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May 28, 2015 - Image 7

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Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com ARTS

builds to failure


Senior Arts Editor

I can say this for “Tomorrow-

land”: it gets an A for effort.

When a film like this falls short

of both audience
expectations and

it’s a small mis-

are so few films

friendly or oth-
erwise, that are

and creative and

both inspiring and meaningful.
“Tomorrowland” wants to be one
of those films, and for roughly
two-thirds of its runtime, it very
nearly gets there. But, plagued by
a poorly conceived and even more
poorly executed third act and 30
minutes of unnecessary runtime,
what begins as an homage to won-
der and innovation devolves into a
cross between “An Inconvenient
Truth” and the worst James Bond
movie imaginable.

Our story follows high school

student Casey Newton (Britt Rob-
ertson, “The Longest Ride”), the
daughter of a NASA engineer and
a genius in her own right. Sci-
ence and ingenuity run in Casey’s
blood; ever the optimist, she
believes innovation can fix a world
beset by global warming, the
threat of nuclear extermination
and various other dour subjects
she learns about in school. Chosen
to join the ranks of Tomorrow-
land, Casey sets off on a journey
to get there, along the way meet-
ing Frank (George Clooney, “The
Monuments Men”), a former resi-
dent of Tomorrowland and the
pessimist to Casey’s optimist.

The bulk of the film consists

of backstory and the journey to

proves rather entertaining, almost
like a more kid-friendly (but no less
dangerous) and futuristic version
of “Indiana Jones.” Director Brad
Bird (“Mission Impossible: Ghost
Protocol”) creates tense action
without sacrificing clarity, and the
camera moves freely throughout
the sets, creating a great sense of
space and openness. Of particu-

lar note is one breathtaking, long
tracking shot that follows Casey
through Tomorrowland.

But the film breaks the ever-

important “show, don’t tell” rule
and suffers as a result. “Tomor-
rowland” is hounded by lengthy
exposition that eventually resorts
to preachy diatribes about hope
and belief in a world on the verge of
darkness. Of course, a monologue
here or there does no damage, but
“Tomorrowland” shoots for pro-
found and ends, unfortunately, in
slog several times over.

Blame rests in the screenplay —

co-writers Bird and Damon Lin-
delof (TV’s “Lost”) invest so much
time in crafting an engaging and
exciting setup that they end up
with a half-assed, very forced third
act and expect us to settle for it.
Further, something gets lost in the
fact that the true villain turns out
to be humanity’s own folly, igno-
rance and pessimism, rather than
someone or something tangible.

Thus the tragedy of the film:

Everything so very nearly works.
Clooney and Robertson have great
chemistry and play off each other
nicely. The camerawork is top
notch, the special effects equally
so. Everything works except this
one, very big, very important third

And “Tomorrowland” ‘s inten-

tions are so admirable; it’s that
much harder to accept its failure.
As far as blockbusters go, we live
in a world of sequels, in which cit-
ies are destroyed, and superhero
flicks, in which cities are destroyed.
“Tomorrowland” is the first film
I’ve seen in a long time about build-
ing rather than breaking. It’s the
kind of movie Spielberg might’ve
directed 30 years ago, a film some-
where between “E.T.” and “AI.” It’s
hard to be mad at that.

But good intentions don’t make

good endings (or movies in gen-
eral). Maybe that’s to be expected
from the guy who created “Lost.”



Walt Disney

Rave 20 &
Quality 16


More than just a journal

On the necessity of
written, narcissistic



Senior Arts Editor

Notebooks are rarely treated well

in my care — hoarded away until I
record a few clusters of airy, beau-
tiful words, then unceremoniously
discarded far before my scrawl
reaches their last leaves. Mostly,
this is because my writing oscillates
between loose and undisciplined
workmanship (and penmanship)
and clenched knots of taut words.
This rhythm cannot sustain, so I
abandon the project.

Occasionally I’ll flip through

an old notebook. But in the day of
screens, of articles, of epistolary
communication, of writing (we can
write an essay, submit it and have it
returned spider-webbed with edits
without ever pressing that increas-
ingly un-pressed “print” icon), it’s
harder to extrapolate what I meant
from that foreign hand — at least
compared to the uniform type of
Cambria, font 12.

An inherited perfectionism grav-

itates to the Word document, which
contains the pen’s boldness and
the pencil’s irresolution. The Word
document’s most attractive feature:
on a blankly expectant page, that
blinking cursor that promises to
efface all trace of uncertainty, all
mistake. By surgical precision of
that wand, the polished sentence is
turned out by the Word machine.
You see no proof of the 50 back-
spaces per line, the itinerary of side
trips to the thesaurus, the smudged
corners of a read, re-read and read
again paper.

By the same turn, though, this

pangs as a loss, probably because we
have loaded in us a desperate and
corrective urge to preserve what we
can in the age of crystalline screens.
In paperless culture, we ache for the
mess of paper to remind us, if not of
something as grand as our human-
ity, at least our rough margins.

If writing on Word represents

the Hegelian arc of progress, with
each antithetical deletion molding
its rhetorical bearings into the qua
sentence, this means foundational
changes are harder to muster. With-
out record, each blow to the struc-
ture may prove that the center will
not hold — and the rubble is irrecov-

erable (hence my neurotic impulse
to copy and paste sections onto sep-
arate documents until it is scattered
piecemeal through my computer).

But writing in a notebook is for

anchoring those flits of brilliance
firmly onto a page, without care
of organization. We jot, scribble,
very rarely compose. To write in
a notebook is to force yourself to
abandon the project of Writing with
a capital W and instead become a
scribe to your mind, to take down
all its tyrannical interruptions and
detours. Where a typed document
circumscribes the id’s creative
fancy within a careful line of attack,
the notebook lets it lope across the
college-ruled lines. The Word docu-
ment is just that — a document — a
feat of logical determination that
demands to be read.


people’s musings — their chicken
scratch, their questionable syn-
tax, their strange fixations — is the
notebook’s ultimate defense against
literary legacy. And concomitant
with puzzles of the psyche is the
notebook’s fixation on mundane,
of which the sentimental value
belongs only to the writer. We imag-
ine the lurid confessions other peo-
ple’s journals must contain, while
ours also simply logs, as mine does,
that last 30th of May I was “sitting
outside Babo, after I flirted again
with that cute coffee guy.”

Or the trajectory of prior rela-

tionships, which my journal fol-
lows via a predictable through line
of preliminary excitement, then
intimacy-cum-complacency, before
inevitable spates of verbal violence
broken up by boredom. Reading
accounts of my relationships does
little to rekindle old desire. Rather,
it is with a detached and anthropo-
logical curiosity that I fall into the
pages. All that passion feels sterile
now, like a preserved part of me
before it was inoculated by time and
further experience.

But it does remind me that the

twinges of immediacy aren’t des-
tined to reverberate endlessly into
the future, or even be folded neatly
into an essay, but perhaps just be
filed away in the cluttered archives
of an old journal. Stresses like an
unfound internship, triumphs like
a terrific Bloody Mary finally found
lose their gleam under an inch of
dust. If there is a retrospective pay-
off to the journal, it is to show that
this — yes, that — shall pass.

Mostly, though, the journal’s

worth is found in its current under-
taking. In a health-centric culture
where recreation doubles as self-
improvement, journaling is often
labeled as therapeutic. Yet this
imposes a wholesome utilitarianism
onto an act whose definitive trait is
unapologetic self-indulgence, even
narcissism. Take lists, which are a
reccurring feature in my journals.
What I ate last night: gluten-free
pizza (heirloom tomatoes, mozza-
rella, basil from our garden), salad
(shaved zucchini, lemon and olive
oil, basil, pine nuts), beer (Magic
Hat). What I wore to the airport:
leotard (black), white eyelet shirt,
shorts (vintage, Levis), tan sandals
(to show off my new pedicure).

All together, these notebook

lists comport the girl I like to think
I am. After all, it’s a flattering
gaze, visualizing ourselves by dis-
crete attributes, which both reveal
everything and abstract us into
conglomerates of products. I am
the type of person who wears pastel
ballet flats with an oxford cloth but-
ton down and drinks a small black
coffee. The truth lies somewhere in
the middle; we are neither a com-
pendium of attributes nor describ-
able by one fluid stroke.

But the notebook invites us to

imagine our lives are worthy of
analysis, allows us to transform
our daily routine into pattern — of
which presumably some grand and
imaginary statistician will pore
over. Taking down the details of my
day is playing director for my own
movie: fishhooks of wisdom that
have latched onto my skin, lines
of poetry, warm recounts of sunny
days. I don’t write on the ugly days,
and if I do it tends to be short and
ominous (“so-and-so didn’t text
and I feel February looming”).

What I think is that we jour-

nal in case there is no God’s-eye
surveillance, in case our closests
aren’t turning their careful scru-
tiny to us (they aren’t), and so
that the fascinating trivia of our
life doesn’t languish unacknowl-
edged. By putting pen to paper,
we draw ourselves from the slip-
stream of day-to-day life, which
can churn days into weeks and
weeks into months of rote rou-
tine. Writing quells those lapses
in meta-awareness. Like a mirror
facing a mirror, the mind’s con-
siderations on itself can echo into
infinity. Eventually, though, your
hand starts to cramp.


Blame rests in
the screenplay

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