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the latest from one of Italy’s most popular director’s Nanni Moretti.  It’s a gentle comedy about a cardinal (played by Michel Piccoli, who has been making movies since 1945—wow) who is elected Pope, but at the last minute has a panic attack and finds a way to run away from the Vatican.  Meanwhile, his right hand man tries to mislead the other cardinals, as well as the world, to think the new Pope is still in his chambers meditating before making his first appearance.  The strongest sections of the film take place in the Vatican as everyone tries to figure out what to do (with perhaps the funniest scenes belonging to a psychoanalyst who was called in to talk to the new Pope before anyone realized he was an atheist—played with sly abandon by the director Moretti himself).  However, the scenes of Piccoli wandering the streets seem to just refuse to go anywhere, even fighting the director and writers (Francesco Piccolo, Federica Pontremoli and Moretti redux) tooth and nail, daring anyone to find a way for everything to come together.  Because of this, the point of the movie may be getting lost.  The film The Shoes of the Fisherman, starting Anthony Quinn, may be middlebrow entertainment with an aftertaste of kitsch and a typical Hollywood studio product, but it covers much of the same issues covered here and does it much more effectively.   


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Goodbye First Love is the follow up film to director/screenwriter Mia Hansen-Love’s last movie The Father of My Children (one of the best films of that year).  In many ways it’s a simple story: girl loses boy; girl meets another boy; girl runs into first boy again.  There really isn’t a large plot here, and in many ways, it’s an incredibly familiar one (the title says it all), but there is something about it that connects.  Lola Creton plays teenage Camille who is hopelessly in love with Sullivan (Sebastian Urzendowsky).  Though Sullivan loves Camille deeply, he is able to compartmentalize his love and treat it as just one of the many aspects of his life. It’s this disconnect that drives the story (at one point the two characters go to a movie and have a different reaction to it based on their different views of life and love—Sullivan calls the movie within the movie “typically French”, which is a perfect summary of Goodbye First Love).  The first third of the movie is the hardest to get through, mainly due to Camille’s inability to take control of her life and see no reason for existence outside of Sullivan.  She’s one of those annoying characters for whom love and being in a relationship is the be all and end all of their existence (it’s very hard to have sympathy for someone who can find absolutely no meaning to their lives outside of someone else).  But as the movie goes on and jumps five years for each section, her story becomes more and more moving and universal.  It’s a lovely film. 


An excellent article on receiving feedback.  One thing I would add is that as a writer, you have to know what you are trying to achieve with your script.  If you don’t know, it’s almost impossible to be able tell which feedback will help and which won’t.  Without knowing what you are trying to achieve, you can’t evaluate the feedback.


The Cabin in the Woods is director/writer (along with co-writer Drew Goddard) Josh Whedon’s attempt at making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, and he succeeds two thirds of the time.  It was like Whedon was saying, “you want another ridiculous movie about some boring kids portrayed by actors way too old to play them who get stranded in the woods and preyed upon by some evil force, I’ll give you another ridiculous movie about some boring kids portrayed by actors way too old to play them who get stranded in the woods and preyed upon by some evil force, and make you sorry you asked for it, too”.  And this section of the movie is, indeed, its least successful part, almost excruciatingly so; it is at times mind-numbingly painful to watch the stereotypes portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connelly, Anna Hutchinson, Jesse Williams and Fran Kranz (especially Mssr. Kranz) go through their clichéd ridden acrobatics (where is a brain tumor when you need one).  However, below this cabin in the, well, you know where, sit Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, two mid-level bureaucrats (and stand ins for Whedon and Goddard), who are doing something nefarious.   These parts are filled with darkly comic repartee and clever satiric plot turns, all spoken or acted out with tongue planted firmly in cheek   And whenever the film digs below the surface (both literally and metaphorically), then the movie is highly (highly) entertaining, especially in the preposterously over the top second half where ALL is revealed (along with the appearance of an extra special guest star—those who’ve seen the movie know exactly who I’m talking about).  The authors also do something clever here; in spite of how horrible the bureaucrats are, how soulless they act, how much they resemble DMV workers, I did slowly realize that they were right and I had to cheer for the over the hill teenagers to fail and die, even I didn’t quite understand why, yet.   Does it work?  Not quite.  It doesn’t fully rise above its genre (and its attempts to explore the idea of myth may seem to get pretentious—though how could it not).  And I was hoping for a different ending that riffs off the aspect of virginity.  But, as I said, it was highly (highly) entertaining.  

SLAMDANCE SCREENPLAY COMPETITION–I appear in this film, check it out

I appear in this film.  Check it out.

Slamdance Film Festival

Did you know that we offer 1 on 1 script consultation? For 90 minutes, one of our readers will sit down with you to help make your script better. And, it’s basically the same price as therapy. In fact, it’s kind of like therapy, for your script. See feedback from writers who have used it and more information on our website.



An Indonesian action film written, directed and edited by a Welshman (what, you got a problem with that?). To say it’s an action film is an understatement. And, if you like this sort of thing, you’re going to be hard pressed to find anything this exciting or breathtaking for some time to come. In many ways, The Raid is just an excuse for some of the most violent, bloodiest, repulsive, sick and ravishingly beautiful fight scenes to grace (and I mean grace, pun intended) the screen in some time. In fact, they’re not fight scenes; they rise above such a mediocre designation. They’re ballet. They’re modern dance. They’re Jackie Chan and Fred Astaire on crack. In case anyone’s interested, yes, Virginia, there is a plot. A swat team of rookies are assigned to take out a drug dealer in a huge, decaying apartment building. All they have to do is get past the dealer’s never ending hoards of machete and machine gun wielding thugs who never seem to die, but keep on coming at them like characters from a living dead movie. And at first, when the rookies are quickly overwhelmed, I did get a little downhearted as it seemed as if there really wasn’t anyplace for the story to go. But then the rookies, or what’s left of them, start fighting back, coming up with some very clever means of self defense (including a unique use of a refrigerator and a gas tank). Once that happened, I sighed in relief knowing that now all bets were off and I was in for one wild ride. There’s also a backstory story, one that dates to at least 1934’s Manhattan Melodrama, that old warhorse where two people who were close as children end up on opposite sides of the law. Add more than a dash of police corruption, as well as a cup of existentialism (the characters do what they do not because it is necessarily the logical or smartest thing to do—like call in reinforcements—but because it is who they are) and this is what results. Our hero Rama is one of the rookies, the David who ends up pitted against Goliath. He’s played by Iko Uwais, a martial arts expert who that Welsh director/writer/editor Gareth Evans discovered while making a documentary. Evans has no trouble stacking the deck: Rama is a devout Muslim with a pregnant wife; just try not to have sympathy for him. And when he fights, it’s exhausting just watching him (at one point, he’s dispensing thug after thug after thug after thug after thug after…well, you get my drift, in a hallway—I turned to my friend and said, “Now he’s just showing off”). The physical high point of the movie has to be a duel between Rama and an unlikely ally against Mad Dog, a sociopathic juggernaut who doesn’t like to shoot people because it doesn’t give him the rush that beating them up does (rarely have two people been so outnumbered). Mad Dog may be insane, but when he is finally defeated, one actually feels for him; a great fighter has been brought to his knees, never to be seen again. In the end, The Raid: Redemption is one of those movies that doesn’t really do anything, but does it brilliantly. Does it have a point? I don’t know. I don’t care. All I know is that it is a must see.


The latest by the mesmerizing visual stylist Terence Davies, the British director of such beautiful and ravishing films as Distant Voice, Still Lives; The Long Day Closes; and Of Time and the City, movies filled with an almost terrifying nostalgia for a world that was both a beautiful and painful experience for him. …Blue Sea also possesses many of the same characteristics of these earlier films; a certain episodic nature to the plot; a visual presentation that is stunning, with impeccable period detail; and action that often stops for a popular song of the era, songs that may not be great artistic achievements, but whose shared experience gave people the ability to survive difficult periods (one lovely scene here is a tracking shot of people in the underground during the Blitz singing one of those “there’ll always be an England” type standards of the day). The screenplay is adapted from a play by Terence Rattigan (rumor has it that the basic plot was inspired by the suicide of a young gay man). Rattigan was one of the popular British playwrights of the 1940’s and 50’s who wrote about the stiff upper lips of the middle classes and was soon chased from the theater when the angry young men like John Osborne came along. And there is a lot of stiff upper lip here in this study of a woman caught between two types of men. Rachel Weisz plays Lady Hester Collyer, the wife of the much older Lord Collyer, a wealthy judge who loves her deeply, but for whom there exists no sexual passion (Simon Russell Beale, in a deeply moving portrayal, gives the Lord a slight effeminacy, which I guess, is suppose to say it all). Hester leaves her husband for a man younger than she is, the raffish former RAF pilot Freddie Page (Tom Hiddleston), who is all sexual passion, but doesn’t love her, though she deeply loves him. Caught between these two extremes, the only choices Rattigan gives his heroine, Hester sees no alternative but to kill herself. Neither Rattigan nor Davies (who adapted the play for his film version) can seem to fathom a third alternative: Hester fulfilling herself by finding her own personal passion outside of men (as men often do, like Freddie does with his flying). For Davies and Rattigan, Hester is caught between the devil and the deep, a Scylla and Charybdis, and without a man in her life, it’s unclear she has any real purpose to exist. Even with this limited view of Hester’s life, in many ways it’s still a fascinating character study and for the 1950’s, probably a rather daring one, of a woman who takes control of her own sexuality (and the character shows a lot of courage by not going back to her husband, who asks for no penance, but just for her return). But in the end, the main reason to see the movie, like the play, is for the acting; Rattigan and Davies, in his adaptation, have created characters and conflicts that are ripe for the plucking and Weisz and Beale are up to the task. But when all is said and done, the film doesn’t quite work and Tom Hiddleston as Freddie is probably the issue here. He’s just too stiff upper lip and not enough of a contrast to Beale. He’s just not rough trade enough and hence, there really isn’t a lot of sexual passion there, making Hester’s internal conflict a bit moot. Hiddleston does have the most interesting character, though; he comes home to find that the woman who has left her upper crust husband to live in sin with him has tried to kill herself; instead of empathizing with her, he flares up in anger at what she has done—made him the villain. At first one is appalled, but after awhile, once sees his point. How can one live with someone who may commit suicide at any moment, knowing that the whole world will blame you when you are utterly blameless? One can make the case that the movie ends on a faint note of hope; Hester decides to go on, her life nothing but wreckage. But as is clearly shown in the final shot of her apartment next to the bombed out buildings left over by the Blitz, she will survive to rebuild herself just as England did. This is a remake of the version made in 1955 that starred Vivien Leigh, in the sort of role she primarily took on in films after winning an Oscar as Blanch in A Streetcar Named Desire (most famously, Ship of Fools and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone, older women desperate for sexuality). That role was reportedly turned down by Marlene Dietrich because she thought she could never be convincing as a woman who tries to kill herself because she can’t keep a man in her life.


The Israeli entry in the 2011 Foreign Language Film category and one of the ultimate nominees. It has a great premise: father and son, Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik, are Talmudic scholars and professors. Eliezer, after years of being passed over for the prestigious Jerusalem Prize due to a rival being on the nominating committee, gets a call telling him he has finally won the award. Then Uriel is called into a committee hearing and informed that it was all a clerical error; Uriel was suppose to win the prize, but the wrong person was called. Can you say “oy vey”? The two central characters are not particularly likeable: Eliezer (Shlomo Bar-Aba) is a pompous egotist, dismissive of his son’s work and has trouble relating to people. At one point, he’s described as autistic; that’s an exaggeration to make a point, of course, but there is something of the savant about him, an eidetic memory coupled with the difficulty of looking anybody in the face (the eidetic memory is important and comes into play during a breathtaking scene when a chance word is overheard and Eliezer starts making all sorts of connections that lead him to realize that his son was suppose to be the true recipient—a scene that rivals David Hemmings enlarging photographs in Blow Up or Gene Hackman putting two and two together in The Conversation). Meanwhile, Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi) is a chauvinist with anger management problems. In addition, the whole thing is about a rivalry in Talmudic studies, something I’m sure every single audience member can immediately identify with. But in spite of all that, I did find myself completely caught up in the melodramatic conflicts between all the characters involved. The problem with the film and the reason it doesn’t quite work as well as it might, is structural and aesthetic. It takes forever to get the damn thing going (in technical terms, screenwriters call this waiting too long for the inciting incident). Much of the first part is filled with clever directorial flourishes that probably seemed great in the mind of the filmmaker, but on screen, tend to get in the way and bog things down, as if the director didn’t have faith in the story itself (odd, since Joseph Cedar is both writer and director). Whenever the screenplay focuses directly on the conflict, when it’s more one on one with people verbally going for each other’s jugulars (and the acting is excellent), it’s very strong, full of rich and fun irony, of people knowing something that the other person doesn’t know, and then the other person knowing something that the other person doesn’t know he knows, etc., etc.


Andrzej Wajda’s adaptation of Wladyslaw Stanislaw Reymont’s novel about three young men, Karol (a Polish Catholic), Maks (a German Protestant) and Moryc (a Jew—which at that time would have defined both the character’s religion and nationality) who try to open a textile factor in Lodz at the turn of the 20th century; they begin by measuring out the footage by walking the boundaries, breaking out champagne and saying the most famous line from the movie: I have nothing, you have nothing, and he has nothing; that means together we have enough to start a factory. The novel is known for its vicious portrayal of the upper class as greedy, immoral capitalists who place little value on human life, just on what that life can produce in goods. The fact that the three young men are charming and full of life may make them easier to watch, but in the end, they are no less vicious than the businessmen they are so eager to replace (when someone is horribly killed during an accident and the worker’s arm is torn off, Karol’s main issue is how the textile material is ruined with so much blood on it; when his wife wants to set up a sort of hospital in his factory to help the sick and the injured, he suggests that it’s better to let them die). The film is a brutal and powerful dissection of these characters and the time they live in—the Industrial Revolution, when nobles can no longer survive on their titles and have to take work; when the middle class is becoming the upper class with their horrible taste in fashion and décor (Karol’s future wife traipses around town in hideous gowns of grotesque mismatching colors that would put Barbara Stanwyck’s Stella Dallas to shame); when money was the only factor that drove the society. Wajda’s direction mirrors the constant forward momentum of the machines; the camera never stops or if it does, then the characters never do. No one can sit still; everything is move, move, move or the zeitgeist might leave you behind (there’s a wonderful scene at a theater where hardly anyone watches the ballerinas do Swan Lake, but are constantly gossiping, flirting or spying on each other; making or deciding business deals; or killing one’s self, which is treated merely as a curiosity, if a business deal goes bad—just think if there were cell phones in those days). The three Donald Trumps in waiting are played by Daniel Olbrychski (Karol), Wojciech Pszoniak (Moryc) and Andrzej Seweryn (Maks) with an incredible intensity. In fact, the acting is like the direction, full of forward momentum, over the top and in your face. All three handle their parts brilliantly, though Pszoniak (who can always find the extra money the trio needs) seems to win the horse race by a comfortable margin. Their scheme is brought down in a Greek tragedy plot twist in which Karol schtups the mistress of a powerful businessman, gets her pregnant and the businessman takes it out on the new factory by having it burnt down. At first, the three are devastated, but then they repeat the opening mantra: I have nothing, you have nothing, and he has nothing; that means together we have enough to start a factory. This twist, which at first seems their undoing, enables Karol to break off with his long time fiancé and marry the neavue riche with the horrible taste in clothing. He and his friends once again have the money to build a factory and years later, they have fully taken on the crown of capitalists—by ordering the police to shoot down strikers in cold blood. The ending in the book is more uplifting: Karol meets his former fiancé and decides to use his money for social causes; in an interview, Wajda said he didn’t buy it, that Reymont obviously didn’t mean it, and felt his ending was more consistent with the story. The movie won Wajda the Golden Prize at the Moscow Film Festival—an award that surprised many. Wajda was not well supported by the Communist regime and considered too much of a rebel. The breathtaking production design and set decoration are by Tadeusz Kosarewicz, Maria Osiecka-Kuminek and Maciej Maria Putowski with equally breathtaking costumes by Danuta Kowner-Halatek and Barbara Ptak. Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language film of 1976.