…and All That Jazz: Miles Ahead and an Oscar Prediction


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Warning: SPOILERS
rev 1Miles Ahead is the new biopic of Miles Davis, one of the great, if not the greatest, jazz trumpeter and composer of all times. It’s written by Steven Baigelman and the director and star Don Cheadle.  The filmmakers do everything they can, from non-linear storytelling to all sorts of directorial flourishes, to keep the audience enthralled.
And they succeed, at least for a while.  Flashbacks, jump cuts and various stylistic juxtapositions that feel inspired by jazz music, give the film a certain electric immediacy.
But it’s not long before it feels that all this tinsel and sawdust is, well, not a lot more than tinsel and sawdust, there to hide the fact that in the end, the movie, though often entertaining, is really just another, as I and a friend like to call it, typical Warner Brothers biopic, the reference being the prestige pictures of the studios made in their heydays, like The Story of Louis Pasteur, The Life of Emil Zola and even more recently, Gandhi.  All worthy, but all still somewhat bland. Continue reading

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: Variations on structural engineering when it comes to screenplays PART ONE


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

 

holy-motors_2352787bPART ONE
I have been reading for screenplay competitions for more than ten years now. But over the past few years, I’ve been coming across a somewhat familiar familiarity and formulaic formality to more and more of said screenplays when it comes to how a story is written.
I’m not sure why. When I first started out reading, and for quite a few years after that, I would encounter some of the most amazing screenplays, screenplays that took chances, strived to be original, had a personal vision, and experimented, with glorious success, when it came to storytelling.
Much of this quite possibly was due to the rise of indie film in the 1990’s by people like Steven Soderbergh, Kevin Smith, the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino. The cinema they created brought a breath of fresh air to the somewhat stale movie going experience that many felt was being produced at the time.
I’m not sure why things have changed since them. Or at least, there’s probably not any one reason for it. But at the same time, in talking to screenwriters and producers and agents and reading what they have to say on social media, I feel that a much bigger deal has been made over the past few years as to how a screenplay has to be structured and a story has to be told. Continue reading