Monday, January 26, 2015

2015 Oscars: Boyhood (2014) - Other Time Jump Indicators

[Quick Summary: The story of young Mason, from age 5-18.]

I am glad this film exists.

It is a bold and massive undertaking:
- It was written and shot over 12 years. 
- The script is 185 pages long.
-Linklater continues to emphasize the observational over the narrative (previously mentioned here; It's not my favorite method, but glad that he does.)

I did like that the script has many time jumps but does not use dates.

It lets the reader put 2 + 2 together.

ex. "BILL: Olivia
MOM: Hm?
BILL: Nice kid.
MOM: Thanks.
BILL: So you think, uh, Grandma might be available for a little baby-sitting?
MOM (O.S.)(giggles): Maybe.
BILL: Really? Well, great.

EXT. BACKYARD - DAY
Mason and Samantha play an outdoor trampoline game with Randy and Mindy, their new stepbrother and stepsister. They are in the big backyard of their new home, where Dr. [Bill] Welbrock and his children have lived."

Note how Linklater sets up small steps of logic for the reader:

In the first scene, Mom and Bill are dating. 

In the second scene, the words "new stepbrother" + "new home" = Bill and Mom have moved from dating to marriage.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: There are other creative ways to show a jump in time (besides a date in the slugline).

Boyhood (2014)
by Richard Linklater

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: Robert Towne's Dialogue Contribution to "Bonnie & Clyde" (1967)

I have a deep admiration for screenwriter Robert Towne (Chinatown, Mission Impossible).

I didn't know he did an uncredited pass on Bonnie and Clyde (1967) until I read this interview with the director Arthur Penn:
Cineaste: Robert Towne received a credit as “Special Consultant.” What was that for?
Penn: He wrote certain little scenes in the film as well as some additional dialog, but very telling dialog. In the family reunion scene, for example, when they go back to visit Bonnie’s mother, that scene was in the original script, but it didn’t include Clyde’s explanation to Bonnie’s mother about how as soon as everything blew over he and Bonnie were going to settle down and live right down the road from her. And she says, “You do that and you won’t live long.” That’s Towne. He made some very salient contributions.
I think that is why Robert Towne is so good.

He makes even the small scenes interesting.

Monday, January 19, 2015

2015 OSCARS: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2015) - An Open-Ended Ending

 [Quick Summary: A once famous film actor struggles with his ego (and alter-ego) during rehearsals for a stage adaption.]

In this day and age of "give the audience answers," I was pleasantly surprised how the ending of this script was so open to interpretation.

I'd like to post examples, but I cannot do so without revealing spoilers.

So I'll just say this:

The story is is familiar (a man who is trapped by his past), but the way it is told is unorthodox.

The ending works because it is equally familiar and unorthodox: 

-Riggins (Michael Keaton) finishes his arc, but in his own eccentric way.

-The ending wraps up the loose ends, but leaves the last shot open to the audience's imagination.

-There's a hint of resolution, i.e., the characters were "going to be ok", but no spoon feeding of exactly one definitive answer.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: A little certainty/resolution is helpful before that last open-ended shot.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Written by Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris, Jr. & Armando Bo

Monday, January 12, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: Regarding Henry (1991) - Juxtapose an Old Foe to Show Arc

[Quick Summary: A head injury changes Henry, his wife Sarah, and daughter completely.]

NEW NEWS, people, NEWS!

You ready?!

The writer of this script, Jeffrey Abrams, is THE J.J. Abrams! [Ok, ok, so this is just new-to-me news.]

Now, on to this script.  It reads fast and clean, and hit me hard. 

If you are dealing with an illness in the family (or ever have), you treasure time over stuff. You savor the small things. You re-prioritize.

People on the outside, however, think you've lost your touch.

Abrams captures that contradiction in the scene below.

Watch how Abrams juxtaposes Phyllis vs. Sarah. (Phyllis represents Sarah's old life.) The contrast shows how much Sarah has changed:

ex. "BRENDA: It's like she's got two kids now.
PHYLLIS: Worse. What does she possibly have to look forward to?
DANIEL: Christ, one minute you're an attorney, the next you're an imbecile.
BRENDA: Well, that's not a very long trip.

Phyllis and the others can't help but laugh.

At that moment, Sarah walks up to Phyllis, holding her glass of red wine --close to Phyllis' white dress.

Their eyes meet. A heavy, quiet moment.

SARAH: Phyllis. I'm afraid we can't stay for dinner. I just wanted to say goodnight and thank you.

Sarah carefully hands the glass of wine to Phyllis, who closes her eyes in humiliation.

Henry walks up behind Phyllis.

HENRY: Yes. Thank you.

Sarah takes Henry by the arm. They leave."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Contrasting an Old Foe with the New You = Shows you much you've changed.

Regarding Henry (1991)
by Jeffrey Abrams (a.k.a. J.J. Abrams)

Monday, January 5, 2015

TODAY'S NUGGET: Postcards from the Edge (1990) - Funny + Drama

[Quick Summary: A funny, addicted actress stays with her stage mother while filming a movie.]

I had stupid preconceived notions about this script. I was wrong.

Carrie Fisher really make the tough stuff look easy.

I especially liked how her comedy deepens the point of the drama:

- Funny and Uncomfortable:

ex. "Suzanne and Doris go into the kitchen. Jack stands awkwardly beside Sid, who continues watching TV.

JACK What're you watching there, Mr. Roth?

Sid points to the TV as he watches, in explanation of what he is watching."

- Funny and Romantic:

ex. SUZANNE: "Are you sure I didn't...sleep with you?
JACK: Sleep, yes.
SUZANNE: Kiss?
JACK: What? Here? Now?
SUZANNE: No. Then. That night.
JACK: See if this rings a bell.

Jack goes to kiss her. Suzanne starts to resist, but her need for affection and his charm overwhelm her. They kiss gently, shyly.

SUZANNE: It rings something, but I don't know if it's a memory bell, or --
JACK: --How about this?

He kisses her again, this time more passionately.

SUZANNE: It certainly reminds me of something I should've done before.
JACK: It reminds me of something I want to do later, so I can look back on it after that."

- Funny, with Ongoing Mother-Daughter Tension:

ex. [Suzanne goes into Doris' bathroom cabinet]

"DORIS (O.S.): Who's there?

Suzanne rolls her eyes. Great. Caught in the act and she didn't even do it. The light flips on and Doris stands there.

SUZANNE: Hi, Mama. I was just looking for some Aspirin.

Doris eyes her daughter suspiciously.

DORIS: Did you find it?
SUZANNE: Yes.
DORIS: Good.

They eye each other. Suzanne exits. Doris follows."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The funny bits make the drama better.

Postcards from the Edge (1990)
by Carrie Fisher
Adapted from her novel