over the top

this is tougher than i thought. i am struggling to write cooler than the millions because i am unable to capture the right tone for the book. i've realized that this is why i've had my "block" for so long. my issue is that i'm trying to write a political book without the reader realizing outright that it's a political book. since i don't really read a lot of books (funny, considering i'm a writer), and since i'm mostly inspired by television and movies when i write, i've decided to make this entry about political movies that i felt either hit their mark or missed it, because tone is probably one of the most important aspects in writing anything or filming anything.

syriana is the first movie on my list here. syriana is an incredibly good movie, with so much politics that you almost get suffocated in it. it's about the oil industry and how it creeps into every aspect of not only political life, but domestic life. my problem with this movie is not the politics, because i'm part of the choir it preaches to, but rather its lack of humanity. the domestic parts of the movie fall flat, and i almost prefer if they didn't even bother, because really, when you're dealing with such an incredibly complex issue as oil, your story is bound to suffer in places when trying to fit it into a two hour movie. sure, if it were a book, it could be a thousand pages long and be a masterpiece. syriana, in my opinion, while a good movie, is infinitely unwatchable because of this lack of humanity that is sort of tacked on at the end. it's like, "the oil industry is bad and corrupt because of x, y, and z. oh, and it hurts families." i have no desire to see it again.

crash was a movie that critics loved, and i hated. while syriana was lacking in the domestic aspect, crash was all about the domestic part, which is good, because it brings humanity to the issues, but the movie was accomplished in such a piss poor fashion. the movie has about three or four scenes that comprise the whole point of the movie. everything builds towards the major scenes, which ultimately have a twist at the end (eg: the racist cop turns out to be good at his job, the good cop fucks up, etc). it keeps doing this, and it gets boring. the movie just seemed so contrived. it would have been much better if it had focused on one story rather than a bunch. i mean, we get the point already.

jarhead was a good movie. it's not really a political movie per say, (not for or against war), beause it's mostly about one man's experience. but it is a political movie in terms of the military industrial complex. or more specifically, one cog of that complex, the marines. this movie got it right. while syriana and crash were both trying to hit you over the head (with syriana it was necessary due to the complexity of the politics), jarhead was quietly moving along, in a very anti-climactic way. jarhead gets it completely right in terms of tone. even scenes where there were opportunities for hitting you over the head (eg: when the soldiers come across a convoy of charred and burnt out bodies of iraqi civilians), it choses not to. only deciding to focus on the moment and treat it like it is: a moment. we all know war is bad, and that war is hell. there's no need to smother us with it. after the movie, adam and i overheard a woman complaining because the civilian deaths were treated so lightly in the movie, and that they should have focused more on it. she completely missed the point. perhaps she's better off watching saving private ryan if she wants that sort of thing. (by the way, i thought saving private ryan was a joke compared to the masterpiece that the thin red line was. both of them came out the same year, but saving private ryan got more attention because it was more... obvious. i guess a poetic war movie like the thin red line is just not something most people like.)

finally, the constant gardener also got it right. a movie about big business and corruption and healthcare, all rolled up in a nice little package. this worked really well and i think accomplished what it set out to do. my only beef with it is the last scene in the movie, where you see the little african kids. it was just a little too much. i mean, we got the point. still, it was a good movie, with some smart writing and directing. like syriana, the movie didn't tell me anything that i already didn't know, but at least it was entertaining. but oddly enough, even though it got the human side down just right, i liked syriana more. i guess it's because syriana has explosions in it and i'm a sucker for explosions. plus, george clooney gets tortured, which is think is just his comeupance for making those crappy batman movies.

so that's tone. probably one of the most important aspects to story telling. and i'm struggling with it with cooler than the millions. it would be so easy to write in a bunch of rants, but really, that's all boring. and since my writing is heading to a more subtle place, i'm thinking it would be a mistake to write such a scene. there are a lot of things that i've already ruled out. (eg: i was gonna write a character into the book who was ultimately going to become a suicide bomber, but that was too much for me.) there's gonna be issues of torture, of human rights, of freedom and paranoia and fear. but ultimately, i want cooler than the millions to be human. i guess the best description for the book would be the following: a political opus on what one person's life is worth.