Monday, November 17, 2014


I have my expectations of ANNIE. I hope they're not ironic.
Stories are all about Ironic Expectations and Reality. 

This essay is NOT about the upcoming movie ANNIE, but I'm including this image taken of me recently standing next to a lobby display to make a point. The stories of our natural lives can be filled with expectations which may not be the reality...and that can be entertaining or not, depending on how the surprises conform to natural law.

I get to work on some interesting films. Sometimes it's only to read a single, early draft of a movie and comment on it as I did with ANNIE. I saw an early script, sent in my comments, and as is typical I've heard nothing since.... except what we all read in the trades and see in trailers. I'm cautiously excited about the release of ANNIE next month and you can be sure Pam and I will be buying tickets to see it opening weekend. I have expectations.

The traditional story of Annie is filled with expectations that are turned on their nose, but yet, in the hands of crafted storytellers, the seemingly impossible juxtapositions come off as natural, and we the audience buy into the character's lives and situations. To the extent that stories expertly juxtapose impossible situations with natural law reality- - dramatic irony is created that magically engages the audience, even when the audience knows the story beforehand.

So, with that set-up, let me tell you about...

Yesterday, Sunday, November 17, 2014.

It was generally normal...except that I was more observant than normal.

So, I woke up this morning, the Monday after, thinking about the juxtapositions of several things that, seemed normal, and they were, very normal, except they were great examples of dramatic irony that pervades our lives and how observation can lead to an emphasis of time and place in storytelling that will always create interest and engage audiences.

For this exercise, let's use these definitions:

The reality IS NOT the expectation...when you don't think about it. (Gut sense.)

The reality IS the expectation...when you think about it. (Logical sense.)

The cool thing about great stories is that both IRONY and NATURAL LAW must work together. It's not an EITHER/OR situation, because good storytelling makes AND/BOTH true.

Here are examples from my day, just yesterday. How many can you find in your day's activities?

Irony/Natural Law Juxtaposition No. 1 - Regular vs Mob Mass
I attended a MASS MOB here in Detroit. This is where on a particular Sunday people from all over the metroplex descent on an old but beautiful parish buildings for mass... which originally were occupied by capacity crowds, but since populations have moved to the suburbs, the inner-city church are only sparsely attended.
Typical Sunday Attendance - Expected
Mob Mass Sunday Attendance - 2X S.R.O. Reality 

Irony/Natural Law Juxtaposition No. 2 - Exterior vs. Interior
The Mob Mass was held yesterday at Our Lady Queen of Apostles parish in Hamtramck, MI...a multi-ethnic city totally surrounded by Detroit. It's estimated that 19 different languages are spoken within it's 2.1 square miles of land. Historically it was settled by Poles, and this parish still is Polish. As is true of many Catholic Churches the outside is fairly boring and plain. the inside however is transformative. This is the irony and metaphor, too, of Christ and Christianity. On the outside things may look like everything else, but inside, there is something glorious, incarnational, and divine that is not what was expected. Even in movies that are not overtly religious, this illustrates the character transformation that audiences look for in good stories, and that character transformation is often told with sets that transformative like these two pictures. That domed image is a celebrated mosaic, and astounding to see up close.
OLQ of Apostles - INTERIOR
OLQ of Apostles - EXTERIOR

Irony/Natural Law Juxtaposition No. 3 - Mountain Top vs. Village at the Bottom
Also yesterday I took in the St. Cecilia Sing at the Detroit Cathedral. Sponsored by the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the afternoon event featured some of the best choral and instrumental groups from around the Detroit Archdiocese. My wife plays flute and sings in one, directed by Glenn Porzadek. The groups were diverse but extremely talented, and the afternoon was punctuated by the organ mastery of the virtuosity of Cathedral organist Joe Balistreri on a 32-rank Austin organ. The glory, warmth, and beauty of the inside concert was in contrast to what was outside when we left. Cold, snow flurries, and a lady who's jeep was blocking traffic because she ran out of gas. I got her some gas and helped her on her way. But, later we saw a car nearly lost in a ditch and repair truck preparing to get it out.  There was the mountain top experience and the natural law reality of the village outside.
The Mountain Top Experience
The Village at the Bottom of the Mountain

Irony/Natural Law Juxtaposition No. 4 - Transfigurations and Demons Transformed
My reference above to the Mountain Top Experience is to a couple stories that are juxtaposed for Ironic and Natural lLaw effect in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 17. First we read about the Transfiguration of Christ on a high mountain. There, the Apostles, Peter, James and John see Jesus in a aura of light talking with Moses and Elijah. So starling is the experience that Peter, James and John want to build a swank spiritual retreat enter on the mountain top to they and others can experience this spiritual high, and no doubt charge admission. (Much like the St. Cecilia Sing, except admission to the concert was free.) But instead, Christ leads them off the mountain top to the reality of the village below where they are confronted by a man with his demon possessed son, begging Jesus for help because Jesus' disciples could not cast out the demon. Jesus says, "O unbelieving and perverse long do I have to put up with you?" Then Jesus calls the boy over and heals him. The Irony is that without thinking much about the situation the Apostles want to stay up on the Mountain Top, but the Natural Law reality (if they would think about it) is that there's much to do in the village below. There are demons to get rid of and cars to pull out of ditches.
Heavenly Irony - Spiritual Retreats
Village Reality - Demons

Irony/Natural Law Juxtaposition No. 5 - Muzak vs. Life Talent
At the end of the day Pam and I went to The Masters Restaurant in Madison Hts, MI with her choir for dinner. Throughout our dinner in a private dinning room this gentle jazzy trumpet music was coming over what we thought was their muzak system, although it sounded a bit too good for traditional elevator music coming out of cheap ceiling speakers—the expectation. As we were leaving, Glenn walks us to the door and then pulls me into the bar to show me where the music is really coming from. Meet PLEZE RAYBON, playing his muted trumpet and singing with his iPad playback. Pleze is what we call in the industry "talent"...hidden in Madison Hts.  I was mesmerized, came home, purchased and downloaded his two CDs from CDBABY.COM. Listening to them now.
What we expected.... but the irony awaited us.
The reality, the talented Pleze Raybon.

These are the kind of wonderful surprises that stories can provide our audiences and readers if we will only observe the space and time around us, and learn how to use IRONY and NATURAL LAW. Let's review these two organic definitions again...

IRONY - The reality IS NOT the expectation...when you don't think about it. (Gut sense.)
The seemingly impossible plot point.

NATURAL LAW - The reality IS the expectation...when you think about it. (Logical sense.)
The skill of the writer makes the impossible seem not just reasonable, but normal.

1 comment:

Rachel Hauck said...

Really, really good! Thank you!