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Home » Archives » August 2006 » The Crash of the Symbols
[Previous entry: "Putting the Ka- Before the Boom"] [Next entry: "Still, most of them smell fine"]

08/04/2006: The Crash of the Symbols

I just saw Little Miss Sunshine. One of those movies with such a complex tone that it's hard to talk about, since the events add up to so much less than the movie as a whole. I thought it was wonderful. And such a cast! Caution: Spoilers ahead.

After I got home, I took another look at the documentary "Living Dolls," which is all about child beauty pageants. Sooo interesting. It's so fascinating, in fact, that it was one of the first things I ever put onto my Tivo, and I've kept it stored there for several years now.

Anyway, I'm certain the makers of LMS looked at this film. In addition to pageant moments that are captured perfectly, I spotted the most lovely overlap. Both films feature a character working on one of those little handheld slide puzzles. In both films it's the same one: when solved, it forms a picture of a happy face. Nice. Isn't that a perfect symbol? "Want to be happy? Then work it out."

And the thing that’s best about this little puzzle-symbol? You don't notice it! I didn't remember seeing it in the movie at all until I saw it again in the doc. The effect is subtle to the point of invisibility. Anything more obvious than that, and the artifice of the script will jump out at you and then you’re in trouble.

So use symbols if you want to, but use a light touch. We've all seen torn photos, empty shoes, empty picture frames, wilted flowers... and they tend to smell like... huh... what is that? Oh yeah, writer.

Lunch: a movie theater hot dog with tons of jalapenos

Also… a big thank you to Lilia. She knows what for!


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Walt Disney Writing Fellowship Program
UC Berkeley
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August 2006

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