Monday, November 28, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #52 WGA Script of All Time - Lady Eve (1941)

[Quick Summary: After a con woman and a rich, gullible ophiologist (a snake scientist) fall in love and split up, she disguises herself as English aristocracy to dupe him once more.]

Farce is a tough genre.  It's just too easy to go too far with the satirical comedy or improbable plots.

So why does it work here? 

According to Roger Ebert, this story avoids the mistake of many films and gives a "baseline of sanity to measure the characters against....Henry Fonda is the rock."

Fonda is the gullible (but not stupid) snake scientist.  He doesn't want to use Barbara Stanwyck for his career.  He's sincere and earnest as he pursues her. He's puzzled by the "coincidences" but chalks it up to feeling more alive just by being with her.  He's truly, madly, crazy in love.

So when he doesn't realize Barbara's dad is blatantly hustling him at cards, we believe him.

When he "happens" to get a photo showing Barbara is a con, we're crushed along with him.

When Barbara creates an English persona and Fonda does not recognize her AT ALL, it all makes sense.

We believe in Fonda, even if everything else is truly preposterous.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Farce can be way, way over the top - but only if there's at least one person who makes it feel real.

Lady Eve (1941)
by Preston Sturges

Thursday, November 17, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #53 WGA Script of All Time - All the President's Men (1976)

[Quick Summary: In 1972, two rookie journalists piece together that a minor burglary at the Watergate building is a front for a much bigger political scheme.]

Dang, William Goldman can really write.

This script sucks you in & makes you care, the hallmarks of an exceptional storyteller.

One thing I picked up is his use of point of view.

The script focuses on the reporters Woodward and Bernstein. When they find out information, so does the audience, and thus the reveals are very natural.  The audience is truly along for the ride, and becomes invested in the outcome.

But what if Goldman chose to follow the campaign workers or the crooks as the main characters instead?

I think the story would not have been as good.

In the script, Woodward and Bernstein were on the offensive, and literally chased down clues.

A story about the campaign workers would've been more about damage control and defensive p.r....not as interesting.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The right point of view can really make the story flow.

The wrong one often lends itself to a clunky story.

All the President's Men (1976)
by William Goldman

Friday, November 11, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #54 WGA Script of All Time - Manhattan (1979)

[Quick Summary: A unhappily divorced man falls for his best friend's mistress. Woody Allen type chaos ensues.]

This story is about a guy who falls for his friend's mistress against his better judgment, & is left with egg on his face when the mistress goes back to the friend.

The script is approx. 90% dialogue & it's ok there's very little narrative.

Why? The emotional conflict is so primal, so full of contradiction, so ripe for heart break again & again that it totally engrosses you.

MARY (chuckling): Oh well, how about Vincent Van Gogh (pronouncing it "Goch")...or Ingar Bergman?
IKE: (overlapping) Van Goch? (Aside, to Tracy) Did she say "Van GOch"?
MARY (to Yale): How about Ingmar Bergman?
IKE (overlapping, shaking his head): Van Goch.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Above all, keep the emotion raw.

Manhattan (1979)
by Woody Allen
Four Films of Woody Allen (book published 1982)

Friday, November 4, 2011

TODAY'S NUGGET: #55 WGA Script of All Time - Apocalypse Now (1979)

[Quick Summary from IMDB: During the on-going Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade Green Beret who has set himself up as a God among a local tribe.]

I know this is considered a classic, a movie of its time, among the first about Vietnam.

I know Rotten Tomatoes calls it a "masterpiece" & "brilliant", & gives it an extremely rare 99%.

But I don't get this script.  I barely understood it until p. 100 of 155 pages.  I even had to use the logline from IMDB because I was unable to make up my own. 

Coppola clearly had a vision, given the finished film.  But I couldn't see it on the page. 

I didn't know why Willard is really on this journey. Tell me again why I want him to succeed?

I don't know what is the purpose of locating crazy Kurtz. To show the fruitlessness of war? To criticize the decision to go to war?  I have no idea.

I exited the jungle very dissatisfied...but even worse than that, I learned squat.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I simply don't get this script, but wish I did. Anyone care to comment?

Apocalypse Now (1979)
by John Milius and Francis Ford Coppola
Based on the novel by Joseph Conrad
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