Category Archives: movies

David Mamet’s Memo on Writing Drama

A few years ago, David Mamet wrote this memo to the writers of the crime drama, The Unit. Mamet gives good advice to these writers. It’s good to see that all of us struggle from time to time with our writing, even professional writers. I don’t write fiction, but the general premise is the same. Here’s the core of Mamet’s teaching:  

WE, THE WRITERS, MUST ASK OURSELVES OF EVERY SCENE THESE THREE QUESTIONS.

1) WHO WANTS WHAT?
2) WHAT HAPPENS IF HER DON’T GET IT?
3) WHY NOW?

START, EVERY TIME, WITH THIS INVIOLABLE RULE: THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC. it must start because the hero HAS A PROBLEM, AND IT MUST CULMINATE WITH THE HERO FINDING HIM OR HERSELF EITHER THWARTED OR EDUCATED THAT ANOTHER WAY EXISTS.

ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

 

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED

THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

 

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

I get really bored with exposition instead of drama. I don’t now if I realized that before, but as Mamet explains, scenes have to be dramatic and exposition isn’t dramatic. 

My Avatar review in three bullets

  • The 3D visuals were fantastic and that makes it worth seeing.
  • The story was terrible. It’s Dances with Wolves in space. It’s that boring and that predictable. But this characterization might be a little off. As Adam Kempenaar wrote, “My favorite part of AVATAR was when the ewoks used their slingshots to beat the stormtroopers.”  Well said Adam.
  • If this movie wins the Oscar for Best Picture, it will be the worst movie ever to win Best Picture.

The Explainer: Roman Polanski edition

The Explainer at Slate does a good job of explaining how Roman Polanksi came to be arrested in Switzerland.

So what did Polanski do? In 1977, when Polanski was 44, he raped a 13 year old girl in the California home of Jack Nicholson. 

Why was he arrested now? Because prosecutors in California asked the Swiss to arrest him. It probably ticked off the prosecutors when Polanksi tried to have the charges against him dropped last December and they reacted by asking the Swiss to arrest him. The U.S. never asked the French to extradite Polanksi because the French (and the U.S. in the opposite case) can refuse to extradite a citizen.  

Why did Polanski flee? All sides in the case thought that Polanski would only get probation and not be forced to serve jail time. But the judge, who engaged in some “ex parte communications” (communications with someone not involved in the case) decided that Polanski should serve some jail time. When the judge told Polanki’s attorney that he was considering jail time, Polanski fled.

This review makes me want to see the new Transformers movie

A reviewer on Io9 writes:

So, to sum up: Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen is one of the greatest achievements in the history of cinema, if not the greatest. You could easily argue that cinema, as an artform, has all been leading up to this. It will destabilize your limbic system, probably forever, and make you doubt the solidity of your surroundings. Generations of auteurs have struggled, in vain, to create a cinematic experience as overwhelming, and as liberating, as ROTF.

Women as well as men, everyone watching this film will feel the dissolution of all their certainties, all their illusory grasp on the world… but after you fall into a brazen despair that the walls of reality have become toxic ice cream of a million flavors, you will gasp with a greater realization: that once the world is reduced, forever, to a kaleidoscope of whirling shapes, you are totally free. Nothing matters, effect precedes cause, fish spawn in mid-air, and you can do whatever you want. Let yourself go in your adult diaper, Michael Bay invites you. Feel the music of total excess stir inside your deepest core. It is your Allspark, your cube. And you are a Transformer.

Star Wars, Star Trek, The Matrix, and Harry Potter are Actually the Same Movie

 

The Plot:

tatooine

Once upon a time, Luke | Kirk | Neo | Harry was living a miserable life. Feeling disconnected from his friends and family, he dreams about how his life could be different. One day, he is greeted by Obi Wan | Captain Pike | Trinity | Hagrid and told that his life is not what it seems, and that due to some circumstances surrounding his birth | birth | birth | infancy he was meant for something greater.

And the story continues at Spiteful Critic

Columbia Pictures Scraps the Movie Version of Moneyball

I really liked MIchael Lewis’ Moneyball. It tells the story of how Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane used advanced statistics to field good teams while spending a small fraction of the money spent by teams like the New York Yankees. The book is interesting, but it’s about statistics, not drama.

I was surprised to hear that a movie version of the book was in the works.  I couldn’t understand how it would work as a movie. And now it turns out that Columbia Pictures doesn’t understand either, even after greenlighting the film.  Columbia got cold feet on just before shooting was supposed