Forgive me, Readers, for I have sinned! I have wrought upon you a blog that is merely worthy of your attention, but not your praise! Worthy of being read, but not of recommending! Worthy of existence, but not of life! I have forgotten the people who have come before me, who have promised every day of their lives to create works that are not merely good enough but that are extraordinary! Magnificent! Stupendous, even! I have forgotten those brave souls who fought before me to ensure that no creative effort ever satisfies itself with half measures–soggy pancakes! Soggy, half cooked pancakes!
My topic today, as I found out in the shower after watching a 90 minute interview with Trent Reznor, is going for it. There are people I’ve met who have been satisfied with good enough in their media, and while most of the time, I am one of them, it is when I am revealed to secretly be a man of high standards that I get into arguments! Yes, I am a man of high standards, and I am not afraid to admit this! Thankfully, there are people in the media who feel my sorrow and dissatisfaction with works of middling or low standards. I have conspirators on the other side. I have people willing to make not only the movies they can, but the best movies they can! And not just movies! Music! Art! Irony! MEALS!
People like James “Top Two Grossing Feature Films of All ████ing Time” Cameron. Over his illustrious career, Mr. Cameron has shown time and time again in film after film that he is no coward in the face of the unknown or innovation. His films change things and they change things thoroughly. Well, except for Pirhana Part Two: The Spawning, but if you‘d made Pirhana 2: The Spawning, wouldn’t you like to erase that from your reputation by making Aliens, The Terminator, The Abyss, The Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Titanic and Avatar? When James Cameron makes a film, he doesn’t just make one movie anymore. He makes the best and biggest movie that can be made at the time with all the parts of cinema that have been ignored for over a decade prior.
When I first saw Avatar, having seen Coraline earlier that year, I can safely say: Avatar revolutionized 3D. Yes, Coraline was pretty, but it was also a pretty average Henry Selick feature. Yes, the animation was brilliant, but the story told with it was the same “plucky girl gets saved by her friends” tripe that the source wasn’t. The 3D? Good. Avatar‘s 3D? I got a nosebleed about forty-five minutes into that movie and held it until the last name on the credits rolled. I did not want to miss a single luscious frame of that movie. And, since you’re all thinking it now, “What about that STORY” What about that story? Yes, it’s a going native epic. Why do you keep expecting some grand understanding of the cosmos from this movie? Hurt Locker won the Oscar on “war is bad”–if you’re telling me it should have been more “original”, I’m telling you NO. This story isn’t a going native epic, it is now the going native epic. If you are going to see one, make it this one.
You see, I started thinking about this when Trent Reznor said of the soundtrack to The Social Network that he handed in his rough drafts and David Fincher said “I can’t think of anything bad to say.” And then they rolled with those for the majority of the soundtrack. And I thought, “Okay, I’m conflicted. I know I admire his soundtrack to The Social Network for greatly influencing the tone of the images I saw and for directing my emotions through texture and melody. But I also have to wonder…” What would the soundtrack have been if Fincher had instead said “Rework these tracks until you’re more confident in them.” Would it have been better? Would it have been stronger? Would there have been more clearly delineated ideas between instruments and pieces? I don’t know. I would like to know, but I don’t.
That’s the problem with settling for “good enough” or “nothing bad to say”. Sure, it can’t hurt your project–it might even make it significantly better! But there’s unexplored potential there for greatness or more challenges to be met that aren’t being met because you’re not meeting them. Creative endeavours are about meeting challenges and if none present themselves, then you probably aren’t doing your job well enough. If even one part of a massive endeavour–such as filmmaking or album-writing–is satisfied with good enough, the end product will likely not be as good as it should have been. What am I saying likely–it cannot be as good as it could have been because it is simply good enough.
This “bad apple spoils the bunch” thing greatly influenced my viewing of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World after the fact. The movie opens with a 16-bit version of the Universal logo and fanfare. It was greeted with rapturous applause in a screening and Edgar Wright said “Okay, keep that one, we’ve got it!” Except, the Universal logo doesn’t move or swoosh or do any of the things it does now and the fanfare sounds kind of wimpy cos that was the first draft of the idea. That was the first draft Edgar Wright received. And when it received an ovation, instead of thinking “They’re applauding this–wait’ll they see the better one!”, he halted it right there. He stopped the train of creativity on at least one aspect of his movie because it was simply good enough. What other parts of his movie were good enough that he let stand without exploring how to make them even better?
And indeed, what of my own work here? I will be assigned an enormous ego I don’t have when I say I read my own work daily. I’m constantly looking for ways to improve my writing–make it punchier, make it funnier, make it more accurate, make it more my own. I’m often satisfied with good enough when I hit publish–getting words out at all is more important than getting the right ones out. But that’s something I should strive to eliminate within myself. This blog isn’t about works that are good enough, after all–what gives me the excuse to be lazy?