Dark Knight, Joker’s wild

The Dark Knight. July 18.

And here’s another kind of madness — what I expect will be a brilliant and masterful and lunatic tour-de-force performance from Heath Ledger, who Rolling Stone calls “mad-crazy-blazing brilliant,” and who by all accounts gave himself over to his work the way we all hope to, the way that burns. I only wish he could be here to see how people will respond.

I am looking forward to this movie like… I dunno. Like dancing to Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Like a southern summer storm, where the electricity gets right under your skin. Movies can put me straight into the heart of story, and this kind of story is where I’m living right now — big feelings, big choices, identity, exhaustion, the bright spots and shadows of the self. I am in a mood right now to see people ride their own bow wave, to see people walk their own edge, to be in the company of those who reach and reach and reach.

Kindness feels good

Earlier this week I saw Lars and the Real Girl and if I can convince even one person to see it, I’ll feel like I’ve added a glimmer to the general light in the universe. It’s a beautiful, fine movie. I laughed out loud, I cried, I loved every single character, and when it was done I felt terrific.

And you know why? Because it was 106 minutes of people being kind to each other. A community of folks confronting difference in one of their own and responding with compassion and kindness. And that is all that happened. Someone was frightened; people were kind; and it helped. I kept waiting for the cruelty that I knew was coming because that’s what happens when wacky people make themselves vulnerable, right? But it never happened.

Isn’t that extraordinary? A movie so confident in the power and wonder of human kindness that the kindness is all we need to see. Without a trace of anything sentimental or silly. It wasn’t a fairy tale — it was a simple story of the extraordinary kindness that people are capable of in the smallest acts. It was about how we really all do make a difference to each other. And for my money, there’s more power and human truth in this movie than in all the hip ironic let’s-plumb-the-depths bullshit I’ve seen or read in the last ten years.

I’m not linking to the trailer because it spoils some of the nicest moments. Just rent the movie and watch it.

And here’s a more immediate kindness fix in the meantime (gakked from my friend Dave — you rock for making me aware of this, bro.)

I hope this story makes you feel as good as it did me. Because it’s true that the simplest kindness can change a mind or a life. And all we have to do is see past what’s awkward or scary or inconvenient or icky about someone else, to put being human above being different from me. And that matters so much.

It’s a human thing to use our differences to demonize — dehumanize — each other. It’s a human thing to let our fear make us indifferent or cruel. But it is also a human thing to be kind, to be joyful, to find love and beauty and hope where we can…. and so I find joy and beauty and hope in the kindness — fictional and real — that I have seen in the last couple of days. I believe that such kindness could save us all.

Vid it

Have you heard of vidding?

Buy the DVDs of your favorite TV show or movie. Get a kickass piece of music. Load up some software. And put together diverse images and brief clips to make a music video. Chart your love for a character or relationship, explore a theme or arc. Express your connection to the show.

Tell your own story about the story that you love. To music that you love. How cool is that?

We have the technology these days to allow pretty much anyone with a computer to respond to art if they choose — by blogging, creating fan websites and community, mashing up, posting fan fiction, costuming, vidding. I love this. What joy, to be able to respond to what moves us.

Although I’m a writer, I don’t find my kicks in fan fiction even when it involves characters or stories that I love. My heart belongs to mashups and vidding, and when I think of responding to someone else’s art, it almost always involves music. I think I love these forms so much because they give me indirect access to something I yearn to do directly, but cannot. I can play music well enough, but I’m not a musician. I’m not an artist. But if I cannot create my own music, I can still choose to create something original and meaningful (to me) with someone else’s music.

Some feel that using images and music in this way is stealing. And technically, in fact, it is. But although I am a hedgehog (very prickly) about many aspects of nicking someone else’s art (see this, for example), in the case of using art to respond to art, well, I’m all for it. Nicola talked recently about fan fiction, and I agree with her — we should all be free to play. We should all be free to show our joy. We shouldn’t steal unpublished work, and we shouldn’t steal the financial benefits of published work. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Any artist who believes they can maintain total control over every comma or pixel or note of their work is dreaming — and so why would anyone start that fight over a three-minute music video that does nothing but show love?

This is the best vid I know of, made by y-fish. It uses clips from Firefly and Serenity, and the song “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway show Wicked. I think it’s great. If you like it, let her know.

(And if you visit y-fish’s LiveJournal, be sure to note that the first comment on this vid is from Joss Whedon, the creator (along with Tim Minear) of Firefly and Serenity, who is totally non-grumpy about this use of his work. About this love.)

I wish there were a way to respond like this to a novel or short story. Imagine. Wow. If someone did something like this in response to my work, I would cry like a baby and count myself blessed.

Sweeney Todd…

…absolutely rocks.

I fell in love with the play in the 80’s. I’m not a huge fan of what I think of as typical Broadway musicals or Broadway singing — if I hear one more orange-haired moppet belt out “Tomorrow” in a size 20 voice, I will absolutely run screaming from the room. But Sweeney Todd worked because the songs work as story, not just as vehicles for voice.

And now we have Tim Burton and his vision for Sweeney, and it’s fantastic. Dark, sophisticated, visceral in a way that is both cartoonish and gut-churning (seriously, when the first guy lands on the pavement, I just about lost my popcorn…). This is a streamlined Sweeney, and it’s a naturalistic one. Many of the talented cast don’t have trained voices, and the ones who do are forgoing Broadway-belt-it-out in favor of showing us who and where they are, and why. Telling us a story of themselves, or giving us a window into themselves at a moment of crisis. I love this naturalistic approach to music. I’d much rather watch an actor sell a song than simply sing it to the back row.

In particular, I think the duets benefit from this approach, as well as from the intimacy of the camera. If songs are story, then duets are relationship, and these are so nuanced and compelling… great stuff. A grownup movie with strong performances and all the grand guignol that Sweeney Todd demands.


And while we’re at it, I am so so so so excited about this. Heath Ledger is going to be amazing, I can just tell.

God, I love the movies.

22 January

Edited to add: And now he’ll never be amazing in anything again. God damn it, anyway.

Movie Solitaire

First of all, thank you for answering my previous question (your answer was long and definitely worth the read!). I especially liked the way you defined an expert novelist –” “Expert doesn’t mean the product is perfect, only that the results are conscious and shaped, rather than a splatter of hope, energy, desire held together by fledgling skills and a prayer….” Even though I have been writing for nearly a decade, I am still quite young, and I found your words to be both refreshing and encouraging.

So, here’s my newest question for you: if Solitaire ever became a movie, who do you see in the roles of your characters? Would you even want it to be a movie?

Have a nice day. I’ll be back soon to read your response.


I’d love Solitaire to become a movie, especially if the film preserved the emotional core of the book, although I couldn’t control that. Those are the dice you roll when you sell a book to the movies –” there’s a reason they call the process “adapting,” and it’s not just the book that has to adapt, you know? It’s everyone, including, maybe especially, the author. Nicola has also just recently posted some musings on the subject of book-to-film, and while I’m not sure I would go so far as to say I don’t care a whit about plot, I do agree that details go up for grabs. Some things can’t be translated.

What I would want is someone to make a movie about Solitaire because they cared about the same things I did: the essential characters and relationships, and what I think of as the heart of the book, the reconstruction of self and the power of hope. Some of the plot is necessary for that, and it seems to me it would defeat the purpose to morph the story into a cyberpunk revenge-thriller with lots of Ko baddies in sharkskin suits and dark glasses stalking Jackal across the NNA. But that could happen, and maybe it would be a better movie. It just wouldn’t be the book.

There’s something about writing that makes people inclined to treat their own work as sacred and immutable. But it can’t be that way in film or television, which are such collaborative media. In a funny way, I think my background in facilitation made it a lot easier for me when I first encountered this fundamental difference in worldview, when Alien Jane was adapted for Welcome to Paradox on the Sci Fi Channel. I had one author tell me point-blank that I shouldn’t watch the episode, that it would only upset and anger me, and that it was inevitable that “they” would ruin the story. I was startled by that point of view. I assumed (still do) that TV and movie people want to tell the best story they can, just like I do, and that they look for the best way in their medium the same way I do in mine. I know this is possibly naïve, certainly not true in all cases, but it’s still my default assumption. Most people don’t try to make crap.

Anyway, it was a genuine thrill to see Alien Jane on the screen, and to marvel over the changes as well as the similarities. I had a great experience corresponding with the people who made the show; they were charming, enthusiastic, intelligent and thoughtful, and were in fact trying to tell the best story they could. I was delighted to be a part of it, and I’d do it again in a New York second. But I wouldn’t expect a movie of Solitaire to be my vision of the story: I’d expect it to be the combined vision of the director, producer, screenwriter, actors, editor, cinematographer…. a veritable artistic gumbo. How cool it would be, to have something I wrote be the seed of such collaboration.

As far as casting, nope, I have no opinions about specific actors. I did have an actor in mind when I wrote Neill, but that’s just my private vision, and I think there are many folks who could play the role well. I think it would be mistake to make everybody white or whitebread, and I think it would be a mistake to make Snow a boy, but I can imagine either happening.

Ah, the visions in my head…. it would be such a kick to visit the set of Solitaire (something I didn’t get to do with Alien Jane because I didn’t ask quickly enough, and they had already finished shooting) and see the work in process, see some part of the essential book coming to life. Wow. I would sit in a corner with a goofy grin, I’m sure. Witnessing creation can be really boring and sometimes frustrating, but it can also be a pure rush when all the work comes together. I’ve experienced it enough in my time as an actor, and a facilitator, to treasure it when I see it happen in the world.

The variety of art

Kelley –” I read for a lot of reasons –” some of which are –” to learn, feel, experience, contemplate, confront, dream, and transcend. Sometimes I seek solace, a new way of approaching life, or the unexpected. The stories that have the most impact on me become a world unto themselves –” these are my favorites and I will read everything I can get my hands on by that author [or musician or director in other mediums]. What they have written lives on forever in my psyche. Solitaire is one of those books.

You taught me something important. I am a solo and I need to do some [more] online editing. And I am fortunate to have my own web.

Jackal and her world have intersected mine and I am grateful.

I enjoy the links and referrals by you and your readers. I am looking forward to reading more. Thank you.


And thank you. I do this myself with books and music, and can’t imagine how I could be myself without them moving through me like tides. I’m honored that you would include Solitaire on your list of things that work in you this way.

It’s interesting to think about the difference for me between books, music, and visual media in this context.

I give my heart to a TV show every so often, one led by a really good writer/director whose vision shapes all aspects of the experience (Buffy, Firefly, The West Wing, My So-Called Life, and does anyone remember Wizards and Warriors from the early 80’s? I loved that show.)

Movies are different. I tend to think of them as a more singular experience rather than part of a spectrum of work. I have a few favorite actors whose work I will seek out, but I don’t make the same commitment to directors and screenwriters. I’m partial to some (Peter Weir, John Sayles) but I don’t form the same passionate attachments that I do to authors and musicians. Hmm, she said, thinking, thinking. I wonder if this is perhaps because I recognize movies as collaborative, and what I am talking about rightnow is being drawn to the work of the individual? Auteur television falls somewhere in the middle ground. And of course no artist is free of the influence of others: in some ways, we’re all collaborating with the world in general and our own lives in particular. We are all editing online, all the time.

I love movies and television and theatre: I love the total sensory experience, and the complexity of so many elements coming together. Successful collaboration is a particular thrill to participate in, and to witness, and I’ve had some amazing emotional experiences in these situations. But I find my most powerful connection and recognition with books and music, where I am more free to consider the experience from multiple perspectives. It fascinates me that movies are a collaborative effort to present a unified vision, and fiction is an individual effort to present an experience that can be entered into in multiple ways. At least, that’s how it works for me. And music: well, for me, it’s the express train to places sometimes too deep for words alone.