I’m reading this short story from 1909 and it begins with the narrator talking about how a “dangerous criminal” escaped from a prisoner nearby and tried to hide out in his house, and how that was “distinctly annoying.”
Then when the cops show up he gets his arm broken in the struggle and considers that a “drawback.”
I haven’t even finished the first page yet but man early twentieth-century authors were hardcore.
It’s cool to have witnessed the slow acceptance of Stephen King in the writing community. I used to be a huge fan and read his massive tome The Stand about once a year.
My mom, a lifelong reporter and editor, says Stephen King is not so much a writer, but a storyteller. I think that’s why the literati shunned him for so long despite his success. He’s not interested in awards or platitudes, he writes for everyone in plain language.
I wish he’d get back to short stories. He once said he loved short stories because you didn’t have to explain anything. You could just have a monster appear without needing to say why it appeared.
Much of the writing I do passes through many hands, some of whom I don’t know. And I sure as hell don’t want a stranger touching my kids. So, I don’t look at my writing as my children. It’s more like something I built, a structure for which I may need to hire an electrician and maybe work out the parking situation with the city. And then other people may move in, maybe using it as a work/live thing, perhaps enjoying the moonrise over the urban skyline from the picture windows in their living room … I’ve taken this metaphor too far.
I know I’ve got a story to finish, but I want to talk about the Fox show Sleepy Hollow because it does something no other show or film seems to do: It overcomes bad writing.
I love Washington Irving’s story on which the show is tenuously based. And I despise when movies and shows disregard source material in the name of flash. So, I went into this latest take on the classic work with a huge amount of skepticism.
Let me also add, I’m not a massive fan of creators Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. They write films that eschew story in favor of huge action sequences. It’s what they’re hired to do, so I don’t blame them. It’s just a shame that the Transformers cartoon from the ‘80s had more character development than all three of the scripts they wrote for Michael Bay. (Full disclosure: I once got to speak to Kurtzman about his directorial debut People Like Us, which proves he can write a character-driven story.)
What I found in Sleepy Hollow were scripts that added storylines for convenience and ignored logic to get to necessary plot points. But, what I also found were great production values, charismatic actors and skilled directors.
And somehow, the dialogue shines, especially for the character of Ichabod Crane. The show reimagines him as a former British redcoat who defected to America’s side during the Revolutionary War and became one of George Washington’s greatest soldiers, who after a near-fatal injury, woke almost 250 years later thanks to a witch’s spell. (That’s so far from the source material they might as well have made him a robot, too.)
Crane’s character is written with some attention to historical detail. And actor Tom Mison deftly handles the balance of drama and humor required for a man out of time, yet on a mission. By his side, actress Nicole Beharie as Lt. Abbie Mills offers the perfect counterweight, fighting to apply her police skills to an otherworldly scenario. The bad writing I mentioned earlier comes in the form of Orci and Kurtzman’s series and episode arcs, which are laughably hodgepodge.
As for the production values and directors, low budgets usually prove the beginning of the end for horror shows. (Sci-fi fans seem much more forgiving of cardboard sets and rubber alien suits.) Unlike, say, American Horror Story, Sleepy Hollow walks the line between horror and buddy cop show—more X-Files than Walking Dead. And the directors are confident enough to present the horror in an old school way. They let the scares unfold onscreen, which is much scarier than most modern horror directors who feel smash close-ups equal scares.
Anyway, Sleepy Hollow stands as the first example I’ve ever witnessed of a bad writing not completely crippling a show. It’s just too bad the rest of the cast and crew are saddled with saving it each episode.
Buster Keaton is one of my favorite filmmakers/performers ever. This is one reason why…
Buster Keaton is known for his stunt work and acrobatic athleticism as much as he is for his perpetual deadpan. Many comedians used their bodies in their craft but actors like Buster and Harold Lloyd took this physicality to another level, often risking (and sustaining) injury as a result. For the iconic scene in Steamboat Bill, Jr. where the facade of a house collapses around the film’s oblivious protagonist, many crewmembers had to look away or leave; the possibility that the star could be crushed if his position within the small window had been miscalculated by mere inches was very real.
Buster learned very early in life how potentially dangerous stunts could up the ante on a gag or be the basis for the gag itself, and he used this knowledge to great advantage throughout his independent film career. He was more than willing to go beyond run-of-the-mill pratfalls as long as he was sure that the audience would laugh.
The Truth Hurts
- Wife: Why do people keep giving Sarah Palin a microphone?
- Me: Fewer networks are doing that now.
- Wife: I know, but she keeps talking and getting book deals.
- Me: Honey, I think I’ve proven any asshole can get a book deal.
Sparkshooter. New artist. Go.