Tuesday, May 27, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: 10 Things I Hate About You (1999) - Delivering the Romance in Act 3

[Quick Summary: Bianca cannot date unless her shrew of a sister, Kat, also dates. Bianca enlists others to get Kat a date, and chaos ensues.]

I wish I saw more romantic scripts that delivered in Act 3.

Act 1 - These are usually good.  Plenty of spark. Plenty of moxie.

Act 2 - Obstacles galore. Good growth! Can't wait for the finish.

But Act 3? It either/often:

- falls to trite forumla ("I love you." "I love you more." I die inside.)
- OR goes off the rails ("I hate you." "You're evil."  NOT romantic.)
- OR limps to a weak end ("I do not want to go on." "Yeah." My heart weeps in disappointment.)

The romance in 10 Things was tricky. 

Acts 1 and 2 worked beautifully.  Act 3, however, faltered for me.

Let's take a look why:    *Spoilers ahead*

- Patrick admits to Kat that he was paid to date her.
- Later, Cameron admits to Kat that Bianca was behind the whole dating scheme.
- Kat confronts Bianca, who confesses all the misunderstandings.
- Kat and Bianca finally become friends.
- In front of the whole class, Kat reads a poem she wrote. She tells Patrick," "I hate the way I don't hate you, not even close, not even a little bit, not even any at all."
- Patrick gives her a guitar for her dream band and admits he fell for her.
- They joke, they kiss.

I liked it all, except the line from the poem. 

I know she's trying to say, "I forgive you", but not hate him even a little bit?

The romance fizzles for me...maybe because that line kills the tension?

Hmmm...now that makes sense.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Don't resolve the tension all the way, even in Act 3.

Romance needs tension!

10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
by Karen McCullah Lutz & Kirsten Smith
Based on "Taming of the Shrew" by William Shakespeare

Monday, May 19, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Untouchables (1987) - When in Doubt, "Hope-Fear"

[Quick Summary: Elliot Ness and his Untouchables try to take down Al Capone.]

How do you make a reader FEEL?

I've forgotten how.

Then I read this script, and it reminded me about the classic "hope-fear" sequencing.

You know what? It really works.

ex. 1 - "Ness unwraps the part of his lunch wrapped in the calendar page. He laughs.

NESS: Ha! (he holds it up) Message from my wife.

ANGLE POV

The calendar sheet.  Mrs. Ness has written on it: "I am very proud of you."

ex. 2 - [Then five pages later]  Ness' hand comes out of the pocket with a book of matchees and a folded piece of paper. He unfolds is slowly. It is the note from his wife which reads, "I am very proud of you.""

Ex. 1 - Ness is cheered by his wife's note (hope).
Ex. 2 - After a big defeat, that same note makes him feel like a big disappointment (fear).

Very effective, no?

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: If you're stuck, try out "hope-fear-hope-fear."

The Untouchables (1987)
by David Mamet

Monday, May 12, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Bride Wars (2009) - Satire = Action That is Disproportionate to the Situation

[Quick Summary: Two best friends with the same wedding date try to ruin the other's big day.]

Why, oh why, didn't they use the original script for this film?!

I liked it very much because of its satirical bite.

[I greatly wish they'd kept to the original, and not softened it to "comedy with romantic elements" territory.]

What is satire?
Satire (n.) - The use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc. 
Here, Emma and Liv are the best of friends...until their weddings end up on the same date.

Then each one sabotages the other person's plans for the big day.

Notice how the writers use Emma and Liv's absurd and irrational response to show their selfishness (their vice).

ex.  "EXT. PRINCE STREET BOUTIQUE - LATER

The Jubilant Blonde hangs a display.  The CAMERA REVEALS Liv and Emma through the glass wearing huge pasted, homicidal smiles.  She gestures for them to come in.

INT. PRINCE STREET BOUTIQUE - SIX HOURS LATER

Emma and Liv look haggard. They pace and smoke feverishly.  THE CAMERA CLOSES IN on the The Jubilant Blonde's big mouth.

JUBLIANT BLONDE: I SAID NO!"

In these two short scenes:
-  Liv and Emma enter the shop with inappropriate zeal ("huge pasted, homicidal smiles").
- We can assume from "six hours" that they've overstayed their welcome.
- "Haggard", "pacing", "smoking feverishly" tells us they're losing the argument.
- All this foolish angst...for a wedding? Yes...that's the whole point.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Satire really needs action that is disproportionate to the situation.

If a character's action is terribly exaggerated, it's easier to see his/her vice or folly.

Bride Wars (2009)(original spec)
by Casey Wilson & June Raphael

Monday, May 5, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Anatomy of a Murder (1959) - One Key to Great Descriptive Narrative

[Quick Summary: An army man is on trial for murdering his wife's rapist.]

Cinephilia & Beyond pointed me to this script today.

Someone (can't remember who) who said I should "pay particular attention" to the descriptive narrative.

So I did.

I found that:

- It's not a perfect script.
- It's long overall (204 pgs.)
- Some paragraphs are long.
- BUT I can't deny the writer describes things well.

He chooses certain details that make you a participant in the story.

ex. "Paul deposits his fishing gear on the table, lifts a brown paper sack from his coat pocket, stands it on the table. The sack contains the shape of a bottle."

We put 2 + 2 together and surmise the bottle is alcohol = The writer is telling us Paul drinks without TELLING us Paul drinks.

ex. "Laura is dressed in tight Western slacks and boots. Her blouse is Navajo with the laces open, revealing the push of her ample bosom. With open-mouthed attention, the eternal loiterers are following Laura's progress across the lawn."

Laura's clothes say she's provocative and knows it. She expects, and revels in, the reaction.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Good narrative has clear, well-thought out sequencing of images.

Poor narrative doesn't know how to lead the reader from image to image.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
by Wendell Mayes
Based on the novel by Robert Traver