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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Can you spot the poor, but somehow amazing, writing?

Greetings, my friend. We are all interested in the future, because that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable. That is why you are here. And now, for the first time, we are bringing to you the true story of what happened on that fateful day.

--- the opening lines of Plan 9 from Outer Space


Blogger kaylen said...

oh my dear lord, they screwed with the reader. from singular to plural back to singular. that is one of my pet peeves.

also redundancy. and repetitiveness. and redundancy.

(however much i, too, dig the future.)

5:10 PM

Blogger Jonathan Ball said...

the best part, for me, is that the narrator spends so much time promising to tell about events in the future, but then says that the events have already happened!!

5:42 PM

Blogger lindseyw said...

This can only involve time travel.

6:52 PM

Anonymous Peter Norman said...

Ed Wood is a special kind of genius. That rare artist who achieves transcendent greatness via singular & profound badness.

It takes such a delicate balance of factors for such a genius to emerge. For one thing (s)he must be totally earnest and have lofty artistic amibitions (overshooting is crucial). Even more importantly, (s)he must be totally unaware of how bad (s)he is. Any trace of ironic knowingness ruins the effect. And if something is deliberately so-bad-it's-good, the result cannot be anything but despicable. Finally, the badness itself must be thorough, infusing every aspect of the art (in Ed Wood's case, this extends through the screenplay to the casting, the handling of actors, the editing and the securing of stage props meant to represent gravestones). The badness must also be idiosyncratic, true to a messed up private vision. Banal bad is never more than bad.

Ed Wood has all this and more. I think he is one of the most astonishing writers of the 20th century. But mesh his screenplays with his directorial touch, and he is one for the ages. He dwells in the pantheon.

Other geniuses of this kind include William McGonagall, the Victorian Scottish poet, and James McIntyre, Canada's 19th-century "cheese poet" (the nickname refers to his subject matter, which literally was cheese, and not to the literary characteristics of his work). Of course, it's easier for rhyming poets to excel in this category, as the strictures of rhyme often lead to uproarious doggerel.

Some artists come close but don't quite make the grade. I consider early Vanilla Ice to belong to the lesser canon. HIs lyrics on paper certainly strain in the direction of great awfulness; his persona almost seals the deal. To have this impression confirmed, check out his cinematic debut, "Cool As Ice."

8:29 AM

Blogger Jonathan Ball said...

I've seen Cool as Ice!!!

There is something to that notion of Ed Wood's idiosyncratic, private vision. Although he was a terrible director, he managed to develop a very particular and distinct style. And he has a set of recurring themes which he examines relentlessly, in his own bumbling way. The movie for me is Glen or Glenda. Here is a film that is actually full of very interesting ideas and which is very avant-garde in its own way. But it's also very inept. Wood was incredibly ambitious, as Peter notes, and I think this ambition is what really endears him to me.

10:10 AM


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