I really need to delete the TV Guide app from my iPad. That thing sucks me in every time I look at it. Well, almost. Even with 140+ channels, some days there is just absolutely nothing to watch. Other days, there are way too many things to watch and I start with one and the next thing I know I’ve lost hours and hours to TV land.
Thank goodness I don’t have the DVR option enabled. I’d become the couch.
I was planning on writing Sunday night but I was tired (love those allergies and the Benadryl I take to combat it. My brain is constantly fried these days) and thought, “Well, I’ll just glance at what’s on TV tonight…”
One of the things that sucks me in most is classic movies. Turner Classic Movies is one of my favorite channels. I’m a sucker for that stuff. And Sunday night they were running the 1968 release of Planet of the Apes. The best movie out of all of them, in my opinion.
I’d be a liar if I told you I was always a fan. While I love sci-fi and speculative stuff, those monkeys scared the crap out of me as a kid. I did not like that make-up. As an adult, it’s a different story. I can appreciate the nuances and the technical skill it took to create those characters visually. No CGI. Just make-up, prosthetics and a lot of technique. But man, that was the stuff of many a bad dream in my youth.
I know I’ve seen the movie before. Mostly because I know how it ends (spoiler alert: it’s awesome!), and I’ve seen the “Get your paws off me” scene. And I remember the bits in between those two scenes and some of what comes before the paws scene. But, for the life of me, I couldn’t remember the beginning. Yet, I know I’ve seen the movie. So, I decided to watch instead of write. Because I had a foggy brain and really wanted to see the beginning which I couldn’t remember.
The first hour was a complete mystery to me. It was kind of cool, in a sense. I was seeing it for the first time. And it’s good stuff. On the other hand, if I’m so sure I’ve seen it before, why didn’t the beginning stick with me?
Which got me thinking about writing and story telling in general. A really good story should stay with you from the beginning to end, shouldn’t it? While I couldn’t tell you exactly how the Harry Potter story opens, I can tell you the beginning. It’s about this kid who lives under the stairs at his Aunt and Uncle’s and they hate him and (again, spoiler alert), turns out he’s a wizard (among other things going on with this kid). See? I didn’t look that up at all (and the Internet’s right here) and I remember it. So, why the heck can’t I remember the beginning of Planet of the Apes.
I think the obvious answer is: I hadn’t really seen the whole thing beginning to end. Because it’s such a great movie and such a great story that I should have remembered it. Right? Good stories stick.
But, from a writer’s perspective, it was even better that I couldn’t remember (or hadn’t seen) the beginning. Given I knew the ending, it was fun to watch the beginning knowing what awaited in the last few frames. I could see the subtle clues (and the not so subtle ones) that were sprinkled in the dialogue. Here and there these little tidbits were dropped that kinda sorta let the viewer know what was going to happen. Not exactly, of course, but enough that if you were paying close attention, you wouldn’t be quite so shocked at the end. Impressed, but not shocked.
Ah. Good story telling at it’s best. A twist ending that you mostly saw coming because the writer let you in on the secret without giving it away. How I wish I possessed that ability without having to try so hard at it. But, those are the breaks I guess. Rod Serling I am not.
And, if you weren’t paying attention, the ending is still pretty cool. It’s a twist, but it totally fits. In so many ways. Also the mark of good story telling, I think. A twist ending that makes you say, “I did not see that coming,” but you don’t feel cheated or tricked. The Sixth Sense is an excellent example of this. A twist ending that makes you go “What?” in the first breath then “Oh, cool!” in the second. It’s the twists where you go “What?” in the first breath then “No way,” in the second but not in a good way, that make you think of bad story telling.
And with no way to end this post, twisting or otherwise, I’m off to critique and work on my Friday Phrases tweets for Friday.
The End (an absolutely classic ending)