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.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Flushed Away

Flushed Away embodies the battle for animation's soul. The film has two parents: Aardman, the astoundingly clever creators of Wallace & Gromit who demonstrated the power of strong story-telling and sophisticated wit a decade before Pixar even existed; and DreamWorks, the also-ran of animation that produces four or five forgettable, regretable features for every Shrek. Flushed Away is every bit as entertaining as any of Aardman's previous features, and yet sadly shows signs of both legacies.

I can only imagine how the conversations might have gone with the producers:

Aardman: "Ok, so then, the stove falls through the floor, and behind it is a cockroach, and he has a pipe in his mouth and he's reading Kafka's Metamorphesis, and he says, 'A new stove would be nice.' "
DreamWorks: ". . . I don't get it."
Aardman: "Well, you know . . . Metamorphesis . . . cockroaches . . . "
DreamWorks: "Seems a little weak. Why don't we have one of the kids hit Roddy in the nuts with a soccer ball?"
Aardman: "You mean . . . a football?"
DreamWorks: "Whatever. But before that, Roddy falls off the drain pipe and lands on his nuts on a drainpipe . . . and then, slides off of that, lands on another drain pipe on his nuts, slides off of that and lands on a spoon handle on his nuts, and then finally hits the ground and groans."
Aardman: "..."
DreamWorks: "You can still do your cockroach thing. Just keep hitting the rats in the nuts."

Clearly DreamWorks felt compelled to foul out to a PG rating (for "crude humor and strong language") for fear that media-drenched ten-year-olds couldn't enjoy anything remotely subtle. Or perhaps their notion of animated humor really is limited to the bathroom variety, sprinkled with heavy-handed pop-culture references.

And yet, over all, the spirit of Aardman prevailed. Thank God they stuck to their British roots, using real British talent (Kate Winslet and Hugh Jackman), a London setting, and British humor (including the traditional digs at the French and, suprisingly, ugly Americans). One sequence with a frog mime and a cell phone left me gasping for breath, it was so incredibly original. I will gladly tolerate the belches and farts and pratfalls to get to such marvelously clever payoffs.



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