Once upon a time all movies were made using a small set of interior and exterior sets: the same police station, and the same hospital and the same seedy apartment, the squalid nightclub bathroom and alleyway, Malibu beach house, estate, McMansion, and loft. Moviemakers occasionally changed the appliances, but the buildings and houses and factories and farms—there were a few dozen of them for neighborhoods—were painted over and sometimes the fixtures were changed or the paint color, depending on the script and someone on the internet would notice before anyone else and comment on discussion boards and Facebook, and it went on and on until there were those who quit their jobs or left their spouses to notice exclusively, some for pay-sites, and they were called the Noticers.

Moviemakers used the same houses and buildings because of a long-ago king’s decree, but they became bothered at the Noticers’ hyper-awareness, so they stopped changing anything at all—directors and their crews would watch the last movie filmed in the house, and try to reproduce it all just so, sometimes down to the brushstroke.

This silenced the Noticers for some time, who would then watch a film only frame by frame in multiple screens in their homes, sometimes a whole group of them watching and talking to each other via technology. They watched on mute because the actors only stood in the way of the countertops and the order of the fake books on the fake shelves, and the color array of Lucky Clovers on the box of cereal creased at about two o’clock if one used the rudimentary and feature app an avid Noticer created to measure and name features in the early days of Noticing.

The Noticers looked for what they called intention, and made lists of all inconsistencies on their blogs. The lists became widespread and the directors were called out as frauds for trying to bring something to a house, say the Red House with the Wrap-Around Porch and the Tire Swing Hanging from the Oak Behind the Blue and White Cape Cod. Sometimes it went the directors’ way and a lot of people would go to the movies to see what The Noticers saw, and after a hundred years, everyone became a noticer, and everything that was filmed got filmed with noticing in mind.

During this time, very wealthy people could live in the unoccupied spaces for weeks at a time for exorbitant rates so the Ibiza set became the new Ibiza and people got degrees and fellowships in Noticing. Everyone was trying to outnotice everyone else.

Writers didn’t write scripts, instead computers generated random language based on specially created algorithms regarding the sets and using words Noticer focus groups selected. An excerpt:

FADE IN:

Interior the Boston two-bedroom railroad flat (#AEL23532127). The camera scans past the open CheapLaminate American Chestnut cabinets revealing Lower-Middle Class Factory Worker Foodstuff Authenticity (#MCMF236740)

Older Female Character has on a BWRed Rotary Phone344 rested on her shoulder while she lights a cigarette (video from previous smoking interposed)

OFC: (angrily while smoking a cigarette): Butter, tomato, sources say the suspect was a young Hispanic man on aisle six (stubs cigarette out on Corelle Garden Piece dinner plate with concave 1.2 mm COR110635). And I remember sharp Japonica! Vacation’s all I ever wanted. Vacation, had to get away. The Shelter Tower is over it.

Older Female Character slams phone down on cradle.

OFC (yelling for Younger Son-Like Character): In the name of the Ronald Reagan Library for all that’s scarved, Chester is a weathervane Fonzarelli!

In the far off kingdom where movies were made, a very clever girl was watching about a house with a pool in the back and although she had been raised right, she stopped noticing, and only saw and heard the people in the movie. She didn’t notice Ceramic Owl Pencil Holder with Twelve Copic Sketch Markers on the father’s drafting table or the Silver Finish Hyannis Lanterns with the remains of three dead flies hyper-realistically buried in the two inches of sand at the bottom by the candle on the white Domitalia stone pedestal by the swimming pool. She heard a man repeating “Sconce invader. No one with the lead on the road less five to himself,” and nodding ruefully.

“Mother, mother,” the little girl called out from the screen in her room. “When the people in movies speak, they aren’t really saying anything! A man just called his son a weathervane! That doesn’t even make sense, but nothing in this movie does!” She threw her cape over the screen out of despair.

“But daughter,” her mother said. “Can’t you notice the authenticity of the space? This film reminds me of every other film I’ve ever seen set in that upper middle class modernist house with a sunken pool. There are the lushest towels in the cabanas closet. They’re Eternity White!” The angry mother pulled the cape away and set the screen back second by second for the girl to reencounter.

At this, the girl became disconsolate. Her mother knelt before the screen entranced by the pedestal’s impeccability and at how well this director had duplicated the shade of the water and knowing this director, the Ph level. Meanwhile the girl wished and wished until she turned into a spider, and disappeared into the walls where there were no sets, only dust motes and rat waste and fiberglass that looked like the filaments of her web when she thought about it, and she lived happilyeverafter.

 

 

 

Carmen Giménez Smith
is the author of a memoir and four poetry collections— including Milk and Filth, finalist for the 2013 NBCC award in poetry. A CantoMundo Fellow, she now teaches in the creative writing programs at New Mexico State University, while serving as the editor-in-chief of the literary journal Puerto del Sol and the publisher of Noemi Press.
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