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Big Fish -- Remembering those larger than life people

By Andrew Pollack on 12/22/2004 at 07:47 AM EST

Last night I watched one of those movies that critics and viewers both are completely split on -- I loved it.

The movie is the story of a man, who not content with the banalities of every day life prefers to make each event the occasion for telling a tale clearly to big to be believed. He's such an amazing storyteller, such a perfect sales person that his own son has no idea what the "true story" really is. The tall tales are fun, and they do in fact fit the classic structure of a tall tale myth -- but the side story about a serious young man about to become a father who is looking to understand his own is compelling as well.

What makes the movie really work for me, is that it reminded me so strongly of those in my own life who as a kid were always just a bit too much to believe entirely. Surely every family has these, no?

I'm a first born, of a first born, of a first born. That means I knew my grandfather and great-grandfather fairly well. At many times in my life, my grandfather stepped in where my father and I weren't getting along. Sidney enters my thoughts at least weekly, though he passed a way a few years back. This was a man nearly impossible to describe. He was at the same time the most and the least ethical person I've ever met -- and for him there was no contradiction in this. He was, all the time I knew him, very short, very overweight, and yet strong as bull elephant. He ran business like he managed everything else in his life both well and poorly. Like many of our grandparents, his stories were of times before our own birth that we could never fully connect with. Which were true stories and which were embellishments? Its very hard to know -- and Tim Burton skillfully shows us that it doesn't really matter. For men like this, the real story of their life is as much the subjective story itself as any possible list of objective true facts.

If you connect with this movie, its a fantastic experience -- my respect for Tim Burton goes up more than ever.

There are  - loading -  comments....

Eyeopener...By Lars on 01/07/2005 at 06:18 AM EST

I completely agree with you that "Big Fish" is a fantastic movie.

I found it very easy to relate to as well, and one thing in particular struck
me only when watching the movie again on DVD ...

Every single story is about something else.

While none of the father's story ring true or come out believable, they all
carry some 'keypoints' that, when put together, make perfekt sense.

The amount of visual 'hints' to what the stories are really about are enormous,
and in Tim Burton's absolutely stunning images, I - for one - had a tendency to
lose out on those hints, or rather only to notice them subcontiously.

When I left the theater, I was confused but elated. I had no idea what I had
just seen, but I knew that I loved it.
After watching it again, I caught it on a much more contious level, and loved
it all over again.

In a sense, Tim Burton does exactly what the father in the movie does: paints a
picture that is 'larger than life', in order to tell a story that might seem
small, but really is quite significant.

In the 'modern world', it has become a criteria to 'entertain' if you want to
get your point across. Nobody will watch or care about events that are not
'sold' effectively, no matter how important they are.

To make an example ...

At the moment, the world focuses on the indian ocean, where an earthquake and a
tsunami has killed more than 165000 people and caused enormous damages. It is
all over the news, benefit concerts are being staged, national icons speak out,
former presidents join forces, and billions of dollars are being raised.

At the same time, the province of Dafur in the western part of Sudan is struck
by hunger and war. 70000 people dead with more coming every day. Hundreds of
thousands of people displaced from their homes.

Sadly, the images from Dafur are less spectacular, and thus the aid
organisations are finding it hard to raise a mere $115m.

Anyway - my point was not to preach unfairness in the distribution of aid
money, but merely that this world is full of 'storytellers' who tell us
fantastic stories in order to really explain simple things.
That can be good or bad depending on the situations, but the important thing is
that we realise that the stories we are told are not always what they seem, and
that we must continue to seek the truth behind it all.

Wow ... what a rant :o)

And all that just to tell you that I too loved "Big Fish". :o)

Looking forward to your sessions at Lotusphere. I seem to recall them being
'Admin Eyeopeners' too ;o)
Welcome, Lars...By Andrew Pollack on 01/07/2005 at 08:08 AM EST
I look forward to having you in my sessions this year. The darn fools have
slipped up and given me two opportunities to insult and annoy the entire
conference this time. I look forward to taking full advantage of both.

Kidding aside, I consider anyone's expressed desire to hear my rants
(er..sessions) about the biggest compliment I am ever given. Thank you.


As to Big Fish -- I agree, though didn't analyze it quite as completely. I
must say though, that the issue with relief funds at this point isn't money.
There's a lot of money. There's almost no effective way to spend it yet

As someone who has worked as a red cross volunteer at a minor dissaster (adding
organization to a chaotic shelter during a major ice storm a few years back
that left people homeless for a couple of weeks in may cases) and also has been
through "Mass Casualty" drills, HAZMAT evacuation and econtamination training,
and crowd control scenarios I can tell you that the amount of chaos you're
dealing with there is hard to explain.

It starts 'further back' than you'd think. You need fuel, water, food, light,
and planning just to get the trucks to the roads to clear them so that you can
get to the bridges which are out so you can repair them to get to the roads to
clear which lead to the villages which which aren't there to even begin to
provide food, shelter, and medicines.

Thats the most basic of examples.
My own thoughts on this are...By Lars Olufsen on 01/18/2005 at 11:33 AM EST
Thanks Andrew,

I'll look forward to the insults and annoyances.
After all, it is not unreasonable to sit through living hell for an hour in
return for the opportunity to leech a free shirt ... wait - make that THE free

Man - it's drawing near. I'm getting all wound up over here in cold and clammy
Denmark. Bit of sunshine and a chilly Sam Adams with the usual suspects will do
me good, I'm sure.

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