AND THE RHYTHM OF LIFE IS A POWERFUL BEAT: Whiplash


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
whiplashJerome Robbins was one of the greatest choreographers and director in theater. But he was almost universally hated and it’s hard to find anyone who had a nice thing to say about him. There is one story, probably apocryphal, which sums up this feeling about the grand master: during West Side Story, he was slowly backing up toward the apron; everyone was so angry at him, they didn’t try to stop him and just watched him go off the edge of the stage.
On the other hand, Bob Fosse, at least equally as brilliant (possibly more), though a tough taskmaster, was universally loved. Even his ex-wives and lovers tended not to wax rapturously about the negative aspects of his personality.
Yet both, through different approaches, achieved wondrous things with their actors and dancers.
I thought of this as I was watching the new film Whiplash, written and directed by Damien Chazelle, a story about Fletcher, a tyrannical conductor and teacher of jazz at what the story contends is the greatest music school in the U.S. (Julliard is chopped liver, I suppose) and his new victim, I mean, pupil/discovery, Andrew, someone Fletcher thinks, through his Stalinesque methods, can be turned into a drummer on the level of Charlie Parker on the saxophone (who is the basis of a story that Fletcher tells to support his theory of teaching). Continue reading

MOVIE MURDER MOST FOUL: The Judge and The Blue Room


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
judgeHow can I cliché thee? Let me count the ways.
In the opening scene of The Judge, the new courtroom cum father/son we hate each other so much we love each other drama, defense attorney Hank Palmer (the kind of attorney who’ll defend anybody for anything as long as the price is right) is confronted by the prosecuting attorney Mike Kattan (the type of character that believes in truth, justice and the American way, so the filmmakers chose an actor, David Kromholtz, whose mere appearance would elicit laughter, to play the part next to the Ironman, alpha male, washboard stomach Robert Downey, Jr., who plays Hank) and they have one of those scene thingies where they debate the morality of it all.
At the end of the discussion (accompanied by mature goings on like Hank peeing on Mike’s pants), Hank sums up all the clichés that have taken place in that one encounter (and using the word “cliché” to describe it).
If the writers, Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque, were attempting to get away with the use of overdone platitudes, familiar formula and trite tropes by calling attention to what they were doing—well, okay, in their defense one can at least one can say they knew what they were doing when they were doing it and were trying to do something about it. Continue reading

IT TAKES A VILLAGE PEOPLE: Pride and Lilting


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
pride-moviePride, or as I call it, the next working class movie from England that will be adapted into a Broadway musical (following in the proud footsteps—and in one case, high heeled shoes—of The Full Monty, Billy Elliot and Kinky Boots—in fact, one of the movies major faults is that you keep expecting everyone to suddenly break out into song and dance and are constantly disappointed when they don’t), is the new film from writer Stephen Beresford and director Matthew Marchus.
It’s one of those based on a true story stories and is about a group of gay activists who decide to help striking miners in Wales in 1984. Why? Well, why the hell not, is what I say. Continue reading

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: Variations on structural engineering and storytelling when it comes to screenplays, PART THREE: SURREALISM, IMPRESSIONISM and OTHER DEPARTURES FROM REALITY


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

 

pans labyrnthI have been writing a series of essays in the hope of directing screenwriters to films that use alternative ways of structuring or telling their stories. My goal is to try to open writers up to a wider array of ways to create their vision.
I mean, it really amazes me sometimes when I realize just what has been done out there over the years in screenwriting, what can and has been achieved.
And film is an incredible medium whose possibilities simply seem boundless.
But what drove me to write these essays is that in the last five or six years of reading screenplays for contests and a production company, I have found scripts to be fewer and farther between that really take chances; try to do something different; that have a unique vision.
Instead, for me, there has been an increasing sameness to what I’ve been coming across. Continue reading

LATEST REVIEW OF MY BOOK RANTINGS AND RAVINGS OF A SCREENPLAY READER from Eli Donaldson on Trigger Street


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
UntitledI’m a little late on this, but this is a review of my book Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader that appeared on the Trigger Street site by Eli Donaldson:

I got a Kindle addition of Rantings and Ravings about three days ago. I’m maybe a fifth or a quarter of the way into the book. And I see a lot of good things you are pointing out that are mistakes that writers are constantly making in screenplays, and some laughs at some of the unintentional things writers often do. Your book would be $3.00 well spent for 80 or 85% of the writers here.I’ve read probably 250 to 300 screenplays in the last several years at Trigger Street, and a smaller but similar group. And I have the feeling that if the writers of these screenplays would only have read your book before writing or submitting their screenplay that it probably would have knocked out half to two-thirds of the errors that I had to point out.I’m happy that you mentioned over describing the scene, the building, what a character is wearing, and how their hair is styled because that is one of the things that many new writers definitely over do.

Continue reading

BITCH, BITCH, BITCH: Gone Girl


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
gone girlAmy Dunne, the heroine of the new Gillian Flynn/David Fincher thriller Gone Girl, is the latest in a long line of movie heroines.
Well, that’s not true. I don’t think the line is that long. It sort of vaguely dates from around the 1970’s.
It began somewhere around the mid of that decade with Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and continued on with Diana Christensen in Network; Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction; Annie Wilkes in Misery; Carolyn Burnham in American Beauty; Debbie in Knocked Up (and similar comedies); and many, many, many, many others. Many.
Yes, Amy Dunne comes from a long line of cinematic bitches. However, we may have now reached a new peak in Hollywoodland. Ms. Dunne has the dubious distinction of possibly being the Queen Bitch of all filmdom.

 

No, I’m going to correct that. Using the language of the movie, she is not the Queen Bitch of all Queen Bitches. She is the Queen Cunt of all Queen Bitches. She is one step up from bitch. Continue reading

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING: The Equalizer


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
equalizerAs I was viewing The Equalizer, the new origin film (because that is what it is; it’s not an Equalizer movie, but how the central character becomes the who you gonna call, or in this case, contact via craigslist.com, crime fighter) written by Richard Wenk (from the 1980’s television series starring Edward Woodward and created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim) and directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Denzel Washington who won the Oscar when Fuqua directed him in Training Day and…
Anyway, as I was saying, while I was watching the film, the same thought kept occurring to me:
The more things change, the more things stay the same. Continue reading