Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Wall Street Journal, Day 12: My First Major/Weekend

EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Today's day of work at the Wall Street Journal was mainly distinguished by the fact that I was given my first major to edit. It was actually a pretty straightforward piece (I probably am not allowed to say anything more about it, because it hasn't been published yet), so there wasn't really much for me to do except look for grammatical or style errors and relatively minor stuff like that. Still, I ended up spending a little less than 1-1/2 hours on it. Hey, I want to get my first major right. And it sounds like I did. Unfortunately, someone else had already come up with a headline, apparently, so the article was the only thing I worked on.

Imagine, me, becoming excited at the idea of writing headlines. Have I become a copy editing nerd or what?


Oh yeah, my weekend.

Saturday was the more eventful day of my Friday-Saturday weekend. Friday night I had to suffer through another dreadfully long dance recital at the State Theatre---only this one had the oh-so-wonderful bonus of trying to string a plot in between the various dance sequences. The show ended up running about 4-1/2 hours! To add minor insult to injury: the dance recital that staged this was the Center Stage Dance Recital, which has a studio in East Brunswick. Almost makes me ashamed to live in East Brunswick, especially when this quasi-musical clumsily stripped the "Money Song" from Cabaret of all its decadence. Desecration!

On Saturday, I stepped into a movie theater for the first time in months. No, I didn't see Ocean's Thirteen (don't really desire to, although I guess I wouldn't mind sitting through it if I was forced to do so; I mean, I did enjoy Ocean's Eleven on its own throwaway level). Instead, I caught up---finally---with Spider-Man 3 (**½ out of ****), which had gotten generally mixed reviews from critics. Yeah, it probably does try to cram too much into it, and the result is rather messy and unfocused. But hey, no one said adulthood was a clean, simple progression. Imagine the complications of adulthood for a superhero! Especially for Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), trying to balance romantic troubles with three---count 'em, three---bad guys, all of whom---true to Spider-Man form---aren't so much villains as they are human beings who make bad decisions. Or at least that's what Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) says to his needy daughter and his angry wife early on in the film.

I ended up liking the film more than I expected, based on what I had heard about it. The only major disappointment of the film, really, is that co-writer/director Sam Raimi seems so intent on getting his rather banal messages across---revenge is futile, you shouldn't get too high on yourself, etc.---that he resorts to pushy, heavy-handed speeches more often than not instead of relying on iconic imagery to make his generally agreeable points more subtly. There are few moments in this third film that equal that strangely moving moment in Spider-Man 2 where the train passengers discover that their hometown hero is "only a kid." The result is a film that is rather graceless, seeming more like the work of a sincere hack. Still, at my young age, I tend to give a lot of points for ambition and intent, and Spider-Man 3 is nothing if not ambitious. I also tend to applaud comic-book movies that at least care to try to craft convincing human beings amidst wall-to-wall CGI spectacle, and I felt some of that same soulfulness at times here. Oh, and daring to turn a comic-book movie---most of which prefer to break humanity down into heroes and villains---into a morality play that scores points against the hero's selfishness and pomposity? Well, in a mainstream movie, I think it's somewhat daring, anyway.

It's a real mixed bag, and it's nowhere near the level of the first two, but I'll admit that I enjoyed it quite a bit. And I didn't really mind the surplus of villains that everyone else seems to be complaining about. It's not that I don't think it's a flaw---it's the one unfortunate thing about Spider-Man 3 that feels baldly studio-mandated, and it does snap the film's focus once in a while---but it doesn't bother me to a great extent that I write off the whole experience as a lost cause. (Maybe I'm just a sucker for complicated, interweaving plots in movies; Spider-Man 3 is hardly Babel, Syriana or---thank goodness---Crash, but it engenders a similar feeling of thematic richness and complexity.)

Less of a lost cause was the small gathering that a few of my fellow Wall Street Journal employees, Tyler (the other intern) and I had at a bar in Princeton that Saturday night. Not much happened, really; we just talked about random stuff over a couple of drinks (I had two bottles of Blue Moon).

It's actually fairly amazing, though---getting back to movie stuff, because I'm one-dimensional like that---how many people I've met just in these few weeks who actually
know of directors like Jean-Luc Godard or Werner Herzog, not just, you know, Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese. On Saturday, I talked to someone---the husband of one of the employees---who wasn't just a film buff, but a seemingly knowledgeable and articulate film buff. (Stanley Kubrick---of course!---was a major source of discussion, as was the issue of violence in morality in movies; the latter particularly fascinates me, especially regarding Kubrick's adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, which some have called his most morally dubious movie, a claim that I don't think is entirely without merit.) Just today, too, at lunch, I mentioned the name Werner Herzog, and immediately the woman I was eating lunch with shouts out, "Aguirre, The Wrath of God!" Not only good copy editors with a knowledge of business basics and the English language, but also with seemingly good taste in film. Sweet!

Oh yeah, there's a world beyond the movies. Right. I guess the Wall Street Journal is my ticket to that world. Welcome.

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