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danielnoah
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Your Favorite Film

What's your favorite film? Cite only one.

Why is it your favorite? And what about it might you seek to emulate in your own work? Be as specific as you can.
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Brendan_M_Burns
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Re: Your Favorite Film

[ Edited ]
Tough question but... "Casablanca" has to top the list.

While it may suffer slightly upon repeated viewings due to some close-to-over-the-top character acting in some of the minor roles, the lead actors (Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, and Dooley Wilson) are pitch perfect.

The screenplay, in my humble opinion, is perfect.

How might I emulate it? By writing a perfect screenplay, of course! Short of the ability to do that, however, I can benefit from studying the way the movie establishes a distinct sense of place. There are really very few locations in the movie -- Rick's Café Americain (of course), Rick's room, the Prefect's Office, Ferrari's bar, the Laszlo's hotel room, Paris (in flashback), the airstrip, and a few various street/bazaar scenes. All seem to fit seamlessly together, and you never feel as though you are somewhere for no reason.

Message Edited by Brendan_M_Burns on 04-12-200704:11 PM

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danielnoah
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Casablanca

[ Edited ]
Good choice, Brendan. I like the way you ascribe the neatness of the screenplay to its limited locations - I think you're right on. Has this economy of location cropped up in your own stories? How so?

Message Edited by danielnoah on 04-12-200708:01 PM

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Brendan_M_Burns
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Re: Casablanca


danielnoah wrote:
Good choice, Brendan. I like the way you ascribe the neatness of the screenplay to its limited locations - I think you're right on. Has this economy of location cropped up in your own stories? How so?
Yes, it has, because my main focus has been stage plays, where you take a good deal of risk if you try to get too fancy with locations.

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I was working on a stage play set on an island off the coast of Seattle (could be off the coast of just about anywhere, but I liked Seattle for a host of reasons). My visualization of the play is that it takes place in just six locations -- the boat dock, the main room of the house, the kitchen, the dining room, the beach, and the decommissioned lighthouse. And given my budgetary constraints, the majority of the scenes would be "built" using a simple lighting scheme and background sound.

I realize that the compact feel in "Casablanca" has a lot to do with the fact that it was shot entirely on sound stages, but to my mind, this is actually a plus. I can't imagine changing anything in that regard (e.g., Ugarte jumping in a jeep to evade the police and taking off on a live-action 10-minute chase across the dunes...) and considering it an improvement.
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crAZRick
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HEAT

[ Edited ]
As a rule, I don't do 'Favorites' but for this group, I choose Michael Mann's HEAT. It's cops-and-robbers, but not 'basic' cops-and-robbers, more like 'graduate school, PhD cops-and-robbers' This is not a buddy-cop-movie, or a buddy-robber-movie; all these characters--on both sides of the law-- are cold, calculating professional loners. They are that way because of the jobs that they do, as much as they do the jobs they do because they are that way. It’s dark, gritty, raw and real, and the disparate and desperate mood of the cat-and-mouse caper is masterfully sustained throughout the film.

I think a huge part of what makes HEAT (as well as most Mann-made movies) work on so many levels is the fact that Michael Mann was 'The Mann behind the scenes'-- he wrote, produced and directed the film, so he saw it through each and every aspect of it's development. The movie was like his baby; he nurtured it, cared for it, and when he thought it was ready, he released it upon the world in all its glory. He didn't just get handed a screenplay that he went ahead and reworked into his vision, a vision twisted by other screenwriters, other producers, other directors who had failed to capture the true scope of the story... Michael Mann did it all, and brought his baby to life beautifully, as he tends to do in a lot of his work.

The characters, all rich and full, complex and rife with contradictions; Vincent Hanna and Neil McCauley are flip-sides of the same cold, dark coin. Hanna is a burnt-out LAPD Major Crimes/Vice Detective; McCauley is a career Major Criminal, takes down 'big scores' at big risks for big bucks, but seems equally as disenchanted by his life-choices as Hanna. Hanna seems like he 'wants' to settle down with his lovely wife Justine and her 15-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, if he could just separate himself from his work. McCauley's motto is 'never get involved in anything with anyone you can't just up and walk away from in 3 seconds flat, if you feel the heat coming around the corner...' though he also tends to have delusions of a less-complicated, more-domesticated existence, as demonstrated thru his interactions with book-store clerk Eady. The supporting cast of cops and criminals each have seemingly normal, stable home-lives, wives who bicker about 'not having enough steaks in the freezer' and children whom they adore, lives outside the job, while McCauley and Hanna's are completely obsessed and possessed by their careers to the point of distraction. McCauley lives in an empty shell of an apartment, bare walls, minimal furnishings, no warmth whatsoever, and Hanna’s home life is on-tilt; Justine is having an affair, step-daughter Lauren is in-crisis because her biological father has recently become a non-entity in her life, almost to the degree that Hanna has excluded himself, though Hanna makes some effort, which lends credence to the contradictions that plague him at this stage of his life and career. An intriguing sort of juxtaposition plays out over the course of the film, a definite duality between McCauley and Hanna, that cold, dark coin set spinning off the thumb as McCauley’s crew stages their initial foray into their next series of scores. Hanna surveys the crime scene, an armored-car heist, and is instantly struck by that cop’s instinct that these bandits are hard-core professionals, and that this wasn’t the first and won’t be the last time the LAPD will have dealings with this crew.

Another twist on the cops-and-robbers genre that Mann takes liberties with is the tendency to delve into the back-stories and lives of the criminals moreso than the cops; certainly, there is a sense that the supporting cast of police officers are not so attached and obsessed by their work as Hanna may be, but HEAT
takes us inside the homes of a few of the criminals, specifically Chris Shiherlis and Michael Cerrito, while devoting minimal time to the back-stories of the supporting cops, focusing only upon Hanna’s crumbling marriage and home-life.

At its heart, HEAT is a character-study wrapped in a caper flick, a hard-but-hearty effort worthy of dissection (one could probably have an entire club/course devoted to dissection of Mann's films, if not HEAT in particular.) McCauley and his crew desperately want/need to take down 2 big scores before they go into hiding and lay-low for awhile; Hanna and Major Crimes Unit want/need to crack McCauley's crew having seen the familiar MO pop up repeatedly over the years only to be stymied in their past efforts to catch these thieves. It all comes to a head finally, when Hanna and his crew catch a few breaks and set up surveillance on McCauley and his crew, leading to the penultimate cat-and-mouse car chase, and a surprisingly casual-but-calculated face-off and conversation between Hanna and McCauley in a coffee-shop, of all places! The duality between these two characters is laid bare as they discuss their jobs, families, and perhaps most-revealing, their dreams with each other, over coffee. Then, it's back to the job, back to the life, back to the streets; and the next round of the game begins.

Another Mann-erism is the scope of the project; the way the entire city of LA seems to come alive as a character in the story. From the chop-shops and drug-dens in the sticks to the high-rises downtown and the condos in the hills, the depth and breadth of each scene is framed in the pefect setting. Down to the almost-innocuous coffee-shop scene; any other movie would have had the lead detective busting the ring-leader on trumped-up charges in public, broad daylight, sprawled on the pavement or across the hood of a squad car. In HEAT Hanna pulls McCauley over, no guns, no glory, no charges, invites the guy for coffee(!!)-- yet the tension is as thick between these two seasoned-pros across that table (the actors as well as the characters) as any stand-off or hostage negotiation sequence ever filmed!

The ending is as cold and dark and lonely as the rest of the story, with as much irony and contradiction; it almost seems that career-criminal McCauley gets his happy ending, and that Hanna is as remorseful and distant, still lost in his lonely life and career, even if, on the surface, it appears that he got his man, law and justice wins out.

This sort of depth of character and stark reality, layering the contradictions and subtle nuances of every-day living in that edgy and desperate world, perfectly melded with setting that comes alive and dances across the page as it would on-screen, would be something worth emulating in anyone's screenplay efforts. I imagine the translation of such vivid and fully-rounded characters, ‘vibrant shades of black, blue, and gray’ as they each are, is made that much easier when the writer is also the producer and director. Of course, having talent the likes of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the powerful lead roles, with Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore, and Ashley Judd supporting is a huge plus as well. I could only dream to write something that would ‘keep’ and translate so beautifully from page-to-screen as HEAT did, under the constant care of Michael Mann. Eh, Writer/Producer/Director credits are not such a bad way to make a living either; a little obsessive-compulsive, maybe; completely out of the realm of possibility for me, probably; but a pretty good job by The Mann, Michael!

Message Edited by crAZRick on 04-12-200709:56 PM

I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
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danielnoah
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Re: Casablanca

Have you ever seen Key Largo? I bet you'd like it. Another Bogie flick, set almost entirely in one hotel during a hurricane.
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danielnoah
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Re: HEAT

Man, that's quite a review! Heat happens to be one my favorites, as well. Are you familiar with the BFI Classics series? Check this out.

However... you didn't tell us how Heat influences your own work.
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crAZRick
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Re: HEAT

oh ya...

well, when I'm working on a screenplay, I'm trying to see it from all-angles, as a producer/director might, similar to how Mann must tackle his scripting-projects. The well-rounded, complex and flawed characterizations, the gritty realism, taut tension and a subdued sense of action, even in a cops-and-robbers-type tale, all things I try to infuse in my meager efforts.

it's hard to tell how this 'favorite' influences my work, without sharing my work so you can tell me who might influnece my style, and how. Since nothing I have written is 'out there' for mass public consumption, and since I don't generally pick and choose favorites, I wonder if I'm influenced by other works at all, or if I'm foundering because I'm NOT channeling whatever influences may be teasing my muse??

I dunno, too soon to tell in my screen-writing career, how anyone else's stuff influences my own style, or lack of style...
I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
Ian
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Ian
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Re: Your Favorite Film

What's your favorite film? Cite only one.

I'd like to report this abuse to my moderator. If this isn't abuse then I don't know what is?

Why is it your favorite? And what about it might you seek to emulate in your own work? Be as specific as you can.

This is very difficult only because my favourite film hasn't been around long enough to have made significant impact on my screenwriting. I've written one screenplay after seeing it and it's definitely helped me. Crash had an immediate impact on me not just on my social conscience but also in how I 'see' story as a writer. Funny how this lands right in the middle of marriage of character and plot. Crash did this masterfully.

This film is probably not the one to use when talking about protagonists and antagonists since there are many. But, considering the number of characters and storylines that run parallel to each other but never cross yet convey the same powerful message - it is a masterpiece of plot and character working together. I've watched this film a half dozen times and listened to the commentary. I wish I could find the script on-line but no joy - even a shooting script would help - doubt I'll find early drafts of it.

A story isn't just a 'big idea', it's far more subtle than that. My early work was based on high concepts: A blackness threatens to cover the earth... An agoraphobic computer specialists takes possession of a hard drive belonging to a drug distributor... These were built around a big idea and I still think I did a good job with these stories, but after Crash I concentrated hard on marrying my characters to my plot even in small ways that help move the story forward.

**********SPOILERS************

Here's an example of what I'm talking about. In Crash a young cop no longer wants to work with a racist partner. He goes to his superior and requests reassignment. The reaction of the superior accomplishes many things...a block in the way of a protagonist, a misdirection for the audience, information key to the central message of the film. It isn't a huge scene, but it's a HUGE scene. That is one of the things I try to emulate from this film - giving every scene my full attention because that is what an audience will do.

I understand that acting plays a massive role in bringing characters to life in any film. Without actors, a screenwriter would be a novelist. I can see great writing in this film because the story is so well thought out and executed that the actors (many of whom I've heard say) had to take the role - they read the screenplay and just couldn't pass up 'such an amazing character'.

So, what about this film do I try to emulate in my own work? Everything. Planning, solid character development, pace, theme, dialogue...

A film that had a huge impact on my writing was Good Will Hunting. Another film that moved the story forward with incredible characters and a plot that wouldn't quit. Once you start watching this film it is impossible to stop.

If you want to see a film in one setting rent Twelve Angry Men. The original with Fonda is much better than the remake. Talk about a challenge.

Cheers,
Ian

P.S. I am not a Mann fan. Every film has that Mann-moment; a scene that is drawn out and art-house-ish. In Ali it's when Ali is running through the streets in an African city and the town runs behind him. He looks at the images of himself painted on the walls. It was way too long and lost its impact. Could have done that scene in a minute and it would have had more impact.
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crAZRick
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Re: Your Favorite Film


Ian wrote:
What's your favorite film? Cite only one.

I'd like to report this abuse to my moderator. If this isn't abuse then I don't know what is?




That's how I felt; I just did eenie-meenie-mynie-mo using some of my Favorites, and wrote a review on Heat. :smileyvery-happy:

My true-favorite movie hasn't yet been made into a movie, as its screenplay is still in early-pre-production pieces on my hard drive!!



Ian wrote:
P.S. I am not a Mann fan. Every film has that Mann-moment; a scene that is drawn out and art-house-ish.




I guess my POV is: if actor-artists can infuse some of their 'signature-moves' into any/every performance, writer/producer/director-type-artists should be forgiven for doing the same, especially if it comes down to a specific moment (that Mann-moment) a 3-minute signature scene, that the Writer wrote, the Producer OK'd and the Director shot, in Mann's case because he wore all 3-hats, he should be allowed a certain liberty to tips those hats for 3 minutes in his little films.

Isn't it sort of the same argument if, for example, I say:
I don't like Matt Dillon's bad-boy roles, so for me, Crash sucked.
(I don't really dislike Matt Dillon nor the roles he chooses, and especially did not dislike Crash, just an example)
I think there is more to Crash than Matt Dillon's signature bad-boy character; just as there is more to Michael Mann's movies than his signature scenes.

PS: Crash was on my eenie-meenie-mynie-mo list. Great movie.
I no longer regret that I have no quote, quip or anecdote to share with my countrymen... how about all y'all?
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danielnoah
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Re: HEAT

There's no right or wrong. Write what you write. It really is that simple.
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danielnoah
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Acting Class

[ Edited ]
Excellent post, Ian. I love what you're saying about making the characters' needs the drivers of the plot. That's a great kind of writing, and a rather sophisticated notion. I also like what you say about actors being the difference between a screenplay and novel. You're right on the money. In fact, I recommend that every dramatist take at least one acting class. The best class on writing I ever took was an acting class.

Message Edited by danielnoah on 04-13-200707:32 PM

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danielnoah
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Voice

[ Edited ]

crAZRick wrote:

Ian wrote:
What's your favorite film? Cite only one.

I'd like to report this abuse to my moderator. If this isn't abuse then I don't know what is?




That's how I felt...



Good! The hard questions are the most important. After I'd been writing scripts for a few years, experimenting with different styles and genres, I sat down one day and wrote a short essay that I knew I'd never let anyone read. It was just for me. I called it "Who I Am," and I in it I described as clearly as I could the kind of writer I was, almost as if I were writing a critical analysis of anther man's work.

Everything changed after that. I became clear about what was important to me and what wasn't. My scripts started taking on a quality that was truly me. And not long after I began to get a new kind of attention from the movie industry. People noticed my writing because I HAD A CLEAR VOICE.

Message Edited by danielnoah on 04-13-200707:37 PM

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Casablanca



Brendan_M_Burns wrote:
Tough question but... "Casablanca" has to top the list.



Yay, I remember watching it first time, I didn't expect much but I liked the movie a lot.
ziki
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Re: Voice



danielnoah wrote: I became clear about what was important to me and what wasn't. My scripts started taking on a quality that was truly me.




Good for you, clarity is essential. It impacts the writing style more than anything else.

ziki
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theauthor
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Re: Your Favorite Film

I fell happy all of my work , my work is "film maker" and any thing else on film maker position. That I fell happy on structure this work writhing the script by other rules synthesis my rules.I fell happy on management the script.

every finish plan(for work) is learning.

In the mangement and making the film on production I fell happy,direct,setting,photograph,logistic,and use maximum power on film production.An I fell happy for podt production edit makeing the sound making the ryhm for my movie.


I love films and I had any thing else work in filmmaker position,advertising,musician,drummer,bissinate,capital that I fell happy.

for my relationship structure I fell happy my family my friend my girl friend(for life work and sex I fell happy)

I fell happy on my work,my life and all structure and all system.
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klavim
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Re: Your Favorite Film



danielnoah wrote:
What's your favorite film? Cite only one.

Why is it your favorite? And what about it might you seek to emulate in your own work? Be as specific as you can.



Only one? Bummer...
OK, on a piece of paper I wrote the name of several movies I consider among my favorites, closed my eyes and pointed at one.
"The Usual Suspects."
I would like to emulate the sense of wonder I experienced when watching it for the first time, and how well it holds through repeated viewings. Kayser Soze rules.
As for all the people that chose "Casablanca" as their favorite movie:
"I'm shocked, shocked, shocked."
(Not.)
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