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THE GOING-INTO-BUSINESS STORY: GHOSTBUSTERS AND BE KIND, REWIND

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Warning! Mild Ghostbusters and Be Kind Rewind spoilers ahead!

This is a silly post for a silly subject.

Ghostbusters is a key movie for Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewindnot only is it the first movie the Jack Black and Mos Def characters remake—”swede”— but the two movies actually share the same plotline: friends going-into-business.

Kurt Vonnegut:

Anyone can graph a simple story if he or she will crucify it, so to speak, on the intersecting axes I here depict:

“G” stands for good fortune. “I” stands for ill fortune. “B” stands for the beginning of a story. “E” stands for its end.

A much beloved story in our society is about a person who is leading a bearable life, who experiences misfortune, who overcomes misfortune, and who is happier afterward for having demonstrated resourcefulness and strength. As a graph, that story looks like this:

misfortune graph

This story shape describes most comedies, especially romantic ones:

In the case of the going into business story, it goes like this:

  1. friends go into business to wild success (good fortune)
  2. business gets shut down by government agency (misfortune)
  3. the community rallies behind the friends to save their world (good fortune)

Here’s Ghostbusters:

ghostbusters graph

  1. Friends get kicked out of Columbia, go into business for themselves, land on the cover of Time magazine, etc.
  2. Walter Peck from the EPA comes down and shuts down the power grid and all hell breaks loose
  3. the mayor gets the Ghostbusters out of jail, NYC rallies behind them, and they kick Gozer’s ass

Now Be Kind Rewind:

be kind rewind graph

  1. Jack Black erases the tapes, so he and Mos Def have to record their own movies, and everybody loves them
  2. the lawyers from the MPAA come to shut them down (and the developers want to tear down the building!)
  3. the ‘hood rallies, they make the Fats Waller documentary together, and they have the screening in the building so the developers can’t tear it down

It’s a great plot because it has great American themes: friendship, capitalism, and community.

Okay. So this post might not pass the “so what” test. I’ve had a couple margaritas…sue me.

Can anyone else think of other “going into business” plotlines?

SO MUCH TO LEARN, FROM SO MANY TEACHERS

Monday, May 14th, 2007

I was doing the job search thing all morning, doctor’s appointment this afternoon (My doctor was from San Antonio, and he assured me that we would have an excellent time in Austin–the signs continue…), and the reference desk this evening. I have nothing to new to post–only these nuggets of wisdom I’ve gleaned from the corners of the internet:

Maureen McHugh, Ohioan-turned-Austinite, on characterization & plot :

My working definition of plot is character in situation. That’s a dicey definition because I think ‘characterization’ can rest of the flimsiest of textual tricks. A lot of what we think of as characterization comes from what cognitive psychologists call Theory of Mind. (That’s part of what autistic people struggle with and to not have a Theory of Mind is to be Mindblind.) Humans are highly social creatures and we spend a lot of time assuming that other people are, in fact, other people. That they have intentionality, emotion, and that we have a sense of what they are about….

We are so hardwired to make assumptions about other people’s interior states, that we make assumptions about all sorts of interior states. We personify stuff. We describe houses as ‘happy’ or ‘gloomy’. We think that the grocery cart has it in for our car door. We think that characters in fiction are people. We can leap to rather complex assumptions about them on the basis of fairly flimsy details. The details that we find most telling tend to be their actions. So in fact, part of character is what I describe them doing, and if I think of situation and describe characters acting in the situation, I am in fact characterizing as much as I am generating plot.”

* * *

More on plot, sent to me by Brandon, from John Fowles’, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, pg. 406:

The one want combats the other want, and fails or succeeds, as the actuality may be…the writer puts the conflicting wants in the ring and then describes the fight — but in fact fixes the fight, letting that want he himself favors win. And we judge writers of fiction both by the skill they show in fixing the fights (in other words, in persuading us that they were not fixed) andby the kind of fighter they fix in favor of: the good one, the tragic one, the evil one, the funny one, and so on.

“But the chief argument for fight-fixing is to show one’s readers that one thinks of the world around one — whether one is a pessimist, an optimist, what you will.”

* * *

Jordan Crane on splash pages and uniform panel size in an interview with Tom Spurgeon:

I feel like having each panel the same size and the same number on the page, the same spacing and all that, kind of relegates the story to everything that happens inside the panels. The sensational things, the high points and the low points, and the extra dramatics rely on the narrative flow rather than drawing it bigger. So that’s what I tried to focus on: the content of the panels rather than drawing it really big, relying on that. That had always really bothered me in comics. Splash page: this means it matters. This part is important. It always really bugged me….

Oh, God, reading modern superhero comics, none of it makes any fucking sense. It’s not a language. It’s just a bunch of drawings where you can read the words and string it together narratively and get through it. But there’s no language, there’s no punctuation, there’s nothing that makes formal sense about it.

It’s worth noting that Sammy Harkham, Crane’s studio mate, makes similar arguments.

* * *

Tony Millionaire on cartooning and deadlines, from a fantastic profile in the NYTimes

No matter what, I’ve got to get my weekly ‘Maakies’ out….That’s my soul. Without it I’d still be a bum, I’d still be drawing houses. I needed a deadline. That’s the code of the cartoonist: make the deadline.”

* * *

And finally, be sure to check out Craig Thompson’s gorgeous sketchbook pages on his new blog. My favorite of his books, Carnet de Voyage, or Travel Journal, is this times two-hundred and twenty-four.



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