23 July, 2012

The Jersey Thing...

Premier to my respect, and well, sometimes envy is my esteem for writers and authors.  Perhaps because I learned to read at age two, the written word has ever since had my un-waivering loyalty and devotion. Recently, my attention has returned to the literary world as I dealt with my personal response to losing two very different literary voices:    Ray Bradbury and Nora Ephron

Mr. Bradbury has a unique position in the world of fiction writing and I grew up reading his short stories and being captivated by his genius.  As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I was taken with the fact that this icon lived in the same city I did-- however, he refused to learn to drive and that small (ecological) statement confounded me. How could anyone live in Los Angeles and not drive! And he was such a smart guy....what did he understand and know that I didn't? Ah well.

Fast forward to San Diego, March, 2006. I was the senior minister at the Pacific Church and we began to co-sponsor events with The Learning Annex in an opportunity to bring special guest speakers and workshops.  Imagine my delight when they asked if we could host a day-long event with Ray Bradbury! ( Be still my heart. . .  if they hear you pound so loudly the organizers might re-think booking with me because I was some kind of hyperactive groupie).

Mr. Bradbury, somewhat physically frail in his wheelchair arrived with a small entourage but not at all unapproachable -- which was a good thing because I asked him to autograph a copy of a new book of collected short stories and essays.

As the "hostess" for the day, I had the privilege of introducing Ray Bradbury (as if he needed an introduction to the people who chose to attend this event).  Mr. Bradbury talked and shared some of his literary journey as well as share profound personal insights. He reminded us all about returning to our individual passion(s) and purpose.

Then it got even better.  After lunch, it was time for Mr. Bradbury to participate in the question and answer segment with the audience. It turned out that he had trouble hearing what the people were saying or asking him.  I quickly stepped in and began to 'translate' or reiterate what they were saying.  It worked out that it was easier for him if I sat beside him and repeated the questions and comments so he could then reply.  I literally sat at the feet of a master.

I wish I could have had a similar opportunity with Nora Ephron.  Her innate comedic genius always felt so genuine and not scripted.  I appreciated her intelligence and wit and the ability to make her stories so real and so personal.  Of course, I appreciated her movie scripts, too. Yet, what I began to appreciate the most were her biographical essays and stories.  Her book, That Thing About My Neck... had me howling both in the humour and in how it authentically depicted the pain and the joy of the aging process.  It was a special female indulgence to read her books. I felt like I listening to a long-time girlfriend sharing her adventures rather than an author telling a tale.  I will miss her humour.

And that is often how I feel when I read or hear the dialogue and script that my two favorite contemporary writers, David E. Kelley and Aaron Sorkin provide in their television or film scripts. 

Mr. Kelley has an amazing gift at writing scripts that give a dimension and perspective of human nature that always packs a loving punch.  He can take the hottest of topic buttons and present more than even two sides to a story.  When I watch any of his shows (even my personal quirky favorite, Ally McBeal) he starts off with a premise that I feel very strongly about and by the end of the episode, I have a new understanding and compassion for the "other side" and I know I have been transformed. Not something that often happens in television. 

Well, that is until one happens on a teleplay (or film) penned by Aaron Sorkin.

Mr Sorkin is flat-out brilliant. As evidence, all one needs to do is watch a episode of the current new series, The Newsroom airing on HBO.

Holy teleprompter, Batman--this is great television.

Last night, my husband and I watched episode five.  Riveted, captivated, engaged, enraged and thoroughly grateful for the perfect chemistry of talents that create this show. The actors, directors and of course, Mr. Sorkin's script.  Not only has he brought forward a unique experience of the human drama, he has chosen a story vehicle that allows him to shine new light on topical or historical events that evokes new information or understanding that many of us may not have had from our typical news sources. (That's the part where I get enraged as I hear news that somehow eluded me or I denied).

The Newsroom (as did West Wing when that was on the air) scoops me up and keeps me riveted and I don't want the hour to end.   Last night was episode number five and I thought it might level out a bit.  Not.

Yes, the story line had political significance but it was the human story that caught me.

The jersey thing...

Jeff Daniels as the ACN anchor, Will McAvoy, to make a point, begins to recount the significant deux ex machina of the 1993 movie, Rudy because amazingly some of the team had not seen the film and were lacking in the understanding of how transformational 'the jersey thing' was.  I was giddy that my new favorite t.v. icon was extolling the virtues of one of my favorite sports films! (And Rudy is not even about baseball!)   

Of course, this meant that Aaron Sorkin understood the depth and value of Rudy and was now sharing it with new viewers that also may not have seen this movie.  

Although Angelo Pizzo, the screenwriter of Rudy was dealing with a poignant real life story that already had a strong human interest angle, he then crafted a script that allowed a more personal connection to a broader audience. 

And that is what Mr. Sorkin did with the recent Newsroom episode in an homage to Rudy.  He managed to make 'the jersey thing' current and equally impactful.

I shall not invoke the "spoiler alert" and tell you any more details about any of the books, teleplays or films I have mentioned.  Instead, I hope I have enticed you to view and/or read any or all of my recommendations.

It would be wonderful if each one of us could have a 'jersey thing' in our lives. But if we can't or don't, I am grateful that there are authors the likes of Bradbury, Ephron and Sorkin whose craft and gift it was and is, to offer one of their personal jerseys for us to wear. 


City Slackers

No, I did not misspell the title of this post. Yes, I was playing off of the comedy film title, "City Slickers" about a bunch of...