Fear of Success

QuestionMarksI’m certain I’ve talked about this subject in the past – the idea that even if our lives are chaotic and unsatisfying, we’re comfortable with what’s familiar, what we know.  Sometimes while striving towards a goal, the unknown can be cause for fear, even if subconsciously.

How do I know this?

I’m pretty sure I created an act of self-sabotage this week, of course without any thought.

I wrote an original TV pilot to add to my portfolio, and I have to say, I’m proud of it.  It took some time to get everything in order, it’s sci-fi with aliens and distant worlds, etc. but when I got into it, I had tons of ideas and I really wanted to spend more time with these characters.

Writing the pilot is among the most satisfying writing I’ve done.  I had a clear image in my head and I wrote it.  I made minor adjustments, but honestly, within five drafts I felt it was ready to be seen.

I sent it to my readers, got positive feedback, and then found a contest to submit it to.  I wasn’t looking for any contests, it was my plan to get everything in order for the beginning of the year, but there was a pilot launch contest from Screencraft and the deadline was fast approaching.

So, why not?!

The Sis went through the script with a fine tooth comb and found all my little grammatical errors and one thing she thought needed changing – the name of a fairly inconsequential character.  Agent Six as he had been called, reminded her of something, and it was my goal to not have anything (names, places, expletives) sound too similar to those things I had been inspired by.  If that makes sense.

I had named him Six in honor of my favorite Cylon, but upon a search, Agent Six is a pretty big character on a current running TV series, so I felt it should be changed.  I didn’t have a lot of time to make the change and I got sidetracked during the process…I’m sure you can guess what happened.

I hit submit, got ready for work, and an hour later on my drive it hit me – I hadn’t caught them all.

The Beastie Boys song “Sabotage” has been playing on repeat in my head for days now. (The fan made Rogue One trailer hasn’t helped matters.)

Was this an act of self-sabotage?  Am I afraid of getting what I want?  For all my talk about going after your dreams, am I just putting on a façade?

I am so angry with myself, still.  Yes, it’s a small error, but when you’re hoping to be a professional, the best, most perfect representation of your work should go out into the world.  Does this error deter from the story?  No.  It’s near the end and takes up a fraction of the page, but it’s there, and I know it, and I know they’ll see it.

Sigh.

And now a new deadline lingers on the horizon, and in the back of my mind I have to wonder, am I capable of setting myself up again?  I truly hope not.

I’m not sure how to spin this to be helpful, except maybe to say, “make sure you have the time and focus to rewrite your work.”  Deadlines are great motivators, but let me be an example of what not to do.  Don’t wait until the last minute.  Don’t worry about something inconsequential – it can be changed later if there’s concern.  Plan ahead.  And, I suppose, this quote sums it up perfectly:

Don't be too hard on yourself

Wishing you all the very best in your endeavors!

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How to Recover from Burnout

SherlockBoredAs many of you are aware, I like my routine, but something about it recently has created the side effect of “burnout”.  I’ve had little motivation to do much beyond what is absolutely necessary, and even those things have taken great effort.

I’ve been tired.  I don’t feel compelled to write anything.  I haven’t done those responsible things you’re supposed to as a grown up, and it sort of came out of nowhere.

I feel that some of the blame can be placed on the vicarious living I’ve been doing through books and gaming, even my own stories.  All these characters are having adventures, meeting new people, and are seeing amazing sights, while I sit on my butt.  The other day at work, it was yet another slow night and I was writing notes for my fanfiction when the cook asked me if I was writing about my own life.

I couldn’t help but laugh, like a big hearty laugh.

I told him I write fantasy and science fiction, so that didn’t really apply, and then I waved my hand about the bar/restaurant as an explanation.  This is my life, well, my working life any way, and it blows.

We moved back to a city I don’t like to get back on our feet, and all we’ve done is struggle.  I was unemployed in LA for two years, and since taking this current job a year ago, all I’ve done is job hunt, so I feel like I’ve been perpetually searching and sending out resumes for a good job (to no avail) forever.  This in turn affects my writing.

I think it’s this cycle that has caused the burnout.  I’m just frustrated and bored with my life.

Falkor2014Luckily, I do have one thing to look forward to, and it couldn’t be more timely, Gishwhes is upon us.

The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen begins tomorrow morning.  This will be the fourth year The Sis and I take part on Team Falkor.  It is a crazy week of creative endeavors, acts of kindness, nearly impossible tasks, and sometimes utter nonsense that brings together a group of people from around the world with one purpose – to make a change – for ourselves and for others.

So, what does this have to do with recovering from burnout?

The routines we rely on, the normal day to day that sometimes wears us down is something we occasionally need a break from.  This is why vacations are so important for overall well being – they tend to relieve all those internal and external pressures we put upon ourselves and bring us back to our equilibrium while reinvigorating our passions.

But…sometimes we are constrained by our circumstances, and yet we need to find avenues we can explore that inspire and invigorate us.  Gishwhes, for me, is the perfect example of that.  It’s challenging and creative, makes you think outside the box, and for the most part, costs very little to be a part of.  Also, the feelings of creativity, inspiration, and kindness last long after the hunt is over.

I’ve been trying to find inexpensive means of enjoying things in my current city, and you’d be surprised what you can do as a local.  Often times museums, shows, even restaurants offer special deals for locals.  Some movie theaters offer specials on a certain day of the week – here in Vegas we have $5 Tuesdays.  Some communities offer a number of free events through the county government, the library, or the arts district, you just have to do a little searching.

It’s no vacation to a tropical island or London, but it’s a step in the direction of doing something different.

If you’d like to a little break from the monotony, and maybe escape the threat of burnout, Team Falkor is always looking for unofficial team members.  Sometimes, an item calls for a specific landmark somewhere in the world, or the use of technology most of us don’t have access to, or something so random we have no idea how we’ll accomplish it, and yet, you could be the answer.

Next week will be a little unconventional, so keep an eye out for the unusual requests, and if you’d like to help, let me know, and join me in saying goodbye to burnout!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Why Are Series Endings So Hard to Get Right?

HappyilyEverAfterThis post is in regards to shows that know they’re coming to a close, not shows that are cancelled mid-season or not renewed thereby leaving us with a wonderful cliffhanger to ponder for the rest of eternity, or dozens of unanswered questions that will haunt us on our death beds.

After watching the series finale of Dexter, way back in 2014, I wrote a rant.  You can read it here in its entirety, but what it boiled down to was giving the audience a “satisfying” ending while staying true to the characters.

You may be wondering why I’m on another rant.  I’ve finished a few shows recently, all terrible endings, and it got me wondering:

“Why can’t I get a satisfying end?”

*Be forewarned, there will be spoilers ahead for shows Dexter, True Blood, and Lost Girl!  

Let’s take a look at Dexter.

This one still bothers me, years later.  After some time recollecting on Dexter as a character, I don’t think his character arc found justice in the end.  Dexter was an amazing character to watch grow into a fully realized human – something he didn’t think he was capable of.  After all that time invested, on both sides, to leave him on his own in some podunk town without his family, no less?  Nope.  Wrong.

What would have made a satisfying ending for a serial killer?  Well, clearly there’s a moral gray area here.  Dexter, generally, killed people according to his code, does that mean he should walk free?  Not exactly, but it’s a show.  We watch it for entertainment value, not reality.  I wanted to see him reunite with his son and the woman he loved.  Simple as that.

Then there was True Blood.

True Blood ended in 2014 and I was an avid viewer of the show.  About three episodes into the final season, they killed a character off in such a way, I was turned off completely from finishing the show.  Two years later, finally having access to HBO again, The Sis and I decided to finish it.

What a let down.

From episode one on, Sookie is generally at the center of whatever conflict is happening, but they wrapped the show up in a nice little bow as if nothing bad would ever happen again.  We’ve had 7 seasons of crazy, people.  So what, it was like, they’ve done there time and have earned their peaceful Thanksgiving dinner?  Please.

They killed off a main character, they let another character revert to his old ways, and then, to top it all off, they gave Sookie that normal life everyone thought she deserved – pregnant by a faceless human husband.  She never dated a human in the entirety of the show because (I want to shout) she can hear their thoughts.

So what would have been a more satisfying ending, you might wonder?  Well, first of all, they should have listened to their characters.  Don’t send them on these unique journeys, only to put them right back at the beginning.  We didn’t hit the refresh button.  What I wanted, was to see these characters 20 years down the road.  It’s a vampire show.  There’s longevity involved.

Finally, there’s Lost Girl.

This Canadian import had a unique premise, and although I felt there was so much more they could’ve done with the show, it was a fun watch.  The show’s premise was the all-encompassing world of fae, centering on the character of Bo, a succubus, who uses her power to help human and fae alike as a sort of detective/champion.  The show was episodic, but had an overall theme each season.

After multiple seasons with hints to her power, we were treated to about 5 mins in the series finale of her going nuclear, but not quite all the way, and then they wrap it up a short time in the future.

Another let down.

As the fae on the show live for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, I would’ve really liked to see these characters in the future, not just hinting at an old foe just recently beaten.  Bo was in love with two people on the show, Lauren, a human, and Dyson, a shifter.  Dyson’s character could love others, but could only truly give his heart to one person, and he chose Bo.  Bo chose Lauren in the end.  As human lives are relatively short in comparison, I would’ve liked to have seen a reunion of Bo and Dyson in the future.  He was a wonderful character, and I feel he should’ve received his happily ever after too.

I’m not looking for just “happily ever afters”, but I am looking for satisfying endings.  As TV shows go, I understand there are multiple writers and that stories progress in different ways as seasons continue, but in these examples, I’m not sure they did right by their characters.

What do you think?  Did you like any of these endings?  What other shows annoyed you with their finales?  Which shows ended well?

I’ve been thinking about this in regards to my own original series I’ve been working on, wondering what would be the most satisfying finale.  I may not be in control of that in the end, and that sort of makes me nervous, but it doesn’t mean I can’t hope for the best.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Rise in Shock Value

CapHydra

The internet, and myself included, were all in a tizzy this week with the announcement that in a new comic series, Steve Rogers #1, Captain America is actually an undercover Hydra agent.

Nope.

No.

Not having it.

Fans were quite rightly upset and for good reason.  Captain America has stood as a moral icon, defending the defenseless against tyranny and oppression, and choosing the right path, regardless of personal cost, for 75 years.  He’s the good guy, with no hints at all to his character to the contrary.  Many fans believe this is just a publicity stunt, shock for shock value alone, and I agree.

With his rise in popularity due to two wonderful films in the MCU, I can imagine that there was a meeting in which execs and writers came up with a few “what if” scenarios, but as a fellow writer, I can attest to the fact that not all ideas are good ones.  I can’t fault a writer for wanting to take a risk, especially with a character of Cap’s reputation, but taking a character with such a strong moral code and turning that on its head without any warning is just feeding into the mentality that the only way to be relevant is to be shocking.

We, as a people, continually exposed to all manner of craziness via the internet and the rise in dramatic, stunning television, I think, are the reasons behind such bold moves.  In order to be noticed, we’ve resorted to becoming the one-uppers.  Shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and American Horror Story, among others, have risen the bar in the way of surprising their audience, and I thank them for it, but at the same time wonder if it’s not hurting us as well, overall.

We now expect so much more from all our media-going experiences, and this is forcing writers to do the unexpected often without reason.  A scene like the Red Wedding in Game of Thrones had a great deal of build up.  It wasn’t an out of left field surprise, although yes, it was upsetting.  The stage was set, long before we arrived, with bread crumbs left along the way that led us to such an inevitable conclusion.

GoT

This is something as writers we need to be aware of.  We can’t throw in a shocking twist just because – there has to be a reason, motivation, there has to have been set up.  Audiences want to be satisfied, they also want to feel clever, and this is done by offering them morsels and insights they can piece together before the big surprise.

This offers us, as writers, a great challenge to think about the nuances needed to tell our story more effectively.  If we look at the big picture, how can we impress upon our audience what is to come with a little foreshadowing?  Is there a metaphor that could highlight the impending dilemma?  Is there a phrase said by a character early on that offers such insight?  Think of social media and how people dig into their favorite scenes, stories, characters, etc. to find more depth and hidden meaning (I have discovered a number of memes and the like showcasing foreshadowing I missed myself) and think of how happy it will make our audience if we can offer that to them.

I found this writing tip via Helping Writers Become Authors that offers the good and bad reasons to kill a character, but I think it can be utilized in regards to any plot device.

KillingCharacter

Let us not short change our audience.  Let us give them the surprises they deserve; those that mean more because we cared enough to think our story through, and not just another tactic or ploy meant to incite emotion or a reaction.  Let us also not short change our work or our characters.  Be true to them.  They deserve no less…and so does Cap.

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday (on a Tuesday)

I’m not really sure what happened to last week.  I was here.  I was up and mobile, but somehow, my computer remained in a dormant state.  The room which houses it remained dark and almost imperceptible – like that thing you see out of the corner of your eye, and yet when you turn to view it fully, it disappears.  My office was sort of like that, evidently.

And here I am, starting the new week off a day late.  Sheesh.  I think there’s an actual medical term for the state of permanent behind-ness.  If there’s not, there will be one soon, and Marek will be somewhere embedded within that 10-syllable phrase with a picture beside it of me rolling my eyes.  Maybe it will be slightly blurred from me shaking my head…I sometimes like to think it’s Fate’s way of keeping me out of harm’s way.  Eh, it’s as good an explanation as any, I suppose.

YourJourney

Along our journey, we may find it hard not to compare our lives with other, sometimes more successful, or more put together, counterparts.  In turn, there are those who may not grasp what it is we’re chasing.  The above quote is a great reminder that we each have our own path (but may be a little late in getting there).

Don’t let the naysayers derail you from what you truly want to do.  Dream big!

Have a great week!

Quote Monday

I’m going to ramble for a moment, so please bear with me while I vent.

In last week’s Writing Prompt post I mentioned how I was struggling with choices. Before the end of the year, I was doing some hard thinking about plans for the future.  The Sis and I moved back to Las Vegas a little over a year ago for a number of reasons, one being that she finish her undergrad and then we move on.  Unfortunately, she has now found a job she truly enjoys, she’s making friends, and getting herself together.  She’s currently taking the semester off.

It seems unfair to uproot yet again, but I don’t want to stay here.  I don’t like Vegas.  Never have.  I’m tired of moving…we’ve moved so. many. times, but I want to find a place to call “home”.  I’ve only felt that sense of home once, when I traveled to England for the first time.  I felt it before we even landed.  That’s when the obsession began.  And, that’s what I’m looking for.  As much as I’d like to do a final move across the sea, there’s just no way that’s even remotely possible in my current state.

So here’s “the thing”, the thing that’s been lingering at the back of my mind, the thing I never want to say out loud.  I want to be a screenwriter, but all screenwriters know it takes at least 5 years to make any headway (once you legitimately hit the pavement – so I still have about 4 years), and I don’t want to flounder in this state, without purpose, without direction, for upwards of 5 or more years.  I don’t want to hold down a menial job that I loathe until things work out.  Yes, I’m still trying to remain positive, hence the lack of the dangerous “if”.

I want a job I enjoy.  I want to buy a house.  I want to plan for the future but I feel as if I’m destined to remain in this perpetual state of limbo.  It all comes back around to choices.  I’ve made choices that have led me to where I am, but I’m finding it difficult to make choices that will encourage change…in part because I don’t know where to begin.

Do I suck it up and make it work where I am, or do I continue to seek out that thing that I know is out there?  How does one move forward when they’re kind of stuck due to obligation and circumstance?  How do people get their act together?

NewEnding

Any advice from fellow creatives would be greatly appreciated.  How do you make it work, find balance, and stay sane?

The Dangers of Casting Your Movie in Your Head

A couple of nights ago, The Sis and I were randomly discussing the actors I would like to see cast in my first screenplay, Fate(s).  You can click the link for a quick overview.  It really is brief.  This story has a personal history, the male lead and some of the story are inspired by my own life, so deciding who should play “him” is a little hard to narrow down.  This is of course fine, because in reality, when this film is made, who I imagine or hope for will of course not be the actor chosen.

RosamundPikeSo there we were, imagining all the people who would fill these roles, when I started to laugh.  What if the powers-that-be decide they want Jennifer Lawrence for the lead when I envision Rosamund Pike.   Huge difference.  This would in turn change the whole perspective of the film.  It goes from adult to YA.

Fate(s) involves a great deal of Greek mythology, and the character of Ares, in particular, is based on the Ares from the television show Hercules.  I loved him.  Kevin Smith played the role wonderfully, and to have someone fill his shoes, yAresou need the snark of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki with the looks of a Joe Manganiello or Jason Momoa.

Do you see the slippery slope I am on?

In my head I know what the characters look like, in general.  I have some more specifically envisioned than others, but my fear is that where I am looking for women and men (and I mean “women” and “men”), I will suddenly have a teenage rom-com where the role of Ares is played by Zac Efron.  Super adorable.  Wrong.  So wrong.

It is one of the first lessons you learn in your film school screenwriting class.  Don’t cast your film.  I’ve been told it’s good to have an idea of a few actors you’d like to see in choice roles, to give the execs an idea of your “vision”, but it’s all a matter of chance and fate.  See what I did there?  Who has an available schedule?  Who’s even interested?  So many little things that may hinder the right choice.  Although, sometimes a different (let’s not say wrong) choice really comes out on top.

Tom Selleck was originally cast to play Indiana Jones.  Eric Stoltz was cast to be Marty McFly and actually shot quite a lot of footage.  Thinking back, can we think of anyone else who could’ve filled those roles better than Harrison Ford and Michael J. Fox?

So we cast my entire film, although I’m still uncertain about a few choices, then recast it according to the actors that would most likely prevail.  Obviously, I want to be a part of the Hollywood system, but when put into this perspective, I had to cringe, laugh, and try not to cry.  We’re pretty sure Meryl Streep will be Hera, in any casting choice, because as it was once stated on Modern Family, “she could play Batman and be the right choice”.

It was a fun exercise, but not one I’ll be repeating again any time soon if I can help it.  It was just a little too real and painful.

How about you, my fellow creatives?  Do you cast your stories?  Does it help or hinder your vision?

Dealing with Rejection, Badly.

EverythingIsGoingToBeAlrightI have been rather busy the last couple of weeks, and many things have been pushed to the back burner, causing a bit of stress.

In an effort to pay it forward, The Sis and I agreed to allow a friend from out of town stay with us for a bit while he got back on his feet (my best friend and like-a-sister let us stay with her when we first returned to town). In a matter of weeks it has quickly become a source of contention, especially where the furkids are concerned. My girl doesn’t really seem to like him and hasn’t warmed up to him at all, so there’s a lot of noise, at all hours.

There’s more to be said on the subject, but we’ll leave it at that.

We had family in town, and amidst all that, I have been on the job hunt.  Regardless of the fact that I was applying to a lot of jobs that were actually looking for people, I never received a response from any of them.  Not one.  And I’m quite qualified for what I was applying for.  I applied for positions online that had questionnaires and psych evals upward of 120+ questions.  Ridiculous.  It’s a bartending job, not working for the government.  In a last ditch effort I walked into a local bar with my resume and they gave me a call the next day.  So yay.  I got a new job, but this is where it all starts to go wrong, so to speak.

The same day I got the job as a server by the way, not a bartender (because beggars can’t be choosers), I got my rejection letter from the Nicholl Fellowship.  My script was not advancing to the quarterfinals.  Although one of my scores was high, it wasn’t high enough to push it forward for a third read which would have given me a chance to proceed within the competition.

I took it hard.  I still sort of am.  Yes, I know about accepting rejection and moving on – I’m sure I’ve even discussed it here.  All writers face rejection, often many, many times.  It is the perseverance to continue that provides us the success we desire.  I know that.  Doesn’t make the rejection any easier to bear initially.Fall Seven, Stand Eight

I didn’t necessarily need to win one of the top five spots offered, but I wanted to advance enough to use that as leverage as I send out my script to agents, etc., and yes, the money would’ve been nice.  I try to be positive in this space, but sometimes I just need to vent and hope it helps alleviate the stress because my life is so far from where I want it to be. The combination of becoming a server again (at my age) and not feeling like my screenwriting career is going anywhere is really affecting me in general at the moment.

I just don’t ever feel like I’m getting ahead.

Now, I realize I haven’t hit the market with all the fervor I should have by now (I only just recently got my first script to a point I was happy with), so my feelings of inadequacies are completely unfounded, but they are there nonetheless.  I don’t want to think that I should perhaps choose a different life, become a “responsible adult” and take care of all those things I want to by settling – leave the creative life behind…

I want to be a writer.  Dammit, I am a writer.

The last two mornings I’ve had to stare at myself in the mirror and remind myself that rejection is a part of the so-called “game”, that this is just a bump in the road, a lesson to be learned, blah blah blah.  Even in the letter I received from The Academy, they tried to reassure the rejected by saying the following:

A lack of success here may not have any bearing on your reception in the marketplace where a sale is the ultimate measure of success. I’ll even venture a prediction: several non-advancing writers will become professional screenwriters in the near future.

That only mildly soothed the pang of rejection.

I have two more opportunities I’m waiting to hear back on, Final Draft’s Big Break and the NYWIFT Writer’s Lab, so here’s hoping for something positive.  Not to sound dramatic, but I almost need a little something, an external force to remind me I’m on the right path.

When I read the rejection letter, The Sis immediately responded with, “Your writing is really good.” and “Are there any words of encouragement I can offer?” Oddly, that almost made me feel as bad as the rejection itself.  She has been so supportive of my career choice, and we take care of each other.  This has been one of my driving desires to succeed, so I can help her achieve her own goals.

Ugh.  I’m not sure I feel any better yet, and she’ll read this in her inbox later this evening and offer me some more encouraging words, and I’ll probably feel a bit worse again, but thanks, Sis, in advance.  I know you’re trying to help. 😉  I know I’ll be determined to “show ’em” in a few days, but for now it is what it is.

How have you handled rejection, my fellow creatives?

Quote of the Week

Patience - PassionTamedHello, fellow creatives!

I’ve enjoyed my time off, but now it’s time to get back on track. Yesterday sort of passed me by before I even knew it, so Quote Monday has been bumped.

I’m pining away for news about the screenwriting contest, fellowship, and lab I entered and it’s at least another month before I hear anything, and the internal struggle is real.  I cannot help but check my email, Facebook, and Twitter fairly often for a status update or hint of any kind.

The Nicholl Fellowship posts top scoring script comments from readers nearly every day on Facebook, and I read each one hoping it might sound like mine, or I try to twist and turn the vague positive comment into some form that could resemble a review of my own script.  This is what too much time on one’s hands will do. Patience-Achievement

I decided to look up quotes on patience, and for the most part, they’re kind of lame.  That “patience is a virtue” or “patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting” stuff is not what I want to hear.  And you’ve probably heard it a thousand times too at this point.  It’s hard to wait for action on the part of others, but having a little understanding of how things work in Hollywood, having patience, or practicing having patience, is a good thing, because it’s something that will have to be mastered.

It may seem as if things move quickly in Tinsel Town, but in reality, it takes sometimes years to make something happen.  There’s a phrase, “the 10 year overnight success” which is used in regards to screenwriters who seem to find success out of nowhere.  They’ve been working, for a long, long time.  Everything takes time, and waiting for news about the advancement of my career is just one such test of my endurance.

If you’re in a similar boat, I suppose there is some comfort in the knowledge that there are others who are feeling the same.  My advice, which I am taking to heart, work on something new.  Pour yourself into a new project.  As an aspiring screenwriter, we can absolutely not have only one story in our arsenal, because of the question we are all supposed to be prepared for…”What else have you got?”

That story you’ve always got at the back of your mind, that one where you randomly see or hear something and tuck it away as part of that world, start to develop it.  We only become better writers the more we write – we are better able to develop our style and voice.

I’m working on my space odyssey pilot and rewriting my second script.  I love the development aspect of a story, thinking about characters and scenes.  I had an idea this morning, a fun scene between two characters that I haven’t even created yet, and it’s created an eagerness to get them into action to start exploring this relationship.  Squee!  (Yep, I’m giddy.)

I wish you all the best of luck as you continue forward!  And if you need a chuckle, there’s always this:

Too Many Witnesses

How do you handle the waiting game?  Advice and tips welcome!

Discrepant Writer Reviews – Into the Woods

ITWposter*Some spoilers – will try to keep to a minimum 😉

Sigh…oh, Into the Woods, I had high hopes for you.

First off, I had no idea this was based on a play from the 80s, I just knew it was a musical fairytale, and I was in, but after the first scene, I quickly realized this was not going to be what I was hoping it would be.

Quick synopsis –

James Corden and Emily Blunt, both of whom I adore, are a childless couple living in a small village as the local baker and his wife.  They have no names, unless Mr. “Baker” counts?  A musical opening number offers us the information that they would like a child, but have yet to be successful in conceiving.

In flies the witch – the always fantastic Meryl Streep, who is the witch from the original story of Rapunzel, in which she offers a trade to the man stealing from her garden – specific greens for his pregnant wife – the veggies for the baby.*  Fair deal.  The witch gives over a whole lot of information to this childless couple about how their house is cursed and if they complete a ritual in a given time, she will lift it.

For writers, this scene will drive you crazy.  It offers all the information about the movie in one scene and without any real provocation.  It’s not as if the couple sought out her help or advice.  She just comes in one day and says, “Let me help you.  Here’s everything you need to do, no strings attached.”  Really?!

*The baker’s father was the thief, and hence Rapunzel is the baker’s sister, whom he doesn’t give a fig about finding, just FYI.

So off the couple go in search of four items that when combined by the witch will lift the curse and give them the family they desire.  They need a cow the color of milk, a cloak the color of blood, hair the color of corn, and a slipper made of gold.  Enter Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk with his white cow, Little Red Riding Hood (who The Sis groaned each time she opened her mouth – she was annoying), Rapunzel, and Cinderella.

As the title suggests, nearly the entire story takes place “in the woods” and they sing about it, often.  Sadly, none of the songs are catchy or even memorable except for one, which I will mention shortly.  The story does stay more true to the original tales in which the darker side of the storytelling is preserved, like killing the wolf to free Red and her grandmother who have been eaten whole, Rapunzel’s prince being blinded by thorns grown by the witch after being caught leaving the tower, and even Cinderella’s stepsisters cutting off parts of their feet to fit the slipper.  Yep and eww.

But the overall story is weak and drags, and this is coming from Disney…Disney! Who is the reason I have a princess complex!  And Rob Marshall, who directed Memoirs of a Geisha and Chicago.  Chicago is great and so catchy!

Maybe because they were trying to stay true to the original, they didn’t realize that it didn’t translate.  A play is limited in its location changes, hence all the woodsiness (I like that word and I’m keeping it) while the action seemed stifled and the dialogue was often too on the nose. Ugh.

The two saving graces of this film – when the witch is transformed and looks like this:

ITWwitchAfter

Love it!

And when the two princes, one of whom is Chris Pine in a hilarious role as Cinderella’s prince, sing this song:

That’s it.

The story takes a weird turn about three-quarters of the way through, when the happily ever after seems too soon, but what follows is completely out of left field.  There is a moment of weakness that results in a really bad consequence and the remainder of the story threw me for an unexpected, and what felt like a forced, loop.

Given the cast, the people behind it, and the basis for the story, Into the Woods was not the fairytale I was hoping for.

2stars

What are your thoughts on Into the Woods?

*Video courtesy of Youtuber John Oncer.