Great Scene: “The Great Escape”

December 6th, 2014 by

When I was a kid, I loved this movie. For my money, there was no actor more bad-ass than Steve McQueen. Here is a great scene from The Great Escape (1963), screenplay by James Clavell and W.R. Burnett, book by Paul Brickhill.

Hilts “The Cooler King,” played by McQueen, doesn’t escape, but even as he’s returned to captivity, he is unbowed. At least he tried. And he’ll keep trying.

Great Scene: “Tampopo”

November 29th, 2014 by

If you haven’t seen the 1985 Tampopo, written and directed by Jûzô Itami, do yourself a favor and check it out. Starring the great Ken Watanabe, it’s a delightful comedy.

IMDb plot summary: A truck driver stops at a small family-run noodle shop and decides to help its fledgling business. The story is intertwined with various vignettes about the relationship of love and food.

Here a character known as Gun reminisces about an experience from his youth, learning some secrets of ramen:

Jûzô Itami was a wonderful talent who sadly took his own life. He left behind a memorable collection of movies he wrote and directed including The Funeral, A Taxing Woman, A Taxing Woman Returns, and Tampopo.

Great Scene: “Metropolitan”

November 22nd, 2014 by

In a movie dominated by dialogue — great dialogue, it should be noted — this pretty much constitutes one of the film’s two ‘action’ scenes. It’s Nick vs. the despicable Rick Von Sloneker, one of the more memorable moments in this wonderful 1990 movie written and directed by Whit Stillman.

I had the great pleasure of moderating a one-on-one conversation with Whit Stillman at the 2014 Austin Film Festival. We had an excellent session. It was recorded and hopefully will surface as part of the PBS On Story TV series.

Great Scene: “Caddyshack”

November 15th, 2014 by

Carl Spackler: So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas.
Angie D’Annunzio: A looper?
Carl Spackler: A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, the Lama – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga… gunga, gunga-lagunga. So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

As legend has it, this was totally improvised by Bill Murray.

Great Scene: “Moonrise Kingdom”

November 8th, 2014 by

My favorite movie scene of 2012 is this one from Moonrise Kingdom, written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola. IMDb plot summary: A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out to find them.

The scene is full of innocence, wonder, honesty, and fun. And, of course, it’s visual. Such a wonderful movie, perhaps my favorite by Anderson.

If you have a great scene you’d like to suggest, please do in comments.

Great Scene: “Almost Famous”

October 31st, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion is by James Douglas: The 2000 movie Almost Famous, written by Cameron Crowe. IMDB plot summary:

A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies it on their concert tour.

After a fight between band members and a raucous night partying, Russell (Billy Crudup) returns to the band’s bus and off they go, the mood somber…

James made this point about the scene: “The way that the group ‘heals’ without saying a single word is astounding, and Penny’s revelation to William is all the more potent because of it.” James is referring to this exchange between young William (Patrick Fugit) and Penny Lane (Kate Hudson):

William Miller: I have to go home.
Penny Lane: You are home.

The scene speaks to the power of music. Wonderful scene, awesome movie, and a great way to round out this month’s Great Scene series. Thanks for all of your suggestions!

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

Great Scene: “Local Hero”

October 30th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 1983 movie Local Hero, written by Bill Forsyth. IMDB plot summary:

An American oil company sends a man to Scotland to buy up an entire village where they want to build a refinery. But things don’t go as expected.

His business responsibilities over, Mac (Peter Riegert) sets off to leave Ferness and return home to Houston.

Local Hero may not, at first glance, appear to be a Hero’s Journey, but it most certainly is. Mac departs from his Ordinary World (Houston), then immerses himself in an Extraordinary World (Ferness). There he meets all sorts of new faces, new customs, and new ways of looking at life. He is transformed and we can see as much when he enters his apartment back ‘home’ in Houston. I say ‘home’ because it feels foreign to him. Note how he sets out artifacts from Scotland — sea shells, driftwood, photos — to try and make himself feel more comfortable. But then he steps out onto the balcony, his reverie swallowed up by the ambient noise of the city.

Then that final shot: The little town of Ferness. And the phone in the phone booth rings… and rings… and rings…

Sometimes, like Dorothy, the hero goes away, then returns home with a new appreciation for their Old World. Sometimes, like Mac, the hero returns and has been so influenced by their experiences, they cannot feel at home in their old digs. In both cases, the hero has been transformed.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “The Matrix”

October 29th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 1999 movie The Matrix, written by the Wachowski Brothers. IMDB plot summary:

A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) meets Orpheus (Laurence Fishburne) for the first time.

Blue pill. Wake up in bed. Back to normal. Red pill. “You stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” It’s become such an iconic scene, there’s this:

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

Great Scene: “Metropolitan”

October 28th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 1990 movie Metropolitan, written by Whit Stillman. IMDB plot summary:

A group of young upper-class Manhattanites are blithely passing through the gala debutante season, when an unusual outsider joins them and stirs them up.

Another gathering of the group — the Sally Fowler Rat Pack. Two minutes into the clip, Charlie (Taylor Nichols) pontificates yet again from upper class perch.

Here is the text to Charlie’s rant:

“The term bourgeois has almost always been one of contempt. Yet it’s precisely the bourgeoisie that has been responsible for nearly every good thing that’s happened in our civilization over the last four centuries. You know that French film The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. I thought, ‘Finally someone’s going to tell the truth about the bourgeoisie. What a disappointment.”

I just returned from the 2014 Austin Film Festival where I moderated the Conversation With Whit Stillman panel. It was terrific, Whit providing all sorts of insights into Metropolitan and his creative process. It also provided me the opportunity to watch the movie again after about 20 years. It’s even better than I remembered when I first saw the movie at the WGA Theater in Beverly Hills two decades ago.

You could pluck out dozens of scenes from Metropolitan as examples of great scenes. I chose this one because it is so damn funny, combining the myopia of the 1% and with the lack of cultural awareness.

If you haven’t seen Metropolitan, you really should. It’s funny, smart, and polished, remarkable on all fronts considering the film’s microscopic budget (approximately $250K) and tight production schedule.

Great Scene: “Scarface”

October 27th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today’s suggestion is by Dino Sijamic: The 1983 movie Scarface, screenplay by Oliver Stone. IMDB plot summary:

In 1980 Miami, a determined Cuban immigrant takes over a drug cartel while succumbing to greed.

After a face-plant into a mountain of cocaine, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) sees an army of his rival gang assaulting his compound.

Grenade launcher. ‘Nuff said.

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!