Diary of an Academy voter: L.M. Kit Carson

Part 3 of 3

Screenwriter, producer and actor L.M. Kit Carson, a recent inductee into the writers’ branch of the Academy, completes his three-part diary from the MacDowell Artists Colony in New Hampshire, where he’s won time and place to work on “Remember Tomorrow,” a project he calls “a personal documentary about the future.” ( Read part one, read part two.)

Dec. 14-Jan. 24

Exiting this diary series pre-the-77th Oscar nominations by heading east into the blizzard of ’05 — but an unexpected Oscar writing story pops out of the buzz-battle and clicks for this rookie writer-member.

It clicks about writing — no, “not writing” — on Oscar-nominated “The Sea Inside.”

At L.A.’s swanky Four Seasons, the Madrid actress Belen Rueda (brilliant as the movie’s heartbreaking Kate Hepburnesque lawyer) shares a twist-tale on how director Alejandro Amenabar and co-writer Mateo Gil wrote by not writing. Early morning on the day of shooting Ms. Rueda’s critical last goodbye scene with Javier Bardem (the doomed paralyzed man she’s falling in love with), Amenabar suddenly dumps the script. “Your mixed-up love is not on these old pages now, and I’m not writing more,” he tells the actress abruptly. “The story is only inside you. Now you make it open. Or we don’t have a movie.”

Click: Amenabar’s “not writing” now strategically goes past the known emotions in his done script. His fearless generosity pushes the scary act of creation onto Ms. Rueda. He shoots the actress to improvise over and over. And she cracks: she tangles-up inside trying to play the impossible choice — does her character want to die with her client/lover or want to save him? So: Amenabar shoots and captures the immediacy of Ms. Rueda’s pain.

Click: And in this way, by not writing, by putting Ms. Rueda in front of the camera to expose her own soul — Amenabar grabs the heart. Then — and here Ms. Rueda explains excitedly this is what matters big — in his final cut of the movie, Amenabar completely edits out what Ms. Rueda did in improvising her part of this goodbye scene.

Click: “He makes me break when we shoot — then erases me, I’m gone,” she nods, and shakes her head with her eyes gleaming acutely smart. “But somehow I’m not gone, somehow he’s highlighting my gone-ness … so much more powerfully than my presence — so it burns hidden inside the scene.”

Click: He cuts her out. Then he flips us, the viewers, into her void of pain, so that her unseen grief — this created emptiness — powers the goodbye scene. Amenabar actually torques this character’s excluded feelings to flood and drive the viewers’ emotions as we watch to be touched and torn by the almost totally immobilized final movie-moments of the dying performance of Javier Bardem.

This unexpected Oscar writing story tells three writing truths: (1) writing sometimes goes by not writing; (2) not writing sometimes goes more-than-writing; and (3) writing in many ways never stops going. (Go is what matters in telling a story.)

And here’s the last funny thing. Intro-ing this diary series, this rookie writer-member recalled his Texas prep school face-down with Pulitzer/Guggenheim-winning Eudora Welty, when the brash authoress scoffed that Oscar means “not a damn thing.” Finishing this diary-series, I’m facing Eudora Welty again — this time at a place where she was medal-honored: The MacDowell Artists Colony. (The Colony is a legendary arts nexus of writers/poets/composers/visualists etc. where I’m lucky to be writing in the crystal snowstorms of the New Hampshire mountain wilds. It was here that Thornton Wilder wrote “Our Town,” and Michael Chabon worked on the story for “Spider-Man 2.”)

But I feel now I could counter to Ms. Welty.

For this rookie writer-member at least, with the nominations dominated by death-shadowed movies (“Hotel Rwanda,” “Finding Neverland,” “Million Dollar Baby”), it feels this year like Oscar could mean more than not a damn thing — it feels like Oscar could connect to life. Not just to Hollywood.

I have thought for a while there might still be somewhere where something could add up so that what we’re going through — for this wrenched year — could be saved.

So it’s a hope that maybe, from this year’s best movies, Oscar could send out a question: “What did you do? — to keep death from winning?”

Because for a while it’s been feeling like we’re losing.

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