Wednesday, August 26, 2009

District 9; a Little Bit Kafka, a Little Bit Black Hawk Down

If I said more than that I might spoil it.

I’m not prepared to say that District 9 is the most amazing movie of the summer; I haven’t seen them all and I have had a torrid public love affair with Star Trek. What I am prepared to say is that District 9 is an incredibly well told story.

Director Neill Blomkamp is a master of the cinema verite style faux documentary. Much like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project the shaky cam this-really-happened footage adds a visceral sense of truth to the film. But unlike the aforementioned movies which use a lack of apparent editorial influence to build credit with the audience, the documentary framing allows District 9 to present the truth while implying that there is an even bigger truth beyond that.

Because the framing documentary is “filmed” after the main narrative the interviewed subjects are able to drop hints about further events in the film. While not always obvious at the time these hints create nice “aha” moments when the connections are made, and it is these connections that make for a tightly knit story.

While there is one nagging bit of unexplained phenomena (a “liquid” that is apparently both a fuel and a toxin), ultimately there are few loose ends at the end of the movie. This isn’t to say that everything is cut and dry; there are plenty of ways to interpret what has and will happen, but that everything has happened for a reason.

This is the kind of story telling that writers, directors, and editors of all media and genres could learn something from. It’s Chekhov’s gun in action, where the details are meaningful. Just for that it’s a great film.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Award Winner

That "period piece" I wrote about back in March ended up paying off. I reworked it into a bit of flash fiction and entered it into the Boing Boing Gadgets Gadget Fiction Contest. I would have been happy with just an honorable mention but it turns out I managed to grab second place. The editing is a little rough but here is "The New Machine":

It was a cold February afternoon in 1854 when the defrocked Reverend Daniel Martin addressed his small New England town.

The circumstances behind the resignation of Daniel’s pulpit were not unusual and for that reason among others the former Reverend was still respected by most of the community. A year ago in August Daniel Martin led an attempt to use the legal system to free a visiting slave. When the courts ruled in favor of the owners, the slave mysteriously escaped. There wasn’t enough evidence to bring Daniel to a trial let alone convict him, but that didn’t stop the cries of “nigger stealer” from rising from the south, and on his part Daniel Martin did little to deny the accusations. For this Reverend Martin was made to resign his position in the church, and for this he retained the respect of many of the town’s residents.

You can read the rest at Boing Boing Gadgets.