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Posts in: December 2009

Morality and The Next Three Days

This post exists primarily to expound, in spoiler-tastic detail, on a comment I wrote in response to ScriptShadow’s review of Paul Haggis’s latest script, The Next Three Days. For those too lazy to click the link, The Next Three Days focuses primarily on a character hellbent on breaking his wife out of prison in order to reunite his family. Whether or not his wife actually committed the crime—the murder of her boss—remains a mystery throughout the script.

[The spoilers start after the jump, so don’t say I didn’t warn you…]

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Enraptured

Title: Enraptured

Genre: Comedy/Horror

Draft: Fourth

Length: 117 pages

Logline: When a geeky high school senior fails to find a date for the prom, he joins a Satanic cult hellbent on bringing about the Rapture—getting rid of all the goody two-shoes and bringing about hell on Earth.

History:

First Draft—1/9/04

Second Draft—9/13/06

Third Draft—3/8/09

Fourth Draft—12/4/09

Click the image to download the complete screenplay for just $2.99.

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Suspicious Script

Last week, I read a script that made me a tad uncomfortable. It attempted, very ineptly, to capitalize on the recent-but-not-as-recent-as-the-writer-thinks poker craze. I don’t claim to be a cigar-chomping cardsharp, but I know this: a 52-card deck does not contain any “1” cards. That’s more than the writer of this script, who explains that an “Ace is the best card you can get. Then it’s King, Queen, Jack, Ten, Nine, Eight…down to One, usually.” Usually.

Several things got my gears going as I read this script. First: I received it the day before Thanksgiving. Usually, the Murdstone & Grinby Company is shuttered for the whole holiday week (plus the Monday after), so getting a script during an unofficial coverage dead zone concerned me. Also irritated me, because while the extra cash is nice, it’s still the day before Thanksgiving, and I’m fucking lazy.

Second: something about it felt off, in an indefinable way. Sure, it had the same very definable problems from which other scripts suffer (notably one-dimensional characters and a nonsensical third act), but something about the diction didn’t feel right. It felt less like a dramatic work than a loudmouth guy at the end of the bar saying, “Hey, buddy. Yeah, you—you know what’d be a good idea for a movie?” before elucidating a ramshackle stream-of-consciousness narrative that felt more like a working-class fever dream than a piece of writing. I don’t just mean it had a conversational style. The only thing separating it from the guy at the end of the bar was a lot of “No, no—just hear me out” asides. ‘Twas a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Emphasis on the “idiot” part.

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Script Review: The Lovely Bones by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson

[In lieu of actual content, for the next several weeks I will present, at least, one review of an upcoming film each week. These are scripts that I’ve been paid money to read, and many of them contain watermarking, identification numbers, password-protection, and other ways of tracking what company it was sent to; because of this and my desire to keep my job, I will not offer downloads for ANY of the scripts I review here. Don’t bother asking.]

Like Fight Club, The Lovely Bones reads like the kind of thing that would be aces as a novel but might not exactly work on film. Plenty of people argue with me, but I stand by it: the “o btw i r u” “twist” in Fight Club just doesn’t work on film. You can do a lot in cinema with point of view, but I find more often than not that attempts at “unreliable narrator” stories in film turn out more like a cheap betrayal than a legitimate shocking twist. A novel can provide a true first-person narrator experience, allowing the reader to take the journey through the eyes of a single person. If that narrator discovers he has a second personality that he happens to believe is a real person, the reader discovers this right along with them, and it’s a shocking twist. Movies with unreliable narrator twists frequently portray it in exactly the same way: a long-winded explanation accompanied by an unintentionally hilarious montage with people/objects flitting in or out of existence to illustrate the fragile mental state of the character. Fight Club makes it even more hilarious by including eye-rollingly ridiculous moments like Edward Norton beating himself up while confused onlookers watch…and for some reason decide to follow a man who’s clearly out of his mind? Ugh…

Face it: no matter how you tell the story, short of making it a 90-minute POV shot loaded with internal-thought voiceovers, no film can tell a first-person story. At best, it’s third-person limited, but more frequently it’s third-person omniscient. Even with voiceover narration, it’s virtually impossible to sell an unreliable narrator story on film. (The Usual Suspects comes closest by showing its unreliable narrator’s non-insane motivations to weave a bullshit tale.)

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Windows: A Fucking Disaster

Does anyone know anything about Windows? Every time I try to learn, it seems that I lose all sense of sanity and logic. It’s an operating system that reminds me of the following dull anecdote from my community theatre days:

A couple of techies attempted to build a doorframe. The end result resembled something out of a German expressionist film. You guys know what a doorframe looks like, right? It’s pretty much a rectangle, all right angles and straightness. This was a sort of indescribable rhomboid disaster that did not, in any way, resemble a frame on which one hangs a door.

The director, stage manager, and master carpenter did the sort of simultaneous double-take generally found in a teen sex-comedy after a super-hot chick walks by in a wet bikini. Only it wasn’t the thrill of arousal they felt. It was the confusion and mild amusement of something that could only be created by someone making minimum wage at a part-time job.

Instead of trying to explain how, exactly, they fucked this up or why they felt they could present this doorframe instead of just pulling the nails out and starting over, the two techies attempted to sell the director on this particular doorframe. Because, you see, the play was a comedy, and comedies are always wacky and full of odd set designs and strange artistic flourishes, right? Right? Right?!! It would’ve been all well and good except for the part where, in order to fit with the doorframe, a custom door with no right angles would have had to be fabricated, which cost money and time and made no fucking sense. Also, it probably wouldn’t have opened or closed properly.

For those not clever enough to comprehend this analogy, Microsoft are the techies, and Windows is that fucking doorframe. Common sense doesn’t apply, and in order to wrangle that operating system into something remotely usable, one has to fabricate an insane door for it.

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Black List 2009

Say, these aren’t the best scripts. They’re just the “most liked.” Because why would anyone like the best scripts the most? That’s crazy talk!

As I did last year, I intend to cover the top 10 on this blog over the course of the next two weeks—one a day, starting with The Muppet Man (because I love biopics!), ending with By Way of Helena. This schedule assumes, of course, that these scripts don’t disillusion or enrage me to such a degree that I give up on life altogether.

THE BLACK LIST was compiled from the suggestions of over 300 film executives, each of whom contributed the names of up to ten of their favorite scripts that were written in, or are somehow uniquely associated with, 2009 and will not be released in theaters during this calendar year.

This year, scripts had to be mentioned at least five times to be included on THE BLACK LIST.

All reasonable effort has been made to confirm the information contained herein. THE BLACK LIST apologizes for all misspellings, misattributions, incorrect representation identification, inelegant loglines, and questionable “2009” affiliations.

It has been said many times, but it’s always worth repeating:

THE BLACK LIST is not a “best of” list. It is, at best, a “most liked” list.

I see little reason to list all the scripts mentioned when you can just download the PDF.

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Surprise Script Review: A Single Man by Tom Ford and David Scearce

Script Download Link: None Available (sorry, kiddies, I’m not risking my neck just to placate you, and I couldn’t find a download anywhere else online) [Although I mostly agree with John August, I am offering this script download because my not-entirely-captive audience has threatened to abandon me if I don’t start “offering downloads like Carson.” It is not for educational purposes. It’s for the purpose of placating people who want to feel good that they know more about an upcoming movie than their plebeian friends and coworkers. If anyone affiliated with this production requests that I remove the link, I won’t lose any sleep over it. Just send an e-mail to the address on the sidebar.]

Note: I would have posted this earlier than the date of its release, but I honestly forgot about this project until I saw a bunch of reviews pop up last night, which doesn’t bode well, right?

Adapted by legendary fashion icon Tom Ford (who, apparently, self-financed the entire project) and David Scearce from the semi-iconic 1964 Christopher Isherwood novel, A Single Man is one of those scripts that lives and dies based solely on the actors selected to play the roles. Ford (who also directed) could have done worse than Colin Firth and Julianne Moore, but still, I feel compelled to examine this phenomenon of “the right actor” saving an otherwise dismal project.

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Black List Script #1: The Muppet Man by Christopher Weekes

Download PDF: The Muppet Man

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “The life story and tragic early death of Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets.”

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Black List Script #2: The Social Network by Aaron Sorkin


MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “The story of the founders of the social networking website Facebook and how overnight success and wealth changed their lives.”

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Black List Script #3: The Voices by Michael R. Perry

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: Since these scripts, bought or not, are currently unproduced and/or in the midst of long, tedious development processes, they may not make it to the screen for up to three years, if ever. You should know that the synopsis contains MASSIVE, EARTH-SHATTERING SPOILERS, even though this screenplay may not resemble the finished film (if any) in any way. Read at your own risk.

Secondary Disclaimer: I refer to what follows as “coverage” by the loosest definition of that term. In keeping with this blog’s tradition, I’ve crammed the notes so full of rancorous rants, it’s 1/10th as concise as actual coverage, almost falling into the category of a review. However, since I’ve included the loglines and a detailed synopsis, it’s close enough to coverage for my purposes. Deal with it.

Logline (provided by The Black List): “A disturbed man attempts to walk the straight-and-narrow while receiving advice from his ‘talking’ pets.”

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