REEL MEN, REAL MEN, PART ONE: Foxcatcher, Rosewater and The Imitation Game


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

Warning: SPOILERS
imitation oneIt’s November, which means we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, are fast approaching awards season, which in turn means distributors, producers and studios are bringing out a bunch of stunt performances, or as we vulgarly call them in the vernacular, bio-pics, to qualify for the Academy Awards (among other competitions).
And this year is not only no different, it may actually set a record as it’s quite possible that three of the five female nominees for best actress Oscars will be for movies with characters based on real people and the male category may have up to four.
So please join me for the first installment of Reel Men, Real Men.

 

Foxcatcher is a movie about a poor younger man with daddy issues who becomes entangled in the life of a wealthy older man with mommy issues. The filmmakers seem determined to raise all the goings on to the level of Greek tragedy, but I’m not convinced it comes close to anything remotely Sophoclean. Continue reading

MINORITY REPORT: Dear White People, The Way He Looks and the “other” in movies


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

Warning: SPOILERS

 

dwp oneThose who make films that appeal to niche markets in some way (by niche, I mean specific audiences of some sort: gay, black, Hispanic, female, etc.) have a good news/bad news issue in moviedom.
The good news is that they have a preset group of people who are inherently more interested in seeing the movie because it is about them and their lives.
The bad news is that they have a preset group of people who are more inherently interested in seeing the movie because it is about them, but it is very difficult to convince anyone outside of that niche to buy tickets because they assume the movie can’t possibly have anything to say to them since it is about the “other” in their lives.
Which is why blockbuster movies often appeal to young straight white males, and many mainstream films that have a niche component, i.e. concerns in some way the other, either have a non-other central character (Cry Freedom, Glory) or if the central character is an other and can’t be gotten around, they surround him with non-other characters (Gandhi, 12 Years a Slave). Continue reading

FROM POST MODERNISM TO RETRO: a theory on the future of movies


I thought I would throw this out and get some reactions to it. It’s an idea I’m toying with as the subject for a fuller blog essay.

I’m getting the feeling we are about to get that new wave in movies in the U.S. that I’ve been hoping for these last few years. For me, American movies have been getting worse and worse since 2001 (for a variety of reasons), especially as an art form, and that we need something to happen to shake things up. We need a new movement.

I think that is about to happen for a couple of reasons.

Over the last ten years, something important happened in film. It became so inexpensive to make movies and so easy to, that everyone was doing it.

The great thing was that anyone could make a movie.

The awful thing was that anyone could make a movie.

Even those who had nothing to say and had no reason to make a movie. And it showed in the indie movies being made: conventional; lacking any sort of edge or challenge; formulaic; or at other times, simply unwatchable.

I think what is about to change is the platform for making and distributing movies. The big monkey wrench is the entry of Netflix in producing, not just television series, but movies. And I think with this, tons of other platforms, from Hulu to Amazon, maybe You Tube, will be following suit if they are not already doing that.

And there will be more outlets for distribution of films as well with the rise of VOD, the internet, Kindles, etc.

These outlets tend to look more toward challenging films (since new outlets always look for the new and different in order to call attention to themselves) and they will also be more of a clearing board, weeding out those who don’t have a reason to make a movie and don’t really have enough talent.

So what to call this movement and I am suggesting a term:

RETRO

Before this, we were in a period of post modernism with such filmmakers as Soderbergh, Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, movies that took everything from the past, treating it all as equal in value, and made movies that were self-aware of what they were while trying to work on their own terms.

I think we may now be entering a period influenced by the past but in a more specific way.

The future, at least in the U.S. in independent and indie film, is a heavy emphasis on genre (horror, sci-fi, rom com, thrillers, neo-noir, etc.), but not in a self-conscious or self-referential way, but in a more straight forward way, reminiscent of the types of movies made when many new filmmakers were either growing up or the types of films they watched when they first started watching movies (and based on my friends’ viewings, are still the sorts of movies they still watch more than any other), especially, but not limited to, B-movies of various kinds (as well as, or perhaps with even more influence, television series).

And in the U.S., the most interesting films of late have been low to medium budget sci-fi, neo-noir, horror and fantasy.

I haven’t though this all through. I’m just throwing it against the wall and seeing what sticks.

But I’m wondering what people think of this and whether retro is a good way to describe it?

WORKING WOMEN: Three films at AFI–Two Days, One Night, The Clouds of Sils Maria and Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

Warning: SPOILERS
two days oneI have been attending the AFI film festival and have seen three films with female leads and have noticed a major difference between movies from other countries and those made in the U.S. when it comes to how we treat our actresses.
In the U.S., Marion Cottilard is made to play second fiddle to Johnny Depp, Daniel Day Lewis and Leonard DiCaprio, but on her home continent, two of the top European filmmakers actually built a whole movie around her.
In the U.S., Juliet Binoche is relegated to second tier status after a gigantic lizard goes on the rampage and Kristin Stewart is stuck in ridiculous teen angst films and even more ridiculous, over the top Hollywood blockbusters, but in Europe the two are allowed to play opposite each other in roles with depths most American actresses only dream of.
And in the U.S., when it comes to a study of a marriage, we have the misogynistic Gone Girl, with a psychotic wife who will do anything to punish her husband, even set him up for her own murder (while killing herself, no less), while from Israel, we have a film in which a woman desperately tries to get a divorce from a court that is almost determined to keep her in her place and not let her have it.
Prevailing wisdom is that this is one of the weakest years for actresses and the air is filled with panic as voters try to find five females to fill the slots for the Oscar noms for this year.
But prevailing wisdom always seems to leave out the pertinent proviso that this is really only true for the U.S. Continue reading

SCRIPT CONSULTATION TESTIMONIAL FROM JOHN HӦRNSCHEMEYER


UntitledFirst, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

My latest script consultation testimonial:

Howard’s coverage is everything that you would expect from an experienced writer and script reader, and then more. Not content with simply exposing the issues that undermine a story’s potential, his perspicacious feedback is both constructive and challenging, compelling the writer to reassess the quality and content of the script. In one word, professional.

John Hӧrnschemeyer, Baring All

 

For more information on my script consultation services, go to: http://ow.ly/EecLM

HEARTS OF DARKNESS: Nightcrawler, Force Majeure, and Listen Up Philip


 

First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

Warning: SPOILERS
nightcrawlerAfter my friend and I left our screening of Nightcrawler, the new L.A. based neo-noir starring a somewhat gaunt and coyote looking Jake Gyllenhaal, we both commented on how much fun the whole thing was.
And then we wondered, is that really an appropriate reaction to what we just witnessed?
Because Nightcrawler is, well, kind of sick. It’s also dark and edgy and depressing and all the other points of the Scouts’ law and certainly one of the more unflattering looks at humanity that you’ve had the privilege of seeing in some time (everyone has Lady Macbeth hands in this film).
But it’s also kind of exciting and gripping and keeps you grabbing at your armrests.
And yes, indeed, make no mistake about it, it’s also a ton of fun. Continue reading

ONE HOSPITABLE PLANET DOWN…8.8 BILLION TO GO: Interstellar


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

Warning: SPOILERS
interstellarI had a very disturbing thought after watching Interstellar, the new thinking man’s sci-fi blockbuster by the Nolan brothers, Jonathan and Christopher (who also directed).
Earth is on its last legs and our only hope is to find another planet that we can move to. In other words, we’ve destroyed this world, but no worries, we’ll just pack up shop and move to another one and start all over. That is, until we use that one up and have to move again, I suppose. And again. And again.
I guess it’s no big deal. After all, we still have a possible 8.8 billion planets to make our way through. Which means that it’s a problem I won’t have to worry about in my lifetime.
But I’m not sure here. I guess when all was said and done, I didn’t find the ending to the movie to be as glorious a paean to the human spirit as much as I think I was supposed to. Continue reading