Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Great Scripts vs. Great Stories

“You can’t handle the truth.”
“Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.”
“I’m the Dude, man.”
“We’re on a mission from God.”
“Greed is good.”
“I’m out of order. You’re out of order.”
“Is there a sign on my front yard that says “Dead (CENSORED) Storage””
“Hey Llama, how about a little something for the effort?”
“Snakes! I hate Snakes.”
“There are a million fine women in this world, but most of them won’t bring you Lasagna.”
“There is no fighting in the War Room.”
When reading these quotes you instantly knew what movie they were from.
A Few Good Men
Animal House
The Big Lebowski
The Blues Brothers
Wall Street
And Justice for All
Pulp Fiction
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Dr. Strangelove
All of these films have the common them of all being great scripts. You could watch them when they came out or 40 years after they were made and the dialog is still great. You hear these lines and you can instantly think of who said them, where in the movie they occurred and what happened next. These scripts also went into making the movie great. In some movies, they were just a part of what made them great.
Let’s compare Dr. Strangelove to Clerks.
Lead Actors: Peter Sellers vs. Brian O’Halloran: Peter Selers plays the President of the United States, a member of the Royal Air Force and a paralyzed Nazi Scientist. He makes all three incredibly funny. O’Halloran is good in the movie, but he is not a great actor.
Directors: Stanley Kubrik vs. Kevin Smith. Smith has made some very, very good movies but Kubrik is a legend. Kubrix was at the height of his art. The two films he did before Strangelove are: Spartacus and Lolita. The two films he did after are: 2001: a Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange. Essentially, he directed four of the 50 greatest films of all time in an 11 year period. Yeah, he was on his A Game.
Scripts: Both are perfect. They are radically different. Strangelove is much, much darker and a significantly smarter script. If it had missed just a little the film would have been horrible. At the height of the cold war, he made a very funny movie about a nuclear apocalypse. Clerks was cutting edge in how dialog was used in modern films. It’s very simple concept of showing how people talk in their everyday lives and about how we fill our day with seemingly dumb conversations (use of contractors building the new Death Star in Return of the Jedi) that we have ever day. In Strangelove, the script brought out the best in the actors, the director, and the cinematographer and provided them all with a vehicle for greatness. The Clerk’s script was the only thing keeping that movie together. If the script was anything less than brilliant the film would have been horrible.

The argument is that great actors made good scripts great. I will take it one step farther. I believe that if all elements of a film are outstanding they can make a mediocre script into a near perfect movie. The best example of this is “Philadelphia.” Ok, Ok, I know I am now in danger of losing one of my three followers (BTW, THANK YOU FOLLOWING MY BLOG. IT DOES MEAN A LOT TO ME.) Philadelphia, which deserves its own blog, is a great movie. It was made in 1993 (yes, it is almost 20 years old) at the height of the AIDS scare when it was still considered “A gay disease” at a time when Homophobia was far too common a belief. The acting is brilliant. Tom Hanks gave the best performance of his career. He also could not have pulled off that role at any other time. He was still considered a comic who acted. Denzel Washington, who was very underrated in the film, had only four really good dramatic roles prior to Philadelphia. They both stared in the film when they could easily disappear into their role and not be thought of as stars. The story arc is great. Supporting actors were truly supporting the story and not trying to show off for better camera time. The supporting cast was like the 1927 Yankees; Jason Robards (incredible in a role that could have become a cliché), Joanne Woodward, Antonio Banderas (before people knew who he was), Mary Steenburgen. All of these elements were perfect, but it is difficult to think of a single memorable line from the movie. There are a lot of great scenes but not great script moments.
Essentially, a perfect script can take great elements and make them an amazing movie (See Dr. Strangelove). A great script that is inventive and ground breaking can overcome elements that are mediocre and drag a movie into greatness (see Clerks). A mediocre script can generate a great movie ONLY IF all of the other elements Acting, Story, Directing, Soundtrack are perfect (see Philadelphia).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Actress Hairstyle/News and Beer

If an actress cuts her hair short to be taken as a serious actress, she needs to be able to seriously act. It worked for Natalie Portman, Michelle Williams, Sigorney Weaver and Nicole Kidman. Not so much for Sharon Stone.

In honor of Actresses who believe that a short hairstyle will help them to be taken more seriously I have the Beer/News comparison. More proof that short hair does not automaticly give you gravity.

The Economist is like Guinness. It is the pinnacle of everything. It is rich and full of complex details and multiple layers. No one ever has Guinness as their first beer and no one reads an Economist as their first description of a new event.

Jon Stewart is like Blue Moon. Blue Moon does not seem like real beer and Jon Stewart does not seem like real news but if you are around either of them for a little bit you realize how amazing they are and that they are more than simple entertainment.

Glen Beck is like O’Doul’s. It seems real but there is no substance to it. You get all of the bad bitter taste but nothing is real.

Peter Sagle (Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me on NPR) is like Pabst Blue Ribbon. Inexpensive. Not overly good, but has become the coolest drink in the bar.

Bill O’Rilley is like Budweiser. He is the king of news media, but he is still not very good. If this former Inside Edition host is Budweiser does that make Mario Lopez Bud Lite?

Sheppard Smith is Tsonga Beer. He mispronounces so many words that he deserves a beer that he cannot pronounce. Despite his mispronunciations he is still the best thing on Fox news.

Carol Costello is Yunegling. It is a great beer that is hard to find. CNN should give her more air time.

NPR is a Sam Adams variety pack. It has some parts that are great. Some parts that are mediocre. None of it is bad, but it is not nearly as good as it think it is.

Crossfire is like a Michelob Black and Tan. An interesting idea of putting together two different elements, but like Michelob it is just bad.