November 13, 2007
I'm reading a good book, "Story: Substance, Structure, Style And The Prinicples of Screenwriting," by Robert McKee. And one of the chapters deals with Antiplot, which is the opposite of Classical Form. I think Mckee sums up my problems with Cormac McCarthy's book and the new film by the Coen brothers, No Country For Old Men.
As I mentioned in my review of the film last week, we are rooting for Moss (Josh Brolin) to get away from the bad guy. Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) is trying to save him as well. Neither happens. We see the aftermath of a fight. But at least in the book, we have a bit of closure when Sheriff Bell goes to the motel later and realizes the bad guy, Chigurh, has just retrieved the missing money and is nearby, probably watching him. He calls for backup but the bad guy escapes with the money. In the movie, Tommy Lee goes to the hotel, sees the vent duck panel and the screws on the floor and we see the villain in shadows nearby. We have to assume he took the money, but it's not very clear. Nor is it clear where Chigurh is.
So, the weakest part of the movie for me is this band-aid on that sequence. Here's what author McKee has to say about this kind of writing: "He avoids closure, active characters, chronology and causality to avoid the taint of commercialism. As a result, pretentiousness poisons his work."
As for the Coen brothers, I would give Fargo a 9.5 because it was a complete story with closure. I have to gig No Country because it seems incomplete, just like the book. I still enjoyed the movie, but it just doesn't have that classic arc or full journey that thrilled me with Fargo. As I said, I'd give No Country an 8.5.
Speaking of Genre Expectations
When I went from being a wild and crazy cartoonist at New Times to a graphic historian with my first Billy the Kid book in 1992 I left behind some disappointed fans who have never quite gotten my True West side.
This is ironic because when I made a decision to follow my childhood passion on the Old West, it wasn't like I had been ignoring the Old West. Oh, far from it. I had been infusing my weekly cartoons for New Times with plenty of Old West subjects. Here's a couple examples from the mid-eighties:
These were the least favorite of editor Mike Lacey, and he more or less tolerated these forays into the Old West.
Yes, the Wyatt Earp (below, left) made it into my book (1993):
All Things Must Pass
I made the decision yesterday to discontinue the Honkytonk Sue strips in True West. Starting with the January, 2008 issue I am going to do a new feature, called "Old Vaquero Sayings." Gee, I wonder if the old vaqueros have anything to say about that?
"For everything you gain, you will lose something and for everything you lose, you will gain something."
—Old Vaquero Saying
Post a Comment
Post your comments