Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mixed emotions about The Big Year.

There are some pretty exciting things happening for Punk Rock Big Year right now but I can't let them out of the bag yet. Don't want to jinx some things that I've been looking forward to so much.

So Sunday night we got a babysitter and Rachel and I went to see The Big Year. The birder in me really loved it. But there's this other side of me. A film lover, a creative professional, a perfectionist. This is what that person thought...

(The following is a comment I left on's excellent blog which I love and read every day.) spoiler alert. A couple things here might spoil it if you've not seen the film yet.

More people aren’t going to be interested in birding because of a bad director. Sure, he’s probably a better director than I am but he’s not great. The film was far too much about a series of birding events and not about the characters. Mark’s book is really great and I felt like maybe I knew those guys by the end of it. There was zero character development in the film, ZERO. If I missed my wife’s fertility treatment for a Snowy Owl, shit would have hit the fan a hell of a lot harder than that. It would have been a devastating blow to an already fragile relationship. Yes, so he lost her, she left him, but what’s the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” That statement is a serious truth. She never even threw anything at him! As for the relationship with Jack Black and his dad, there was one moment where I might have believed that they connected but it had little to do with the emotion pulled out of the actors by the director and more from the owls all-seeing eyes. The only place I really saw the way I feel when I see a rare bird is when Steve Martin got his Hummingbird at that fence when it seemed he’d miss it. His eyes said a lot in that moment but it was the only half-second where I could turn to my wife and say, “That’s why I’m a birder.”

If you are interested in what I mean by character development, go see a film called 50/50. They did more to tell me about the main character in the first two seconds of the film while he studiously waits for a walk signal before crossing a road while other joggers just go right across. That kind of directing is very powerful and could easily have been done with The Big Year too. There’s no reason I shouldn’t have teared up when Jack Black’s dad finally understood that his son wasn’t a complete failure but a person with a passion that deserved recognition.

For birders, it’s a fine film because we can see bits of ourselves in it, but it ain’t good for anyone else. My wife fell asleep for a bit and I don’t blame her for a moment. I know she’d enjoy the book, though now, I won’t be able to get her to read it.

I’m in the process of trying to make a short documentary about my own big year but if it sucks when it’s done, it’ll stay shelved. As with most big years, it’s turning out to be the people I’ve become acquainted with that are what I’ll remember most. I’ll always love the birds but counting them is getting a bit old after 10 months of it. In a way, I’m glad I did this at a younger age, that way, I can just enjoy looking at birds from January 1, 2012 until the day I keel over, hopefully with my bins in my hand...

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