Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Sink or Swim

While I was gone, I got myself a teeny tiny part-time job. I'm talking teeny; six hours a week, two mornings. Small money, smaller stress. I'm hoping it helps me get myself into a steady weekly routine. But it does mean that my blogging might not happen until evening instead of mornings as I'd prefer. Already I've blown that whole routine objective.

So, last night I gave up all semblance of good sense and ventured out in a killer storm to see a movie. Me and the two other ladies in the theatre endured a one-minute power outage that happened about 20 minutes into the film, which earned us the reward of a free refund pass even though the inconvenience was pretty much zero. Sometimes, I guess, stupidity pays off.

And what, pray tell, would incite me to drive through pounding rain and risk lightning strikes? Kevin Costner, of course. And Ashton Kutcher. Maybe in reverse order, I haven't quite decided. I'm such a sucker for coming of age/mentor-mentee/training for the military flicks that I couldn't pass up The Guardian. Rain, schmain.

The movie was good. I'd even venture great, but I know I don't have a leg to stand on that claim. It's nothing that will haunt you by any means, but it certainly kept me entertained for two hours, as well as gave me a huge, healthy respect for the men and women who work as rescue swimmers for the U.S. Coast Guard. I took a scuba diving class in college, and many of the underwater training scenes brought back some pretty uncomfortable memories.

For those not in the know, the story revolves around gruff Ben Randall (Costner), a well-seasoned Coast Guard rescue swimmer who, after losing his entire crew in a horrible rescue-gone-wrong, is sent to train new recruits at the killer USCG "A School", where rescue swimmer wannabees earn their fins. As you would expect, he bumps heads with cocky super-star athlete swimmer Jake Fischer (Kutcher) who hides a past trauma that hits closer to home than Ben ever could have guessed. Your normal training montages and cliches follow, along with some pretty spectacular rescue scenes. Nothing you couldn't predict, but well done all the same.

Which is where I am today, sitting here with a big smile on my face. Because although most of the critics have panned The Guardian for being unoriginal at best and downright paint-by-numbers at worst, I liked it. Because it was done well.

For so long I've felt paralyzed by the idea that nothing - not a single one of my ideas - was truly original. That at every turn, I was bumping into something - plot, theme, character, concept - that I'd believed I'd come up with all on my own, that was something uniquely original to me yet clearly was not. At all. Mine alone, that is. And since everyone out there keeps holding aloft the High Concept novel as the end all be all way to get yourself published, I've felt more than a little dispair upon learning that, frankly, there actually is nothing new under the sun. I've believed I'm so totally screwed.

But watching The Guardian made me see something. Just because something isn't new doesn't mean it isn't worthy. Yes, many aspects of this movie were culled out of the greats like An Officer and a Gentleman and Top Gun. Heck, one doesn't even have to go back a full year to find a fairly similiar flick in Annapolis. (A little aside here to say that I found The Guardian far superior to Annapolis, so if you hated the latter, don't let it keep you from seeing the former. The similarities are thin.)

But I liked The Guardian. I didn't mind the cliches because they were done well. I liked the characters. I liked the plot. I thought the acting was good, the special effects outstanding, the accuracy sold well enough that I, as an ignorant civilian, bought what I was told. I was entertained.

And in the end, isn't this what counts? If a writer can take an old idea and present it well, give it good service and entertain those who look to be entertained, isn't that the ultimate goal?

I enjoy watching those coming of age/mentor-mentee/military training movies for a reason. I expect to see certain cliches, otherwise they don't qualify as coming of age/mentor-mentee/military training movies. When I see a movie trailer for the newest version of the old story, I get excited about it. Can't wait until it comes to the theatre (see the above about how I'll even risk killer storms if I'm highly motivated). I don't care if it's a story that's been done before. And before. And before that.

It's like ordering the same flavor of ice cream because it's your favorite. I love mint chocolate chip ice cream. If an ice cream store has it, that's what I'll choose. Now, some places do it better than others. Ben and Jerry's puts out my favorite - Mint Chocolate Chunk - and I really like Baskin Robbin's version. The local mom and pop ice cream shop in my town offers only a mediocre mint chocolate chip, so when I go there I tend to choose something else. It's always refreshing to go for the mocha almond fudge.

But in the end, I always return to mint chocolate chip. I don't mind that it's not high concept. As long as it's done well, I'm satisfied.

That's my new goal. I'm going to strop trying to be the most original person out there and focus on doing what I like very well.

I'm going to be the best mint chocolate chip ice cream cone in the world!

Yeah, over-enthused a bit much.

1 comment:

marsha said...

I like watching military movies espcially when they have a love story mixed in. I haven't seen the movie you mentioned but I plan to buy it as soon as it comes out on DVE