I have recently discovered the world of YouTube. Something I had been avoiding, as my children and husband watch increasingly annoying content that I try to avoid. But my husband, a weirdly good consumer of our cultural world, (he doesn’t read very much and sleeps through most cinematic presentations) every so often advises me on things he thinks I might enjoy, or find useful, as if he was paying attention after all.
Enter the Critical Drinker. Will Jordan is his real name, and besides being a YouTuber of notable value, he’s an indie author like me. A proud and self-aggrandizing lover of all things alcohol (which is a stereotype he’s playing on, calm down mom), Critical Drinker has made an excellent name for himself as a plain, dress-it down film critic. Aside from the obvious, he’s not a professionally aligned journalist, writing for Vanity or other big magazines. CD provides videos he makes himself, reviewing movies he feels like watching. His format is simple; a synopsis of the film, followed by his opinion. Laced with swearing, fart clips, his own colloquial, accent-rich drawl and other quips of levity, CD has impressed me for his ability to get to the fucking point. Be it a movie, a series or just what’s wrong with film making today, he has just enough journalistic information, without going down the salacious path of gossip, to make statements about the state of our beloved theatrical industry, poignant and true.
Enter the resonance. At first, watching Critical Drinker for the entertainment value, I realized that his commentary on story building and development were long gripes of my own. No expert in my own right, I work very hard in my storytelling to build strong plots and characters and, while they will always be fictional, believable. These tasks alone are not enough. Storytelling must also grip us, involve us, move us, and sometimes inspire. Keeping things in order chronologically but thematically is critical too. A good story has basic elements, often formulaic in principle and boring to an artist who does it for the thrill. But I respect that in a lot of ways, I’ve learned these things from what influenced me in my favourite media, and am not surprised to learn that what worked for their success is the formula I strive for in mine.
Big movies have sacrificed a lot of things in recent years, with big studio take-overs and fancy, jaw-dropping budgets for special effects. (Anyone interested in a solid plot and infallible cannon should not watch the most recent Star Wars trilogy with any close observation.) And while I don’t always agree with CD on every movie and every detail, his common theme of plot integrity and not bowing to things like the barf-worthy, political correctness of, “the message” or the flimsy, transparent effort to cover a gaping hole in a story with what he calls, “plot armour”, are so impactful, that without planning on it, I’ve found myself reflecting on my own stories for some of these faux pas.
Critical Drinker is at heart, a connoisseur in a renegade format. A truth seeker and loyal fan of the art and the power of storytelling at its core, his reviews highlight what went wrong, while fully acknowledging the resources these projects had to get it right. In the instance of working with known characters even, the excuses fall away quickly. Did you not read the source material? Is a common complaint.
Fans will know. Fans will find the little thread you left hanging. Fans will pick apart your rendition, your fanfic version, your trillion dollar attempt at taking their favourite hero and making it do what you say. But at the heart of it is the artist’s original concept. The glory behind it all and, if done properly, will resonate to live on.
As an artist of the source material, I take this to heart. Not working towards a commercial result, I have a bit more capacity to ponder these things, and work with them like a potter and his clay. And while the craft is complex, linguistics is an absolute bitch sometimes, the story flow and emotion have got to be just right. A character can be anything, can be a villain or hero, a great person or a wretch. Whatever they may be, they have to be right.
So while I am learning my craft, which now includes the added element of preparing it and boxing it for readers like you, know that I am a disciple of the good story. I am also a fan of the art. All writers are different and have differing appreciation – and patience – for the telling. Some are excellent and some seem rushed. Some are precise, while others are less so, but if there is a holy shit, good story under it all – well done, I say. Let’s have a drink!
If you’re interested in exploring the critical expose of the Critical Drinker and his movie-watching experiences, I encourage you to find him on YouTube and see for yourself. If you’re a storyteller like me, I do not doubt you’ll find at least some good advice.
Oh, and as far as Will Jordan’s own spy-thriller novel series, Ryan Drake, they’re really excellent. I recommend them as well.
As the Critical Drinker says at the end of every clip: “That’s all I’ve got for today. Go away now.”