JUST LIE BACK AND ENJOY IT: Elle, Nocturnal Animals and The Salesman


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I wanted to say thank you to everyone who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign for 15 Conversations in 10 Minutes. We did very well due to you folks. For those who weren’t able to give, keep us in your thoughts. And if you are able to contribute in the future, contact me and I’ll tell you how. I will even honor the perks on the original campaign.
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?  FosCheck 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
rev-3SPECIAL NOTE: the review of Elle is especially riddled with spoilers, but I don’t know really how else to talk about it.
There has been a lot written of late when it comes to the use of rape as a plot point in movies about women. More and more, for many viewers and critics, the use of such a storyline has turned into a cheap device and exploitive way to get an audience, especially men, to tune in.
It may have even become so polarizing that, to some extent, it has made it difficult to write about a film in which sexual assault is central to the action.
For example, I have seen three movies lately that have employed attacks on women as part of the narrative. Two were explicitly rapes, the other a bit more ambiguous. But in the two that were explicit, I couldn’t tell if the rape felt exploitive because that’s what it was, or that it felt exploitive because the political climate today is such that it doesn’t allow it to be anything but.
Elle, the second film this year starring the great Isabel Huppert (the first is the wonderful Things to Come) opens with the sound of a rape over the titles (or could it be simply rough sex?, it’s difficult to tell). Continue reading

WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVING, SWEET LOVING: Loving and Yourself and Yours


For questions: hcasner@aol.com
First, a word from our sponsors: I wanted to say thank you to everyone who contributed to our Indiegogo campaign for 15 Conversations in 10 Minutes. We did very well due to you folks. For those who weren’t able to give, keep us in your thoughts. And if you are able to contribute in the future, contact me and I’ll tell you how. I will even honor the perks on the original campaign.
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?  FosCheck 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
rev-1You can almost hear the people in the marketing meeting breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to titling the new film, the true story of a couple from different races who got married and were arrested for it.
“Oh, my god”, says one. “It’s about this couple who love each other against all odds. And their real names are, wait for it…Loving. It’s like this stuff writes itself.”
Social problem movies, especially those based upon true events, are not my favorite. Films like Gentlemen’s Agreement and Judgment at Nuremberg are often shallow, when they’re not being preachy and on the nose and told with little imagination. And the message sometimes seems a little warped (is the theme of Gentlemen’s Agreement that Jews should not be persecuted, or that people should not pick on Jews because they might be gentiles in disguise). Continue reading

NEW FILMMAKERS SEE THIS FILM: Midnight Special


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
rev 2Midnight Special, the new neo-noir/sci-fi film, opens at night with a throbbing music score backed by hypnotic drums.  It grabs you by your neck and just won’t let go for the next ninety minutes.  At first, the story seems to be about the abduction of a little boy, but it soon becomes clear that it’s much more complicated than that.  The boy was adopted by the leader of a religious cult that makes its base in a private compound in Texas and the ones who have taken the boy from them is the boy’s biological father and the father’s closest friend.
So what is really going on and why do so many people treat this child as if the future of the human race depended on him?  And why are the FBI after him as well?
Midnight Special is the sort of film every aspiring screenwriter, director and producer should be seeing, but I often suspect aren’t.  It should be studied and emulated. That is, if you really want a future in the industry, whether your goal is the tent pole films of a major studio, or the more personal films that one sees on the independent circuit. Continue reading

GROWING UP IS HARD TO DO: Theeb, The Peanuts Movie and The Night Before


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

theebTheeb is Jordan’s entry in the Foreign Language Film category at this year’s Academy Awards.

I think that it was stated best by one movie critic I heard on NPR: If you only see one Jordanian film this year, this is definitely the one to see.

Theeb is a first rate coming of age story. It’s what one might term a big little film. The plot in many ways is simple, but the background at times, the vast deserts, the wide vistas, the looming mountains, the huge backdrop of nothingness seen against an endless sky, gives it the feeling of a Lawrence of Arabia, Jr. (and parts of that movie were filmed on location there). Continue reading

ART ISN’T EASY: Straight Outta Compton and She’s Funny That Way


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
straight outta compton 1Though bearing almost no resemblance in any other way (to say the least), two movies have opened of late that demonstrate, to paraphrase Stephen Sondheim, that art sure isn’t easy.
Straight Outta Compton is a tale told of the rise of three best friends who stop becoming friends and then find their way back to being friends before the credits come up (or as we say in the biz, guys meet guys, guys lose guys, guys get guys). It’s the tale of Eazy-E, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre who took the universe by storm with this newfangled sound called Rap and changed the world of music forever.
The film basically has four types of scenes in it: the first are scenes that show the horrors of growing up in the projects and how blacks are treated by the authorities (even when the authorities are black and in one case, find themselves to be music critics); second are the scenes that show the relationship of the three central characters, especially on tour, including the downtime of hanging out and getting high and laid; third are scenes of confrontation between the artists and their managers; and the fourth are the scenes where they actually perform.
I would say that all but the second set of scenes work well, sometimes astoundingly well, and are strong and rich in dramatic conflict. But the story tends to stall whenever the characters are doing little but hanging around just being themselves (the Beatles from A Hard Day’s Night they ain’t). Most of these scenes have little vibrancy or originality to them, while others resemble and have as much depth and insight as an MTV music video from the same period.
And as riveting as so much of the film is, somewhere in the second half it starts to lose forward momentum and I did sort of wish that they would wrap things up already at times. Continue reading