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!

Great Scene: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”

October 26th, 2014 by

Fight scenes. Whether swords or knives, guns or fists, lasers or kung fu, fight scenes are a staple of the movies. One problem: They’re so common, what can a screenwriter do to distinguish theirs from all the previous examples? William Goldman came up with an unexpected twist with this fight scene featuring Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the much bigger Harvey Logan (Ted Cassidy).

BUTCH AND HIS MEN

BUTCH
Now let's just forget about Harvey taking over.
Okay, Flat Nose?

FLAT NOSE CURRY has been nicknamed for obvious reasons.

FLAT NOSE CURRY
You always told us anyone could challenge you --

BUTCH
That's 'cause I figured nobody's do it.

CUT TO:

LOGAN

smiling, starting toward Butch again.

LOGAN
Figured wrong, Butch.

CUT TO:

BUTCH AND HIS MEN

BUTCH
(a little desperate now)
You can't want Logan --

NEWS
-- at least he's with us, Butch -- you been spending
a lot of time gone --

CUT TO:

CLOSEUP - BUTCH

BUTCH
That's 'cause everything's changing now -- it's all going
new on us --

CUT TO:

LOGAN

LOGAN
Guns or knives, Butch?

CUT TO:

BUTCH

Going rapidly on, doing his best to ignore Logan.

BUTCH
--everything's harder than it used to be --
you got to plan more, you got to prepare,
you got to be damn sure you're doing or
you're dead --

CUT TO:

LOGAN

moving in front of Butch now.

LOGAN
Guns or knives?

BUTCH
Neither.

LOGAN
Pick!

BUTCH
I don't want to shoot with you, Harvey.

CUT TO:

LOGAN

smiling.

LOGAN
Whatever you say, Butch.

And suddenly a knife is in his hand and --

CUT TO:

THE MEN

and with the appearance of the knife they start to get really excited, and
from here on in that excitement only builds as they surge toward Logan
who is calmly taking off his shirt. Butch moves to Sundance.

CUT TO:

SUNDANCE

on his horse, waiting quietly at Butch approaches. Butch is doing his best to
cover how he feels.

BUTCH
Maybe there's a way to make a profit on this --
bet on Logan.

SUNDANCE
I would, but who'd bet on you?

BUTCH
I made this gang. You know I did. Now look
at 'em.

CUT TO:

THE GANG

clustered around Logan. He is stripped to the waist and his body is
brutal. Suddenly he calls out --

LOGAN
Sundance -- when we're done, if he's dead, you're
welcome to stay.

CUT TO:

BUTCH AND SUNDANCE

Looking out at Logan. Butch speaks quietly to Sundance.

BUTCH
Listen, I'm not a sore loser or anything, but
when we're done, if I'm dead, kill him.

SUNDANCE
(to Logan, but in
answer to Butch
Love to.

CUT TO:

BUTCH

He fidgets a moment, then starts the long walk back toward Logan.
Logan is younger and faster and stronger and Butch knows it, and
knowing it doesn't make the walk any pleasanter. Still he moves
forward, unarmed as yet, toward the other man.

CUT TO:

LOGAN

watching him come. In the sun his body glistens.

CUT TO:

BUTCH

moving through the gang toward Logan. He is unarmed and a
knife is offered him by one of the gang.

BUTCH
Not yet.
(moving up to Logan now)
Not til Harvey and me get all the rules
straight.

LOGAN
Rules? In a knife fight?
No rules!

As he finishes speaking Butch delivers the most aesthetically exquisite
kick in the balls in the history of the modern American cinema.

CUT TO:

LOGAN

For a moment he just stands there. Then he makes an absolutely
indescribable sound and, as the look on his face moves from disbelief
to displeasure, he sinks slowly to his knees.

CUT TO:

BUTCH

He goes on as if nothing whatsoever had happened.

BUTCH
Well, if there aren't going to be any rules, I guess
we might as well get this fight started. Somebody
say 'one-two-three-go.'

CUT TO:

SUNDANCE
(like a shot)
One-two-three-go.

CUT TO:

LOGAN

He is green now, and still on his knees. Butch approaches, nods, locks his
hands together and, as if swinging a baseball bat, delivers a stunning blow
to Logan's jaw. Logan falls and lies there.

CUT TO:

FLAT NOSE CURRY AND SEVERAL OTHERS

all hurrying to Butch.

FLAT NOSE
I was rooting for you, Butch.

BUTCH
(with great earnestness)
I know, Flat Nose. That's what sustained me
in my time of trouble.

Great stuff. And notice how deftly Goldman wove in one of the key themes of the movie with this line: “That’s ’cause everything’s changing now — it’s all going new on us.” The world is changing (e.g., bicycles!), but Butch and Sundance don’t end up changing, and it costs them plenty — their lives.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

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: “King of Hearts”

October 25th, 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 1966 movie King of Hearts, Daniel Boulanger (scenario and dialogue), Maurice Bessy (idea). IMDB plot summary:

An ornithologist mistaken for an explosives expert is sent alone into a small French town during WWI to investigate a garbled report from the resistance about a bomb which the departing Germans have set to blow up a weapons cache. He arrives to find a very eccentric group of townspeople, inmates of the local insane asylum, as it turns out, who have stepped into the characters of the fleeing villagers.

After rival forces have slaughtered each other in the town’s square, Plumpick (Alan Bates) watches as his new-found friends decide what to do… leading to his own decision.

This is a little gem of a movie, definitely of the 60s era, but well worth the watch. It poses a fundamental question about humanity: Which is crazier… war or insanity?

The images of the asylum inmates rejecting the insanity of real life, shedding their trappings of that world, then locking themselves inside the safety of their shelter are profound and beautiful. And Plumpick’s ultimate decision is a lovely touch.

Has anyone seen King of Hearts? You can screen it online free here.

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: “Up”

October 24th, 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 2009 movie Up, screenplay by Bob Peterson and Pete Docter, story by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson and Thomas McCarthy. IMDB plot summary:

To avoid being taken away to a nursing home, an old widower tries to fly his home to Paradise Falls, South America, along with a Boy Scout who accidentally lifted off with him.

Carl (Ed Asner) has achieved his Want: To transport the house he and Ellie shared for so many years to Paradise Falls.

Normally if you mention the words “great scene” and the movie Up in one sentence, people will immediately chime in with this:

Yes, that is stellar storytelling. But the mini-story of Carl and Ellie’s married life is a setup for the scene I have spotlighted above. Carl has made it. He’s fulfilled his promise to Ellie. He has won.

However it is a Pyrrhic victory, filled with emptiness, a reality visualized by the shots chosen in the scene. No sound. Lots of space. And the lonely presence of Ellie’s chair.

Then the picture book. It is a little story itself told in three parts:

Beginning: Carl looks at photos of he and Ellie as children, images of Paradise Falls.
Emotion: Sadness that his wife is not here to share the experience of achieving her dream.

Turn: Carl discovers new photos.

Middle: Carl flips through photos of his marriage through their adult years.
Emotion: Surprise tinged with sadness.

Turn: “Thanks for the adventure – now go have a new one! Love, Ellie”

End: Carl picks up Russell’s merit badge, looks at Ellie’s chair… then crosses his heart.

Such a fantastic scene because in effect – from beyond the grave – Ellie has given Carl her blessing to be with a new member of the ‘family': Russell. Functionally, he is a surrogate for Ellie. And now when he crosses his heart, Carl is making a new pledge, a new Want: To retrieve Russell. Which sets up the rest of Act Three.

I adore this movie. How about you?

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!