I did a lot of soul searching regarding the kind of posts I want to make on this website and I came to a conclusion. As much as I love writing about writing, I’ve run out of things to say. Instead, I’m going to be writing spoiler-free thoughts about the vast library of books, movies, and TV shows that I consume.
Three major criteria I judge stories on:
Entertainment is the only ‘true’ requirement of the story. There may be haughty members of the academia who posit that stories need to ‘enlighten’ or even ‘educate’ their audience, but I reject that ideal. I agree stories ought to have a social conscience, most especially in visual mediums, distributed to hundreds of millions of people, but books get more leeway on this front.
Originality is the core of storytelling. An original story has better odds of being entertaining, as well as surprising. The unexpected is a common element of an entertaining story and an original tale has a better chance of being unexpected in form, development, and finale. After watching so many movies, television shows, and reading so many books, I find myself bored with many of the retreaded, repackaged story arcs and familiar archetypes.
Emotion is the seasoning. My body reacts physically to art, from paintings to the music of Sigur Ros, and when the sensation of goosebumps and shivers shakes my core, I know that the piece of art has achieved something special. Goosebumps accompany books, movies, and television, but more rarely than when I’m listening to music. My very favourite stories can inspire chills and goosebumps just by remembering them.
- Hollywood Remakes
- High Concept vs. Slice of Life
Hollywood Remakes drive me nuts. I hate the state of contemporary Hollywood, which has become guided by safe investment practices rather than the risk-taking spirit that guides so many of the greatest stories. Consider the Marvel cinematic universe. Many of these films end with allusions to a great, incumbent conflict that will arrive sometime down the line. Are these still films, or just entertaining advertisements? When did the ad at the beginning of the Youtube video become the video?
The modern era ushered in the death of the original high concept blockbuster. Producers no longer feel comfortable financing films that don’t come with a significant, existing fan base. Look at all the Star Wars spin-offs and comic book films. I can imagine producers clawing frantically at their laptops, desperately searching for the next comic book or graphic novel to bring to the silver screen. This is a lamentable affair. If Hollywood is a business that depends on spectacle, which it undoubtedly is, I believe they are signing their own execution papers. When the story is recycled and retold in a span of a decade, the spectacle is diminished. There are few things less spectacular than the familiar.
As jaded and cynical as my views on Hollywood may be, I wanted to declare them upfront. If you like all the remakes and adaptations, my views will likely differ from your own. However, consider that if I do like an adaptation or remake, it’s likely to be exceptional.
High Concept vs. Slice of Life is a more innate bias, less guided by logical thought and social protest. I know my tastes in stories and understand that I’m more likely to enjoy a film with some speculative element, that is something different than reality, than I am to like a movie set in the modern day without any quirks. If I hate or dislike a speculative film (science fiction or fantasy), you’ll know that it’s likely to be a real mess, because I have a weakness for those genres. Whereas if I love a slice of life feature, which does happen on occasion, you’ll know that it’s something special.
Drop in the comments and let me know if there’s any story you want me to write about in particular. I’m going to start posting my thoughts on stories tomorrow.
Take care of yourself, and live well.