Posting a bit late today. I will start with some new music, and then a couple of articles having an Unintentional Conversation.
Song: “California” by Mazzy Star
Mazzy Star’s first album, So Tonight That I Might See, is one of those records that I have listened to so many times that I don’t really need to deliberately play it ever again— it’s all in my head already. This is a new song, from a forthcoming new album— their first in more than a decade— but it would not sound at all out of place back on that first record (though it’s more “Into Dust” than “Fade Into You”). That’s a good thing, at least for me; they might have kind of a limited sound, but it’s theirs, and I want it to be there.
Song: “Pressure” by Until the Ribbon Breaks
This guy (at least I think it’s just one guy) sings the hook to a song on the Run the Jewels album, which I recommended a couple of weeks ago. I had never heard of him, but that hook got my attention, and a Google search turned up this track, which was released a few months ago. He doesn’t have an album out yet— though he has a deal, and it’s supposed to be out sometime later this year— and if it sounds anything at all like this I will buy it. It’s kind of R&B (or maybe “Alt R&B,” if we haven’t yet dismissed that term as too stupid to use), and it shifts seamlessly between off-kilter bump and soulful ballad. Both have been stuck in my head since I heard the song, but it’s that mode of stuckness that makes you want to listen to the song yet again, not the kind that makes you want to drive it out.
EP: What Is This About? by AOSOON
I really like the first song on this release more than the rest, but since the whole EP is streaming I figured I might as well post the whole thing. Mellow with great vocals and a nice low end.
Unintentional Conversation: “Save the Movie!” by Peter Suderman and “Hey, Kid: Thoughts For The Young Oddballs We Need So Badly” by Linda Holmes
Suderman discusses a book for screenwriters called “Save the Cat!” by Blake Snyder. Snyder provides a pretty clear and complete formula for writing a movie, complete with key story “beats” and the points in the movie when they should happen— in many cases, down to the page number. There are probably lots of books out there like this, just as there are lots of books that purport to tell you how to write a short story or how to take a photograph; the interest of Suderman’s piece is that this particular book has, he claims, more or less taken over Hollywood, leaving its imprint on virtually every major studio release for the last couple of years. As he puts it toward the beginning of the article,
Summer movies are often described as formulaic. But what few people know is that there is actually a formula— one that lays out, on a page-by-page basis, exactly what should happen when in a screenplay. It’s as if a mad scientist has discovered a secret process for making a perfect, or at least perfectly conventional, summer blockbuster.
Linda Holmes writes about pretty much the opposite of this. Occasioned by a tweet whose author longed for a “a summer movie where skyscrapers don’t fall over like dominoes,” Holmes decided to write what she calls her “survival hints for young creative weirdos, a phrase I use not just with love but with reverence.” Several of these speak to the idea of writing movies according to a formula, but the point that perhaps most directly addresses Snyder’s guidebook is when Holmes reminds potential creators not to “confuse what people are getting with what people want.” According to Suderman, the main reason that Snyder’s rules for screenwriting have become so pervasive in Hollywood is that
The major studios increasingly rely on a small number of megabudget blockbusters for their profits. But big budgets mean big risks. And the only way to mitigate those risks is to stick with what’s been known to work before. In other words, formula—and the more precise the formula, the better.
In other words, major studios are set up in such a way that they must equate what people are getting with what they want, must assume (or, perhaps, hope) that audiences are going to continue to want to see the same things, over and over again; they literally can’t afford to take risks, and familiar seems least risky. This is what it looks like, in other words, when movie studios in the era of the Long Tail try to continue living in the short, high-volume part of the graph. That’s a business model that militates against the kind of oddballs that Holmes is talking about, but it’s also probably an unsustainable model for precisely that reason. (At least, I hope so.)
Anyway, I found both of these on the same day through different channels, and I was pleased by the way in which they spoke to each other.