I have finished my first Once Upon a Time Challenge book! The challenge is halfway over and I have four books left to go. I’m a slow snail.
Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures was a hoot as Terry Pratchett books usually are. What I like about Practhett is that he is so good at the humor, but still manages to comment via Discworld, on real life culture and events. In Moving Pictures he takes on Hollywood, or as it is in the book, Holy Wood.
When the last watcher in the dunes of Holy Wood dies and there is no one left to remember why there was a watcher in the first place, the divide between reality and unreality begins to thin. Things on the other side that should stay there start to put ideas into people’s heads. The things can’t get through–yet. Pretty soon the alchemists have created a moving picture. Since it isn’t “real magic” they can pursue picture making. And everyone wants to be in pictures. It isn’t long before the alchemists move to Holy Wood because nobody lives there and the weather and lighting is always perfect. Holy Wood isn’t actually a wood at all. There are some scrubby trees but it’s pretty much just empty sand dunes on the edge of the ocean.
As the popularity of the moving pictures grows and the storylines themselves change from educational to lurid love stories (with one thousand elephants!), reality gets thinner and thinner, until the things are finally able to make their move. It turns out moving pictures and Holy Wood are magic in their own way, and only the magic of Holy Wood can save the day.
The story is full of parody. There are moments like during one character’s speech about wanting to be famous where I can hear the background music swelling to a crescendo. There is fun poked at Lassie and Gone with the Wind and a host of other movies. All this while subtly questioning our devotion to movies, our penchant for believing them to be real, or at the least believing the actors are the characters they play, and at the same time recognizing that there is something magical about it all.
Moving Pictures is not rocket science, nor is it life changing. It’s yummy brain candy but it won’t fill you up and ruin your dinner.