So I’m taking this screenwriting class at MSU this semester. Though it’s a whole new style of writing and a big challenge for me (most of my scribbles for assignments contain the phrase “WHY IS THIS SO HARD?!” at least once), I’m really, really digging it.
For one thing, we have to watch movies as homework every week. (“Have to.” …Remember the little dog in Oliver & Company? “If this is torture, chain me to the WALL.” It’s like that.) Last weekend, I watched The Godfather for the very first time. Prior to this viewing, my knowledge was largely You’ve Got Mail based (Meg Ryan chanting, “Go to the mattresses! Fight!”). That, and just all the bits of knowledge one can’t help but glean from a lifetime of pop culture exposure. (There’s a horse head. There’s a wedding. There’s a Brando.)
I went in with an open mind, and also an honest expectation that I might not “get” it. (I mean, I’d get it, but not get it. Get it?) Turns out, I do get what all the fuss is about. It’s just such a BIG movie. But at the same time, at its core, it’s also a story about people, who want something, and are trying to get it, scene by scene. Like every movie ever.
It’s so cool to see behind the curtain of this type of storytelling. The formula/structure/rules of it all aren’t as restricting as I’d assumed. In fact, the opposite is true: You shall know the rules, and the rules shall set you free. It’s like music. Just as every song you’ve ever heard, from Mozart to Metallica to “Call Me Maybe,” is made of the same few notes, movies are built from the same basic structure.
(Aaaaaaaand I can feel myself nerding out on you. I’ll calm down.)
I was catching up with a friend last night, and he said, “You talk about this like you don’t talk about other things.” And I think he’s probably right. It’s my passion du jour, anyway. Partly because it is such a challenge. It’s fun to stumble along toward learning something new, spending a good percentage of my time at an intersection of two major personal happy places: writing and movies.
Speaking of happy places, today I watched The Grand Budapest Hotel with some lady friends. Oh my, it’s a gorgeous movie. I’m pretty sure I had a big dweeby smile on my face the entire time (even after some unfortunate business with a cat and a window…). At one point, the thought crossed my mind that seeing this movie makes me feel lucky to be alive right now, because I get to see this movie for the first time in theaters. Film nerds and nostalgic hipsters for generations to come will long for times like these, when for a mere $7 one could walk into a dark room, sit in a very comfy rocky chair (good work on the upgrade, Campbell 16), and be whisked away to the clever, quirky, colorful, quick mind of Wes Anderson for a perfect 100 minutes. (He did that on purpose, right? He had to.)
I really, really dug this movie. (Obviously…It was so good, I’m blogging TWICE in the same week up in here.) I’ll try to give a short, spoiler-free explanation of why.
It’s a story within a story within a story. It’s bookended by scenes involving a young girl whom we never really get to meet, who is obviously deeply affected by a book containing the story we are about to see. But it’s also about verbal storytelling, since the second step in this nesting-doll-slash-narrative-device is one man telling a story in one sitting. And that story becomes the majority of the movie. (I just love this; I’m not doing it justice.)
I also love how Ralph Fiennes’ Monsieur Gustave speaks in poetry in everyday conversation. He responds to moments of joy or tragedy with little flourishes of verse, and it’s so delicious. And so Wes Anderson, I think. Sure it’s acceptable to write your life with dry old humdrum prose, but why would you ever choose to, when the world is full of poetry and tchotchkes and string quartets and Bill Murray?
I feel as though I have gushed enough for now. Go see it, Springfield, now that we finally can.