Doctor Sleep

Awkwardly Avoid Your Non-Entities.


A noble failure and a bitter demonstration
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Reported on 9th of December, 2019

You may have been not caring where I’ve been, and so not to answer you: why writing, of course! According to a note dated July 27, 2019, I was inspired by a forgettable and forgotten until now film named Crawl to write a better one, in the way that it’s never that good ideas that inspire you to dream, but terrible ones inspire you to revenge.

And then, to rant.

Talking about one’s one writing might seem dull, but I could discuss my current attempt to lose 6kgs, so count yourself lucky.

By counting calories, that’s how.

Doctor Sleep

14 November 2019 @ Le Cinema Le Select


$7.00 or, if one must be prosaic, and one must... 
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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As to this utterly unsellable 186 page wonder, there’s a chance I won’t sell it. But I like it, and I think it’s because this time, I didn’t cheat. There’s been talk before about Writing To The End, but you can get hung up on anything – not just the ending, but a character, scenes, one single line of dialog. It wasn’t talent (quiet, you) that got me this time to the satisfying finish line, but the willingness to delete, to throw it all away and start again, to recognize that attachment is the enemy.

Yes, fine, I’m aware that the Buddha said that about life and that famed post-office ex-employee Mr. William Faulkner admonished us to ‘Kill your darlings.’ in writing. But I want to be the one who thought of this.

In any case, the most important discovery along the way was that Kill Your Darlings is somehow too violent and not inclusive enough. Because it’s not so much darlings, but as it is least hated co-workers. And not so much kill, as maybe hide in your car until they get inside the building so you won’t have to chit-chat with them.

This year, with all its terrible films, will also be remembered for the bizarre crash and burn of the generation-defining but not really that great to begin with Game of Thrones. Normally writers are ignored; this is as it should be. After all, they actually create things. So you have to actually be as bad as D&D (Mr. David Benioff & Mr. D.B. Weiss) to be noticed, let alone hated .

D & D were to discover the corollary to Tangentially Avoid Non-Entities as they attempted to graft an ending onto characters that wouldn’t behave that way. Well, discover might be a bit strong, since they did what one might expect, and simply blamed the fan base.

In the collective way of the internet, that fan base knew, or at least sensed more about writing than they did. People care about characters. Bron could have become King, Daenerys could have gone mad John could have pet his dog, but they had to get there on their own. Earningness matters, and even if they’re not expressing this specifically, that’s what people are talking about.

Even they weren’t smart enough to phrase it like me, is what I should have said.

That’s a lot of wind-up, but I’m back, still watching movies (though less so, 2019 being a brutal mockery of my assertion that 2018 was the worst year in film history). And one of the best films of 2019 – Doctor Sleep – is not that great. At best a noble failure and probably instead a bitter demonstration of what I took so long to talk about: don’t get attached.

And forgetting to keep tickets apparently as well.

Mr. Mike Flanagan had made the great conceptually but not so great Oculus, and had then taken a tired series and made an actually great Ouija 2. Would this be his Terminator 2, his Piranha 3D, or his, well, The Shining ?

Don’t worry; I’ll unfairly attack Mr. Stanley Kubrick…now. Also later. Because Doctor Sleep, even with its many problems, is a better film than the original. To be fair, not a high bar. Beginning by wisely tossing aside the first film/book, Doctor Sleep gives us a lot to like/be scared by. Following a group of child-soul-sucking gypsies, the film does what Mr. Stephen King’s work does best (and what this and last year’s version of It failed to) – sell adults as the true horror of a child’s world.

There are some significantly creative thinking-it-throughs. As the gypsies seek out a diminishing soul juice that keeps them immortal, they have a word for it: ‘steam’. I love it when people have words for things. You believe this is a world.

The film includes some nice sequences, following the best aspects of Ms. JK Rowling’s world: if you’re not going to have actual mechanics (he’s over there, she’s here, it’s forty-five feet to the exit, and the ground is made of imaginary lava.. Go!), be creative about what magic looks like. Besides the terrifying inhalation of a murdered child’s soul, there’s a moderately stunning astral projection across the US. It’s shot like woman floating in the sky as if it was a pool, with sound of the burning embers from the fire where she projects. In a world of Everything Is Possible CG, it’s not too much, and it’s stylized beautifully.

There are, God forbid, comprehensible beats: ‘The world’s not as steamy, and you’re looking for a whale.’. The enemies are desperate and smart; the good guys are damaged, vulnerable and smart. It gives significantly more than what the original does: good bad guys and good good guys. And then an uncontrived box for them to play in.

It even manages to redeem the Silly Man Very Slowly Goes Mad In A Symmetrical And Overwrought Environs, Shot In One Hundred Takes So That We Mistake Obsession For Competence original a little bit. Mr. Ewan McGregor, the grown up Danny, drinks (and has a reason to) and gets better (and has a reason to). And in his recovery, he sees both his father’s demons, and ‘the part of him that wanted to get well.’

Unfortunately, the film writes to the end, in this case – Get ’em Back to the Overlook, and I dunna care why! With the unfortunate CGI ‘updating’ of Mr. Kubrick’s exciting because-I-saw-it-when-I-was-9-and-didn’t-know-from-horror helicopter shot.

Thursday!

Thursday? It’s Thursday? Oh my. How the time does fly. That’s pretty scary. I mean, I really should have got on my composting. And my water bill is due next week, but I like to pay them early. So, some mild anxiety, and a helpful reminder. Well played, Kubrick!

I’ll even grant you some nice scenes in these environs, including a beautiful one from an unrecognizable Mr. Henry Thomas as a Jack Nicholson impersonator: ‘A man tries. He provides. But he’s surrounded by mouths.’ Nice line. Kids in that scary adult world, where the giants decide if you live or die.

But everything else feels like Ready Player One, iconic moments relived, the axe, check, the Redrum, check, the maze and so on until checkmate.

And like everyone’s attachment (hah!) to their favorite characters in GoT, I wouldn’t have minded, if only the rest wasn’t good. But it was. Maggie the Hat (Ms. Rebecca Ferguson) is a worthy adversary, brought down, wounded and angry. We want to see what she would do. We do not want endless expositional dialog – at the end no less – explaining why the characters would recreate the original for the suits.

MCGREGOR
We’ve weakened our enemy tremendously. We could beat her easily. So let’s go to the most dangerous place there is.
CURRAN
But you haven’t told me that it’s dangerous. I haven’t seen the first film.
Mcgregor
That’s your problem? Okay. It’s really dangerous!
CURRAN
Let’s go! You can explain all the things that we need to do on the way. In order!
Mcgregor
Then we’ll do them! In the same order!

Whatever the motives actually might have been, the last painful and spoiling 25 minutes of going back to the original feels transparently like a studio demand. Jazzed by the success of the Watchman series or recent Star Wars fiascux, they demand nostalgia and originality! Can’t you give us both?

There were many simple fixes that the film could have made even just basic setting up that this is a place that has something you need, instead of just assuming that we know we’re going back there because it’s a sequel.

Whenever writing books talk about how writing should be, they’re wrong on the subject when they forget about what it is – tiring work done by lazy people.

But the real answer goes back to Faulkner who it seems, didn’t say kill your darlings after all. It was Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, according to, yep, Mr. Stephen King (from On Writing, a swell book). Whoever did say it, all three are using it incorrectly in the Elmore ‘take out the boring parts’ Leonard sense – cutting the fat on the page, the purple prose.

Have as much purple prose as you like; as it happens, and as is evident, I like it. But when it comes to cutting, think about the actual events, about whether you’re going places the characters wouldn’t. This matters more than you can imagine, because whenever writing books talk about how writing should be, they’re wrong on the subject when they forget about what it is – tiring work done by lazy people.

You can talk about a rational ideal to which to aspire (hey! that’s what I’m doing), but it’s easy to forget what you’ll trade in the moment, just to finish. Sometimes a fascinating bit of research that kills the story dead to explain to an audience. Or it’s a great line a character wouldn’t say, or a character who would say it that you don’t care about. And in the heat of your brain, you can’t delete it because… it’s hard! I already wrote that! Why can’t someone else do it?

The characters can. Next time, ask them.

The Take

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Profits!
There’s a lot of good stuff I left out, but I want to point to one in particular. Mr. McGregor and talented shining child Ms. Kyliegh Curran communicate via blackboard chalk. When Ms. Curran finally sees the murderous reality of the baddies, she writes on the chalkboard: murder – redrum forwards. This is how you riff on an original.
$4.00
All that other stuff I said. Real shame.
$14.00
Total Profits
$18.00
Losses!
We’ve seen this film before. You don’t have to remind me that it’s not that great. I know.
$10.00
Total Losses
$10.00

$7.00

Thoughts on Doctor Sleep

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  1. le papineau says:

    beep beep

    1. Scott Scott says:

      If this is in reference to ‘Beep Beep, Ritchie!’ then I approve. In this case, literally, as the administrator.

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