Dining at the feast of movies

At the feast of movies, I’d like to leave gluttony, judgment and fear behind me. I know that I am free to eat almost anything, but I want to be strong and fit, disciplining myself to a diet of excellent, nourishing work.

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Dessert? Alcohol? In moderation, on occasion.

As a critic, I feel more like the nutritionist—doing my best to counsel others on a balanced diet that serves their individual needs and respects their sensitivities. But I also want to be the kind of connoisseur who can speak knowledgeably about the culinary arts. I want to speak with eloquence about Sophia Coppola’s sauces, the exquisite wines of Eric Rohmer and the finer point of Martin Scorsese’s pasta.

But the more I learn, the more I’m in danger of becoming another character at the table—the snob. It would be easy for me to leave behind enjoyment of the simpler sorts of films and demand only the most sophisticated work, sneering at those who don’t understand or appreciate it. I have, at times, ranted against the ignorance of others, forgetting that I was once at their place in the journey.

If my enthusiasm for films as cerebral as Russian Ark or Werckmeister Harmonies makes me pretentious or condescending to those in line for blockbusters, then I have lost my perspective on the purpose of art. The goal is not to see the most obscure movies or even to be the greatest interpreter. If these experiences aren’t strengthening my conscience as well as my intellect, what good are they?

Henry Miller once wrote, “Art is only a means to live, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.”

If dining at the table of movies becomes my primary focus, I am forgetting the purpose of the meal. It is served to give me strength so that I can return to my life stronger, healthier and closer to being whole.

Jeffrey Overstreet
Through a Screen Darkly: Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies
p. 93-94

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Third Transplantaversary

Note: There are no pictures. We took some on the iPad, but I haven’t transfered them and I left my wireless keyboard in the office. Maybe I’ll add some pictures in a few days and repost.

Today was the check up in Denver for my third transplantaversary, the actual day is May 10, Friday. We left when we wanted. Drive was easy. Kids were great. Traffic jammed in Denver, like normal. Had to wait an hour for blood work, not normal, and was late to my appointment. Thankfully, they fit me in.

Saw Doctor Cooper, one of our three favorite transplant docs. Note: There are only three transplant docs. Check up was great. Kidney function is what they expect. No protein in urine. We left with smiles on our faces and joy to God on our lips.

Then we went to Snooze for lunch. This might be Jen’s and my favorite place to eat in the big city. Kids had gluten free pancakes, Bear with chocolate chips, Kat with blueberries. They shared their pancakes with each other and Roo who had two scrambled eggs. They left full.

Jen had their Blueberry Danish Pancakes:Buttermilk pancake topped with Blueberry coulis, sweet cream and almond streusel surrounding a center of lemony cream cheese filling! (I tried some… very tasty.)

I was checked their website yesterday and was all set to get their spin on the Cuban Sandwich with a sunny side up egg and Dijon hollandaise sauce, but it wasn’t on the menu…they changed a few items. Instead of crying in my water, I got their corned beef hash, and a Velvet Elvis pancake (Red velvet pancakes topped with peanut butter cream cheese frosting, bacon maple syrup, fresh bananas and chopped peanuts) instead of toast. It was awesome!

After lunch, we waddled to the car with bellies full of joy and traveled to the Park Meadows Mall to stop by the Lego store. Jen and I bought this pet shop to build. We even managed to stop by Godiva for some truffles to eat on the way home.

Then to top off this great day, I opened the door home and “Dad is Fat” by Jim Gaffigan was sitting there waiting to be read.

22 Rules of Storytelling by Pixar

I read this a few days ago. Some good insight to why Pixar produces some of the best films year in and year out.

The original can be found here.

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Former Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats tweeted a number of valuable storytelling rules during her time at the animation studio.

  1. You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
  2. You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be very different.
  3. Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
  4. Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
  5. Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  6. What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
  7. Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
  8. Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
  9. When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
  10. Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
  11. Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  12. Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  13. Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
  14. Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  15. If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
  16. What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
  17. No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on – it’ll come back around to be useful later.
  18. You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
  19. Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
  20. Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
  21. You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
  22. What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

How Movies Teach Manhood

A few days ago I saw this video on TED. I like what the presenter says and his comparrison between Star Wars and the Wizard of Oz. However I do not agree with all of his points. In particular I do not think that Disney Princess’ are good role models for girls when they advocate changing everything you are to get the Prince who will rescue you because you are a helpless girl. That being said, he does offer some good food for thought.