Friday, March 28, 2008

Smart One, Smart Ass One

Yay, it's Friday... Blogday!
Before I blather about the movies I watched last weekend, and how they will ultimately make me a better writer, I must share some kid stuff.
As you know - I have two: Sweetness, aka 3 yr old, and Light, aka 8 yr old.

The SMART One:
I got a telephone call from the school principal today informing me that Light has been identified as 'gifted'. My first instinct was ' woo hoo!! I have a smart kid!! ' but that was quickly replaced by ' Shit! I can't fake this parenting thing for much longer. Soon he's going to figure out I have no clue what I'm doing... '

Daddy and Sweetness are doing crafts at the kitchen table - making aliens (I'm in the other room, but can hear every word) and Daddy says: "Oh, this is a fat one." to which Sweetness replies "Just like Mommy."
Daddy says, "Sweetness, don't say that."
Sweetness, "But it's true, Mommy is fat." (he does have a point)
Daddy, "It's not polite to say things like that."
After a 5 second pause, Sweetness says, "Well then, I can't call you Stupid."

ba da DAH...

And now, the movies...
I Am Legend - starring Will Smith and a dog.
This movie wasn't what I expected! Will's character is a lone survivor living in NYC years after a virus has infected and/or wiped out the entire population. He talks to his dog, hunts wild deer, and tries to find a cure for the virus. Except he's not really alone. Hemocrits (infected people who can't tolerate sunlight) come out after dark looking for blood. Think vampire-zombie hybrid. Will obviously must avoid them.
This movie was like a cross between 28 Days Later (virus, blood sucking zombies, barren city) and Castaway (instead of Tom Hanks talking to a ball and slowly loosing his mind we have Will Smith talking to a dog and slowly loosing his mind).

The Secret Life of Words - starring Sarah Polley and Tim Robbins
A quiet, deep film. Notice I called it a film not a movie. This one has amazingly subtle narrative, rich characters, disturbing content and an interesting setting (an oil platform in the north sea). The kind of film you must pay close attention to in order to experience every nuance.
The plot, in a nutshell: Instead of taking a 'real' vacation from her factory job, Sarah Polley's Hannah chooses to play nurse to a burn victim, Josef (Tim Robbins) who is stuck on a drilling platform until he's well enough to be moved. Josef wants to unburden himself by revealing his secrets while Hannah, a victim of the brutality of war, is desperate to keep hers.

How can I apply what I saw to writing romance?
I Am Legend was a lesson in how to move a plot forward when you don't have the benefit of a secondary character to react to the hero. Samantha may have been a dog, but she was a perfect companion/mentor and his love for her (his need to protect her) provided a critical turning point and, ironically, the black moment.
Lesson: Your heroine CAN be a bitch.

In The Secret Life of Words the two main characters couldn't be more opposite; she's a shy, emotionally-unstable introvert and he's an obnoxiously rude extrovert, but through careful, measured dialogue, they not only come to understand each other, but trust themselves again. Sublety was key. The message was in what the characters didn't say!
Lesson: As a writer, I shouldn't spell everything out -- I should actually trust the reader to read between the lines.

What movies ('scuse me... or films) have positively effected your writing? Please share.


Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Welcome to the strange world of gifted children, Wylie! I've got two of them and there is a LOT you'll need to know about gifted kids.

Drop me an e-mail whenever and we can start talking. These aren't just kids who are smart. They come with their own special education needs and a VERY high dropout rate.

Wylie Kinson said...

Thanks SHG -- I'll do that! In the meantime, I've lots of info from the school to go over, decisions to make...

Ally @ the CataNetwork said...

Special education needs, huh? Is that why I was taking Latin and Greek in elementary school and advanced algebra in middle school? Since I can't remember any latin or greek, I don't think it helped much. And I hated math. ;)

My dh and I have been wanting to see I Am Legend. Perhaps this weekend? Does the dog survive?

Wylie Kinson said...

Ally - Hate and math are complimentary words in my vocabulary too! And I do recommend I Am Legend, because despite it not being what I expected, Will Smith is always enjoyable. I'm not going to comment on the dog, kay?

Anonymous said...

The Secret Life of Words sounds like a terrific movie.

And congrats on your little fellow being identified as gifted! And it sounds like he'll get great support -- that's fabulous. :) I was a gifted child, but when and where I grew up, they had no idea what to do with me; I dealt with what amounted to years of institutionalized hell before escaping via high school graduation and finding college to be much better.

All my cats are intelligent, and one would be classified as "gifted" (Dora) but I don't think there are programs for gifted cats. :) hehe

Films I find inspiring as a writer: one that comes to mind is All About Eve. Wonderful character-driven film, and some of the best film dialogue ever.

Wylie Kinson said...

TL - My cats are dopey as all get-out. Though they do play fetch...
And I agree -- All About Eve was a masterpiece. I love Bette Davis, and though AAE ranks high, Now, Voyageur is my all time BD fave.

M. said...

interesting lessons you pulled from those films. i've always loved sarah polley - she was the witch/wise woman (depending on film characters pov) in 'beowulf and grendel' with gerard butler. lesson from that film? hiccups in the storyline can be glossed over with spectacularly beautiful landscape shots. now, how to translate that cinematic lesson to writing: weakness in plot and narrative tension can be disguised with copious amounts of weather description? no, somehow that doesn't sound right....

Amy Ruttan said...

Very cool about Light, and Sweetness. LOL. Boo said something sarcastic the other day, in that effect. LOL. My empathy.

As for Sumo, well I don't take him into change rooms anymore either. Changing the other day and he shouts out "Mommy has Big Buttons" referring to my shirtless state. *sigh*

Bonnie said...

You have awesome kids, Wylie! But that doesn't mean I'm offering to babysit. ;)

I think Alfred Hutchcock taught me more about storytelling than any English teacher I ever had. The one thing I remember him saying in an interview was that (I'm paraphrasing -- without using math) it's more frightening for the audience to know the bomb is there under the table than to just have it explode unexpectedly.

Wylie Kinson said...

Bonnie - I love what Hitchcock said -- he's absolutely correct. I think I'll write that one down.

Amy - ah that Sumo is observant!! And funny!!

m. - When I first read your comment, I thought you meant that the actor had hiccups!! I'm thinking - why didn't they just reshoot the scene? D'OH! I'm tired, what can i say - heheheheheh