If you want to write great stories, you could do much worse than listen to the advice of the Oscar winning creator of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, and A Bug's Life at Pixar Animation Studios. Born this day in 1965, he is famous enough and his work loved enough that you don't need me to tell you details you can pick up elsewhere. But if you care about how he learned to tell these great stories, you will want to visit (or revisit) the phenomenal talk he gave at Ted.com in February of 2012. It's called "The Clues to a Great Story," and even if you have no intention of writing stories yourself, it's worth hanging out with Stanton for this talk because it's...well, a darn good story. Thanks so much to Ted.com for permission to share it here.
Flannery O'Connor once said she wished she could read all of Conrad - and then forget him. Because she knew that when she sat down to write her own stories, that great work would be inside unconsciously feeding her own work. You've heard the expression, "You are what you eat?" Well, O'Connor understood that "you write what you read," too.
Conrad was born in Poland on this day in 1857. This means he grew up speaking Polish. At 21, he got a job working as a deck hand on a British freighter. That's when he began to learn English. He learned it so well that he was able to write Lord Jim, The Nigger of the Narcissus, Typhoon, The Secret Agent, and perhaps his best known work, Heart of Darkness.
The great Nigerian novelist, critic and professor, Chinua Achebe (Things Fall Apart) felt Heart of Darkness could not be considered a great novel because of racist and dehumanizing descriptions of the indigenous people in the story. Others disagree, claiming that it is Conrad's characters and not the author himself who are racist. Let others debate this. We will note here only that Conrad left behind a legacy that influenced Hemingway, Faulkner, V.S. Naipal, Philip Roth, and D.H. Lawrence, to name but a few. Here's a clip from Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 film restatement of Heart of Darkness, with Marlon Brando.
Magnolia, Boogie Nights, Chloe, Short Cuts - these are just a few of the films we've seen her in since the mid-1990's. To mark her 53rd birthday, here are clips from two of my favorites: The Hours and Vanya on 42nd Street.