Sunday, July 02, 2006

Practical Matters in Movies

New feature: I've noticed that many bloggers do some kind of little thing with each entry that gives a clue about what's happening with them that day. For instance, my agent always puts what's playing on her iPod at the start of her entries. I've decided to demonstrate what I meant about my wardrobe of t-shirts that I wear for writing by describing the t-shirt of the day.

Today's t-shirt: A GTE shirt I got at a trade show back in my telecom PR days. It was just a ratty old t-shirt, but it's something of a relic now that GTE no longer exists (it's part of the company now known as Verizon). There's no particular reason I picked this one today. It was just on the top of the stack.

I am now one-fourth of the way through book 4. Yay!!! I managed that by being fairly diligent on Saturday. Friday wasn't quite as good as I'd hoped for because I got sidetracked by researching and planning the vacation I want to take after I turn this book in (a cabin by a lake with a stack of books, maybe some hiking and canoeing). I feel like I've hit my rhythm, and Mom says the first couple of chapters are pretty good. It looks like I won't be doing anything particularly special for July 4 since the things I normally want to do eat up huge chunks of time and I do need to be working. I think I'll give myself comp time for working weekends and holidays during this phase (and thus the vacation).

The rant for the day: Why is it that characters in movies always live in cute (even quaint) old homes or apartments? Does nobody in movie-world ever live in anything built after WWII? Even in the areas where the majority of apartments are the "garden apartments" built from the 1960s onward, the characters still mostly live in quaint old buildings with wood floors, crown moldings, claw-footed tubs and interesting architectural details. One notable exception was Office Space, where the characters lived like most apartment dwellers in this part of the world live (they even had the same kitchen cabinets I have). I guess I'm just as guilty because in one of the unpublished (planned for a major rewrite someday) books I have that's set in Dallas, I had my characters live in one of the maybe five old apartment buildings in the entire area. I guess those homes just have more visual character than mass-produced modern housing.

Not that I'm really complaining because I'm a total sucker for old buildings. I was watching Must Love Dogs last night on HBO (I was eating dinner and brainstorming the next chapter, okay, Mom?), and I almost missed most of the movie because I was too busy drooling over the heroine's home, which was essentially my dream home, mentally redecorating it (she used red and white in the kitchen, but I'd go with blue and white, with maybe some Delft pottery on display) and mentally arranging my furniture in it. I'm assuming she got the home in the divorce settlement because I've watched enough Property Ladder and Flip This House to know that a cinder-block box in California can run around $800,000, so there's no way a preschool teacher could afford a two-story Arts and Crafts bungalow in California with hardwoods, a working fireplace, claw-foot tub and updated appliances.

And yeah, I do get too easily sidetracked by practical stuff like that when I'm watching a movie. Timelines also get me. I spent most of Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood trying to work out the timeline in my head. If Sandra Bullock's character was supposed to be in the general ballpark of Sandra Bullock's age in the "now" part of the story, how could she have grown up in the 1950s? Sandra Bullock isn't much older than I am, and if you do the math, that character would have had to be born nearly 20 years before I was (her parents were adults during WWII, and my parents were babies during the war). So either her character was really well-preserved, or the "now" part of the movie should have taken place in the early 80s. But they made no effort to use visual cues like clothes, hair, cars or technology to set the movie then. They used cordless phones that weren't the size of bricks and talked about thong underwear, and that doesn't exactly say "early 80s" to me. That drove me INSANE through the whole movie.

As for the movie itself (Must Love Dogs), it wasn't a bad romantic comedy. It didn't hit one of my pet peeves -- the one about me wanting to tell the guy to run away while he still could -- because the heroine was actually a nice, decent person, but it did hit another major romantic comedy pet peeve, the "I don't need an explanation" contrivance to keep the couple apart a little longer. I hate it in books and movies when one person sees something out of context, the other person offers to explain, then the first person says they don't need an explanation and storms off and then generally acts miserable and brokenhearted. It seems to me like if you're that miserable and brokenhearted without that person, you might be willing to listen to them to find out what was going on before you cut your own nose off to spite your face. I guess people do really act like that at times, but I find it equally annoying in real life. It created a rare situation of me thinking that the hero didn't deserve the heroine -- an especially rare feat considering that the hero was played by John Cusack. Imagine what it would be like having a long-term relationship with someone who refused to listen to your side of the story whenever there was a misunderstanding. It's probably a bad sign that I was more focused on drooling over the house than I was on drooling over the hero and hoping for the couple to get together. If I ever hit a bestseller list or otherwise have the income where I can actually afford to spend money, I am so getting a house like that. Now I want to read the book to see how Hollywood messed up the plotting and characterization. I'll give the author benefit of the doubt and not assume the contrivance was hers.

Now back to work.

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