Tuesday, December 30, 2008

R.I.P. Harold Pinter

I recall my father telling me when I was young that I had to see this phenomenal movie coming on TV. It was called Sleuth. It starred a young, scheming Michael Caine and an old, diabolical Lawrence Olivier. It was a battle of wits and cons and strategies to the death! I loved every minute of that movie and still do.

Years later, I recall seeing a movie in the theaters called Betrayal. It was a love story that went in reverse. And to this day, I recall what Ebert
wrote, “The absolutely brilliant thing about Betrayal is that it is a love story told backward. There is a lot in this movie that is wonderful -- the performances, the screenplay by Harold Pinter -- but what makes it all work is the structure. When Pinter's stage version of Betrayal first appeared, back in the late 1970s, there was a tendency to dismiss his reverse chronology as a gimmick. Not so. It is the very heart and soul of this story. It means that we in the audience know more about the unhappy romantic fortunes of Jerry and Robert and Emma at every moment than they know about themselves. Even their joy is painful to see… The Betrayal structure strips away all artifice. It shows, heartlessly, that the very capacity for love itself is sometimes based on betraying not only other loved ones, but even ourselves.”

Pinter got an Oscar nom for that screenplay.

Those are my two fondest memories of Harold Pinter.

Here’s a nice Sky News tribute:

There is a great collection of articles
in The Guardian including the text of his Nobel prize acceptance speech. GreenCine has a great round-up. There is also HaroldPinter.org and the Wikipedia entry.

But I have this wonderful old book called
Playwrights at Work. It’s a collection of Paris Review interviews of many great modern playwrights. Following Pinter’s death, I pulled it out, dusted it off, and re-read Pinter’s interview, which took place in the fall of 1966.

Then I read articles and obits all around the web about Pinter. Somehow, my crazy mind made connections between what the critics in the media had to say about Pinter and what Pinter had to say (in 1966) about those very same topics. So I’ve decided to do something completely off-the-wall and quote various paragraphs I came across in the media about Pinter, which is in black, and then follow that paragraph with the words of Pinter himself about that very same topic from his 1966 Paris Review interview, which is in blue.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it.



First, The Telegraph

In his most masterly works, The Caretaker (1960), The Homecoming (1965) and No Man’s Land (1975), he created a new atmosphere and tension within the conventional theatrical form by withholding information about characters and motives hitherto supposed essential to the audience’s pleasure. The plays were usually set within the confines of a room, seedy in his earlier work but increasingly elegant later. His dramas brought into confrontation a variety of persons, from vagrants and prostitutes to middle-class married couples and self-proclaimed poets, in circumstances bordering on violence or menace and in language that was precise, elegant and often very funny…

But what gave distinction to all Pinter’s writing for the stage and screen was its fascinating opacity. The curtain would rise on a realistic, domestic situation but within minutes the truth about it — and whatever might be gleaned of the people in it — would be called unconsciously into question by their statements. At first, the method maddened spectators and critics alike. The ground seemed to be shifting from under their feet. Pinter famously refused to explain what his plays meant, although he denied deliberate obfuscation…

Pinter: It’s a great mistake to pay any attention to [the critics]. I think, you see, that this is an age of such overblown publicity and overemphatic pinning down. I’m a very good example of a writer who can write, but I’m not as good as all that. I’m just a writer; and I think that I’ve been overblown tremendously because there’s a dearth of really fine writing, and people tend to make too much of a meal. All you can do is try to write as well as you can.

Peter Marks

Although he expressed the views of a pacifist, Pinter wrote as if he held his finger on the pin of a grenade. In modernist classics such as The Homecoming, Old Times and No Man's Land, he devised characters who spoke in elliptical asides and enigmatic bursts. Violence of some nature was never out of the realm of possibility, even in his quietest plays. For Pinter was a connoisseur of subtext, of letting a story unfold on a living room set while a more savage one simmered in the crawl spaces of the mind. His characters routinely rattle each other with what never gains utterance.

Pinter: Of course I can’t remember exactly how a given play developed in my mind. I think what happens is that I write in a very high state of excitement and frustration. I follow what I see on the paper in front of me – one sentence after another. That doesn’t mean I don’t have a dim, possible overall idea – the image that starts off doesn’t just engender what happens immediately, it engenders the possibility of an overall happening, which carries me through. I’ve got an idea of what might happen – sometimes I’m absolutely right, but on many occasions I’ve been proved wrong by what does actually happen. Sometimes I’m going along and I find myself writing, “C. comes in,” when I didn’t know that he was going to come in; he had to come in at that point, that’s all.

Michael Billington

My own memories of Harold, and it's hard to think of him in more formal terms, are entirely happy. We'd had a relatively distant professional relationship for many years. I'd reviewed his plays, sometimes favourably, sometimes not. (I made a spectacular ass of myself over the original production of Betrayal.) Then in 1992 I was approached by Faber and Faber to write a book about him. What was intended as a short book about his plays and politics turned, thanks to his openness, into a full-scale biography. I talked to Harold himself at great length, to his friends and colleagues. And what I discovered was that his plays, so often dubbed enigmatic and mysterious, were nearly all spun out of memories of his own experience. If they connected with audiences the world over, it was because he understood the insecurity of human life and the sense that it was often based on psychological and territorial battles…

Interviewer: Do you have any interest in psychology?

Pinter: No.

Billington [cont’d]: Pinter's contribution to drama was immense. He had a poet's ear for language, an almost flawless sense of dramatic rhythm and the ability to distil the conflicts of daily life…

Pinter: I don’t know what kind of characters my plays will have until they… well, until they are. Until they indicate to me what they are. I don’t conceptualize in any way. Once I’ve got the clues I follow them – that’s my job, really, to follow the clues… I always write three drafts, but you have to leave it eventually. There comes a point when you say that's it, I can't do anything more. The only play which gets remotely near to a structural entity which satisfies me is The Homecoming. The Birthday Party and The Caretaker have too much writing... I want to iron it down, eliminate things. Too many words irritate me sometimes, but I can't help them, they just seem to come out - out of the fellow's mouth. I don't really examine my works too much, but I'm aware that quite often in what I write, some fellow at some point says an awful lot.

NYT’s Mel Gussow and Ben Brantley

In more than 30 plays — written between 1957 and 2000 and including masterworks like The Birthday Party, The Caretaker, The Homecoming and Betrayal — Mr. Pinter captured the anxiety and ambiguity of life in the second half of the 20th century with terse, hypnotic dialogue filled with gaping pauses and the prospect of imminent violence. Along with another Nobel winner, Samuel Beckett, his friend and mentor, Mr. Pinter became one of the few modern playwrights whose names instantly evoke a sensibility. The adjective Pinteresque has become part of the cultural vocabulary as a byword for strong and unspecified menace.

Pinter: That word! These damn words and that word Pinteresque particularly – I don’t know what they’re bloody well talking about! I think it’s a great burden for me to carry, and for other writers to carry… Oh, very occasionally I’ve thought listening to something, hello, that rings a bell, but it goes no further than that. I really do think that writers write on… just write, and I find it difficult to believe I’m any kind of influence on other writers. I’ve seen very little evidence of it, anyway; other people seem to see more evidence of it than I do.

The Times

Later he was to act memorably in a number of his own plays, and in films. But it is out of his early acting experience that almost certainly grew his deep and probably intuitive understanding of how a few words can be made to resonate with a wealth of half-meanings and suggested meanings — of how to disturb, grip and amuse an audience and to challenge their perceptions. David Hare has written that Pinter never offers audiences “the easy handhold with which they might be able to take some simplified view of the events on stage”, and that “it is this willingness to say ‘take it or leave it’ which finally makes his work so inimitable”.

Pinter: Watching first nights, though I’ve seen quite a few by now, is… a nerve racking experience. It’s not a question of whether the play goes well or badly. It’s not the audience reaction, it’s my reaction. I’m rather hostile toward audiences – I don’t care for large bodies of people collected together. Everyone knows that audiences vary enormously, it’s a mistake to care too much about them. The thing one should be concerned with is whether the performance has expressed what one set out to express in writing the play. It sometimes does.

Phil Nugent

But Pinter's strongest impact in movies came through screenplay adaptations of others' work--and he did a surprisingly large number of them, especially as his standard of living improved. Among the ones that stand out are his adaptation of Penelope Mortimer's novel The Pumpkin Eater for Jack Clayton's 1964 film, and the first of his many collaborations with the director Joseph Losey, The Servant (1963) and Accident (1967), both starring Dirk Bogarde. He also wrote Losey's 1970 The Go-Between and prepared a script for a film based on Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past for which Losey was never able to obtain funding; it was published in book form as The Proust Screenplay, and eventually adapted to the stage. His other screenplay credits include The Quiller Memorandum, The Last Tycoon, The French Lieutenant's Woman, Turtle Diary, Reunion, The Handmaid's Tale, The Comfort of Strangers, the 1993 version of Kafka's The Trial, and his final credit, the 2007 remake of Sleuth. He also directed Alan Bates in the 1973 movie of Simon Gray's play Butley.

Pinter: I’ve done some film work, but for some reason or other I haven’t found it very easy to satisfy myself on an original idea for a film. Tea Party, which I did for television is actually a film, cinematic, I wrote it like that. Television and films are simpler than the theater – if you get tired of a scene you just drop it and go on to another one. (I’m exaggerating, of course.) What is so different about the stage is that you’re just there, stuck – there are your characters stuck on the stage, you’ve got to live with them and deal with them. I’m not a very inventive writer in the sense of using the technical devices other playwrights do – look at Brecht! I can’t use the stage the way he does, I just haven’t got that kind of imagination, so I find myself stuck with these characters who are either sitting or standing, and they’ve either got to walk out of a door, or come through a door, and that’s about all they can do.

David Edgar

Playwrights tend to start out political and end up personal. Harold Pinter appeared to follow the opposite course. Marrying continental absurdism with British popular comedy, he changed how dialogue was written in British theatre as definitively as Cézanne changed how paintings were painted in France. Complementing his dialogue, his great speeches turn the mundane (in No Man's Land, the one-way system around London's Bolsover Street) into poetry. Despite this, those of us who followed him rejected his elliptical style and what we saw as the solipsistic apoliticism of absurdism ("Nothing means anything, nothing can be done"). So it was a surprise when, in later life, Pinter became a prominent voice of political dissent. That is the conventional view, and there's a lot to it. But it underestimates the political power of the earlier work…

Interviewer: Do you read things written about you?

Pinter: Yes. Most of the time I don’t know what they’re talking about.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

25 Classic Monologues in Cinema

Hey guys,

I dedicate this article to Joshua James. As much as I preach about visual storytelling and “show, don’t tell,” Josh is quick to remind me that a lot of dialogue isn’t wrong so long as it’s good dialogue, and that’s very true. Today’s article will only reinforce his point.

A link on my sidebar that gets little love is
Colin’s Movie Monologues, which is a collection of cinema’s great speeches. The list below, a smattering of samples from his website, does not represent the personal favorites of mine. But rather, I chose the widest variety I could – well-known, little-known, speeches, confessions, tirades, breakdowns, etc. I tried to look for a consistent pattern of how, when, and why they are used and ultimately concluded that to create a simple formula for monologues is to belittle their power. All I can say is that generally A) there should be strong emotion behind all the words or in the context of an emotionally charged moment, B) the character’s voice – not yours – should shine through the speech, C) you should have a damn good reason for having it, and D) you better knock that speech out of the ball park.

The list only goes up to films that begin with the letter “J.” In any case, I hope you enjoy them.



Charlie Kaufman: Do I have an original thought in my head, my bald head? Maybe if I were happier, my hair wouldn’t be falling out. Life is short; I need to make the most of it. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m a walking cliché. I really need to go to the doctor and have my leg checked. There's something wrong. Oh well. The dentist called again, I'm way overdue. If I stopped putting things off, I would be happier. All I do is sit on my fat ass, if my ass wasn’t fat, I would be happier. I wouldn’t have to wear these shirts with the tails out all the time; like that’s fooling anyone. Fat ass. I should start jogging again. Five miles a day; really do it this time. Maybe rock climbing; I need to turn my life around. What do I need to do? I need to fall in love. I need to have a girlfriend. I need to read more; improve myself. Maybe I should learn Russian or something. Or take up an instrument. I could speak Chinese. I could be the screenwriter who speaks Chinese and plays the oboe. That would be cool. I should get my hair cut short; stop trying to fool myself and everyone else into thinking I have a full head of hair. How pathetic is that? Just be real. Confident. Isn't that what women are attracted to? Men don’t have to be attractive. But that's not true, ''specially these days. There's almost as much pressure on men as there is on women these days. Why should I be made to feel like I should apologize for my existence? Maybe it's my brain chemistry. Maybe that’s what's wrong with me. Bad chemistry... all my problems and anxiety can be reduced to a chemical imbalance or some kind of misfiring synapses. I need to get help from them; but I'll still be ugly though. Nothing is going to change that.

African Queen
Charlie Allnutt
: Well, Miss, 'ere we are, everything ship-shape, like they say. Great thing to 'ave, a lyedy, with clean 'abits. Sets me a good example. A man alone, 'e gets to livin' like a bloomin' og. Then, too, with me, it's always -- put things orf. Never do todye wot ya can put orf til tomorrer. (he chuckles and looks at her, expecting her to smile; no reaction from Rose) But you: business afore pleasure, every time. Do yer pers'nal laundry, make yerself spic an' span, get all the mendin' out o' the way, an' then, an ' hone-ly then, set down to a nice quiet hour with the Good-Book. (he watches for something; still no response from Rose) I tell you, it's a model for me, like. An inspiration. I ain't got that ole engine so clean in years; inside an' out, Miss. Just look at 'er, Miss! She practically sparkles. Myself too. Guess you ain't never 'ad a look at me without whiskers an' all cleaned up, 'ave you, Miss? Freshens you up, too; if I only 'ad clean clothes, like you. Now you: why you could be at 'igh tea. (no recognition from Rose, as if she doesn't hear him at all) 'Ow 'bout some tea, Miss, come to think of it? Don't you stir; I'll get it ready. (a pause) 'Ow's the book, Miss? (no answer) Not that I ain't read it, some -- that is to say, me ole lyedy read me stories out of it. (no response; another pause) 'Ow 'bout reading it out loud, eh, Miss? (silence) I'd like to 'ave a little spiritual comfort m'self. (Charlie loses his patience with her silence, he flares up, frustrated) An' you call yerself a Christian! You 'ear me, Miss. (he leans in toward her, getting louder and louder, until he's yelling at the top of his lungs) Don't yer?! Don't yer?! HUH??

Salieri: My plan was so simple that it terrified me. First I must get the death mass and then I, I must achieve his death. His funeral! Imagine it, all of Vienna there, Mozart's coffin, Mozart's little coffin in the middle, and then suddenly, in that silence, music! A divine music bursts out over them all. A great mass of death! Requiem mass for Wolfgang Mozart, composed by his dear friend, Antonio Salieri! Oh what sublimity, what depth, what passion in the music! Salieri has been touched by God at last. And God is forced to listen!! Powerless, powerless to stop it! I, for once in the end, laughing at him!! The only thing that bothered me was the actual killing. How does one do that? Hmmm? How does one kill a man? Well it's one thing to dream about it; very different when you, when you have to do it with your own hands.

American Psycho
Patrick Bateman: Do you like Phil Collins? I've been a big Genesis fan ever since the release of their 1980 album, Duke. Before that, I really didn't understand any of their work. Too artsy, too intellectual. It was on Duke where, uh, Phil Collins' presence became more apparent. I think Invisible Touch was the group's undisputed masterpiece. It's an epic meditation on intangibility. At the same time, it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding three albums. Christy, take off your robe. Listen to the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford. You can practically hear every nuance of every instrument. Sabrina, remove your dress. In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer songwriting, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Sabrina, why don't you, uh, dance a little. Take the lyrics to Land of Confusion. In this song, Phil Collins addresses the problems of abusive political authority. In Too Deep is the most moving pop song of the 1980s, about monogamy and commitment. The song is extremely uplifting. Their lyrics are as positive and affirmative as, uh, anything I've heard in rock. Christy, get down on your knees so Sabrina can see your ass. Phil Collins' solo career seems to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying, in a narrower way. Especially songs like In the Air Tonight and, uh, Against All Odds. Sabrina, don't just stare at it, eat it. But I also think Phil Collins works best within the confines of the group, than as a solo artist, and I stress the word artist. This is Sussudio, a great, great song, a personal favorite.

Apocalypse Now
: I've seen the horror. Horrors that you've seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that, but you have no right to judge me . It's impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror. Horror has a face, and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and mortal terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared. They are truly enemies. I remember when I was with Special Forces--it seems a thousand centuries ago--we went into a camp to inoculate it. The children. We left the camp after we had inoculated the children for polio, and this old man came running after us, and he was crying. He couldn't see. We went there, and they had come and hacked off every inoculated arm. There they were in a pile--a pile of little arms. And I remember...I...I...I cried, I wept like some grandmother. I wanted to tear my teeth out, I didn't know what I wanted to do. And I want to remember it, I never want to forget. And then I realized--like I was shot...like I was shot with a diamond...a diamond bullet right through my forehead. And I thought, "My God, the genius of that, the genius, the will to do that." Perfect, genuine, complete, crystalline, pure. And then I realized they could stand that--these were not monsters, these were men, trained cadres, these men who fought with their hearts, who have families, who have children, who are filled wi th love--that they had this strength, the strength to do that. If I had ten divisions of those men, then our troubles here would be over very quickly. You have to have men who are moral and at the same time were able to utilize their primordial i nstincts to kill without feeling, without passion, without judgment--without judgment. Because it's judgment that defeats us. I worry that my son might not understand what I've tried to be, and if I were to be killed, Willard, I would want someone to go to my home and tell my son everything. Everything I did, everything you saw, because there's nothing that I detest more than t he stench of lies. And if you understand me, Willard, you...you will do this for me.

Austin Powers
: Oh no, please, please, let's hear about your childhood.
Dr Evil: Very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink, he would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Some times he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy, the sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical, summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds, pretty standard really. At the age of 12 I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen, a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum, it's breathtaking, I suggest you try it.
Therapist: You know, we have to stop.

Blazing Saddles
: Yeah, I was the kid...it got so that every pissant prairie punk who thought he could shoot a gun would ride into town to try out the Waco Kid. I must've killed more men than Cecil B Demille. Got pretty gritty. I started to hear the word draw in my sleep. Then one day, I was just walking down the street, and I heard a voice behind me say, "Reach for it Mister!" I spun around and there I was face to face with a six-year-old kid. Well I just threw my guns down and walked away....little bastard shot me in the ass!! So I limped to the nearest saloon, crawled into a whiskey bottle, and I've been there ever since.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Paul Varjak
: You know what's wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You're chicken, you've got no guts. You're afraid to stick out your chin and say, "Okay, life's a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to eachother, because that's the only chance anybody's got for real happiness." You call yourself a free spirit, a "wild thing," and you're terrified somebody's gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you're already in that cage. You built it yourself. And it's not bounded in the west by Tulip, Texas, or in the east by Somali-land. It's wherever you go. Because no matter where you run, you just end up running into yourself.

The Breakfast Club
: Do you guys know what I did to get in here? I taped Larry Lester's buns together. Yeah, you know him? Well then, you know how hairy he is, right? Well, when they pulled the tape off, most of his hair came off and some skin too. And the bizarre thing is, is that I did it for my old man. I tortured this poor kid because I wanted him to think I was cool. He's always going off about, you know, when he was in school, all the wild things he used to do, and I got the feeling that he was disappointed that I never cut loose on anyone, right? So, I'm sitting in the locker room and I'm taping up my knee and Larry's undressing a couple lockers down from me and he's kinda, kinda skinny, weak, and I started thinking about my father and his attitude about weakness, and the next thing I knew I, I jumped on top of him and started wailing on him. Then my friends, they just laughed and cheered me on. And afterwards, when I was sittin' in Vernon's office, all I could think about was Larry's father and Larry having to go home and explain what happened to him. And the humiliation, the fucking humiliation he must have felt. It must have been unreal. I mean, how do you apologize for something like that? There's no way. It's all because of me and my old man. God, I fucking hate him. He's like, he's like this mindless machine I can't even relate to anymore. "Andrew, you've got to be number one. I won't tolerate any losers in this family. Your intensity is for shit." You son of a bitch. You know, sometimes I wish my knee would give and I wouldn't be able to wrestle anymore. He could forget all about me.

Chasing Amy
: I love you. And not in a friendly way, although I think we're great friends. And not in a misplaced affection, puppy-dog way, although I'm sure that's what you'll call it. And it's not because you're unattainable. I love you. Very simple, very truly. You're the epitome of every attribute and quality I've ever looked for in another person. I know you think of me as just a friend, and crossing that line is the furthest thing from an option you'd ever consider. But I had to say it. I can't take this anymore. I can't stand next to you without wanting to hold you. I can't look into your eyes without feeling that longing you only read about in trashy romance novels. I can't talk to you without wanting to express my love for everything you are. I know this will probably queer our friendship -no pun intended- but I had to say it, because I've never felt this before, and I like who I am because of it. And if bringing it to light means we can't hang out anymore, then that hurts me. But I couldn't allow another day to go by without getting it out there, regardless of the outcome, which by the look on your face is to be the inevitable shoot-down. And I'll accept that. But I know some part of you is hesitating for a moment, and if there is a moment of hesitation, that means you feel something too. All I ask is that you not dismiss that -at least for ten seconds- and try to dwell in it. Alyssa, there isn't another soul on this fucking planet who's ever made me half the person I am when I'm with you, and I would risk this friendship for the chance to take it to the next plateau. Because it's there between you and me. you can't deny that. And even if we never speak again after tonight, please know that I'm forever changed because of who you are and what you've meant to me, which -while I do appreciate it- I'd never need a painting of birds bought at a diner to remind me of.(Alyssa exits the car) Was it something I said?

Crimes and Misdemeanors
Professor Levy
: We're all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions, moral choices. Some are on a grand scale, most of these choices are on lesser points. But we define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are, in fact, the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly. Human happiness does not seem to have been included in the design of creation. It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe. And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying and even to find joy from simple things, like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.

Dangerous Beauty
Beatrice Venier
: When my daughter is old enough, I want you to make her a courtesan. … The life you live, the freedom that you have! Would you deny my daughter the same chance? … Do you know what my daughter's nurse told her this morning? That "in a girl's voice lies temptation -- a known fact: eloquence in a woman means promiscuity. Promiscuity of the mind leads to promiscuity of the body." She doesn’t believe her yet, but she will. She'll grow up just like her mother. She'll marry. Bear children and honor her family. Spend her youth at needlepoint and rue the day she was born a girl. And when she dies, she'll wonder why she obeyed all the rules of God and country, because no Biblical hell could ever be worse than this state of perpetual inconsequence.

Dead Poets Society
Mr. Keating
: In my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and languages. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world. I see that look in Mr Pitts' eyes like 19th century literature has nothing to do with going to business school or medical school, right? Maybe. You may agree and think yes, we should study our Mr. Pritcher and learn our rhyme and meter and go quietly about the business of achieving other ambitions. Well, I have a secret for you. Huddle Up...Huddle UP! We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. Medicine, law, business these are all noble pursuits necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, and love; these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman "Oh me, Oh life of the question of these recurring. of the endless trains of the faithless of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these? Oh me, Oh life." "Answer...that you are here and life exists....You are here. Life exists, and identity. The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse." The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Dr. Strangelove
President Merkin Muffley
: [to Kissoff] Hello? ... Ah ... I can't hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little? ... Oh-ho, that's much better. ... yeah ... huh ... yes ... Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri. ... Clear and plain and coming through fine....I'm coming through fine, too, eh? ... Good, then ... well, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine. ... Good. ... Well, it's good that you're fine and ... and I'm fine. ... I agree with you, it's great to be fine. ... a-ha-ha-ha-ha ... Now then, Dmitri, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb. ...The *Bomb*, Dmitri.... The *hydrogen* bomb! ... Well now, what happened is ... ah ... one of our base commanders, he had a sort of ... well, he went a little funny in the head ... you know ... just a little ... funny. And, ah ... he went and did a silly thing. ... Well, I'll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes ... to attack your country... Ah... Well, let me finish, Dmitri. ... Let me finish, Dmitri. ... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?! ...Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri? ... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello? ... *Of course* I like to speak to you! ... *Of course* I like to say hello! ... Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened... It's a *friendly* call. Of course it's a friendly call. ... Listen, if it wasn't friendly ... you probably wouldn't have even got it. ... They will *not* reach their targets for at least another hour. ... I am ... I am positive, Dmitri. ... Listen, I've been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick. ... Well, I'll tell you. We'd like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes. ... Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we're unable to recall the planes, then ... I'd say that, ah ... well, ah ... we're just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri. ... I know they're our boys. ... All right, well listen now. Who should we call? ...*Who* should we call, Dmitri? The ... wha-whe, the People... you, sorry, you faded away there.... The People's Central Air Defense Headquarters. ... Where is that, Dmitri? ... In Omsk. ... Right. ... Yes. ...Oh, you'll call them first, will you? ... Uh-hu ... Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri? ... Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information. ...Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm ... I'm sorry, too, Dmitri. ...I'm very sorry. ... *All right*, you're sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well. ... I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don't say that you're more sorry than I am, because I'm capable of being just as sorry as you are. ... So we're both sorry, all right?! ... All right.

Empire Strikes Back
: I can't. It's too big.
Yoda: Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Mike Damone
: First of all Rat, you never let on how much you like a girl. "Oh, Debbie. Hi." Two, you always call the shots. "Kiss me. You won't regret it." Now three, act like wherever you are, that's the place to be. "Isn't this great?" Four, when ordering food, you find out what she wants, then order for the both of you. It's a classy move. "Now, the lady will have the linguini and white clam sauce, and a Coke with no ice." And five, now this is the most important, Rat. When it comes down to making out, whenever possible, put on side one of Led Zeppelin IV.

A Few Good Men
: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives...You don't want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty...we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use 'em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

The Fisher King
: Do you believe in God?
Anne: Ohh! You gotta believe in God! But I don't believe God created Man in His image. 'Cause most the shit that happens is because of men. Men were made in the devil's image. And women were created outta God. 'Cause, after all, women can have babies--which is kinda like creating. And which also accounts for the fact that women are so attracted to men. 'Cause let's face it, the devil is a helluva lot more interesting. I slept with some saints in my day, believe me, I know. Eegh-boy! So, the whole point of life, the whole point of life is for men and women to get married so God and the Devil can get together--and work it out. Not that we have to get married or anything. God forbid.

Funny Girl
Fanny Brice
: Suppose all ya ever had for breakfast was onion rolls. Then one day, in walks (gasp) a bagel! You'd say, 'Ugh, what's that?' Until you tried it! That's my problem - I'm a bagel on a plate full of onion rolls. Nobody recognizes me! Listen, I got 36 expressions. Sweet as pie and tough as leather. And that's six expressions more than all those...Barrymores put together. Instead of just kicking me, why don't they give me a lift? Well, it must be a plot, 'cause they're scared that I got...such a gift! 'Cause I'm the greatest star, I am by far, but no one knows it. Wait - they're gonna hear a voice, a silver flute. They'll cheer each toot, hey, she's terrific!, when I expose it. Now can't you see to look at me that I'm a natural Camille, and as Camille, I just feel, I've so much to offer. Kid, I know I'd be divine because I'm a natural cougher (coughs) - some ain't got it, not a lump. I'm a great big clump of talent! Laugh, they'll bend in half. Did you ever hear the story about the travelling salesman? A thousand jokes, stick around for the jokes. A thousand faces. I reiterate. When you're gifted, then you're gifted. These are facts, I've got no axe to grind. Ay! What are ya, blind? In all of the world so far, I'm the greatest star! No autographs, please. What? You think beautiful girls are gonna stay in style forever? I should say not! Any minute now they're gonna be out! FINISHED! Then it'll be my turn!

Glengarry Glen Ross
: All train compartments smell vaguely of shit. It gets so you don't mind it. That's the worst thing that I can confess. You know how long it took me to get there? A long time. When you die you're going to regret the things you don't do. You think you're queer? I'm going to tell you something: we're all queer. You think you're a thief? So what? You get befuddled by a middle-class morality? Get shut of it. Shut it out. You cheated on your wife? You did it, live with it. You fuck little girls, so be it.There's an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, then be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don't think so. If you think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won't live in it. That's me. You ever take a dump made you feel like you'd just slept for twelve hours?

Goodwill Hunting
: Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at the N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people that I never met and that I never had no problem with get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Send in the marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a shit. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number was called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ass. And he comes home to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his ass got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And of course the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. They're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and fuckin' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's walking to the fuckin' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the schrapnel in his ass is givin' him chronic hemorroids. And meanwhile he's starvin' 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure, fuck it, while I'm at it, why not just shoot my buddy, take his job and give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president.

The Goodbye Girl
: Will you listen very, very carefully to me? Just for once--This may be the last time I ever talk to you. Not everyone in this world is after your magnificent body, lady. In the first place, it's not so magnificent. It's fair, but it ain't keeping me up nights, you know? I don't even think you're very pretty. Maybe if you smiled once and awhile, okay, but I don't want you to do anything against your religion. And you are not the only person in this city ever to get dumped on. I myself am a recent dumpee. I am a dedicated actor, Paula, you know? I am dedicated to my art and my craft. I value what I do. And because of a mentally arthritic director, I am about to play the second greatest role in the history of the English-speaking theater like a double order of fresh California fruit salad. When I say "nice," I mean "nice"--ya know, decent, fair. I deserve it, because I'm a nice, decent and fair person. I don't wanna jump on your bones. I don't even want to see you in the morning. But I'll tell you what I do like about you, Paula: Lucy. Lucy's your best part. Lucy is worth putting up with you for. So here is fourteen dollars for the care and feeding of that terrific kid. You get zippity-doo-dah! You want any money? Borrow it from your ten-year-old daughter. I am now going inside my room to meditate away my hostility toward you. Personally, I don't think it can be done.

: You were on the Indianapolis?
Brody: What happened?
Quint: Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, chief. It was comin' back, from the island of Tinian Delady, just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in twelve minutes. Didn't see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. Thirteen footer. You know, you know that when you're in the water, chief? You tell by lookin' from the dorsal to the tail. Well, we didn't know. `Cause our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. Huh huh. They didn't even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, chief. The sharks come cruisin'. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know it's... kinda like `ol squares in battle like a, you see on a calendar, like the battle of Waterloo. And the idea was, the shark would go for nearest man and then he'd start poundin' and hollerin' and screamin' and sometimes the shark would go away. Sometimes he wouldn't go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into you. Right into your eyes. You know the thing about a shark, he's got...lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin' and the ocean turns red and spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin' they all come in and rip you to pieces. Y'know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men! I don't know how many sharks, maybe a thousand! I don't know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday mornin' chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player, boson's mate. I thought he was asleep, reached over to wake him up. Bobbed up and down in the water, just like a kinda top. Up ended. Well... he'd been bitten in half below the waist. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us, he swung in low and he saw us. He'd a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper, anyway he saw us and come in low. And three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened? Waitin' for my turn. I'll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water, three hundred and sixteen men come out, the sharks ttook the rest, June the 29, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

The Jerk
: And I don't need any of this! I don't need this stuff, (pushes all of the letters off the desk), and I don't need you. I don't need anything except this (picks up an ashtray) and that's it and that's the only thing I need, is this. I don't need this or this. Just this ashtray. And this paddle game (picks it up), the ashtray and the paddle game and that's all I need. And this remote control. The ashtray, the paddle game and the remote control, and that's all I need. And these matches. The ashtray, and these matches, and the remote control and the paddle ball. And this lamp. The ashtray, this paddle game and the remote control and the lamp and that's all I need. And that's all I need too. I don't need one other thing, not one - (sees something) I need this! The paddle game, and the chair, and the remote control, and the matches, for sure. Well what are you looking at? What do you think I am, some kind of a jerk or something? And this! And that's all I need. The ashtray, the remote control, the paddle game, this magazine and the chair. And I don't need one other thing except my dog. (Shithead, the dog, growls) Well I don't need my dog.

And finally, Goodwill Hunting again
: So if I asked you about art you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written...Michelangelo? You know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientation, the whole works, right? But I bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. Seen that.....If I asked you about women you'd probably give me a syllabus of your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. I ask you about war, and you'd probably--uh--throw Shakespeare at me, right? "Once more into the breach, dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap and watched him gasp his last breath, looking to you for help. And if I asked you about love y'probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone could level you with her eyes. Feeling like! God put an angel on earth just for you...who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it’s like to be her angel and to have that love for her to be there forever. Through anything. Through cancer. You wouldn't know about sleeping sittin’ up in a hospital room for two months holding her hand because the doctors could see in your eyes that the term visiting hours don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. I look at you; I don't see an intelligent, confident man; I see a cocky, scared shitless kid. But you're a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine and you ripped my fuckin' life apart. You're an orphan right? Do you think I'd know the first thing about how hard ! your life has been, how you feel, who you are because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally, I don't give a shit about all that, because you know what? I can't learn anything from you I can't read in some fuckin' book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't wanna do that, do you, sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Somewhat Recent Script Reviews

Hey guys,

Below are highlights of sorta recent TriggerStreet reviews of mine.

Hope you enjoy them.



MORE thought to the second concept. I loved the article Terry Rossio wrote not long ago -
the second concept. You need two concepts, one, the logline, and another at work that is revealed through story. He gave an example (please forgive the length): "Way back when, when Ted and I were starting our careers, I proposed a short story I'd written to be the basis for a screenplay. Basic idea, what if a kid captured the monster under the bed, and it turned out the kid was worse than the monster, and used the monster's access to houses to play pranks on his friends? There's the first concept. It's not bad. You could imagine a bully and perhaps some girl the kid has a crush on and work out a tale. Ted came along (this illustrates one of the benefits of having a writing partner) and came up with the second concept: What if the monster had let himself be caught, in order to seduce the kid into the underworld, where bad kids eventually become monsters, in fact, that's where all the monsters under the bed came from! Now you could debate the point as to whether this is just a story twist or an extension of the main story, a plot development rather than a new concept. But I think it qualifies. One test: Does it create a new situation, valid on its own account? I think yes. The new concept produced a villain, the villain's agenda; implied jeopardy, deepened the characterizations, and even provided a theme, missing from the original take. It became a different type of tale, an origin story, rather than just a 'kid fights monster' tale." Do you see what I mean? So you have the first concept, that is, a cat searches for a family. What's the second concept? And I think that can be found in Billy Don and that you really go to the trouble of emphasizing that he's good, as a person, and really loves animals, although that's not THEIR perception. That might bring somewhat of a twist on genre conventions…

1) A weak concept that needed more style.

The aspect of committing sabotage to stop a company from developing something that will bring about terrible future repercussions makes me think of Terminator II, which hurts you because that film and concept and story is vastly superior. I kept thinking that at least the Terminator series gave us formidable antagonists. Or that Back to the Future characters time-traveled in great style. Or that at least Bill & Ted had a phone booth. What do we have here? A bunch of smoke and lights in a room in a house, which is not very exciting. Probably not even good enough for basic cable. But of course, there was a point to the whole room and the way that the future selves made their appearances, which you deserve some credit for conceiving, but in the end, all things considered, it's not very exciting. You gotta think bigger than this. You gotta be much more exciting than this to get people to notice your story. I know you're going to say, "This is low budget, as I mentioned in my Notes." Look, you can still be exciting and stylish on a limited budget.

That this was all a charade designed to convince Justin to commit murder hurts your story in a variety of ways: A) Way too implausible. Tracy uses this crazy out-in-left-field-science-fiction approach to convince Justin to do this thing when most femme fatales only have to use sex. Hehehe... Where are your priorities, man? And what does this say about Justin? Hehehe... B) All of that verbal exposition about the future can only be verbal, which is the worst kind of screenwriting. You gotta show, don't tell. Perhaps there are still visual ways that the future selves could show us (and Justin) how bad the future will be, but as it is, those scenes are lifeless because they're just talking heads. The audience will not be persuaded by words alone. They need to SEE how bad the future will be in order to go along with it. C) This concept also forces you to include implausible elements in the stories told by the future selves in order to setup the resolution (like the "Independent Temporal Stasis Bubble"), which makes those scenes even less convincing. This also undermines your support of Justin in the end because he so gullibly fell for it all. You want to say to him, "You moron, how could you fall for that?" The answer, of course, is that he's such a sci fi geek, but still. Undermining an audience's support of the protag is risky business. D) Most audience members, I believe, would feel overly manipulated because they suspended a lot of disbelief to go along with this rather implausible tale only to have the rug pulled out from underneath them in the end by declaring it all a hoax. They paid to see a movie about this concept and wanted to go on this concept's ride.

* LACK OF TENSION & SUSPENSE. This is my biggest complaint. There is not one shred of tension throughout this entire script, which is a fatal flaw in a story about an assassin. An assassin story must have suspense. And what few assassination attempts we saw, it was all so very straightforward in its execution, no pun intended. The girl goes to the place, sets up the gun, kills the man, and goes home. Yawn. In reality, it's dangerous and there are many ways an assassination can go wrong and the assassin captured. In these sequences, you were so busy trying to work through the plot that you forgot to make it exciting for the audience. The question you should be asking yourself is, "how can I wring as much suspense as I can out of this sequence to make it exciting for the audience?" Introduce uncontrollable elements into a situation. Did you see Spielberg's Munich? Remember the sequence with the bomb in the phone and the little girl that went back home to get her book? BTW - this moment with Sondra shooting Nicholas could've been the most nail-biting sequence in the entire script but it happened so quickly and without much setup. Given enough care, it could've been great. You need to drag out that suspense as much as possible. Study Hitchcock.

I'm reminded of an article called
Suspense as Morality, Probability, and Imagination by film scholar David Bordwell who wrote: "The most influential current theory of suspense in narrative is put forth by Noël Carroll. The original statement of it can be found in 'Toward a Theory of Film Suspense' in his book Theorizing the Moving Image. Carroll proposes that suspense depends on our forming tacit questions about the story as it unfolds. Among other things, we ask how plausible certain outcomes are and how morally worthy they are. For Carroll, the reader or viewer feels suspense as a result of estimating, more or less intuitively, that the situation presents a morally undesirable outcome that is strongly probable. When the plot indicates that an evil character will probably fail to achieve his or her end, there isn’t much suspense. Likewise, when a good character is likely to succeed, there isn’t much suspense. But we do feel suspense when it seems that an evil character is likely to succeed, or that a good character is likely to fail."

And there is, of course,
Hitchcock's bomb theory: “There is a clear difference between surprise and suspense […]. We are sitting here and having an innocent conversation. Let us assume that there is a bomb under this table between us. […] suddenly there is a loud boom and the bomb goes off. The audience is surprised, but before this surprise they have only seen a very ordinary scene without any significance. Let us instead look at a suspense scene. The bomb is under the table and the audience is aware of this because they have seen the anarchist plant it there. They also know that the bomb will go off at one o’clock, and up on the wall is a clock showing that the time is now quarter to one […]. In the first scene we have given the audience 15 seconds of surprise […] but in the last scene we have given them fifteen minutes of suspense.”

However, I loved what John Carpenter said in the book
John Carpenter: Prince of Darkness (as quoted in an article called Alternatives to Suspense): "I always thought that you could also have another effect on the audience if you blow the table up suddenly. If you do it suddenly, everything after that is changed a little bit. You won't trust the movie anymore, and you will have doubts about what you think it will do. So you have a different level of suspense." Exactly. Our friend, Joshua James, alluded to this idea when he wrote (in a contribution to my suspense blog-a-thon) a piece on the gunfight at the train station in The Untouchables. One of the many elements that made that sequence work was the fact that we, as an audience, were worried about the baby in the carriage because earlier in the film, we saw a little girl blow-up outside the neighborhood bar, so we know it's possible the baby in the carriage may very well die. As Bordwell wrote, in scenes filled with immense suspense, we calculate in our minds how plausible are certain outcomes…

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Screenwriting News & Links! 12/23/08

Hey guys,




New Screenplays!

Twilight - casting sides from script by Melissa Rosenberg

Sex and the City - November 4, 2007 draft by Michael Patrick King

RocknRolla - June 19, 2007 shooting script by Guy Richie

Frozen River - undated draft by Courtney Hunt

The Reader - undated draft by David Hare

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - October 30, 2007 revised draft by Eric Roth

Kung Fu Panda - June 3, 2008 final draft script by Jonathan Aibel & Glenn Berger

(Hat-tip to


MM in the news:

Mystery Man still missing after bridge fall
Umm, I’m right here.

Mystery Man still wanted after poppy box thefts
In that case, go look under that bridge.

Mystery Man helps foil knife robbery
Very true except for that part about wearing a fluorescent coat.

Mystery Man blamed for gruesome Tijuana deaths
Oh, puh-lease. I’m a lover, not a killer.

Mystery Man donates loads of groceries to food bank
Eh, Thanksgiving leftovers.

Eric Roth lost millions to Bernard Madoff
[Eric] Roth was nominated Thursday for a Golden Globe award as screenwriter of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. And that same day, he learned that he lost all his retirement money to Bernard Madoff's alleged $50-billion Ponzi scheme.

James Cameron remakes Forbidden Planet?

Putin takes charge of local film industry
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is taking personal charge of progress in the development of the country's film industry as chairman of the government council on the progress of domestic cinematography, unveiled Monday. Putin will "personally supervise" government initiatives to support the film industry, according to the Russian federal press service… Russian reaction to the new council was muted. One experienced Russian film industryite told Daily Variety, "As usual, nothing good will come of it."

That Sound You Hear is All the Screenwriter’s Killing Themselves
By now you’ve no doubt heard about that 9 year old boy who got that book deal with Harper Collins. It’s all the wittisisms that a 9 year old boy can dish out on how to pick up girls. I’m not sure which one of his parents has something over one of the execs at the publisher or may have found an Ashley Madison partner that works over there, but something is definitely going on with that deal. And now, to rub salt in the wounds of all you unpublished screenwriters….Twentieth Century Fox just optioned the rights to turn the books (yes, there’s going to be 4 of them) into a movie.

“Plot. It builds character” t-shirt for screenwriters

Money 101 for Screenwriters
Don’t quit your job right away. Even if you sell a spec for $200K, it will be months before you see a cent. The studio will sit on your contract as lawyers exchange pencil notes about things you can’t believe aren’t boilerplate. When I was hired for my first job, it took almost four months before I got a paycheck. I was living off of money from a novelization, but when that ran out, I had to ask my mom for help paying rent. Nearly every screenwriter I speak with has a similar story — you’re never as broke as when you first start making money.

Germaine Greet trashes Australia
The scale of the disaster that is Baz Luhrmann’s Australia is gradually becoming apparent. When the film was released in Australia in November it found the odd champion, none more conspicuous than Marcia Langton, professor of Australian indigenous studies at Melbourne University, who frothed and foamed in the Age newspaper about this "fabulous, hyperbolic film". Luhrmann has "given Australians a new past", she gushed, "a myth of national origin that is disturbing, thrilling, heartbreaking, hilarious and touching". Myths are by definition untrue. Langton knows the truth about the northern cattle industry but evidently sees as her duty to ignore it, and welcome a fraudulent and misleading fantasy in its place, possibly because the fantasy is designed to promote the current government policy of reconciliation, of which she is a chief proponent.

Baz Luhrmann defends Australia
"You look at movies like Gone With the Wind and Old Hollywood classics, and they don't fit in any box....No large-scale movie doesn't have warts, just by its nature."

In the vid below, the audience members scream “murderer!” as Steven Soderbergh talks about Che

8 Most Ridiculous Plots of 2008
Wait, so the Joker really orchestrated that big truck chase just so that he could get caught and go to prison, then he could kidnap that guard and grab his phone to make the call to set off the bomb he'd previously sewn inside the henchman in the next cell? That would kill the guy who stole the mobsters' money, thus enabling him to … er, what? Heath Ledger's Joker may have been a psychopath, but he had a nerdish capacity for forward planning.

Frost/Nixon A Dishonorable Distortion of History
First of all, the whole arrangement between Frost and Nixon was dubious from the outset. While the script is straightforward about the fact that under their agreement Nixon was to be paid for the interviews (a then-whopping $600,000), a highly unusual arrangement, it omits the even more questionable part of the deal in which Nixon was guaranteed twenty percent of the profits from the sales of the interviews to television stations. Thus, the two purported gladiators were in business together, with a mutual interest in making the interviews interesting enough to make a nice profit. The deal also guaranteed that only one-fourth of the time would be devoted to Watergate, leaving Nixon the rest to ramble on about his foreign policy achievements - which in his mind included the invasion of Cambodia. To further disguise the degree to which the interview project was essentially a fix, the script of both the play and the movie simply leaves out the episode in which, after Nixon returned to his dressing room during a sudden break in the taping of the Watergate segment - the break misrepresented in the script as having been called for by Nixon aides worried their boss was becoming uncomfortable, whereas it was actually called for by Frost because he misread a cue card held up by the Nixon aides saying "Let him talk" - Nixon aide Jack Brennan (Kevin Bacon) told Frost's frustrated aides, "He knows he has to go further. He's got more to volunteer." These lines appear in neither the play nor the movie.

Peter Morgan re-tackles Tony Blair
Frost/Nixon playwright and screenwriter Peter Morgan is lining up his directorial debut, a film that would be the third movie in the Tony Blair trilogy launched in 2003 by Stephen Frears' British TV movie The Deal and followed by The Queen. Deal tracked the rise of Tony Blair, played by Michael Sheen. Frears and Sheen then reteamed for The Queen, which also starred Helen Mirren in her Oscar-winning turn. Morgan earned an Oscar nom for best original screenplay on the pic as well. The third movie, tentatively titled The Special Relationship, will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy and will again star Frost/Nixon thesp Sheen as Tony Blair.

Battle of Hastings to be Hollywood film
Three rival films are being made about the Battle of Hastings, after being overlooked by the film industry for decades.

The ABCs of a possible SAG strike

WGA Hopes You Won't Remember Who Directed The Dark Knight

Madea creator Tyler Perry faces Marshall law
Under copyright law, West was required to show that her play and Perry's film are substantially similar and that Perry had access to her work, so she argued among other things that the titles are similar, both are tales of divorce among black couples and both feature a scene involving an abusive man becoming paralyzed. On the access issue, West claimed she performed the play three times in 1991 in a Dallas theater and that the theater's manager could have slipped it to Perry in 1998 when he presented his plays there.

The Phantom Reboot Coming?
Screenwriter Tim Boyle has updated his MySpace page with some new information that this project is not a sequel, but a reboot of the original film. He gave a quick update on the film, which will be titled Phantom: Legacy, which you can read... Now that we've sort of got those 'Sequel' rumors under control, I guess I can start talking about what we're doing and where the project is at. First of all, I've got to say - this is a very exciting time. Being able to bring the first masked comic superhero back to the big screen is an absolute honor. I've been researching The Phantom intensely for the last year or so and I've been working with the support of King Features Syndicate to try and bring you the tightest possible film. Yes, this is a new look at the comic book hero, but rest assured - He wont be 'heavily gadget man' (as that is another comic book hero named Batman) and he wont be an 'angry mob killer' (as 'The Punisher' -Frank Castle has been made into a film 3 times - remember the Dolph Lundgren film - that too was shot in Australia... old skool). He will be, without doubt 'The Phantom'. A man who has sworn an oath to protect - but at what cost?

Valkyrie writer, Tom Cruise re-team
Valkyrie co-writer and producer Christopher McQuarrie is fast becoming a go-to guy for Tom Cruise. The scribe is now working on three post-Valkyrie projects designed as potential star vehicles for the actor. New Regency has set McQuarrie and Mason Alley to write Flying Tigers, based on the volunteer fighter squadron formed to help the Chinese fight the Japanese before the U.S. entered World War II.. McQuarrie also is writing and producing with Guillermo del Toro the previously announced United Artists project The Champions, penning the script with an eye toward hammering it into a Cruise vehicle. The British TV series transfer concerns a team of government agents rescued from a plane crash in the Himalayas by an advanced civilization and given superhuman abilities... But the Cruise-McQuarrie collaboration with the most urgency is Spyglass espionage drama The Tourist. McQuarrie is rewriting for Cruise to star with Charlize Theron in the Bharat Nalluri-directed remake of the 2005 French thriller Anthony Zimmer. Julian Fellowes originally scripted the redo.

Oscar Winner Takes On Salt Script
Brian Helgeland isn't the kind of screenwriter most moviegoers know by name-- but then again, how many screenwriters can anyone really name? But even if he flies under the radar, he's one of the bigger ones out there, having won an Oscar for writing L.A. Confidential as well as writing the words of Mystic River, A Knight's Tale and Conspiracy Theory. Now he's bringing his expertise to Salt, that spy project that was once about a man named Edwin Salt played by Tom Cruise, and now is Angelina Jolie playing Evelyn Salt. Moviehole says Sony has hired Helgeland to give the Salt script a pass, specifically to improve on the dialogue. Apparently Sony has a lot riding on Salt as a potential franchise-starter, getting Jolie away from "serious movie" mode and more into the ass-kicking role that made her famous.

Roger Avary Pleaded Not Guilty

Interview: The Wrestler Screenwriter Robert Siegel
"The Onion was a huge influence on my screenwriting, in that we had to crank out material every 7 days, so you couldn't really be precious about your writing," Siegel said last week at a junket for The Wrestler. "I have this hack writer kind of mentality-- I mean hack writer in a complimentary sense. You have to bang out a certain amount of copy whether the inspiration is there or not."

Simon Beaufoy writing for The Guardian
Only when he got lost in the slums of Mumbai did Simon Beaufoy understand what his latest script needed to be. He recalls the breathtaking inspiration for Slumdog Millionaire

Terry Gilliam Remembers Heath Ledger
In terms of his acting, it still rankles with me that he's dead because he would have been streets ahead of anyone else in his generation. He just kept getting better and better. He was fearless. On Parnassus, he was improvising all the time and it was better than what we had written. I don't normally encourage that kind of improvisation, but in a sense I felt Heath was writing this film. He was an incredibly funny performer when he wanted to be - his comic timing was just extraordinary - and then he could break your heart the next minute.

Web TV shows come of age
Now, two and a half years since LonelyGirl15 first appeared, web series are the hottest new format in Hollywood. No longer amateurish or user-generated in feel, the latest crop of webisodes are slick productions. Many boast celebrity involvement. In recent months, for example, web series have been launched by Ashton Kutcher (Blahgirls, an animated gossip site for girls), Stephen Colbert (Children's Hospital, a Grey's Anatomy spoof starring Will & Grace's Megan Mullally), and Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane (Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy, a cartoon sketch show). Also in the pipeline are projects from Josh Schwartz (creator of Gossip Girl and The OC), the Coen brothers and film directors Bryan Singer and David Lynch. In the United States, all the leading studios have digital arms (including HBOlab, Warner Bros' Studio 2.0 and Sony's Crackle) which produce spin-off web series from mainstream shows (such as The Wire and Gossip Girl) as well as original content.

The 100 Proof Film Guide

Hemingway’s Tip for Would-Be Writers
I very much enjoyed Alexander Theroux's Dec. 9 review of "The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. III," offering conversations with writers from the 1950s. But my favorite quote is in Vol. I of the series, from George Plimpton's interview with Ernest Hemingway in the Spring 1958 edition of the Paris Review in which Mr. Plimpton asked, "What would you consider the best intellectual training for the would-be writer?" To which Mr. Hemingway replied, "Let's say that he should go out and hang himself because he finds that writing well is impossibly difficult. Then he should be cut down without mercy and forced by his own self to write as well as he can for the rest of his life. At least he will have the story of the hanging to commence with."

UK Copyright Issues for Writers

Local screenwriter's dream finally comes true
Last year -- Aug. 8 to be exact, coincidentally Thompson's birthday -- he got an e-mail from an agency to which he had submitted "Born of Earth." He was playing guitar and hanging out with some friends when he read it. They wanted to buy his script. "My knees buckled," he said. "I printed it out and I ran around and showed all my friends. I still feel like a kid thinking about it."

A Wretch Like Joe Eszterhas
At his career zenith, screenwriter Joe Eszterhas wrote lines like these for his characters: "The Farmer in the Dell, The Farmer in the Dell, I had a cherry once, and now it's gone to hell," and "come back when you've f***ed some of this baby fat off. See ya." Now, in what can only be called a spiritual memoir, Eszterhas is writing his own lines, "How ya doin', God? Haven't seen you in a while," and — addressing the Lord again — "I'm sorry. I've acted like a colossal A-hole. I'm really really sorry. I don't deserve to be forgiven, but please try to forgive me." The screenwriter who gave us Sharon Stone's uncrossing legs in Basic Instinct had contracted throat cancer, and later, Christianity. Now he is crossing himself, hoping not to die.

Brian Goodman: Dark Past, Brighter Future
Since he gave up drinking, Goodman has transformed himself from an ex-con to a noted character actor in such films as The Last Castle, Annapolis and Munich. And now, he can add screenwriter and feature director to his list of accomplishments. His first film, What Doesn't Kill You, a gritty, semi-autobiographical look at his life of crime starring Mark Ruffalo as his reel counterpart, opened Friday for one-week theatrical run to qualify for awards consideration. Ethan Hawke plays Paulie, a partner in crime of Ruffalo's character.

Why Screenplay Contests Matter

Another John Patrick Shanley Interview
I was really curious about the different mindset that goes into writing something specifically for a film or for the stage. Obviously, it's a very different process for getting a film made, and it costs a lot more money than getting it on Broadway or getting some actors together to do a play. It must involve a different mindset as a writer as well.
Right, the thing is that modern theater is different than theater was forty years ago, because there is less money in the theater than there used to be and as a result, you employ fewer actors to tell a story. The sort of new ideal is to write a play that has a Japanese bone-like simplicity to it and to tell an elaborate tale using only like three or four or five people. Certainly that's the case with Doubt. There's only four characters in the play, and that's it. But what happens is when you take a play like that and it's time to turn it into a film, it makes it a much tougher nut to crack initially than plays of previous years. If you take a play Of Mice and Men or Stalag 17 or A Streetcar Named Desire or A Miracle Worker – if you go back and look at those, there's like twenty people in the play. So that when you go to open it up, it already has a certain scope to it, and by the time you get to the late '80s or into the '90s, the plays most of the time have very few characters. Most of those plays when they're turned into films fail, because you really have to go back and break the hypnotic spell you put yourself under as a playwright to convince yourself that this was the best way to tell the story, which was to leave everybody out. (laughs) Once you break that spell, then you could go ahead and open the thing up in a meaningful way, but you really do have to re-conceive the way you thought about your film. You have to look at the story itself simply from the characters and think about, "How do I tell this story in an organic way rather than using these extreme restrictions that I work under in the theater?" This extreme artifice is now removed, and then you realize things like when you're doing "Doubt"... "Oh, I guess you know, this kid that they're fighting over, he has to be in the movie." (laughs) And in the play, there's no kids at all.

Watchmen and the demise of superhero cinema
It is this newly cynical, hardened cinema into which Watchmen will be born, and there is perhaps no better example of how a superhero comic – some bright ink drawings on a page, accompanied by scraps of spoken and written words – can encapsulate all the personal, political and international complexities of modern life. Much like Pixar’s canny The Incredibles, Watchmen begins in a world in which superheroes have played their part and have now become a dangerous, unpredictable liability; with a growing nuclear threat from the Soviet Union, the incumbent Richard Nixon-led government cannot afford to be accountable for impulsive, unregulated heroes. As a result, they have been banned by the Keene Act and must either conscript to governmental service or find new roles in society. When The Comedian (the alias of a member of a former superhero team) is mysteriously murdered, other former members of the team – led by the sinister vigilante Rorschach – suspect they are being targeted and covertly reunite. The crux of the story’s moral dilemma comes in the form of Ozymandias, a former superhero who has become the world’s wealthiest man, and whose utilitarian principles fuel the novel’s perplexing, terrifying finale.

Ordinary People, Big Dramas
Portrayals of extraordinary people in extraordinary circumstances -- from Queen Elizabeth and Edith Piaf to plutocrat Daniel Plainview -- regularly and readily get award attention, filling the bigscreen as the protagonists chew on momentous events and (quite often) all available scenery. But 2008's roster of screenwriting hopefuls include several films that embrace the commonplace: ordinary folks confronting everyday, but no less grave, concerns of food, shelter and social intercourse. "I know, in my whole body, that life is so full of adventure, and there's a lot of heroism going on with people staying in their homes," says Frozen River scribe-helmer Courtney Hunt. "The challenge is to have elements of danger and risk without becoming melodramatic."

Scribe attached to new Jack Ryan pic
Screenwriter Hossein Amini has been hired to tackle a new Jack Ryan movie for Paramount Pictures. The erstwhile intelligence analyst and all-American do-gooder created by novelist Tom Clancy has not appeared onscreen since 2002's The Sum of All Fears. Mace Neufeld and Lorenzo Di Bonaventura are producing the project for Paramount. Spider-Man director Sam Raimi was on the hook to direct and produce a new Ryan installment, but his packed schedule made his involvement unworkable... Amini is best known for his literary adaptations of Henry James, Thomas Hardy and Elmore Leonard. His new Ryan film is planned as an origin story, not derived from Clancy's novels and ultimately featuring a new, younger star.

The Physics of Kirk’s Star Trek Car Jump
The car is traveling about 32 meters per second off the cliff. Kirk is moving at an estimated speed of 28 m/s towards the cliff edge. Of course, the Popular Science article uses all sorts of complicated equations to figure this out (some of which are seen in the photo above). The conclusion is that James T. Kirk would have to exert a force of almost 900 pounds with his fingers to stop from being flung over the precipice. This would probably be impossible for most humans, but of course — not for Captain Kirk. You can read the whole physics calculation over on PopSci.com.

Bob Orci Explains How The New Star Trek Movie Fits With Trek Canon (and Real Science)
So even though some things, most notably Kirk himself, are on a different path (for example he doesn’t go to the Farragut after the Academy), he still ends up on the Enterprise with Scotty, Uhura, Chekov, Spock, etc. Are you saying there is some kind of ‘entropy’ perhaps? So even though some things are different, they gravitate towards some kind of center point?
Yes. If you look at quantum mechanics and you learn about the fact that our most successful theory of science is quantum mechanics, and the fact that it deals with probabilities of events happening. And that the most probable events tend to happen more often and that one of the subsets of that theory is the many universe theory. Data said this [in "
Parallels"], he summed up quantum mechanics as the theory that "all possibilities that can happen do happen" in a parallel universe. According to theory, there are going to be a much larger number of universes in which events are very closely related, because those are the most probable configurations of things. Inherent in quantum mechanics there is sort of reverse entropy, which is what you were trying to say, in which the universe does tend to want to order itself in a certain way. This is not something we are making up; this is something we researched, in terms of the physical theory. So yes, there is an element of the universe trying to hold itself together.

Writing Scripts Takes Commitment - Who knew?

Hot Tub Machine Writer Speaks Out
First of all, yes, Jason Heald is a typo (thanks Hollywood Reporter). My name is Josh Heald. [He had a bit part in Harold & Kumar earlier this year, as seen above.] As for the screenplay -- without patting myself on the back, Hot Tub Time Machine is probably the greatest gift anyone's ever given the world. Time will show that it ranks up there with the Statue of Liberty and free Internet porn.


On the Contest Circuit

Screenplay Festival Announces Semifinalists

IP Screenwriting Contest Announces Finalists

WriteSafe Announces Contest Winners

PAGE Award Winners in the News

WriteSafe Announces Finalists

Cinema City Announces Screenplay Winners

Script Savvy Announces October, 2008 Contest Winners

WriteSafe Announces Semifinalists


And Finally…

Peter and Bobby Farrelly Interview