Friday, February 9, 2018

"When They Do It Right..."

… it shines like glistening crystal.

Just a brief tip of the cap to two creative efforts I recently encountered that handle their storytelling as skillfully as I have ever experienced it... being handled. 

I do storytelling myself, you know, and, as you have probably noticed, when I wrinkle my critical nose up at presentations whose storylines display jarring inconsistencies and/or cavernous loopholes – undervaluing in the process their subtler attributes and then I have to go back, belatedly according them their underestimated due – nevertheless – if that grammatically scans – incorrectly or merely subjectively, I value the element of “Story” above all other considerations.

For me, it is not Deutschland but “Story” that is indisputably uber alles.  (Sorry, there are no umlauts on my computer.) 

Although elegant phrases are good too.

I am currently listening (on CD) to Iron Marshal, written by western novelist extraordinaire Louis L’Amour.  (Twelve of whose works have been turned into movies or miniseries.  Why are they so appealing for adaptation?  They do not have to fix the story.)

I needed a break from a book describing how the doctors’ mistaken medical practices of the day did in the seriously wounded President Garfield – at his trial, the assassin ludicrously but justifiably proclaimed in his defense, “I shot the president; but it was the doctors who killed him!” – I turned to the lighter reading of western fiction.  And I was joyfully rewarded.

Having just completed listening to “Disc 4” (out of a total complement of six), I find myself – spoken like “Gabby” Hayes – smack dab in the middle of the ripsnortin’-est yarn you y’ever laid eyes on.  (Or headphone-ed ears, for that matter.) 

And what stands majestically out is the storytelling. 

You know the story is good when, just as you begin wondering about something, the lead character (in this case) wonders exactly same thing.  There is no, “The reader will never think of that.”  L’Amour covers all the hypothetical bases.  The plot entirely holds water.    

Speaking of that last word, L’Amour also includes some colorful metaphors, the most colorful, for me, being – and I don’t know if this is common parlance out West or if L’Amour made it up – but describing a character’s limitless courage, he writes,

“He’d face hell with a pail of water.”

Well-crafted story.  Memorable turns of phrase.  And there goes my cap.


And then yesterday, accompanying (six year-old) Milo and (three-and-three- quarters year-old) Jack, we saw Paddington Bear 2.

Same thing again.

Rock-solid storytelling.

You would imagine the writers might say,

“It’s for kids.  How assiduous do we have to be with the story?”

But somehow, in my experience, “Kids Movies” appear to be more assiduous.

Are there any loopholes in Dumbo?

Dubious scat-singing crows, perhaps, but inconsistencies you can drive a proverbial truck through?


It seems predominantly in “Grown-Up Movies” that they obscure stupefying illogic with gratuitous nudity, gore-festive violence and ponderous “Inner Meaning.”  (Which you might have you put in yourself because it may not actually be there.)

Paddington 2’s technique, blending “drawn” bears that look real with real actors who look drawn?

I don’t know how they do that, and it is seriously impressive.  But folks, it don’t mean a thing of the storyline “Shtings.”  (An obscure reference to a six year-old camper I once counselored who, in a mandatory letter to his parents wrote, “Camp shtings!”)

Judging by the eventual butt-fidgeting of my youthful companions, Paddington 2 was a few minutes too long. 

(Suggestion:  Testing kids’ movies that way.  When they begin bouncing around in their seats, that is exactly how long the movie should be.) 

I can envision shortening “trims” here and there.  Apparently, the extended “running time” pitted the filmmakers’ intentions to deliver an airtight storyline against “I gotta go pee-pee!

Wait.  I think that was me.

Anyway, Tip ‘O the Cap “Number Two” for Paddington 2.

And there you have it.

A book and a movie, doing the unheralded but necessary spadework so they can tell their selected narrative, as they say in the sporting arena, “The right way.”

As I said, I believe, recently but also frequently before:

“Nothing is less good because it makes more reasonable sense.”

From prehistorical “Cave Times” till today till forever, the issue is always:

“Tell me a story.”


“Tell me an unfathomable allegory with contemporary allusions.”

Though there are boatloads of action.

And readily available shirt-doffings.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey, Earl, last year a friend of mine - a guy I respect - told me I should see the first Paddington movie before the sequel came out. That it was really terrific, and that it wasn't just him saying that: it had also been nominated for 2 BAFTAs (Film and screenplay), and won some other British awards. Even with all that, I was skeptical.

Then I caught the bug that everyone else caught this Winter, so I had plenty of viewing time on my hands. Paddington was there on Netflix (or one of them), so why not?

It was everything he said and more. Part Mary Poppins, part Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I didn't expect the movie to be so charming and gentle and magical. And yeah, there are a few "kid" parts - the bit with Paddington flooding the bathroom through clumsy errors and mistaken attempts to correct them - but what really blew me away was that it was filled - FILLED - with set-ups and pay offs. And damn if they didn't all work. None of them felt forced or dumb.

I haven't gotten to the sequel yet, which some have been saying is actually better than the original. That has rarely been my experience with sequels, so this post of yours... I'm quite heartened. Thanks.