Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro in The Irishman
December 6, 2019

Counting to Twenty: The Irishman and the need to self-edit

The National Board of Review is saying that The Irishman is the best movie of the year.  Look, I haven’t seen it.  My husband has – and even as a Scorsese fan, he said it wasn’t that great.

Based on the reviews, reviewers seem to equate length of film and career as the arbiter of quality.

But I’ll tell you why I haven’t watched it.  It’s too long.

I have nothing against long movies, or movies created for Netflix.  As a matter of fact, I love new methods of storytelling. I’d thought briefly that that’s what this was.  Something different and new.

Scorcese, on “film as art”

But there was a nagging interview with Scorsese.  Scorsese who goes on at length about film vs movies and considers himself an artiste.

He gave an interview that said that only Netflix would let him tell the story he wanted to tell.  Which, I don’t believe for a second that any studio would tell him he couldn’t tell that story.  He’s awards bait.  Which reads as spin. It’s far more likely that the studios told him The Irishman is too long. That it would inflate a budget far beyond what it would bring in. But Netflix is eager for awards and legitimacy and wouldn’t dare say no. (This is when I start humming “The Money Kept Rolling Out”)

I noticed that gushing review after review came from men.  No women.

The stories I’ve seen about The Irishman that are written by women have been about what little roles the women in The Irishman played. How few lines they had, what little screentime.  Or wondering why nobody bothered to have location accurate accents- instead, the men just sound like vintage DeNiro, Pesci, and Pacino.

What writing has taught me about storytelling

One of the things I’ve learned as I write and grow my own craft is that condensing your story can do much to drive a point home.  That sometimes you have to edit out treasured moments because they don’t drive a plot forward.

I’ve written a ridiculous number of words in a WIP.   And when I finish this draft, despite there being things I love – I’m prepared to cut the draft in half.  Some things I wrote because I needed it to grow the character for future chapters (the in-between moments).  But it wasn’t anything a reader needs to see.  Think of it like writing all the numbers from 1-20.  If you count by twos, you can see the growth in a progressive fashion.  Skip by a higher number and sometimes it jumps too quickly.  I admit that my draft counts from 1-20, counting by 1/2.  And I know that isn’t what a reader needs.  But I need some of it.

Nobody would dare publish the entire thing.

But, maybe, just maybe – if it was my 20th novel…. someone might take me up on it, because they wouldn’t dare say that it needed editing down.  They’d be too worried I’d take my book elsewhere.

If you see what I mean.

Final thoughts

Update: Since I posted this on Patreon, it’s been decided that yes, I am going to see this. The glowing reviews and the second suggestion it was the best film of the year is making me realize I need to be able to speak to my opinion of the movie. More to follow.

Update2: I didn’t make it very far, and my husband showed me some parts he thought I’d appreciate- which was essentially the final third. But I really do feel like it’s still too long. What I saw was well acted, but it lacked a lot of momentum.

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