not in our stars, but in ourselves
There are three things banging around in my mind at present, so rather than give you three meager little entries on each, I will give you a written version of a (very small) mix tape. Or, perhaps more appropriately, three songs that I will play for you at random, from the eternal shuffle setting that is my brain.
1. I am extremely disappointed with the True Detective news that’s come out, regarding season 2. This article summarizes all my fears, and some of my hopes. This Tumblr post is a succinct expression of all my apprehension about the news: “Vince Vaughn and Colin Farrell? All your dreams came true, except they’re the dreams where your face gets sucked into the drain at the bottom of the pool. I mean if they wanted a guy that looks like Vince Vaughn but can act, they should have gone with Jon Favreau. I feel like these dudes are expecting to have a McConaissance. There is no Vaugnaissance happening.” In short: I am not excited about Farrell or Vaughn. I am not excited about the guy who directed whichever Fast and Furious movie(s). I am not excited about LA. I am not excited about a show that takes crackpot conspiracy theories seriously. I was excited about Elisabeth Moss when that rumor was swirling, and I was excited to think that they’d bring on another shit-hot director (I was hoping for Park Chan-wook, myself). If they follow the article’s advice, maybe season 2 will work out. Overall, however, *Tim Gunn voice* this concerns me.
Feel free to disagree. Feel free to whoop-de-do about everything that worries me. It just burns me to think that this incredible work of art, this gorgeously shot and brilliantly acted tale of the darkest pockets of America, will turn into a subpar procedural show in only its second season. I hope I’m wrong, but I doubt I am. (Don’t worry, I’ll still watch it.)
2. A friend (hi, Dan, if you ever read this!) loaned me Thomas Harris’s The Silence of the Lambs on Friday. I started reading it on the train on the way home, at about 11:00. I finished it last night (Sunday, for you international readers) just before midnight. I put it down only involuntarily during that time span. As you all know, if you’ve been following this blog for a while, I absolutely love the TV series Hannibal. I have seen the movie version of Silence at least 1300 times. I spend lots of free time reading about serial killers. You might expect that my reading the book so quickly is but another sign of my occasionally morbid nature.
Reader! Banish all such thoughts. I gulped Harris’s book down for many reasons, none of which involve any sort of warning signs of me becoming a real-life Buffalo Bill (would I be Calamity Jane? hmm.) Here are two:
(a) Walter Benjamin wrote in Einbahnstraße: “Work on a good piece of writing proceeds on three levels: a musical one, where it is composed; an architectural one, where it is constructed; and finally, a textile one, where it is woven.” Yes. Silence is masterfully composed, constructed, and woven. We all know this, really, because the film is a smashingly successful translation of literature to cinema (and there are so few such successes, really). Reading it, however, it becomes clear that this is no potboiler, no shoddily crafted piece of tabloid lit. Harris’s command of language, the musical component, is as precise as a poet’s: Lecter grabs poor Pembry’s face with his teeth and shakes his head “like a rat-killing dog”; Starling reflects, after learning about moths that live on large mammals’ tears, “Over this odd world, this half the world that’s dark now, I have to hunt a thing that lives on tears”; Lecter tells Starling, “Life’s too slippery for books, Clarice; anger appears as lust, lupus presents as hives”; and finally, “But the face on the pillow, rosy in the firelight, is certainly that of Clarice Starling, and she sleeps deeply, sweetly, in the silence of the lambs.” The construction of the book is, as mostly replicated in the film, airtight. No loose ends. No guns unfired in the third act when you see them on the wall in the first. Lecter is compelling enough to warrant the series of books (and movies, and TV shows) in which he stars, but Silence would stand perfectly well on its own. And the texture of the book, the meticulously described intricacies of FBI work, forensics, psychology (individual and group and even canine), classics, hide preparation, transsexualism, lepidoptery, sewing, mental illness of all sorts – it is finely woven indeed. Henry James said (but didn’t prove in his own work) that great authors are those on whom nothing is lost. It should show in the author’s prose: thorough research, of course, but also a keen and observing – almost a hungry – eye.
(b) Clarice Starling. Clarice Starling! Oh, Clarice. You are an inspiration. I was silly enough to look at the Good Reads page for the book, and the only one-star review I bothered to notice was a dismissal of the book because the author “obviously” had a “hard-on” for Clarice. Readers, let me tell you something. Clarice is a woman well worth admiring. She’s smart. She’s tough. She’s had to overcome mountains of obstacles – some imposed by birth, some acquired through tragedy – and she’s done it. She realizes that the key to solving the Buffalo Bill murders is her very womanhood, her ability to understand and to observe things about the victims that her male colleagues simply cannot. (Except Lecter, of course, who understands and observes everything.)
And yet, there is never even the vaguest hint that Harris is giving us a female character who is first female, then a character. Like everything else in the book, she’s a keenly observed and understood human being. Does he mention that she’s good-looking and fit? Yeah, sure. It’s part of the character. It’s what makes Chilton act like such a lecherous fool with her. It’s perhaps what Crawford hopes will make Lecter start talking. He doesn’t even describe her physically: we’re just left to imagine her as an attractive young woman, surrounded by faded middle-aged men and psychopaths. So no, Good Reads denizen who shall remain nameless (but I’m sure you can find the review yourselves, you enterprising little sleuths), Harris doesn’t have a hard-on for her. Later, when the series descended into fanfic written by Harris himself, maybe. But not here. Not now. Now, she is a kickass hero(ine), and she deserves your respect.
3. In much, much lighter news, my fella and I saw The Boxtrolls last night. It was absolutely wonderful. Truly! It’s easy to dismiss movies aimed at children. I know. They’re often terrible. There’s such a lot of dreck out there, movies and TV shows that make Teletubbies look like Cosmos. The trend seems to be to dumb everything down, to rub down and pad all the edges, to make everything safe for everybody, to turn all kids into the same overcoddled scaredy cats – and so boring, too. The Boxtrolls belongs to the delightful tradition of Roald Dahl stories: imaginative, scary sometimes, full of wit and life and weirdness.
As soon as I began to see posters for the movie, I began to wonder (often aloud, to my housemates’ probable chagrin), “What is this?! Who greenlit this? What in the Sam Hell is a boxtroll?!?!” Once the ads started airing on TV, something else happened. My confusion turned to affection. What a weird little movie! Huh! What fun! And then, seeing the blitz of ads, and knowing the millions of dollars it represented, and realizing that this adorable, bizarre film had better do well financially and critically. I came to view almost maternally, and to hope feverishly that my (yes, I regarded it as mine, for some reason) precious little oddball baby would be treated kindly as it toddled into the world. Critics have been kind. It came in third at the box office this weekend. I hope it continues to do well. I would feel just terrible if it sort of petered out, and faded from memory, because really: it is terrific. You want fantastic animation? Check. (Bonus check: claymation – something so complex and time-consuming that there’s an easter egg about it at the end, and a good one too.) You want a story that will challenge its viewers, whether children or adult, to question class and what it represents? Check. You want comedy gold working behind the scenes? Check one: Richard Ayoade. Check two: Nick Frost. Check three: Simon Pegg. Check four: Eric Idle. You want a reminder that children’s movies don’t have to be shrill, simplistic exercises in futility (*cough* FROZEN *cough*)? Checkmate. Seriously: see this movie. Let my cute little weirdo know that it’s loved.