Monday, February 29, 2016

2016 OSCARS: Brooklyn (2015) - Romance is Emotional Risk

[Quick Summary: Eilis is a 1950s young Irish immigrant who is torn between New York and Ireland.]

What a lovely, lovely read!

I loved the quiet drama of heartache and homesickness.

I especially loved watching Eilis and Tony fall in love.

This kind of romance is a dying art in a world where it's so easy to hide behind electronics and pretending rejection doesn't exist.

Romance requires connection, which requires possible rejection and risks.

The scene below is probably the midpoint of their romance, where they're "bound together...and has further implications for the outcome of the relationship." (p. 113; Mernit)

Note the bold emotional risks:
- Tony puts himself out there for rejection.
- Eilis takes a chance on a guy with a much bigger home field advantage.

ex. "TONY: You're in a good mood, right?

She looks at him.

EILIS: Yes. Why?

TONY: It's just...I like how you're being, I don't know the word. When you go along with everything.

EILIS: Amenable?

TONY (delighted with this addition to his vocabulary): Yeah. Amenable. OK, so while you're being amenable..Can we go see a movie this week? When you're not at night classes? And if the date goes well, can we see a movie next week too?

EILIS: I'll sign up for two movies.

TONY: Really?

EILIS: Yes. Even if the first date is a disaster, I'll give it another chance.

Tony's smile couldn't be any broader."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Lacking romance? Try larger emotional risks.

Brooklyn (2015)
by Nick Hornby
Adapted from the novel by Colm Toibin

Monday, February 22, 2016

2016 OSCARS: The Big Short (2015) - The Appeal (or Not) of Fact Intensive/ Documentary Style

[Quick Summary: When a U.S. investor foresees that the housing market will fail (and bets millions that it will fail), others notice and follow suit.]

Here's the story in a nutshell:

- Everyone believed mortgage bonds were fail proof.
- In 2005, Michael Burry, an investment banker, saw that mortgages were being given to people who should not get them, i.e., bad credit plus no jobs. (subprime).
- Burry bought MILLIONS in credit default swaps, i.e., insurance on the mortgage bonds.
- If the bonds tanked, Burry would get paid HUGE (10 to 1, 20 to 1).
- Other investors got wind and started doing the same.

The sad parts are:

- These investors were betting for a U.S. financial collapse so they could profit.
- This was all legal and based on greed.
- The Securities Exchange Commission wasn't paying attention.
- The government had to bail banks out for their greed.

Did I like the script? Yeeessssnooooo.

I admire the filmmakers for attempting to crack this subject matter, as it is very complex and dense.

The script is well written, but there are so many facts that it felt like a documentary.

I focused more on learning than getting involved in the story.

ex. "MICHAEL BURRY: Did you find it odd that when the tech bubble burst in 2001 the housing market in San Jose, the tech center of the world, went up?

YOUNG ANALYST: Huh. I guess. I mean, no. It's housing. It's always AAA rated, low risk.

MICHAEL BURRY: Yes....That's the idea... (he knows what he needs now) I need you to get me the top 20 selling mortgage bonds.

YOUNG ANALYST: So you want to know what the top 20 selling mortgage bonds are?

MICHAEL BURRY: No. I want to know what mortgages are in each one.

YOUNG ANALYST: Wait, aren't those bonds made up of thousands and thousands of mortgages?


The Analyst waits for Burry to complete the thought but he doesn't.

YOUNG ANALYST: Right away Dr. Burry."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Writers need to know what kind of story they're dealing with (& what the producers want), in order to see if you and the project are a good fit.

I learned that a fact intensive story/documentary style doesn't really appeal to me.

The Big Short (2015) 
by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay
Based upon the book by Michael Lewis

Monday, February 15, 2016

2016 OSCARS: Straight Outta Compton (2015) - A Romantic Scene? Turning Point? Both?

[Quick Summary: The formation, demise, and aftermath of the 1980s rap group N.W.A. through the eyes of three members, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Eazy-E.]

I liked, but did not love, this script.

However, I did like how three intertwining journeys were melded into one story.

And I did like this touching scene below.

Don't be fooled by its simplicity. 

It may only look like the moment Cube falls in love (personal), but it represents a bigger turning point in the overall story.

It's the moment that:
- Cube has just left N.W.A. (professional) and lost his friends (personal).
- He is at his lowest point (personal and professional).
- He meets his wife for the first time (personal).
- He begins a new phase of his career as a solo artist and as a writer (professional).


Cube rides in the passenger seat, pretty low at this point.  No money, no group. JINX MOUTH IS RUNNING, but Cube's in a daze --doesn't hear a word he's saying.

JINX: Can't believer you left the group, man. What you gonna do now? Guess we gotta start working on some solo stuff, huh? Cube? Cube?!

As the car pulls up to a stop light, Cube looks over, spots a beautiful YOUNG LADY in a nice jeep on rims. She's [sic] looks back over at him, their eyes locked. Is this love at first sight? After a few magical moments. Cube finally speaks.

CUBE: How you doing? My name O'Shea. What's yours?

KIM: Kim.

CUBE: Hey Kim -- You the best thing I've seen all day.

She smiles.

CUBE (cont'd): You believe in love at first sight?

KIM: What you think?

She is the only one that can get Cube to smile at this point."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Once in awhile, a romantic scene can represent more than just a romance, i.e., a significant personal and professional change/turning point.

Straight Outta Compton (2015)
by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff
Story by S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus and Andrea Berloff

Monday, February 8, 2016

2016 OSCARS: Spotlight (2015) - Unexpected Theme; Subtext

[Quick Summary: Boston Globe's Spotlight team tracks down secret settlements and lawsuits that proved the Archdiocese had knowledge its priests were molesting children.]

Before you:
- Avoid reading this script because of the subject matter...
- Skip it because "you know what happens"...
- Get too stagnant and only read stuff that's comfortable...

This script is for you (and me).

You see:
- I didn't want to read this if it was graphic or salacious.
- I thought I knew what the theme was (abuse of power).
- I run out of ideas if I'm in my comfort zone too long.

I discovered:
- The script is very respectful, and not graphic or salacious.
- At the end, the theme was better, more thought provoking than I could see coming.
- I learn more when pushed outside my comfort zone.

I also have renewed appreciation for the effectiveness of subtext. Here, Barbara subtly pressures her husband Robby to conform.


Robby gets in. She pulls off.

BARBARA: How'd you play?

ROBBY: Not too bad. Shoulda left my putter at home.

BARBARA: How's Jimmy?

ROBBY: Good. He brought up the suit.

BARBARA: Really? What'd he say?

ROBBY: He was thrilled about it.

BARBARA: It's not a surprise, Robby. The Church does a lot a good in this town.

Robby nods, but something about that doesn't sit right."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The theme (sort of) announced at the end truly surprised me. It was there all along, but I wasn't looking for it.

Spotlight (2015)
by Josh Singer & Tom McCarthy

Monday, February 1, 2016

2016 OSCARS: Inside Out (2015) - How to Make the Reader Feel

[Quick Summary: Five Emotions try to steer their human, Riley, from birth to 11 years old.]

I read this in a screenwriter interview recently:
There is something [in my script] that they connect to emotionally. I think that’s what we’re in the business of doing... Some write really smart scripts, but if I’m left doing more thinking than feeling, then it has failed to do its job....[One Oscar nominated film this year is] a really well-made film but it leaves me somewhat empty. I’m not walking away asking questions about the human condition. (emphasis mine)
That's the holy grail for me. How do you make the reader feel?

In this Pixar script, the writers seemed to rely on small, very primal, visual cues.

The scene below focuses on the unfamiliar, and a baby's automatic reaction to it.

On the surface, it is just about an unfamiliar food (taste), an unfamiliar scent (smell),

But emotionally, we recognize --> connect --> experience that universal unease.

ex."Dad lifts a spoonful of food to Riley's mouth.


JOY: Hmmm. This looks new.

FEAR/SADNESS: Do you think it's safe?/ What is it?

ON THE SCREEN: a spoonful of broccoli.

DISGUST enters.

DISGUST: Okay, caution! There is a dangerous smell, people. Hold on, what is what?

JOY (V.O.): This is Disgust. She basically keeps Riley from being poisoned, physically and socially.

DISGUST: That is not brightly colored or shaped like a dinosaur...Hold on guys...It's broccoli!

Disgust GAGS and pulls a lever.



Riley swats the broccoli. It flies into Dad's face."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I found that small, primal, visual actions on the page seem to tap more easily into my feelings (right brain) vs. thinking (left brain).

Inside Out (2015)
by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley
Story by Pete Docter and Ronnie Del Carmen
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