Favorite Quotes: Chasing Success & The Wisdom of Viktor Frankl


Viktor-Frankl-shows-us-why-we-should-believe-in-othersI have finally begun reading Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search For Meaning. It has been recommended to me for years and I’m just now catching up to those recommendations (my therapist was the most recent and final impetus). Good thing I did, too. I hadn’t even gotten through the Preface when I was presented with a quote I will remember and attempt to incorporate into my life:

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”   ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

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Favorite Quotes: Chasing Success & The Wisdom of Viktor Frankl

Kubrick & Burgess: Two Clockworks


clockworksmallerI recently responded to a friend’s Facebook post commenting on the differences between Anthony Burgess’ novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s adaption of the material. I tried to describe why I thought the changes that were made by Kubrick were valid and why I saw his concentration on sex and sexuality in the film (compared to the novel) as being so crucial and important an element.

What I wrote was a combination of my own thoughts and observations, mixed with ideas raised in conversation with others and, finally, other notions and observations made by professional critics, both contemporary and at the time of the film’s release.

Here is my response as I sent it. I repost it here simply as a conversation starter and because I so enjoy this type of discussion. I hope you do, too:

I think it’s important to see the film of CLOCKWORK within the context of the time in which it was made. Newfound sexuality, the sexual revolution, sexual conversations were out there in a way that was the antithesis of where they had been in the years just prior to this period. Sexual violence was also something that was finally being discussed as opposed to swept under the rug. I think it does a disservice to Kubrick to think of him as unsophisticated or adolescent. I think he’s one of the few directors for which these terms do not apply. Don’t mix up commentary on a subject for being a justification or acting out of a subject. As for subtlety, the film may be more subtle than you think in this regard. The simple fact that some people saw the film as “cool” or “got off on it” is extremely telling. I don’t think Kubrick himself was making the film to elicit such responses. He was making it in reaction to such responses and raising the topic for conversation. That said, subtlety is not a requirement for me in storytelling. Though it’s something I admire greatly. But there have been many masters of filmmaking who are not known for subtlety. In fact, quite the opposite. The great David Lean being one of them. Never subtle, but almost always amazing.

What Kubrick wanted to address in CLOCKWORK reflected what he saw in society. He wasn’t trying to simply adapt Burgess’ ideas or vision. He was “interpreting” them to what he felt was important and contemporary. In his eyes. A great book should leave one thinking, asking questions. The end of a book should be (in my opinion) the beginning of a journey for the reader in life. Burgess’ book sent Kubrick on his own journey which, for me, is incredibly appropriate and exactly what I would want from him. That said, I think that Burgess and Kubrick did say many of the same things and I don’t feel the film is as far removed from the book as you do. There have been a few films that were direct, literal adaptations of books and, in many cases, those films did not work for some of us as well as other adaptations that tried to capture the “essence” of the material as opposed to transcribing it directly. It’s another medium and another storyteller at work. One could not adapt a painting into a film and expect them to be the same.

Burgess wrote the novel 10 years before Kubrick turned it into a film. There were great cultural shifts in those 10 years which are reflected in Kubrick’s adaptation. Burgess’ wife had been raped after the war and a lot of what’s in his book comes from an autobiographical perspective. Kubrick is taking in the story via his own experiences, as we all do, and what the characters and story mean for him. As for the book’s ending, Kubrick was more of a pessimist with a sense of the ironic than was Burgess. That is why he kept the ending he did (he did read Burgess’ other ending). The film reflects the social anxieties and political concerns of its time. Not to mention, fashions, styles, etc. The naked women furniture in the Korova Milkbar were inspired by sculptures (by Allen Jones) that had been on display and gaining lots of attention. Again, Kubrick was making a commentary. Even Alex’s costume in the film was very different from the description in the book. Kubrick was making a commentary on a certain type of cricket-playing English gentleman.

Filmmaker Fellini stated of CLOCKWORK “I was very predisposed against the film. After seeing it, I realized it is the only movie about what the modern world really means.” Again, I think it’s crucial to take the film in under the context of the times. And to give Kubrick some credit. He was never a flippant filmmaker. And he, unlike many other filmmakers today, dealt with sexuality directly and in ways that were often misunderstood (EYES WIDE SHUT). Also, Burgess was a Christian and came from that perspective. Kubrick, on the other hand, was more of a pessimist and saw the State as using many of its most violent and disturbed individuals to maintain control. Alex’s droogies becoming policemen and Alex himself being hired by the Minister of the Interior at the film’s end. Kubrick was always very vocal in regards to politicians and the military and their use of “collecting” violent individuals to enact their needs and maintain control. Again, look at the political and social upheavals, the wars, police actions, taking place at the time. Alex and his droogies are “evil” but also very human. Are they so different from a society that acts similarly but in the name of morality?

Alex is the Id. And I think any portion of him that we may recognize (consciously or, more important, unconsciously) in ourselves is a very scary notion which quite easily elicits anger and a condemnation of the film itself instead of an exploration of what it evokes in us as human beings and members of society. Alex also has some very noble and attractive qualities: he’s witty, smart, VERY much “alive,” not to mention his deep appreciation for music. Another thing to consider is that Kubrick uses films of violence as the tool with which to try and control Alex. They are the government’s form of propaganda. Kubrick is HIGHLY aware of the power of film and of violence in film. And he says as much in this sequence. He is making a commentary on his own medium and, in a way, the very film he is making.

Kubrick also chooses to comment on how open-sexuality, which had until recently been a rebellious act, had now become incredibly casual. This is one reason for the imagery in the home of the woman he kills with the penis statue. CLOCKWORK is also, in many ways, satirical. It can not –should not– be taken at face value. No Kubrick film should if it is to be understood and its many secrets revealed. And yes, there is a journey that needs to be taken in order to get to that place. But it is a journey I, as a lover of film and filmmaking, find wholly worthwhile.

And I absolutely think Kubrick’s vision is about “choice.” The entire film suggests that to try and make Alex good, they are, in fact, making him less than human. And their tactics are equally as horrific as Alex’s own. “It is necessary for man to have choice to be good or evil, even if he chooses evil. To deprive him of this choice is to make him something less than human — A clockwork orange.” –Stanley Kubrick.

In his write-up on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE at the time in “The Catholic News,” John E. Fitzgerald wrote: “The film seems to say that to take away a man’s choice is not to redeem him but merely to restrain him. Otherwise we have a society of oranges, organic but working like clock-work. Such brainwashing organic and psychological, is a weapon, that to totalitarians in state, church or society might wish for an easier good even at the cost of individual rights and dignity. Redemption is a complicated thing and change must be motivated from within rather than imposed from without if moral values are to be upheld. But Kubrick is an artist rather than a moralist and he leaves it to us to figure what’s wrong and why, what should be done and how it should be accomplished.” 

Kubrick & Burgess: Two Clockworks

Jerry Garcia Week 2011 Days 8 & 9: A Body Of Work


As this year’s Garcia week comes to a close, I want to direct everyone’s attention to the incredible body of work, musical and otherwise, that Jerry Garcia was a part of. Here are just a few of the places one can find Garcia’s vast legacy online:

Here’s a web site many of you are already familiar with, but one some of you may not have ventured a visit to: The Grateful Dead Listening Guide over at deadlistening.com. This site offers what might just be the most creatively written and all-consuming collection of live Dead show-suggestions on the web. Or anywhere else, for that matter. The site is self-descibed as “Helping new and old-comers navigate through listening choices in the sea of Grateful Dead shows available on and off line.” 

Shows are chosen by quality of playing as well as quality of recording. All years are represented. If you’re looking for the best audience recording from a particular year, you will probably find it here. Best soundboard? Also here. Want to know what the Dead’s famed Wall Of Sound sounded like in an outdoor stadium? Look no further.

This site has turned me on to many shows I had never heard before or had never heard so well. It is a great way to discover the music of the Grateful Dead as well as Jerry Garcia’s unique playing style. The site is updated regularly and each addition is a gem.

Here’s a sample: 1974 July 31 – Dillon Stadium.

As for the Grateful Dead on video, The Grateful Dead movie is always a terrific place to start. Here’s my review of the film and DVD release.

You can also visit the largest resource of live Grateful Dead recordings on the internet over at the Internet Archives. Here you can download audience recordings and listen to streaming soundboards of just about every Dead show ever played! Now THAT’S a pretty amazing feat!

Want to check out a set list from a specific place and year? Look no further than Deadlists.com. You’ll find each and every one ready and awaiting your perusal.

Want to take a stroll through the many paintings and drawings Jerry Garcia produced in his lifetime? You can pick up the book Jerry Garcia: The Collected Artwork, or visit my post, The Paintings & Sketches Of Jerry Garcia.

And for you torrent-users out there who like to download the latest and best-sounding Grateful Dead shows that find their way into circulation, you have to spend some serious time over at bt.etree.org. Check back every couple of days as old recordings are being remastered constantly by the best and brightest in the online trading community.

And while you’re doing all of that, keep in mind how lucky we all are to have lived in a world and at a time when Jerry Garcia was alive and making music, regardless of whether or not you had a chance to see the man perform in person. Thanks to the age in which Mr. Garcia was born, there is a solid record of his contributions here. And I, for one, will continue working my way through as much as I can possibly consume. With much gratitude.

We miss you, Jerry. With all our hearts.

Jerry Garcia Week 2011 Days 8 & 9: A Body Of Work

Articulating Bergman


In my constant reading of the writings and musings of my favorite directors, filmmakers, etc., I sometimes stumble upon a paragraph (or in this case an entire essay) that articulates my own feelings on filmmaking better than I myself have been able to express or, oftentimes, understand. In my ongoing exploration of the film and work of Ingmar Bergman, I stumbled on this essay written by the man in 1959. The following is shorter than the one that initially captured my attention in the Taschen INGMAR BERGMAN ARCHIVES, but it covers the basics of what Mr. Bergman expressed (for the more detailed version, you’ll just have to get the Taschen book!). Suffice it to say, when I read something so well articulated and so close to my heart, I feel an urge to share it with anyone who may also find it of interest. I am borrowing the following text from www.ingmarbergman.se. The essay is titled “Each Film Is My Last” and is broken up into three sections:

I. The script

Often it begins with something very hazy and indefinite – a chance remark or a quick change of phrase, a dim but pleasant event yet one which is not specifically related to the actual situation. It can be a few bars of music, a shaft of light across the street. It has happened in my theatrical work that I have seen performers in fresh make-up in yet unplayable roles.

All in all they seem to be split-second impressions that disappear as quickly as they come, yet nevertheless leave an impression behind just like a pleasant dream.

Most of all they are a brightly coloured thread sticking out of the dark sack of unconscious. If I Begin to wind up this thread and do it carefully a complete film will emerge.

I would like to say that this is not the case of Pallas Athene in the mind of Zeus, but an unconnected phenomenon, more a mental state than an actual story, but for all that abounding with fertile associations and images.

All this is brought out with pulse-beats and rhythms which are very special and characteristic of the different films. Through these rhythms the picture sequences take a separate pattern according to the way they were born and mastered by the motive.

This primitive life-cell strives from the beginning to achieve form, but its movements may be lazy and perhaps even a little drowsy. If in this primitive state it shows itself to have enough strength to transform itself into a film I decide to give it life and begin work on the script.

The feeling of failure occurs mostly before the writing begins. The dreams become merely cobwebs, the visions fade and become grey and insignificant, the pulse-beat is silent, everything becomes small, tired fancies without strength and reality.

I have thus decided to make a certain film and now begins the complicated and difficulty mastered work. To transfer rhythms, moods, atmosphere, tensions, sequences, tones and scents into words and sentences in a readable or at least understandable script.

This is difficult but not impossible.

Thus let us state once and for all that the film-script is a very imperfect technical basis for a film.

In this connection I should draw attention to another fact which is often overlooked. Film is not the same thing as literature. As often as not the character and substance of the two art forms are in conflict. What it really depends on is hard to define, but probably has to do with the self-responsive process. The written word is read and assimilated by a conscious act and in connection with the intellect and little by little it plays on the imagination or feelings. It is completely different with the motion picture. When we see a film in a cinema we are conscious that an illusion has been prepared for us and we relax and accept it with our will and intellect. We prepare the way into our imagination. The sequence of pictures plays directly on our feelings without touching the mind. There are many reasons why we ought to avoid filming existing literature, but the most important is that the irrational dimension, which is the heart of a literary work, is  often untranslatable and that in its turn kills the special dimensions of the film. If despite this we wish to translate something literary into filmic terms, we are obliged to make an infinite number of complicated transformations which most often give limited or no result in relation to the efforts expended.

I know what I am talking about because I have been subjected to so-styled literary judgement. This is about as intelligent as letting a music critic judge an exhibition of paintings or a football reporter criticise a new play.

The only reason for any and everyone believing himself capable of pronouncing a valid judgement on motion pictures is the inability of the film to assert itself as an art form, its need of a definite artistic vocabulary, its extreme youth in relation to other arts, its obvious ties with economic realities, its direct appeal to feelings. All this causes the motion picture to be regarded with disdain, the directness of expression of the motion picture makes it suspect in certain eyes, and as a result any and everyone thinks himself competent to say anything he likes in whatever way he likes on film art.

I myself have never had ambitions to be an author. I do not wish to write novels, short stories, essays, biographies or treatises on special subjects. I certainly do not want to write pieces for the theatre. Film-making is what interests me. I want to make films about conditions, tensions, pictures, rhythms and characters within me and which in one way or another interest me. I am filmmaker not an author, the motion picture is my medium of expression not the written word. The motion picture and its complicated process of birth are my methods of saying what I want to my fellow men. I find it humiliating for my work to be judged as a book when it is a film. Such is to call a bird a fish, and fire, water.

For a very long time I have wanted to use the film medium for story-telling. This does not mean that I find the narrative form itself faulty, but that I consider that the motion picture is ideally suited to the epic and the dramatic.

I know, of course, that by using film we can bring in other previously unknown worlds, realities beyond reality.

II. The Studio

It happens when I stand there in the half-light of the film studio with its noise and throng, the dirt and wretched atmosphere, I seriously wonder why I am engaged in this most difficult form of artistic creation.

The rules are many and burdensome. I must have three minutes of useable film “in the can” every day. I must kept to the shooting schedule, which is so tight that it excludes almost everything but essentials. I am surrounded by technical equipment which with fiendish cunning tries to sabotage my best intentions. Constantly I am on edge, I am compelled to live the collective life of the studio. Admist all this must take place a process which is sensitive and which really demands quietness, concentration and confidence.

I mean working with actors and actresses.

There are many directors who forget that our work in film begins with the human face. We can certainly become completely absorbed in the esthetics of montage, we can bring together objects and still life into a wonderful rhythm, we can make nature studies of astounding beauty, but the approach to the human face is without doubt the hall-mark and the distinguishing quality of the film. From this we might conclude that the film star is our most expensive instrument and that the camera only registers the reactions of this instrument. In any cases the opposite can be seen: the position and movement of the camera is considered more important than the player, and the picture becomes an end in itself-this can never do anything but destroy illusions and be artistically devastating.

In order to give the greatest possible strength to the actor’s expression the camera movement must be simple, free and completely synchronised with the action. The camera must be a completely objective observer and may only on rare occasions participate in the action.

We should realise that the best means of expression the actor has at his command is his look. The close-up, if objectively composed, perfectly directed and played, is the most forcible means at the disposal of the film director, while at the same time being the most certain proof of his competence or incompetence. The lack of abundance of close-ups shows in an uncompromising way the nature of the film director and the extent of his interest in people.

The director should not deluge the actor with instruction like autumn rain, but rather should make his points at the right moments. His words ought rather to be too few than too many. For his performance the actor is little helped by intellectual analyses. What he wants are exact instructions at the moment and certain technical corrections without embellishments and digressions. I know that an intonation, a look or a smile can often do far more good to the actor than the most penetrating analysis. This mode of action sounds like witchcraft, but it is nothing of the sort; it is only a quiet and effective method of control over the actor by his director. Indeed the fewer the discussions, talks, explanations, the more the affinity, silence, mutual understanding, natural loyalty and confidence.

III. Professional ethics

Many imagine that a commercial film industry lacks morality or that its morals are so definitely based on immorality that an artistically ethical standpoint cannot be maintained on anything so lacking. Our work is assigned to businessmen, who at times regard it with apprehension as motion pictures have to do with something as unreliable as art.

If many regard our activity as dubious, I must emphasise that its morality is as good as any and so absolute that it could almost cause us embarrassment. However, I have found that I am like the Englishman in the tropics, who shaves and dresses for dinner every day. He does not do this to please the wild animals but for his own sake. If he gives up his discipline then the jungle has beaten him.

I know that I shall have lost to the jungle if I take a weak moral standpoint or relax my mental punctiliousness. I have therefore come to a certain belief which is based on three powerful effective commandments. Briefly I shall give their wording and their meaning. These have become the very fundaments of my activity in the film world. The first may sound indecent but really is highly moral. It runs:

THOU SHALT BE ENTERTAINING AT ALL TIMES.

This means that the public who sees my films and thus provides my bread and butter has the right to expect entertainment, a thrill, a joy, a spirited experience. I am responsible for providing that experience. That is the only justification for my activity.

However, this does not mean that I must prostitute my talents, at least not in any and every way, because then I would break the second commandment which runs:

THOU SHALT OBEY THY ARTISTIC CONSCIENCE AT ALL TIMES.

This is a very tricky commandment because it obviously forbids me to steal, lie, prostitute my talents, kill or falsify. However, I will say that I am allowed to falsify if it is artistically justified, I may also lie if it is a beautiful lie, I could also kill my friends or anyone else if it would help my art, it may also be permissible to prostitute my talents if it will further my cause, and I should indeed steal if there were no other way out.

If one obeyed one’s artistic conscience to the full in every respect then one would find oneself doing a balancing act on a tight-rope and one would become so dizzy that at any moment one could fall down and break one’s neck. Then all the prudent and moral bystanders would say, “Look, there lies the thief, the murderer, the lecher, the liar. Serves him right”. Not a thought that the joy of creation, which is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever, is bound up with the necessary fear of creation. One can incant as often as one desires, magnify one’s humility and diminish one´s pride to one’s heart’s content, but the fact still remains that to follow one’s artistic conscience is a perversity of the flesh as a result of years and years of mortification and radiant moments of clear asceticism and resistance. In the long run it is the same however we reckon. First on the point of fusion comes the area between relief and submission, which can be called the artistic obvious. I wish to assert at this point that this is by no means my goal, but merely that I try to keep to the compass as well as I can.

In order to strengthen my will so that I do not slip off the narrow path into the ditch, I have a third good and juicy commandment, which runs:

THOU SHALT MAKE EACH FILM AS IF IT WERE THY LAST.

Some may imagine that this commandment is an amusing twist of phrase or a pointless aphorism or perhaps simply a beautiful phrase about the complete vanity of everything. However, that is not he case.

It is reality.

In Sweden film production was interrupted for a whole year some years ago. During my enforced inactivity I learned that because of commercial complications and through no fault of my own I could be out on the street before I knew it.

I do not complain about it, neither am I afraid or bitter, I have only drawn a logical and highly moral conclusion from the situation that each film is my last.

For me there is only one loyalty. That is loyalty to the film on which I am working. What comes (or fails to come) after is insignificant and causes neither anxiety nor longing. This gives me assurance and artistic confidence. The material assurance is apparently limited but I find the artistic integrity is infinitely more important and therefore I follow the principle that each film is my last.

This gives me strength in another way. I have seen all too many film workers burdened down with anxiety, yet carrying out to the full their necessary duties. Worn out, bored to death and without pleasure they have fulfilled their work. They have suffered humiliation and affronts from producers, the critics and the public without flinching, without giving up, without leaving the profession. With a tired shrug of the shoulders they have made their artistic contributions until they went down or were thrown out.

I do not know but perhaps the day will come when I shall be received differently by the public, perhaps together with a feeling of disgust in myself. Tiredness and emptiness will descend upon me like a dirty grey sack and fear will stifle everything. Emptiness will stare me in the face.

When this happens I shall put down my tolls and leave the scene, of my own free will, without bitterness and without brooding whether or not the work has been useful and truthful from the viewpoint of eternity.

Wise and far-sighted men in the Middle Ages used to spend nights in their coffins in order never to forget the tremendous importance of every moment and their transient nature of life itself.

Without taking such drastic and uncomfortable measures I harden myself to the seeming futility and the fickle cruelty of film-making with the earnest conviction that each film is my last.

(Translated from the Swedish by P.E. Burke and Lennart Swahn.)

Articulating Bergman

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: A Love Song To Boys


I wish I could take credit for that phrase, but it was a friend of a friend who coined it. And it’s perfect.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE is everything the adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s book should be. In a non-Hollywood world. One can only imagine what this film might have looked like in the hands of a Ron Howard (the live-action HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS starring Jim Carrey) or a Bo Welch (the live-action THE CAT IN THE HAT starring Mike Myers). But in the hands of Spike Jonze, the film is a raw, emotional journey more akin to a poem than a plot-driven narrative. Kudos to Warner Brothers for getting behind Jonze’s vision and seeing that a mature and artistic film was produced and released. And while it’s true WILD THINGS didn’t make as much money as the two above-mentioned atrocities, nor did it receive any Academy Award nominations (THE GRINCH won for Best Makeup and was also nominated for Best Costume Design), even though WILD THINGS is brimming over with creativity and the creatures are simply the most expressive and individual creations I’ve seen on screen in many a year (and that includes AVATAR), I believe WILD THINGS will stand the test of time better than any of those more immediately “profitable” films.

There’s a Stanley Kubrick quote I often repeat and I’ll do so again here:

“A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later.”

That was certainly the case with Sendak’s book. It wasn’t a long book, just a few pages, really, with some vivid images and very few words. So while the story itself wasn’t “fleshed-out” in the way a novel would be, the book stirred the imagination and evoked feelings, both joyous and frightening, but always honest. And Jonze’s film adaptation stays true to this in spades. Jonze:
“One of the things I was worried about is that the book is just so beloved to so many people. And as I started to have ideas for it I was worried that I was just making what it means to me, and what the book triggers in me from when I was a kid. And I’d be worried that other people were gonna be disappointed, because it’s like adapting a poem. It can mean so much to so many different people. And Maurice [Sendak] was very insistent that that’s all I had to do… just make what it was to me, just to make something personal and make something that takes kids seriously and doesn’t pander to them. He told me that when his book came out, it was considered dangerous. It was panned by critics and child psychologists and librarians, because it wasn’t how kids were talked to. And it took like only two years after the book was out that kids started finding it in the libraries, and basically kids discovered it and made it what it is. And now it’s 40 years later and it’s a classic. So he said you just have to make something according to your own instinct.”

It should be noted that WILD THINGS isn’t necessarily a film for kids. Now that doesn’t mean, of course, that kids won’t like or appreciate it, but it doesn’t speak down to them and Jonze pulls no punches in his telling and interpretation of the story. It is incredibly scary and unsettling at times. The film does, after all, explore the wild emotions that surge through all of us when we’re young and don’t yet have the tools to control or understand the sweeping inner turmoil we are subjected to. And lead actor Max Records imparts this inner conflict with such abandon that it is impossible not to participate in his wildly emotional journey.

From the first frame of Max, dressed in his now famous wolf costume, chasing his dog around the house as if interacting one wild beast to another, the audience is told immediately that this film is more about emotion than plot; more interior than exterior. As Max catches up with his dog and latches onto it like a wolf pouncing on its prey, his mouth open wide and screaming with the fierceness and joy and exuberance of a creature both out of control and in its element, Jonze freezes the frame as the main title appears. Wild things, indeed. We are clearly not in for a saccharine ride.

And the tone that Jonze sets in that opening sequence maintains its momentum and strength throughout the film. From Max’s interactions with his sister and her friends, to his mother and her boyfriend, Max’s journey is a roller-coaster of joy, sadness, anger, loneliness, exhilaration and confusion. But it is also a journey and celebration of small moments. Like when Max plays with his mother’s stockinged toes under her writing desk where she works. It is one of those intimate moments we have as kids; a private world–a cave of sorts–where we get to examine things up close, to touch and feel and poke. A place we rarely go to as adults, but which linger deep in our subconscious and in our sense-memory. Places of comfort, be it that space under the desk or a self-made igloo created in the aftermath of a blizzard or, as the film later parallels, a nest to be built and destroyed and rebuilt again. Creation is often followed by destruction and then creation again, much in the same way we eventually leave some of our wild beasties behind, even though we never forget them and still hold them somewhere close, just out of reach. They are the building blocks of our personalities, our way into the world, how we interact and comprehend.

And the world of both Max and his Wild Things are presented to us as equally real. Not a fantasy world painted with broad, colorful strokes or a CG wonderland of unreality, but an organic world of dirt and shadow, of sunlight and cold. As children, the worlds of our imagination are all-consuming; they are real to us and Jonze honors that world. He takes it as seriously as we ourselves do.

As a writer myself, I have learned to embrace and celebrate the process of writing stream-of-consciousness; not working from a pre-determined plot or sequence of events, but instead, allowing my subconscious to run free, uninhibited; to let the characters and events speak for themselves, to dictate what will happen next. To allow myself to be surprised and to trust that my own inner voice has something to say, something to reveal. It is, in many ways, the antithesis to how Hollywood approaches storytelling.

Hollywood today can be seen as the death of subtext. Stories are written and rewritten by committee until the story has been stripped bare of that individual voice that is–or would have been– our most personal link to the story and characters. Gone are the unspoken themes that emerge regardless of an author’s intent; the layers beneath the layers that are imparted to our unconscious, those things that are felt before they are understood. All too often in the contemporary Hollywood film, emotional responses are calculated, plot beats and motivations explained. It is more often than not whittled down to something that works on the surface, but rarely touches on the primal, where I believe the best stories flourish and thrive. Spike Jonze:

“I slowly just tried to trust that there were certain feelings in the movie that didn’t need dialogue, and that we didn’t have to have dialogue saying what the movie is about so much as the movie just being about it. So we slowly just tried to find places where we could strip the dialogue back and let the feeling of the photography and the mood and the performances do the work.”

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE inhabits this primal, poetic world, and it does so with the exuberance of life and childhood, with honesty, and without apology. It is truly an inner journey–helped along by Karen O and Carter Burwell’s stunning, evocative score–that trusts our hearts over our minds, while intimately celebrating both.

It is truly a love song to boys. And to all children. And the adults they become.

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE: A Love Song To Boys

Quotes By Artists About Their Art: Bruce Springsteen


From Robert Hilburn’s terrific book CORNFLAKES WITH JOHN LENNON: AND OTHER TALES FROM A ROCK ‘N’ ROLL LIFE:

“The mistake a lot of musicians make, is they imagine an audience and then try and make a piece of music to fit it. “They get caught up in the race, and it can be dangerous to your creativity, and probably your sanity. What you have to do is start with a piece of music and then search out the audience for it, and if this is the audience for the new album, that’s fine. That’s where I should be right now.”

Of course, this quote applies to all artistic fields. While prepping my film THE PLAGUE, it was agreed and understood that we were making a film that did not fit snugly into any one genre and therefore it would be best to do the festival circuit in search of the film’s audience instead of seeking out a domestic distributor with a marketing department that had pre-conceived notions of what the film’s audience should be. Unfortunately for us, and the film, the powers-that-be, despite having verbally agreed to not seek out a domestic distributor until after a festival run, sold the distribution rights to Sony Screen Gems before we ever shot a frame.

The film was then taken over by the producers and marketing department in post-production and re-cut from scratch in an attempt to appeal to Clive Barker’s horror audience, an audience the film, in any incarnation, would never have appealed to. As a result, the film was both a commercial and artistic failure.

It was living through this experience, and in understanding that it is a common experience, that allowed me to complete my cut of the film despite warnings by my lawyers and agent at the time. It was and is the best thing I’ve ever done. Even though very few have seen my version. An artistic work, be it great or small, needs to be completed. If only for the artist him/herself. And there will always be an audience. Especially if one trusts the work.

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Quotes By Artists About Their Art: Bruce Springsteen