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!

Great Scene: “The Natural”

October 23rd, 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.

With the World Series upon us, I figured it was time to feature a great scene from a baseball movie and what a great scene it is: The ending sequence from The Natural (1984). With a screenplay by Roger Towne and Phil Dusenberry, based on a novel by Bernard Malamud, The Natural builds on the mythic elements in Malamud’s book: Roy Hobbs (Robert Redford) like the knight Percival in Arthurian legends, his bat Wonderboy like Arthur’s Excalibur. The mythic themes work so well in the movie version of The Natural because baseball itself is one big fat metaphor for, well… just about anything.

The movie differs in one huge respect from the novel: The ending. In the book, the Protagonist Hobbs ends up a broken man, his baseball career doomed by suspicion that he helped lose a big game on purpose. In the movie, Hobbs gains redemption by winning the big game. There have been arguments back and forth about the moral validity of changing the ending, but what else could we really expect from Hwood — they like ‘happy’ endings. Moreover, it’s a helluva final sequence with a fitting and emotionally satisfying denouement.

We pick up the action in the 9th inning of what amounts to the championship game for the New York Knights. Two men on, two men out, Hobbs coming up to bat. Three big points. First, Hobbs turned aside from the opportunity to throw the game for a lot of cash. Second, he’s just out of the hospital after having been poisoned, so Hobbs is in a much weakened physical condition. Finally, Hobbs has just found out from his old hometown girlfriend Iris (Glenn Close) that Hobbs is the father of her son Ted. With all that in place, here is the script to the final sequence in The Natural.

Youngberry is looking in at Roy. He winds and delivers. 

Roy takes a whirling cut at it, meeting it squarely. 

The ball sails out in a low arc toward left as the runners go, but, 
the third base umpire calls it, "FOUL!"

SLO-MO capturing the fractured halves of Wonderboy as they sail down 
to the ground.

The crowd moans horribly.

AT THE KNIGHTS DUGOUT

heads drop in disappointment. Pop looks catatonic.

Roy looks on for a long moment. Bobby runs out and gathers in the 
splintered halves of Wonderboy. He returns dutifully back to Roy.

ROY
(indicating the batrack)
Pick me out a winner, Bobby.

Bobby trots back to the batrack. He lays Wonderboy down on the grass. 
He surveys the rack -- hesitates, then pulls out a bat.

ON BOBBY

handing Roy the bat. Roy looks at it and at Bobby, then turns toward 
the batter's box. He grips the bat in his two hands, stopping for a 
long moment to reflect. Now we NOTICE blood just beginning to seep 
thru Roy's shirt.

UMPIRE
(breaking in)
Hobbs? You okay, fella?

Roy re-sets himself in the box with the new bat.

ROY
Let's play ball.

UMPIRE
Awright, that's what we're here for.

Roy sets the bat on his shoulder. An eerie silence has pervaded the 
stadium in the wake of Wonderboy's demise.

Youngberry has a sneer on his face as he goes to his motion and -- 
reaching back for something extra -- releases the pitch.

CLOSE AT ROY

with a seething fury, he swings -- violently and perfectly -- the ball 
exploding off his bat.

The Knights bench bolts to its feet.

The crowd, electrified, a frenzied reverberant scream.

The ball, a white blur aiming straight for the lights of the stadium roof. 
CRASH! One light goes. Then in a chain reaction, they all start to go -- 
pop! pop! pop! -- like a giant short circuit.

THE TOWER

The Judge and Gus turn ashen with horror, disbelief.

The stadium lights -- flaring. Spurting. Lighting up the darkened sky like 
the Fourth of July.

The Knights dugout -- pandemonium. Spontaneous lunacy. Players hug and kiss; 
Bivens does a swan dive into their midst; Pop and Red collapse with joy in 
each other's arms.

The crowd -- delirious, raptured. Men pound each other's heads; women screech 
as we go to

TED HOBBS

still following the ball beyond the limits of the stadium, like a single, fleeing 
star.

THE ARC LIGHTS

One after another, each bank of lights begins to fizzle and dim. Entire sections 
of the stadium grow darker. And darker.

Wonderboy -- it lays in the grass. A nearby bank of light goes off, casting it into 
darkness.

Roy, head down, somberly trots the bases, barely visible in the diminishing light. 
There is a final, silent burst of arc light. Then, darkness.

The SOUND of the CROWD recedes and there's a WAIL in the WIND which grows louder as 
we QUICK CUT TO:

ROY'S HOMERUN BALL - FOLLOWING IT

A super trail blazer that glides dreamily into the growing light of a westerly sunset. 
Flying high and long over "our" country, the cities, the plains, going, going ... until 
at last it begins to dip, arcing down to a landscape -- familiar fields of gleaming, 
golden wheat ... falling ...

THE WHEAT FIELD

a BASEBALL GLOVE breaks the surface of feathered stalks, stretches spectacularly and 
catches the ball.

ROY

stares in wonder after his son.

BACK TO TED

He reappears from the wheat field smiling, his glove held triumphantly aloft.

END TITLES

Great stuff. And it’s interesting to note the key differences between the script and the movie including the name Bobby the batboy has emblazoned on the side of the replacement bat for Roy: “Savoy Special”; no sign of Ted, Hobbs’ son, but lots of shots of Iris reacting to the events on the field. Of course, one of the most fantastic elements in the movie sequence is the musical soundtrack composed by Randy Newman. So here it is, a great scene from The Natural.

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: “Zorba the Greek”

October 22nd, 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 1964 movie Zorba the Greek, screenplay by Mihalis Kakogiannis, novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. IMDB plot summary:

An uptight English writer traveling to Crete on a matter of business finds his life changed forever when he meets the gregarious Alexis Zorba.

The uptight Englishman Basil is played expertly by Alan Bates. But it is Zorba who steals the movie and Anthony Quinn, who played the role, was nominated for Best Actor in 1964.

The movie is an almost perfect tale of head vs. heart. Basil is the quintessential uptight Englishman who has inherited a house on Crete. Zorba a passionate, half-crazed Greek latches onto Basil in the movie’s initial scenes, as a boat carrying Basil, Zorba, and other citizens of Crete make their away across the sea in a huge storm. While the story has several subplots with a thematic backdrop of a FOOW (Fish-Out-Of-Water) acclimating himself to a foreign culture, the emotional core of the movie is the relationship between Basil and Zorba.

In Act Three, after Basil has essentially given all his money to Zorba to feed his frenetic vision of creating a system to deliver logs from up top of the island down to the sea, the edifice collapses (in another great scene). And so after all the people who showed up to celebrate scurry away amidst the destruction of Zorba’s grand scheme and Basil’s last remaining bit of wealth, the two men are left alone on the beach for this great scene:

I first saw this movie in a religious studies class at the U. of Virginia. The professor cited this scene as an example of existentialism — that in the midst of despair and seeming hopelessness, these two choose to defy rationality and dance. If you watch the movie, and track the fitful advance of understanding between these two characters, so absolutely opposite each other, then grasp the power and beauty of them dancing on the beach, I am sure you will agree — this is truly a Great Scene.

For your added enjoyment, here is some of the wit and wisdom of Alexis Zorba:

Alexis Zorba: If a woman sleeps alone, it puts a shame on all men.

—-

Alexis Zorba: Damn it boss, I like you too much not to say it. You’ve got everything except one thing: madness! A man needs a little madness, or else…
Basil: Or else?
Alexis Zorba: …he never dares cut the rope and be free.

—-

Alexis Zorba: What kind of man are you, don’t you even like dolphins?

—-

Basil: I don’t want any trouble.
Alexis Zorba: Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble.

—-

Alexis Zorba: How can I not love them? Poor weak creatures… and they take so little, a man’s hand on their breast, and they give you all they got.

—-

Alexis Zorba: On a deaf man’s door, you can knock forever!

—-

Alexis Zorba: No more fooling around, not in this place. We’ll pull our pants up and make a pile of money.

—-

Alexis Zorba: Why do the young die? Why does anybody die?
Basil: I don’t know.
Alexis Zorba: What’s the use of all your damn books if they can’t answer that?
Basil: They tell me about the agony of men who can’t answer questions like yours.
Alexis Zorba: I spit on this agony!

—-

Alexis Zorba: All right, we go outside where God can see us better.

—-

Alexis Zorba: Hey boss, did you ever see a more splendiferous crash?

—-

Alexis Zorba: God has a very big heart but there is one sin he will not forgive

—-

Alexis Zorba: If a woman calls a man to her bed and he will not go. I know because a very wise old Turk told me.

—-

Alexis Zorba: Am I not a man? And is a man not stupid? I’m a man, so I married. Wife, children, house, everything. The full catastrophe.

And there’s this. One of the reasons I love this blog is because of the insights I receive from readers. I originally posted this Great Scene back in 2009, but just yesterday received an email from Daniel Escobar who found it… well, let him explain:

I was writing a letter and I was looking for a picture of Zorba dancing when I found your site. I read what you said about Zorba. I agree completely. I just wanted to add that a teacher in college pointed out that one of the important parts of that last scene is that after the catastrophe happens and the smoke clears, Zorba realizes the lamb is burning and excitedly runs to save what’s there. This shows us how we should be (or how a child is), that after we have a catastrophe in our lives we don’t brood about it but rather jump to the next exciting thing.

The teacher said Kazantzakis was a great admirer of Nietzsche’s and he wrote his dissertation on him. The book spends a little more time on the British guy because it is supposed to be the idea of the Apollonian (the British guy played expertly by Alan Bates) struggling with the Dionysian (Zorba, obviously); a big Nietzchean theme. Zorba the Greek in my humble opinion is one of the few instances in history when the movie is actually better than the book.

That aside, I like the idea of Zorba forgetting the catastrophe in a blink of an eye and moving on to the lamb that is cooking because I think it is a great lesson.

Nietzsche has a great aphorism which I think captures this; “Maturity is recapturing the seriousness of a child at play.” A child is totally involved and in love with his playing (with an attention we no longer have). But he knows it isn’t important and he can leave it with a blink of an eye to go do something else. It would be cool if we were like that. What choice do we have, right? Zorba is a GREAT role model.

After I responded to Daniel, he followed up with this:

I’ve thought a lot about Zorba the Greek actually. The other great sub-plot is the whole thing with how they kill the widow. Nietzsche wrote a lot about “resentment” and how it was such a powerful and ugly force in society. Do you remember when they’re in the tavern how Zorba tells Basil that they are all seething because they want her but cannot have her and so they detest her? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a movie before or after. Very penetrating observation. From there to murdering her as a mob is only a hop-skip and a jump, of course.

The whole thing with the French old maid is wonderfully written and acted. Zorba is so sweet to her and her death is so pathetic and meaningless. Tragic with a capital T. Nobody writes things like that anymore. But they should because so many people are suffering things like that in the world right now.

Also the scene where the British guy teases Zorba about how he listens to Turks and Zorba says, “I listen to you talk and I see that your legs and arms aren’t connected to your head. You don’t feel what you are saying. You are like a puppet.” Or something like that [I forget the exact words]. I always thought Zorba was supposed to be an example of someone who is RIGHT HERE; RIGHT NOW, as we should be.

I knew about Kazantzakis and his interest in existentialism, but not about his fascination with Nietzsche. That knowledge and the insights Daniel sent my way are one example of how this blog can work, an ongoing dialogue about a narrative form we all love: movies.

Thanks, Daniel!

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 Thing From Another World”

October 21st, 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 1951 movie The Thing From Another World, screenplay by Charles Lederer, based on a story by John W. Campbell Jr. IMDB plot summary:

Scientists and American Air Force officials fend off a blood-thirsty alien organism while at a remote arctic outpost.

The crew has spotted a strange object buried in ice.

Funny what you remember from your youth, but this scene with the men on the ice [starting at the 3:06 mark of the clip above] has always stuck with me, specifically how the men spread out to determine the shape of the object… and discover it is a circle. That leads to these lines:

We finally got one.
We found a flying saucer!

Thing From Another Planet

Such a powerful visual way to make the discovery, underscored by the dissonance of the horn section in the soundtrack.

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: “Life of Brian”

October 20th, 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 1979 movie Life of Brian, written by Graham Chapman & John Cleese & Terry Gilliam & Eric Idle & Terry Jones & Michael Palin. IMDB plot summary:

Brian is born on the original Christmas, in the stable next door. He spends his life being mistaken for a messiah.

Brian (Graham Chapman) attempts to escape a crowd of devotees who believe that he is the Messiah.

Given my background in theological studies and my adoration of the Monty Python troupe, I found Life of Brian to be both provocative and extremely funny. This scene encapsulates just about every theme and dynamic in the movie: mistaken identity, Brian denying his divinity, believers so desperate for hope their ‘faith’ trumps all logic, along with lots of inanity. The debate between Brian and the crowed reaches a peak with this exchange:

Brian: I’m not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Girl: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
Brian: Now, fuck off!

[silence]

Arthur: How shall we fuck off, O Lord?

The use of the F-word is the ultimate expression of Brian’s frustration. It’s also quite a shock to think that a Messiah would use such foul language. All that is funny enough. But then the topper: The believers are so cocksure they have found a Savior, they are willing to embrace the profanity as part of a possible path to follow Brian.

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: “Back to the Future”

October 19th, 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 1985 movie Back to the Future, written by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, Jr. IMDB plot summary:

A young man is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling DeLorean invented by his friend, Dr. Emmett Brown, and must make sure his high-school-age parents unite in order to save his own existence.

Discovering himself to have traveled back in time to 1955, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) stops into a diner for something to drink.

Background:

* The inspiration for the film largely stems from Bob Gale discovering his father’s high school yearbook and wondering whether he would have been friends with his father as a teenager. Gale also said that if he had the chance to go back in time he would really go back and see if they would have been friends.

* In the original script, Doc Brown and Marty sell bootleg videos in order to fund the time machine.

* In the first scene at the diner, Marty asks for a Pepsi Free. This refers to a brand of Pepsi that was the company’s first caffeine free cola. Ironically, in the same scene, Marty asks for a Tab, which was actually a diet cola brand produced by Pepsi’s rival Coca-Cola.

* The script was rejected 40 times before it was finally green-lit.

There a number of great scenes in Back to the Future, but this one stands out because of the way it handles several subplots:

* Marty and George (Crispin Glover): This is where Marty is ‘introduced’ to his father.

* Marty and Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson): This is where Marty first ‘meets’ his uncle Biff.

* George and Biff: We see how the bullying dynamic between the pair as evidenced in 1985 has its roots in 1955.

* Goldie Wilson (Donald Fullilove): When Marty blurts out, “You’re going to be mayor,” that sets into motion this character’s eventual election to city-wide office. This also sets into motion the dynamic that what Marty says and does in 1955 will have an impact on the future.

It’s a testament to the writers that they managed to handle all of these subplots intersecting in this one scene and do so seamlessly. It is a skill manifest in multiple scenes as Back to the Future is perhaps the single best example of how to use subplots to great effect.

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: “Full Metal Jacket”

October 18th, 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 scene suggested by Bretton Zinger: The 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket, screenplay by Stanley Kubrick & Michael Herr & Gustav Hasford. IMDB plot summary:

A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects the U.S.-Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

On night patrol, Private J.T. ‘Joker’ David (Matthew Modine) hears a strange sound coming from the barrack’s head.

Background:

* Gustav Hasford began working on “The Short Timers” (the book on which this film is based) while serving in Vietnam, and based many of the characters (and names) on soldiers he served with.

* Michael Herr, a very close friend of Stanley Kubrick, helped write much of the screenplay, particularly the part set in Vietnam. His contributions to the script are based largely on his own experiences as a reporter covering the war. Like Joker and Rafterman he was essentially freelance and allowed to travel anywhere in the country. Additionally, the scene where Joker and Rafterman watch the crazed gunner in the chopper machine-gun civilians is taken directly from “Dispatches”, Herr’s memoir of his experiences.

* The 7.62mm full metal jacket round that Pvt. Pyle refers to was the standard infantry round leading up to the Vietnam War. It was used in the M-14 infantry rifle that was designed during WWII and manufactured up until the Vietnam war era. Although the M-14 was used in the Vietnam War the M-16 had replaced it as the standard rifle. The M-16 uses a 5.56mm round.

The transformation of Private Leonard ‘Gomer Pyle’ Lawrence from innocent oaf to demented killing machine reaches its apex in this incredibly tense scene, made all the more powerful by the inevitability of the violence we have anticipated throughout the movie’s first act.

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!