Now that this year’s Oscar nominees have been announced, I need to get my butt to the theater to catch the rest of the movies I haven’t seen yet (at present, I’m only about 1/4 there.) To that end, I typed up a handy checklist of the movies that were nominated in the categories I watch: Best Picture, the Acting categories, Cinematography, Directing, Editing, and Writing (no surprise that the categories I watch doubles as a list of the things that I do & want to get better at.) No commentary in this post, just more of a “to do” list.
Full list of nominations can be found here.
Off course a few days after I make a post about how the best news about the upcoming The Dark Knight Risesis that it will be shot in 2D, they go and make an announcement about the cast. So I have no choice but to fanboy out and talk about that too.
The rumors had been floating around for a while that Catwoman would be in the movie, so there’s been plenty of speculation about who would be donning the skintight latex. And I’ve gotta say, I love the choice of Anne Hathaway. As far as beauty & talent go amongst young actresses, she’s tough to top (see Rachel Getting Married.)
Outside of the costume, I think she’ll make a great Selina Kyle. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman was great in its own right, but it didn’t quite sync up with the Catwoman I know from the comics. My guess is that Nolan’s Catwoman is going to be closer to that found in Batman Year One. By actually being Selina Kyle, it’s already guaranteed to be leaps and bounds above the Halle Berry atrocity.
The other casting news is that Tom Hardy will be playing Bane, and this is the one that’s got me really excited. I loved him in Inception, and Knightfall is one of my favorite Batman story arcs. The biggest challenge that Bane poses is that, unfortunately, most moviegoers identify him with the brainless thug from Batman & Robin (a movie that, like Catwoman, is best forgotten.)
In truth, Bane is a brilliant tactician, and one of Batman’s more worthy adversaries, both in strength and intellect. I mean come on, Bane broke Batman’s back and took him out of action for a nice long time. You don’t do that by being a mindless thug. With Nolan’s Batman world being somewhat more realistic than the comics or the older Batman movies, I’m curious to see how they treat the Venom drug that Bane uses to amp up his strength.
My friend NeoKefka brought up a good point on his blog, that Bane is a great choice because he poses a significant physical threat to Batman, whereas Scarecrow & the Joker were both mental guys. It also takes the movie in a different direction, which was necessary after Heath Ledger’s iconic take on the Joker.
July 20, 2012. Get here faster.
I just heard the best piece of news ever concerning the final movie in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It’s not that a certain villain will be in it. It’s not that a particular actor has been cast. No, it’s something far better than that: The Dark Knight Rises will not be shot in 3D.
I, for one, am sick to death of 3D. I don’t mind it so much in movies like Avatar or Up, where it just adds a little depth to the scenes. But that’s about all it does. It doesn’t further immerse you in the world of the movie. If anything, it takes me out of it with the constant reminder that I’m wearing a stupid pair of plastic glasses. I don’t hate it when it’s done in this way, but it’s hardly worth paying an extra $4 for a little unnecessary depth and bad fashion.
More than movies that are converted to 3D in post, what I really don’t like are movies that are shot specifically for the gimmick of 3D. I saw Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3D and it was terrible! I at least enjoyed the other Resident Evil movies, but with Afterlife you could pick out exactly which scenes were conceived and shot with 3D in mind. It was just distracting. I don’t need axes and bullets coming straight at me to enjoy a movie (although if I’m going to be honest, I certainly didn’t mind Ali Larter’s breasts coming at me in 3D.) Sure, you get to throw 3D after the title of the movie, but the problem is that once its theatrical run is over, it goes to DVD & cable. And all those shots that looked so cool in 3D on the big screen just look bad when you’re watching them in 2D on your TV. Seeing as that’s where the majority of people are going to watch any given movie, it just makes for bad cinematography.
3D as a gimmick is nothing new. There were a number of 3D movies that came out in the 80s with those red & blue paper glasses, but it was just a gimmick; it went away. I’m not saying today’s 3D isn’t an improvement over the old, because it is. But I still only see it being truly effective when the movie uses 3D for what it is: A gimmick. At least with something like Piranha 3D or Jackass 3D, you know what you’re in for.
Maybe I’m just old school (or stubborn & crotchedy), but I like my movies in two dimensions. I don’t want 3D encroaching on movies that can get by just fine without it. And with ticket prices higher than ever, if I’m going to pay a few extra bucks for a ticket it’ll be to see it in IMAX, not 3D.
My Netflix Instant Queue is packed. When I say that, what I really mean is that it’s at the 500 movie limit, because anytime I see a movie pop up in recommendations that looks like it might be interesting, I add it. It also means that a lot of the movies I end up watching are the ones that are set be removed from Instant Watch.
Yesterday, that movie was Ink (2009). I hadn’t heard anything about it, but the description intrigued me:
Late one night, a lost soul named Ink snatches 8-year-old Emma into the world of dreams. There, he hopes to use her soul to join the ranks of the evil Incubi. In the real world, Emma lies comatose, to the despair of her father, John. But the Incubi’s benevolent opposites — the Storytellers — rally to help Emma, motivating John to wage war for his daughter.
To be perfectly honest, when I added it I thought it might be an anime. Turns out, it was a really well done indie film. Moreover, it was a great example of how much you can do on a small budget. The movie only cost $250,000 to make, but if it had been made by a major studio, that number could have easily soared to $25 million by ramping up the effects.
Creative storytelling trumps just about anything in my book, including millions of dollars in special effects. And I loved the way this story was told, going back and forth between parallel worlds. The story was intriguing and touching, and the acting was really solid as well.
Now, that’s not to say the movie lacked special effects; in fact, it had some really cool ones. The Incubi looked completely badass, and the fight scenes were pretty sweet. There were a lot of nice little touches here & there that added a lot to the atmosphere.
According to IMDB, the filmmakers were unable to get a distributor, so instead they self-released in indie cinemas and on DVD/Blu-ray. But what I think is really cool is that they embraced piracy; the movie was downloaded over 400,000 times in a single week on torrent sites, which led to higher DVD/Blu-ray sales.
I went down to the Atlanta Film Festival today for the “Screenwriting for a Living” discussion as part of the Coffeehouse Conversations series. The guests were Robert Orr (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans), Tom Luse, and Ray McKinnon (Oscar winning VSU alum who came to speak at the school a few years ago.) It was fun and really informative. Here are some of the notes I took:
The Business Side
While preparing to write my current screenplay, Once Bit, I watched a lot of other movies in the Domestic Monster in the House genre (Fatal Attraction, Single White Female, The Cable Guy, etc.) However, now that I’m actually in the thick of it, one thing became apparent to me: It’s difficult for me to write something as purely horror or thriller. I always end up throwing humor in there. In the case of something like this, it’s not that I’m turning it into a comedy, it’s just that I’m keeping it somewhat light, at least at the beginning. I assume it goes back to the fact that I’m also a comedian, but beyond that my favorite movies & TV shows are the ones that don’t stick purely into one genre. Joss Whedon is my hero, in part because he is so good at making you be tense in your seat one minute, laughing your ass off the next, close to tears moments later, and then cheering like crazy. To me, that’s entertainment. It’s a roller coaster ride, and I absolutely love it.
Back to my point. As I started writing, I realized that the beginning of my script bore a lot of resemblance to the first act of a romantic comedy. And that makes sense, because much of my story is the nightmare version of the “boy meets girl” situation. But what had me worried was that the tone was also more akin to a romantic comedy than a thriller. On the one hand, I kinda like this juxtaposition, but I was questioning whether or not it could work. Then I remembered a film that I felt did this quite well: Red Eye.
If you didn’t know that it was directed by Wes Craven and hadn’t seen any trailers for it, you might start off thinking you were watching a romantic comedy. It’s funny, it’s cute, and there’s some awesome chemistry between Rachel McAdams and Cillian Murphy. It’s not until the Break Into Two that the shit really hits the fan and we see exactly what kind of world we’re in. I found that this mirrored my intentions with Once Bit, so I decided to rewatch the movie a couple times and better analyze its structure, using the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet (BS2) from “Save the Cat.”
Movie: Red Eye (2005)
Genre: Dude With a Problem
Writer: Carl Ellsworth
Director: Wes Craven
Logline: Terrified of flying, Lisa reluctantly hops a red-eye flight bound for Miami and buckles up for a bumpy ride. But her phobia morphs into terror when she learns that a fellow passenger has plans to murder the deputy secretary of Homeland Security.
I’m fairly certain that as an actor/writer/filmmaker, I’m legally obligated to make a blog post giving my two cents on the Oscars, regardless of how insignificant those pennies may be (in other words, I was looking for an excuse to write something.) So here we go!
I was saddened recently to learn of the passing of Blake Snyder, author of the Save the Cat series of screenwriting books. I had read other books on screenwriting before, most notably Syd Field’s Screenplay, which is the basis for modern screenwriting, and Viki King’s How to Write a Movie in 21 Days, which took Field’s ideas and expanded on them, but it wasn’t until I read Save the Cat that things really made sense. It’s a bit cliche, but it really felt like someone flipped a light switch in my brain and suddenly I could see the skeleton structure that underlies a good movie. Since then, Save the Cat, has become my screenwriting Bible, the book I always go back to and whose rules I try to adhere to. That’s not to say I take it as “the unbreakable gospel,” because there are certainly some things I disagree with (Memento is a good movie, damnit!), but as a whole it has become thoroughly ingrained into me with the way I write and look at movies.
More than just structure, it has completely changed the way I look at movie genres. No longer am I confined to such terms as comedy, action, or sci-fi! Sure they may tell you something about the tone of the movie, but they say nothing of the actual story being told. Now when I watch a movie or begin to write one, I instead ask myself whether the movie is an Out of the Bottle or a Buddy Love, a Golden Fleece or a Rite of Passage. Blake broke each genre down into 10 categories (all with 5 subgenres), each of which is about the journey the hero must take, which makes a lot of sense when you get right down to it.
For instance, one of the scripts I’m working on right now is a comedy, but that doesn’t really tell me what movies I need to look at to study the structure and beats of how it should flow. I mean, there’s a big difference betweenWhen Harry Met Sally and Dodgeball; sure, both may be comedies, but they’re completely different types of comedy that tell two completely different stories. However, based on the STC genre it fits into (Issue subgenre of Institutionalized), I’ve found that I can learn far more about how to set up this particular script by looking at other films in that genre, most of which (Magnolia, Crash, Sin City) are certainly not comedies.
Right now I’ve got the section of wall over my desk taped off to represent The Board with a couple dozen notecards tacked up there, each containing information on various scenes for my current screenplay. It may look like a cluttered mess, but it’s a great way for me to see where my problem spots are, what may not be needed, or what would be best moved around. Besides, it’s really nice having something tactile to play around with.
I feel I owe a lot to Mr. Snyder and the works he put out before he passed. I wish I had been able to take one of his workshops to get feedback on my writing, because I’m sure that would have been immensely helpful. But instead, I’ll just give him a thank you for everything, and recommend the Save the Cat books to any writers out there, regardless of the medium.
Last night I was watching Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It was a cute little movie, and had some good moments (I loved the criminals who all did parkour, and their leader was just really fun to watch) but there was one glaring problem in my book. No, it wasn’t one of the several plot holes in the movie, such as how the daughter managed to just stroll into a mall that was supposedly surrounded by cops without realizing something was wrong; I can deal with that kind of thing, especially in this type of comedy flick. No, my problem with the movie didn’t come until the very end, and it’s very simple:
Not every movie needs to have a twist ending!
Now, I know this movie is a Die Hard spoof, and it may have been a play off of the end of Die Hard 2, but frankly I don’t consider that an excuse. There really was no reason to have the leader of the SWAT team turn bad for all of one minute before being taken down at the end of the movie. It felt like one of those “Oooh! Oooh! Here’s something else we can do!” things that the writer decided to throw in there at the last minute to push it over the 90 minute mark. Why? For an extra little punch? To cement him as a douchebag? To give the old mall cop who we don’t care about a moment of heroism?
Honestly, my beef with it isn’t that it doesn’t make sense, or that there was zero build-up or hint at the fact that there was anyone else involved. My problem is that it actually hurt the movie! A big theme throughout the film was Paul Blart not getting respect from anyone, especially law enforcement officials. So when he was in the van with the SWAT leader and was actually paid a compliment, that should have been a big deal for our hero! It would have made for a much stronger final beat of the movie for Blart to have actually earned the respect of the big badass guy who had doubted his ability the whole time. Instead, this is sacrificed for a twist that frankly just doesn’t work.