog post.  Novels, screenplays, short stories.  I would sit, fingers poised on the keyboard of my laptop, cup of coffee within reach, and see just what, exactly, I might have to say.

As I’m sure you’ve surmised, I already do this.  A bit.  I love to read and write the way athletes love to play, the way musicians love to jam.  It’s my hobby but also my passion, my love.  If I were a trust fund baby, this is how I would use my time.

It may seem like a frivolous way to spend one’s energy and I understand that logic, really.  It’s a small part of what led me to my career in science, the idea that writing isn’t relevant enough to be more than a hobby.  But the truth is, even though it isn’t vital in the way medicine is, for example, storytelling must be essential to the plight of man because it has existed in one form or another for nearly as long as man has existed.  The story as told in a film, in a book, in a song, a poem, was part of the oral tradition before the written language came to be and I suspect that when man came down out of the trees, part of his survival (maybe part of what drove him further along on the evolutionary trail) depended on the need to tell a story.  And his need to hear one.

It’s how we discover ourselves, the true nature of humankind.  It’s how we learn what we believe to be truth.  It’s how we make sense of life.

If I had a million dollars, I would tell a million stories.

~N.