Saturday, January 17, 2009

Draft #3: It's just a movie...right?

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the Nazis melt and explode in front of the ark in Indiana Jones. It’s rather disturbing to the healthy mind. Of course, I got a little freaked, probably even cried, which elicited the predictable response from the older, more ‘mature’ viewers in the room: “Relax! It’s not real! It’s just a movie!”

I went to high school with Chris Farley. Or at least it felt like I did—not a day passed without hearing a dozen or more quotes from Tommy Boy. All the alpha-male jock-shop humor revolved around telling Farley quotes, or tying all classroom / hallway happenings into said quotes (oh I forgot they made an exception for Dumb & Dumber…). I thought to myself, “Isn’t it just a movie?”

Sitting in a college dorm with a group watching Spiderman 2: the scene where Mary Jane tries the upside-down kiss with her fiancĂ© comes. She looks forlorn afterward. I (and the rest of intelligent America) know what she’s thinking: about that poster-worthy kiss with Spiderman, that his kiss was a lot like Peter’s, and that she really does love plain ol’ Peter Parker, not her fancy-pants astronaut. But some girl next to me brilliantly explains to all the other clueless viewers, “She loves Spiderman more because he kisses better.”

Naturally, I was a little miffed. Spiderman 2 isn’t the pinnacle of film art, but for a mainstream blockbuster its emotional arc is golden. I tried to (undiplomatically) correct this bit of artistic injustice, but I was quickly shot down with “Chill out! It’s just a movie.”

What do you talk about when your friends get together? How about family? When getting to know new people, on what topic do you really hit it off with a new acquaintance? Unless you do nothing but drink beer, play video games, and/or watch football, the likely answer to all of the above is: Film. Don’t believe me? See how long it takes at the next social gathering for someone to bring up the latest box-office hit, or if there’s anything worth going to the theater for. Better yet, see if you can resist bringing up your favorite part from the latest film everyone has seen.

Clearly, it’s not just a movie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Draft #2: Taste for Warm Blood

Before my grandfather died four years ago, my family kept about fifty sheep on our cattle farm (a concession to his days as a shepherd of over three thousand). They sheltered in the rickety sheep pens nearby his house. Cattle are big, hardy, and capable against most predators; sheep are lower than mice on the food chain (and IQ scale).

When I was about sixteen, an older, somewhat-of-a-vagrant cousin came to stay at the farm for a while. She brought a large, friendly-seeming Rottweiler with her; naturally the dog had plenty of space to wander.

Weeks later -- Dad checked the sheep one morning as usual. Fresh blood coated the sheep pen. The adult ewes were packed in one corner, as though some invisible antagonizer corralled them. Lamb corpses, most split in two, littered the ground, and what few lambs were still alive had missing ears and marred faces.

Dad immediately went to the grandparents' house. He found my cousin and said, "There's something you need to see."

My parents told her to put the dog down. Though she initially agreed, she instead sold it to a family with small children. Mom was furious. I heard her one day muttering about the similarity between a lamb and a child. Mom, surely the dog would be able to tell the difference, I suggested.

She stopped washing dishes, looked at me deadly serious, and said, "Once a dog's tasted warm blood, there's no going back. It will kill again to get it."

* * * *

Now I'm sure that dog was doing just fine on dog food and scraps. Certainly it wasn't missing out on life. We've had docile, domesticated dogs for millennia. Yet once it slaughtered a lamb, it wouldn't resist going for something a toddler.

So what things are there in our own lives we don't need but, once we've tasted, can never do without?

What's your warm blood?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Draft #1: Drop that keyboard now, illiterate artist!

My first figure-drawing instructor spent the first day in class showing several different works of art and having us comment on them. Several were classical and academic, and a few were arguably "modern," to which he seemed to show immediate disdain. My teacher wasn't against modern art--he had painted several works classified as such. But the pieces he disdained, regardless of classification, were obviously pushing an intellectual agenda.

His point was that artists are better "feelers" than "thinkers," and he advised us to communicate emotions instead of political or societal ideas.

In a way I'd like to follow his counsel. I'll be posting my thoughts, feelings, and opinions relating to my career, while trying to avoid making political stands or advance which side of whatever line I stand on. In general I want to discuss the bigger picture of human experience, especially as it relates to--and is communicated through--art & film.

In short, expect stories, anecdotes, observations, and ideas from a fledgling story artist.