Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fireflies And Other Flickering Lights ...

It is 9:27 and the sky to the west is not completely dark. I can still see the silhouette of the trees. But right outside my office window, fireflies are firing like flashes at a concert, a fraction of a second each, not the slow up-and-down glow of the fireflies of my youth. Did somebody spill some RedBull?

Today I watched Fast Food Nation and The Straight Story.

I read Fast Food Nation a month or so ago. It wasn't what I expected it to be, but I liked it. The movie, oddly, is a fictionalized account of the book. The author, Eric Schlosser, co-wrote the screenplay, so this isn't a case of signing away rights and seeing your work bastardized into a shell of itself. No, he was part of the bastardization. In one of the featurettes, which was nearly as long as the film, he mentioned that they decided to keep the title and the premise and set everything else aside.

Well, that was a bad idea.

I think this movie would have been much more successful as a documentary. Of course, as a documentary, the filmmakers probably woudn't have gotten clearance to shoot inside a meat-packing plant.

The making-of featurette is nearly as long as the movie, which tells me that, on some level, they all knew they should have made a documentary, because they spent a lot of time documenting how they made the movie.

The most compelling part of the film is the depiction of border crossings, smuggilng workers into this country. I have no doubt it goes down just as the film suggests. It's scary, what those people go through, what they're willing to risk for a better life, even if a "better" life means working the shittiest jobs.

In any event, I don't think I'll ever eat another hamburger.

But then I watched The Straight Story. Oh my. Eloquent, that movie. I think the script must have been about 12 pages long. The dialogue is sparse yet every word is perfect and important. As it should be. The cinematography is stunning. It is certainly the least David Lynch-y film of all of David Lynch's films. Completely charming, a brilliant recommendation from my friend Chris, who I met through my friend Chris. (Perhaps I'll start collecting Chrises like I collect Daves.)

If you haven't seen it, do yourself a favor and add it to your Netflix queue. I was really struck by the simplicity of it. In this superficial world we live in, amid all the drama and petty crap, as we go for weeks or months or years without seeing friends and family because we're too busy scrambling up a rickety corporate ladder, this movie is an exceptional reminder of what really matters. Humanity, simple kindness, honesty. It's not about the trappings, it's about the connections we make and the lives we touch along the way.

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Blogger J. Marquis said...

The Straight Story reminded me a lot of the old guys I knew growing up in Eastern Oregon. Their lives were hard but they seemed to find a kind of satisfaction in life people in the cities or suburbs often fail to achieve.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

I always loved The Straight Story. Growing up in a small town that could pass for Andy Griffith's Mayberry, the main character was very familiar. He was a lot like many of the older men I've known. Of course, it still boggles my mind that it was directed by David Lynch (one of my favourite directors, but not one known for such material).

10:54 AM  
Anonymous girlanddog said...

So I'm not the only one who was HORRIBLY dissapointed by FFN? What a DUD! I was sooooooooo pissed, because the mainstream public, who will never read the book but who should nevertheless be educated about the terrors of the fast food industry, will totally miss the point.

And yes, illegal immigrants face the perils described in the movie, and then some! No matter what side of the illegal immigrant movement you're on, one thing is difficult to ignore: Human beings are being injured and killed and two governments are just worried about economic interests.

5:05 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

j. - Exactly! I want to emulate that simple world view. We complicate things unnecessarily.

mercurie - I know, right? It's not a David Lynch movie unless Dennis Hopper has an oxygen mask over his face!

girl - Amen, sister! BRILLIANT book. HORRIBLE movie. The one good thing about it is the depiction of the immigrants' plight. Very sobering.

12:57 PM  
Anonymous almostgotit said...

Ah, the reveries brought out by fireflies! I didn't realize Fast Food Nation *wasn't* a documentary! Who knew. I find this somewhat of a relief, actually! :)

2:41 PM  

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