Tuesday, April 23, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Saboteur (1942) - Hitchcock's Bombs & the Shift of Power

[Quick Summary: Barry, an aircraft laborer, is accused of sabotage, and uncovers a conspiracy.]

This is my two cents: The script starts out strong, then wanders

...and wanders...

...and wanders.

However, it was nice to see examples of Hitchcock's famous formula for suspense, i.e., "the audience knows there's a bomb under the table."

Ex. 1:  Barry confronts the shady lawyer, Mr. Tobin, at home.

When Tobin is away, his granddaughter toddles over to Barry.

She innocently hands him a dropped telegram.  It is from the real saboteur to Mr. Tobin. [This is the bomb.]

Tobin returns. [Will the bomb go off?

Tobin calls Barry out for reading the telegram, and his thugs corner Barry. [Bomb is released.]

Ex. 2: The cornered Barry picks up the granddaughter. [Another bomb.]

He uses her as a shield to escape. [Will the bomb go off?]

He puts her down and gets away. [Bomb goes off.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  A bomb is interesting to watch because it often benefits one side over the other (Ex. 1 above).

After it is released, the story is at a new level, usually because there's a mad scramble to  re-shift the power back (Ex. 2 above).

Saboteur (1942)
by Peter Viertel, Joan Harrison, & Dorothy Parker

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

2013 OSCARS: Silver Linings Playbook (2012) - How I Knew Pat & Tiffany Were "Meant to Be"

[Quick Summary: Recently released from a psychiatric hospital, Pat recoups with an unlikely ally.]

There is one line that made see that Pat and Tiffany should be together.

First, let me set the scene:

At the diner, Pat eats cereal. Tiffany has tea. 

Pat is prohibited from contacting his ex-wife Nikki. Tiffany offers to deliver a note to her for him.

Pat is about to bolt out the door to write the letter... and Tiffany stops him with, "Can I at least finish my tea?"  He then remembers his manners.

After that one line, I knew that Tiffany was good for Pat.

She did what no one else was able to do - she got him outside his self-absorbed box.

She got him to socialize again in a healthy way.

That's a subtle, but definite "meant to be" in my book.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  I like it when characters fit together well.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
by David O. Russell
Based on the novel by Matthew Quick

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

2013 OSCARS: Lincoln (2012) - Moments of Humor

[Quick Summary: President pulls out all the stops for the last 20 votes to pass the 13th Amendment.]

Lincoln reads like a Very Big and Important film.

I did not like the big speeches.

I did like the small touches of humor.  Each incident made Lincoln more real.

ex. Lincoln tells a joke no one gets.
ex. Two soldiers are star struck in front of Lincoln.
ex. Lincoln and Mary have a nasty drag-up-old-wounds argument.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Moments of humor can really round out a "bigger than life" character.

Lincoln (2012)
by Tony Kushner

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013 OSCARS: Life of Pi (2012) - Adapting the Intangible

[Quick Summary: A 16 yr. old Indian boy is shipwrecked in the Atlantic with a wild tiger.]

First, a tip of the hat to screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1927-2013), who passed today.

For 40 years, she collaborated with the Merchant-Ivory team, including the Oscar winning adaptions of Howards End, and Room With a View

I wonder how she approached adapting books.

Is there a method to crafting a narrative for film?

I pondered that question as I read today's script, Life of Pi.

It is a sprawling 356 page discussion of faith. How do you show intangible concepts?

Here, the writer did a smart thing.

He avoided talking heads about beliefs and kept the narrative on Pi.

ex. Pi weathers a storm in the Atlantic.
ex. Pi tries to catch fish to eat.

Pi's conflicts with the antagonist and setting naturally bring up the intangible questions.

ex. Do you care for an inherently dangerous beast? (antagonist)
ex. How do you react when the ocean takes your supplies? (setting)

Suddenly, what is unseen in the book is seen on the screen.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: "If you can’t see it or hear it, don’t write it"

Life of Pi (2012)
by David Magee
Based on the original novel by Yann Martel