THE ART OF THE MATTER – Part Two: The Square, The Disaster Artist


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
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
 
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Warning: SPOILERS
After watching The Square, the new film from writer/director Robert Ostlund (he previously gave us the cheeky Force Majeure), I have to say I’m not exactly sure what point he was trying to make. At the same time, it was so entertaining and involving, I guess I’m not exactly sure I cared.
The story revolves around a man named Christian (I doubt Ostlund randomly drew the name out of a hat), the curator for a modern art museum in Sweden. The museum’s newest installation is, well, a square. That’s it, a square, with some wording about what the square means (though after hearing the words a few times, I’m not sure I knew exactly what that was).
I think it has something to do with the idea that whoever is in the square is supposed to be treated as equal to anyone else, a safe place where they are protected from harm. Continue reading

THE ART OF THE MATTER – Part One: The Meyorwitz Stories (Both New and Old), Rebel in the Rye, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
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
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
Warning: SPOILERS
The Meyerwitz Stories (Both Old and New) opened both on the Netflix streaming platform and in the theaters at the same time. The goal, as I surmise it, it to have a qualifying run for the Oscar race (and screeners have been sent) while giving it as little theatrical distribution as possible.
Sort of like having your cake and eating it to.
It’s hard to say, but I’m not sure they have that strong a chance. Many voters might feel like this is cheating (and Cannes refused to show any Netflix product).
But The Meyerwitz Stories…, written and directed by the intelligent and erudite Noah Baumbach, is quite good, even quite marvelous and definitely deserves an audience. Continue reading

APARTMENT COMPLEXITY: High-Rise


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I am now offering a new consultation service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 

 

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

 

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Warning: SPOILERS
rev 1The first third of High-Rise, the new movie based on the J.G. Ballard novel (he also gave us the autobiographical Empire of the Sun and the unautobiographical, we hope, Crash—no, not that Crash, Ballard gave us the one where people get turned on by auto accidents), has a nice quirky, what-the-hell sort of quality to its writing (Amy Jump, of Kill List and Sightseers) and directing (Ben Wheatley of ditto); they both seem to be having a great deal of fun, if nothing else.
Laing, a 30-something who likes to fall asleep on his balcony in the nude, moves into one of five of a set of state of the art apartment complexes that reach to the skies like the fingers of a hand. As he interacts with his neighbors, the conversation is realistic, yet off just a little. The actions of the characters are also realistic, yet off just a little. It almost feels like a kitchen sink version of a Monty Python sketch.
I more than suspect the whole thing is supposed to be allegorical with the high-rise an encapsulation of all the classes in England. Well, not quite, perhaps. The middle class live on the lower floors and the upper class live much higher, but the lower class seems restricted to a single building superintendent. While such dystopian allegories as Metropolis and Snowpiercer have no apparent middle class, High-Rise seems strangely void of a lower one. Continue reading

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT and PRAVDA: Steve Jobs and Truth


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
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
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
steve jobsThere’s a moment in Steve Jobs, the new biopic written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle, when Steve Wozniak (who, it is suggested here, seemed to have done most of, if not all, the work on the Apple Computer which is what brought fame first to Jobs) lists all the things that Jobs cannot and did not do (such as write code). When he finished, Wozniak asks what seems to be one of the most appropriate questions of the entire film: Just what do you do?
In response, Jobs says that he’s the conductor that plays the orchestra.
Fair enough. But then I so wanted Wozniak to ask the obvious follow up question: So why do you get all the credit when you haven’t really done any of the essential work?
Because think about it. Quick, name five conductors off the top of your head. No, don’t google it, just do it. When I did, all I came up with was Bernstein, Toscanini and Stokowski. Now, quick, name ten composers who created the music these conductors, well, conducted? I immediately zipped through Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Copland, Verdi, Liszt and Stravinsky.
This last is especially interesting since at one point Jobs compares himself to Stravinsky, when to really be fully parallel, in this metaphor he’s Serge Koussevitsky. Who is Koussevitsky, you ask? He was the conductor at the premier of the riot inducing The Rite of Spring.
Never heard of him, right?
Exactly. That’s because conductors don’t create art, they interpret it. That is why the composer gets the credit, not the conductor.
If one was of a suspicious nature, one might wonder if sneaky little Aaron Sorkin wasn’t, in these scenes, taking more than a few potshots at film directors. After all, what do they do? Generally speaking, they don’t write the screenplay; they don’t design the costumes and sets; they don’t edit; they don’t create the cinematography; they don’t write the music; they don’t act; they don’t provide the money for it. Continue reading

YOU’VE EITHER GOT OR YOU HAVEN’T GOT STYLE: Mistress America and Queen of Earth


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
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
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
Warning: SPOILERS
mistress 2In Mistress America, the new comedy of manners directed by Noah Baumbach and written by Baumbach and the actor playing the title role, Greta Gerwig, Tracy, a freshman in college who wants to be a writer, has trouble fitting in. She can’t get invited to a party. The snobbish college lit magazine rejects her story. The only person who has warmed up to her, fellow writer Tony, whom she hopes to date, suddenly shows up with another woman on his arm.
Desperate to find a way out of her slough of despair (to use a literary allusion), she finally does what her mother suggests: contact Brooke, the daughter of her mother’s future husband, who lives in New York. And when she does, Brooke takes Tracy under her wing and expands her horizons.
But Brooke is, well, quite a character, should we say. Which is good since, in many ways, Mistress America is a character study.
It’s also a very studied character study.
Critics have said that Mistress America is very quotable. And in many ways, they are right. Just like a play by Oscar Wilde, I could see almost every line possibly ending up in a Barlett’s.
But everything in the movie feels like it’s in quotation marks. The acting, the characters, the story, the mis en scene. It’s like a Restoration comedy that’s been produced within an inch of its life.
That sounds like I’m saying something negative about the movie. But I’m not really. Yes, everything in Mistress America seems punctuated, but still, it’s a thorough joy to watch. It is a rollicking good time. Continue reading

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