Editor’s Pick

August 22, 2014

Scene: Office with a window, desk, computer. Papers are scattered around the desk where the EDITOR sits. He’s an older man, in his fifties, with gray hair. He looks at the computer, and gives an exasperated sigh. There’s a knock at the door.

EDITOR: Come in.

WELLS enters. He’s young, in his early twenties. He has black hair that is slicked back.

WELLS: You wanted to see me, sir?

EDITOR: Yes, sit down Wells. I have some questions about your last couple of film reviews. Let’s start with the first one. You reviewed Wes Anderson’s Wineglass Pulpit. (Turning to his monitor.) Okay, here’s the start: “Anderson, known for his distinctive style, but not, until now, thematically retrograde, has returned to a similar locus as his previous Grand Budapest Motel.” Hmmm.

WELLS: Is there a problem, sir?

EDITOR: Well it’s pretty wordy for a lede, but that’s not a big deal. You go on, “The characters fall into coaxial orbits, failing to coalesce until their very personalities suffer a molecular dehiscence. Anderson also now seems more cognizant of his own mortality. His tone is mordant, almost morbid, and is a bizarre syncretism of Shevnick and Tati.” Who?

WELLS: Tati?

EDITOR: I’m not an idiot, Wells. I’ve seen Mr. Hulot’s Holiday. Who the hell is Shevnick?

WELLS: Surely you’ve heard of him. He was the creator of animated samizdat film in occupied Salivia. His films had to be smuggled out a few cels at a time by Czech sympathizers. They’d roll them up and shove them up their—

EDITOR: That’s enough! How many people have really heard of this guy?

WELLS: All of his films are on YouTube.

EDITOR: So’s a video of my mother-in-law breakdancing, but that doesn’t mean more than three people have seen it.

WELLS: I also watched his complete oeuvre my first week in film school.

EDITOR: What about those of us who didn’t go to film school?

WELLS: Then I guess it’s a chance to educate yourself. His nine-second compositions peremptorily contrast our crepuscular animus with a propensity toward—

EDITOR: You really talk that way, don’t you? Forget trying to educate the great unwashed for a minute. What I really want to know, Wells, is whether you liked it.

WELLS: Well I don’t think such a Manichean view could apply to an auteur like Anderson whose influences—

EDITOR: Enough about influences! I get the point. Let’s move on. (Moves computer mouse.) Here’s your review of Cars III: The Search For Speed. Here’s your opening: “Pixar’s latest returns to the world of sentient vehicles. Unlike the previous Planes, this one harkens to the franchise’s origins, embracing the world of automobiles and their pithy terrestriality.” Terrestriality?

WELLS: I admit it’s a neologism.

EDITOR: Neologisms tend to elicit apoplectic—dammit, Wells, now you’ve got me doing it. Let me skip ahead to this part where you say, “the return of Tow-Mater leads to an apotheosis that emburdens the film’s climax.” Again I want to know if you liked it. That’s even more important for a kids’ film. People are not going to be interested in emburdened climaxes preceded by an apotheosis. Look, I know you were top of your class in film school—that’s why I hired you. But I wish your reviews were less arcane. Why not include the old rating system with one to five stars so people can tell at a glance what to expect?

WELLS: Isn’t that a bit gauche?

EDITOR: Use your right hand then.

WELLS: What?

EDITOR: That’s a joke, son. I’m asking you to lighten up.

WELLS: But look who we’re competing with. It’s not just other newspapers and magazines. There are blogs, social media, TV shows. There’s a guy in South Korea who does nothing but rewrite Anton Ego’s speech from Ratatouille with a few words changed for every film he “reviews”. And he’s got more Twitter followers than Cher!

EDITOR: I know all that. It’s part of my job to think about the competition, and I think you’re going to turn off more readers with your “molecular dehiscence” and “adjunct terrestriality”. And the competition’s not as bad as you think. Nobody’s following everything, and your reviews will be the only ones some people ever get. And it’s not like you’re writing about Star Wars or The Wizard Of Oz—things that everybody’s seen. Save the mordant fundaments for when the local art house runs a Shevnick retrospective. When you’re talking about a Pixar film tell me if I should take my kids. Capisce?

WELLS: Okay.

EDITOR: And let me worry about the competition.

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