Hard to believe, I know, looking at the word-heavy posts I’ve been chucking up there lately, but I actually used to write short. No, really—the logorrhea’s only a recent bloomer. But now: 400-500 words, I’m barely out of the starting gate . . . and to think 600 was once my absolute legal limit. Can’t say what needs to be said in that amount of yackety? Then maybe you should try bowling, mate.
Except it’s not about “need” and never really has been. More a matter of desire, since sometimes it just feels good to rev up and spew—or rev up and trickle if the words don’t come, which is all too frequently the case. Yet somehow there’s always an excuse to blabber on—sound, rhythm, free association, archaism, all manner of performative indulgence, none of which has anything to do with raw necessity or use. “Do you really have to say it that way?” Well, no, given that I don’t “have to” say anything at all, no more so than anyone else. But if “ornament is crime,” as the modernists have insisted since the days of Adolf Loos, then somebody’d better arrest me quick: composing these hyperventilating (or are they just overbearing?) screeds is turning me into a criminal, maybe the worst kind of ornamental/discursive felon. Move over John Garfield, it’s too damn hard to go straight anymore.
Which doesn’t mean others can’t do it—write short, snappy commentaries—and occasionally do it well. My own favorite form of this is probably the haiku, primarily as a study in double-meaning cryptology, e.g.: “We just couldn’t watch, / but our friend suffered for us. / ‘It was god awful'” (The Passion of the Christ) and “Spaghetti Western, all you can eat—extra sauce, really long noodles” (Once Upon a Time in the West), both from Haiku Movie Reviews by Ginohn. Or if straight-ahead one-liners are more your bag, then the Four Word Film Review (“Bana, poker: cards, Drew”–Lucky You) may be the ultimate kiss-off site. Though not for me, helas . . .
Anyway, here’s a sampling from the deep, dark past of films I’ve encapsulated in 50 words or less. All with obligatory links, wherever available, but why even bother to click? Except for the credit summaries, everything’s in front of you right now:
The Atomic Brain—”Mad doctor and misshapen assistant put brain of cat into head of woman. Another of life’s little experiments gone awry.”
The Incident—”Fear and loathing on a New York subway train, with Tony Musante doing his familiar wacko-psycho routine, though I guess the best excuse to see Larry Peerce’s overwound impersonation of TV-movie seriousness is for the Tonight Show‘s Ed McMahon’s performance as a terrified subway passenger: naturally, he’s got a seat.”
Kitty Foyle—”Oscar time for Ginger Rogers in this archetypal sudser about a girl from the hard side of town who picks herself up by her bootstraps, only to be let down by the men in her life . . . and then the baby dies.”
Finally, the ineffable (if sadly unavailable online) Ninja Turf, which reads in toto: “What do they need turf for?”—no cast list, no director’s credit, that’s the whole shebang.
A friend of mine still thinks it’s the best thing I ever wrote. Thanks for the vote of confidence, pal.