Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Reviewing a movie in the same year that it came out is doing pretty good for me, so I don't feel too awkward writing about Cars. Reviewers generally liked it, but thought it was the weakest offering from Pixar so far, partially because of the difficult nature of making a car world emotionally engaging, but also because of slow pacing. Even knowing all that, the shortcomings did not make themselves conscious to me. I enjoyed it the whole way through.

Yes, there were times when I felt the awkwardness of the premise . . . it became most noticable when the romantic tensions reached their peaks. We can go with the car thing through infatuation, even flirtation, but once we reach immanent physical intimacy, our brains just stop, with nowhere to go. And the windshield eyes were just an eensy bit distracting at times.

The only thing about the pacing that seemed off was the fact that the plot elements were so predictable. I would have enjoyed the surprise plot elements -- the Hornet as crew chief, Guido as pit crew, the backwards driving -- if they had been genuine surprises. But I still enjoyed them, especially Guido.

The biggest surprise for me was the fact that the story stuck to its guns on its moral position. Most Hollywood pictures would let the small-town team boost Lightning McQueen to victory. A few Hollywood pictures would have the guts to let Lightning sacrifice his victory to let the King win his last race. But precious few would really have the wisdom to celebrate defeat, to recognize genuine sacrifice, and to let the hollowness of victory-at-all-costs reveal itself. What's more, it felt quite realistic; I really could imagine something of that sort happening on the NASCAR circuit. NASCAR is full of personalities and tradition and stories; it is a serious sport, and yet it has the same sort of larger-than-life dramas that puts it somewhere between reality TV and professional wrestling. It only makes sense that the big sponsorship would go, not the car that won the race, but to the car that won the most fans; and even more sensible that the car wouldn't throw over his original sponsors. That, more than anything, made the movie feel true to the NASCAR spirit that bred it. While they did a perfect deadpan sendup of the driver giving his sponsor's plug, they also wouldn't dream of letting Lightning giving up on Rust-Eaze. Some things are still sacred.



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