Thursday, October 27, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #56 WGA Script of All Time - Back to the Future (1985)

[Quick Summary: When a teenager accidentally gets sent back to the past & meets his parents, he must ensure they fall in love, or he'll cease to exist.]
                                                                                                                            
I was really worried for Marty McFly. There are real, urgent consequences to his situation.

If he doesn't get his dad to the dance, his parents won't meet, & he'll cease to exist.

If he doesn't push his mom toward his dad, they won't fall in love, & he'll cease to exist.

If he doesn't find Doc, he's stuck in the past without any help.

If he doesn't get to Main Street at the exact time, he will miss his one chance to get home.

If Marty fails, the world won't end, but the consequences are important TO HIM.  And that's why I really worried.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Tell me what is so urgent.  I need to know why the character MUST succeed.

Back to the Future (1985)
by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale

Friday, October 21, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #57 WGA Script of All Time - Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989)

[Quick Summary: An opthamologist has his mistress killed, & a documentary filmmaker falls for another woman.]

I couldn't find this script available anywhere (boooooo!)

So I re-watched the movie instead (yayyyyyy!)

But it wasn't the same (boooo!)

I was particularly disappointed because this film has many, MANY flashbacks, and it's rare to see flashbacks done right.

(And by "right", I mean flashbacks are there for a specific reason, and not just information dumping.)

In this film, Woody Allen uses flashbacks to show a character's PRESENT EMOTIONAL STATE.  That's right - he uses the past to show motives, and/or what the character is feeling NOW.

ex.  The mistress waits for her married lover Judah.

The scene goes back to a happy moment when she and Judah walked on the beach.  Judah voices doubts: "I don't think we should do this here."  She distracts him and mixes up Schubert with Schuman.  Judah reassures her: "I'll teach you...some day we'll have a lot of time."

Why is the flashback there? It shows us why the mistress is holding on so tight to Judah NOW.

In the past, they had fun together. He was debonair, he cared about her.  He even seemed to promise a future together ("some day we'll have a lot of time").

When the scene returns to the present, it's clear why the mistress feels the way she does.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The flashback can show motive & PRESENT emotional stakes.

ex. If the mistress loses Judah, she loses the only joy her life seems to have.

Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989)
by Woody Allen

Friday, October 14, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #58 WGA Script of All Time - Ordinary People (1980)

[Quick Summary: After his well-liked older brother dies, a teenage boy grapples with his feelings, his concerned father, & a bitter mother.]

I really like how this script resolves a household in hell.

In Act 3, Conrad (the son) has a significant breakthrough.  The only thing left to wrap up is the subplot of the parents' rocky marriage.

- The husband sees Conrad healthy for the first time, & also sees that it's such a stark contrast to the wife's (antagonist) unrelenting indifference. 

- The husband breaks down & weeps. He can't go back to the way things were.

- The wife tells Conrad she's leaving.  She's bewildered & has no idea what really just happened.

- The wife breaks down in her bedroom. "She can't find safety [in her familiar surroundings]."

What a satisfying emotional ending!  The good guys learned & grew. 

The antagonist continues her superficial existence because she refused to learn or change.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: When the protagonists are better off than when they started, it's a good day.

Ordinary People (1980)
by Alvin Sargent

Friday, October 7, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #59 WGA Script of All Time - It Happened One Night (1934)

[Quick Summary: When a spoiled heiress tries to make it home to New York with only a few dollars in her pocket, a journalist helps her out in order to scoop a story, but inadvertently falls in love with her.]

This script is 67 years old, yet it's got more romantic zippity-do-dah than many rom-coms today.

1) Peter (Clark Gable) gets Ellie (Claudette Colbert).

ex. When Ellie gives a poor boy their last dollar, Peter silently admires her for it.

2) Ellie gets Peter.

ex. She silently realizes he's conning the police...& she plays along without missing a beat.

3) They have fun, exasperating adventures together.

ex.  Ellie complains that she's hungry. After Peter slips away to find food, Ellie panics.  She yells for him, since she's never really been alone before. Peter comes running. She says she's so scared that she's no longer hungry. Peter wants to wring her neck.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I want more "they belong together."  I want more of this thing called "chemistry".

It Happened One Night (1934)
by Robert Riskin