Thursday, September 3, 2009
Random Summer Thoughts
Some random film and writing thoughts rolling around my brain as summer comes to a close:
The guy (Sharlto Copley) who plays the main character in District 9 looks like a cross between Peter Sellers and Daniel Day Lewis. He also had a weird affect, particularly in the beginning, that had me thinking I might be watching a Monty Python skit. Despite all that, I thought it was a thoroughly entertaining film.
Quentin Tarantino has a talent for taking scenes that should be less than two minutes long and turning them into ten minutes or more and making them engrossing as hell. The scene in Inglourious Basterds where the Nazi Landa questions the French farmer Perrier LaPadite (love that name) goes on for way longer than a scene like that should, but Tarantino never lets it go off the rails and milks every bit of drama and tension out of the exchange. If you are an aspiring screenwriter, don’t try this. Few writers on the planet can pull that off or should even try.
The opening of Martin Scorcese’s Shutter Island has been moved to February 2010. I don’t know what that means, but it doesn’t sound good. Are they afraid of the competition? Are they looking to clean up at the box office in the dead of winter when the cineplexes usually feature crapola left over from the previous year? Will they open limited in New York and LA to qualify for the awards season? Curious.
Producer Marvin Acuna has a video/on-line newsletter out proclaiming the “death of the screenwriter”. He’s not really administering last rites, but warning that writers need to adapt to the current marketplace (or perish presumably). Basically, he tells writers to write horror or big action or comedy, which is good advice. The only problem is that lots of aspiring writers just can’t do that. I always tell my students to write the movie that they would go to see on its opening day, first showing, the rationale being that if they long for that kind of film, there is probably an audience out there for it. Except, of course, if they themselves are way out there on the fringe. Still, it’s hard to argue with Marvin. I cringe every time an aspiring writer comes to me for a consult and they have written a huge, expensive fantasy story or an historical epic. They might turn out to be good writing samples, but they will never get made having been written by an unknown.
I love the trailer for Zombieland. Every semester I get two or three students who want to write a zombie script. It’s almost an obsession for Generation Y. The problem is that it’s difficult to come up with something new in that genre, but Zombieland looks like it has done so. Besides, I love Woody Harrelson. Who else could be in No Country For Old Men and Seven Pounds more than a decade after a brilliant turn in Kingpin. I love the guy and he might be reason alone to see Zombieland.