SHORTER IS BETTER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I have seen many plays that were interesting, but way too long. The producers had to fill out the required time for a Broadway play, whether or not they had enough good material. A lot of movies are also too long for the same reason.

To me, most action movies are no more than a series of barely distinguishable scenes of violence strung together from the opening credits and beginning “premise,” to an even more spectacularly violent dénouement. As far as I’m concerned, you could cut movies of this genre in half without altering the plot (what plot?) at all. But then, you might have a 47-minute movie which no one would pay to see. I would be one of the people who didn’t pay to see it.

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This is particularly painful with comedies, particularly on television. Many sit-coms have a few funny bits and that’s it. The rest of the show just isn’t funny. In a perfect world, you could air an 18-minute episode because that’s all the funny material you had. You should be able to present the material that works, then call it a day.

For the most part, half-hour shows are only 21 minutes after subtracting commercial breaks. Take off another one or two for coming attractions and you’re down to 19 minutes. So maybe the problem is the really bad scripts? Maybe they only feel long because they are so bad? Or maybe they are so short, there’s no time to develop a plot?

I worry about this with blogs too. I have good ideas but I they don’t always add up to a whole post. So I’m simply going to present a few paragraphs from a couple of interesting articles I read recently.

First, apparently, babies and young children are ‘designed,’ by evolution, to seem cute and winning to adults to ensure kids get the maximum love and attention they need to thrive and grow. Infants’ big eyes, button noses, and chubby cheeks elicit a kind of primal bonding reaction in adults. So do the sounds they make and the way they smell. It’s a visceral, chemical, and nearly universal reaction.

Children start to lose those physically attractive ‘baby’ features around age two or three, so adults are hard-wired to respond equally strongly to the speech patterns of young children.

The way kids perceive and say things sound funny and charming to us. Their observations about the world seem irresistibly adorable. This phenomenon has a name: “Cognitive Babyness.” Studies show that between age two and seven, a child’s cute behavior replaces their cute faces in stimulating a caregiving response.

Go evolution!

Ana McGuffey - 1946 - Mme. Alexander - Doll's faces are intended to embody the "adorable" factor of real toddlers.
Ana McGuffey – 1946 – Mme. Alexander – Doll’s faces are intended to embody the “adorable” factor of real toddlers.

So much for interesting factoids. I’ll move to my next mini topic.

I taught Yoga and Meditation for eight years. I know the enormous benefits to adults — increased focus, attention span, calmness, control, and confidence. Also, decreased tension and stress, anger, frustration, distractibility, and fewer physical aches and pains. It never occurred to me that teaching some form of Yoga and/or Mindfulness into schoolchildren might have the same amazing benefits. \

Recently, I’ve read articles about these kinds of programs being taught in kindergarten through high school, all around the country. They have produced outstanding results.

The skills taught have reduced the symptoms in ADHD kids. Calmed children with anxiety disorders. Helped kids with learning issues, behavior problems, and social deficits. The same studies have shown improved grades, a higher degree of empathy and kindness between kids — and an enhanced enthusiasm for school.

Many schools have incorporated some form of mindfulness into the curriculum for teachers as well as students.

Way to go! Good for you! Over and out!

13 thoughts on “SHORTER IS BETTER – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. Bad scripts. Bad scripts on TV show, terrible movie scripts (or no scripts that I can discern). New shows are copies of old shows that weren’t very good in the first place, but by the time you are redoing them for the eighth time, they truly stink. It isn’t your imagination. The quality of scripts is awful. What I want to know is why? There are so many talented writers ACHING for the privilege of writing for film or TV — so is management demanding bad material?

    In my business, which was tech writing, we had a saying: “A terrible manual is always a management decision.” I have a feeling this is true in TV and movies too.

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    1. Then along comes “Mystery Science Theater 3000” a whole new show based on the worst movies ever made.., essentially, giving them life again. Frankenmovies I call them. MST3000 didn’t need bad scripts, it was all right there in front of them. And yet, back then, we watched this stuff in their original badness because it was the miracle of TV and we didn’t have to go to a movie theater. The comments, on MST3k are much like the comments we all made back when we were hanging out, altering our consciouses and taking these terrible films in without the help of wiseass puppets. We WERE those wise asses.

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      1. I don’t understand why we remake BAD movies and TV shows! It’s bad enough when you try to redo a classic. But why revisit the shit material?

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    2. Apparently there is good script writing on venues like Hulu and Amazon and Starz (Outlander!)We have seen some excellent series recently. One was Looming Tower, about the two year lead up to 9/11.

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      1. I never said they couldn’t write better scripts, only that they often DON’T. The streaming TV shows are mostly better than ours, though not always. I think producers believe we want nothing but special effects and a lot of noise, so that’s what they give us.

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  2. I do agree. Action movies these days rely on effects and their big name stars. Where are the good stories, the well written dialogue? As to comedy I think sitcoms need to be short. I know I’ve seen a good one if I am disappointed that the show is over after 30 minutes (including ads) I think that a lot comedy ideas have a short lifespan too. Often the first season is great, the second just OK and third and any subsequent ones go downhill to the point where they are not funny any more.
    PS I think yoga and meditation in schools sounds like a good idea. Growing up can be very stressful. It’s not only adults that have stress.

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    1. Several of the sitcoms we used to love have long ago reached their expiration date. They are getting more exaggerated and charicaturish and the characters don’t ring true anymore. Everyone just acts crazy and stupid And that passes for humor. To some, it is, but not for me.

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  3. i love what you wrote here Ellin. “Infants’ big eyes, button noses, and chubby cheeks elicit a kind of primal bonding reaction in adults. So do the sounds they make and the way they smell. It’s a visceral, chemical, and nearly universal reaction.”

    Of course later when we all return to, this time, blood shot eyes, bulbous noses, still chubby cheeks, but not smelling so great and, ironically, begin pooping and pissing all over ourselves again.., suddenly the cuteness is gone and we are the furthest thing from eliciting any kind of bonding. Folks are weaving paths around us in full blown avoidance, not to mention, fear of miss directed vomiting. Only close relatives or friends will care for you out of obligation, or, maybe, the memory of who you used to be. What! no more Baby talk?

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    1. Very good point. Babies have an inborn mechanism to get people to take care of them and love them. What about old people? What can they do to elicit caring and affection from those around them? They are at a distinct disadvantage. And that makes no sense – we are helpless twice in our lifetimes. And we only get biological help for one of them. No fair!

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