25 Years Ago: “The Silence of the Lambs”

February 14th, 2016 by

Twenty five years ago today, The Silence of the Lambs was released by Orion Pictures. It went on to become one of three movies to win the so-called Big Five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay (Adapted). The other two are It Happened One Night (1934) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975).

The movie is a gem and for screenwriters a master class in handling characters, themes, and story structure. In fact, it’s one of my go-to movies when teaching screenwriting theory.

Here is a 5 part GITS analysis series we did on the movie:

General Comments
Structure
Characters
Themes
Dialogue

Here is the original trailer for the movie:

And here is a 90 minute documentary on the making of The Silence of the Lambs:

A Vanity Fair article by Scott Beggs: “The Silence of the Lambs: A Twisted Rom-Com That’s Perfect for Valentine’s Day”.

Interview with screenwriter Ted Tally.

What are your memories and associations with The Silence of the Lambs?

Video: “John Lasseter Looks Back on 30 Years of Pixar”

February 7th, 2016 by

Last week to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the founding of Pixar, the company put out this short video featuring John Lasseter, Walt Disney Animation and Pixar Studios Chief Creative Officer, and his reflections on why the studio has become so successful as a movie company:

An excerpt of Lasseter’s comments:

What makes a Pixar movie a Pixar movie. First its roots are based in the work of Walt Disney. Story is king. Story is the most important thing. You want it to really resonate with the audience… You want the movies to touch people. And that really is kind of a hallmark of Walt, make them funny, make them beautiful, make them scary, but in the end you want that heart of the movie to be so strong.

Story. Resonate. Touch people. Heart. It’s interesting. I have conversations with people who work in the movie and TV business all the time. They all want scripts with a strong story concept. Solid structure. Memorable scenes. And all the rest. However at the end of the day, perhaps the most important thing they’re looking for is this: They want to feel something.

So perhaps that’s a big reason why Pixar has been so successful. Guided by their own philosophy, they make movies with resonate with people and connect with them on an emotional level.

Something for writers to remember.

Video via the Walt Disney Company.

“31 Days of Feminist Horror Movies”

October 23rd, 2015 by

Throughout the month of October, Black List director of community Kate Hagen has been featuring a different feminist horror film every day on The Black List Blog. Ranging from slasher flicks to Gothic ghost stories to hallucinatory vampire tales, the series aims to explore how horror films can explore unique, sometimes taboo parts of the female experience, many of which are still rarely touched upon outside of the horror genre. Check out Kate’s introductory post for the series, “So, You’re A Woman Who Loves Horror Films”, and read the rest of the posts on the blog. Happy viewing!

Classic 50s Movies: The Entire Series

June 3rd, 2015 by

May was Classic 50s Movies month on the blog. Here are 29 movies from that decade spotlighted by our distinguished group of guest posters:

12 Angry Men

A Place in the Sun

A Star is Born

All About Eve

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Commander Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe

Harvey

High Noon

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Kiss Me Deadly

Night of the Demon

On the Beach

On the Waterfront

Pickpocket

Pickup on South Street

Rear Window

Seven Samurai

Singin’ in the Rain

Some Like It Hot

Stalag 17

Sunset Blvd.

The Bridge on the River Kwai

The File on Thelma Jordon

The Night of the Hunter

The Quiet Man

The Searchers

The Seventh Seal

Tokyo Story

Vertigo

How many of these movies have you seen? I have not seen Kiss Me Deadly, Night of the Demon, Pickpocket, Pickup on South Street, The File on Thelma Jordon, and Tokyo Story, but I intend to remedy that as they go on my Must See list based on the recommendation of GITS followers.

And that’s really the whole point of these decade by decade retrospectives we’ve undertaken over the last year or so: To motivate folks to watch movies. This practice, along with read scripts and write pages, are the foundation of any screenwriter’s education. Here are the other decades we’ve covered thus far, over 120 guest posts in total now stored in the GITS archives:

60s Movies

70s Movies
80s Movies
90s Movies

Thanks to everyone who has participated in this effort. You are helping create a resource to guide writers in what movies to watch and analyze, building up their base knowledge as they immerse themselves in the world of cinema.

Next up: The 40s. We’ll get to that a few months down the road.

In meantime… WATCH MOVIES!

Classic 50s Movie: “The Seventh Seal”

May 30th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Megaen Kelly.

Movie Title: The Seventh Seal

Year: 1957

Writer: Screenplay by Ingmar Bergman

Lead Actors: Max Von Sydow, Gunnar Björnstrand, Bibi Andersson, Nils Poppe and Bengt Ekerot

Director: Ingmar Bergman

Plot Summary: After 10 years away at the Crusades, a knight and his squire return home to a world unfamiliar to them. It is a world of fear and hysteria as the plague is sweeping through medieval Europe. Contrasting the squire’s strongly held secular views with the knight’s yearning for answers to metaphysical questions, Death shows up. He accepts a game of chess from the knight, with the knight’s freedom vs. his life as the stakes.

Added to this mix of life and death are a small troupe of actors, a love-sick blacksmith and his wandering wife, and others all trying to survive in a world gone mad.

Why I Think This is a Classic 50’s Movie: If Persona is Bergman’s seminal work, then surely The Seventh Seal is his most iconic and influential. Few films have had as many homages and parodies of them as The Seventh Seal has. But that just proves the adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. It is an amazing film that transcends the time in which it was made, in large part due to its ubiquitous themes of love and death.

Since the time when humans developed the brain capacity to consider philosophical issues, we have been looking for ways to cheat death. The Seventh Seal is the ultimate “trying to cheat death at his own game” film.

But it is more complex than that, although it seems to deal primarily with dualities. From the beautiful black and white cinematography by long-time Bergman cinematographer Gunnar Fischer, to the polar opposite views of knight (Von Sydow) and squire (Björnstrand), The Seventh Seal starkly lays out mankind’s soul and shows how we must all face the Grim Reaper.

The knight and squire are outsiders in their own village, as are the traveling actors. They witness first-hand the mass delirium of the villagers as they are whipped up into a religious frenzy, hoping that if they pray hard enough to God he will spare them from the Black Death. Slowly the two parties of outsiders come together and try to make their way at night through the woods to the knight’s home, where he left his bride 10 years earlier.

When we first see the wayfaring actors, they are full of life and love. It is morning in the countryside and nothing evil could possibly exist in this world. The married couple (Andersson and Poppe) has an infant son, the promise of a bright future. They even influence the faith-challenged knight, giving him hope, even for a moment. But then his game with Death continues, and his questioning of God’s silence persists.

The villagers are seen as selfish survivors, trying to cheat death and finding amusement, even of a malevolent nature, wherever they can. They terrorize Jof, the married male actor, making him perform as a dancing bear while fire licks at his feet.

In contrast to this dehumanizing atmosphere the knight and squire show great compassion. The squire saves a young woman from being raped, and both master and servant try to help another young woman accused of sleeping with the devil and bringing the plague to the village. In fact, it is the knight’s sacrifice that leads to the characters’ denouement.

The film was met with huge acclaim when it was released. It won numerous awards and has gone on to be listed in many ‘best films of all time’ lists. It has been analyzed and written about by many. It is undeniably a moving, well-made film that stands the test of time.

My Favorite Moment in the Movie: In typical film squire manner, Björnstrand’s character adds… not quite levity to the film – that’s not how Bergman works – but his earthly views and humanist attitude are lighter counterpoints to the knight’s stoicism. The garrulous squire has many high points in the film, from his banter with a church painter to his consoling friendship with the lovesick blacksmith.

Similar in film temperament to the squire is Jof, and in fact they have similar names – Jons and Jof, although the subtitles gave the squire’s ‘name’ as J. However, while the squire is a seen it all and done it all kind of guy, Jof still has a joie d’vivre attitude towards life. Scenes with either of them are wonderful.

Jof’s love of life is most profound in his relationship with his beautiful wife Mia and their lovely son. Andersson, a staple in many Bergman films, captivates the viewer with her beauty and innocence. Look for their opening scene together and their crazy musical number shortly afterwards (but no English subtitles).

My Favorite Dialogue: Understandably, many of the most enjoyable quotes are provided by the squire. I particularly love when he says “Love is the blackest of all plagues… if one could die of it, there would be some pleasure in love, but you don’t die of it.”

Contrasting this worldly topic is the knight’s struggle with his Christian faith. A typical example of his musings:

“Is it so terribly inconceivable to comprehend God with one’s senses? Why does he hide in a cloud of half-promises and unseen miracles? How can we believe in the faithful when we lack faith? What will happen to us who want to believe, but can not? What about those who neither want to nor can believe? Why can’t I kill God in me? Why does He live on in me in a humiliating way – despite my wanting to evict Him from my heart? Why is He, despite all, a mocking reality I can’t be rid of?”

However, the knight – called Antonius Block – is capable of everyday human emotion as well. Sitting with the actors, his squire and the girl he saved, Block reflects:

“I shall remember this moment: the silence, the twilight, the bowl of strawberries, the bowl of milk. Your faces in the evening light. Mikael asleep, Jof with his lyre. I shall try to remember our talk. I shall carry this memory carefully in my hands as if it were a bowl brimful of fresh milk. It will be a sign to me, and a great sufficiency.”

Of course the give and take between Death and knight shouldn’t go without an example:

Antonius Block: I want knowledge! Not faith, not assumptions, but knowledge. I want God to stretch out His hand, uncover His face and speak to me.
Death: But He remains silent.
Antonius Block: I call out to Him in the darkness. But it’s as if no one was there.
Death: Perhaps there isn’t anyone.
Antonius Block: Then life is a preposterous horror. No man can live faced with Death, knowing everything’s nothingness.
Death: Most people think neither of death nor nothingness.
Antonius Block: But one day you stand at the edge of life and face darkness.
Death: That day.
Antonius Block: I understand what you mean.

Key Things to Look for When Watching This Movie:

Of course everyone knows the short scene of von Sydow’s knight on the beach at night playing chess with Death – it is an iconographic image in the history of cinema. But that is just the beginning of their game, which is played out throughout the film.

Arguably the second most famous image from the film is the danse macabre at the end. It has also been redone in several films (again, without English subtitles):

Here is that dialogue in English: I see them! Over there against the stormy sky. They are all there. The smith and Lisa, the knight, Raval, Jöns, and Skat. And the strict master Death bids them dance. He wants them to hold hands and to tread the dance in a long line. At the head goes the strict master with the scythe and hourglass. But the Fool brings up the rear with his lute. They move away from the dawn in a solemn dance away towards the dark lands while the rain cleanses their cheeks of the salt from their bitter tears.

I can’t leave you without sharing what I believe to be the best of the homages/parodies of The Seventh Seal. Nearly 35 years after the release of this Swedish masterpiece, a sequel to a sleeper hit not only contained a scene based on one from The Seventh Seal, but one of the main characters’ look is drawn virtually identically with that in Bergman’s film, complete with fake Swedish accent:

Thanks, Megaen! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works!

Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – John Nilsson Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Seventh, Seal, The – Megaen Kelly
Singin’ in the Rain – Megaen Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe”

May 29th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from John Nilsson Acosta.

Movie Title: Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe

Year: 1953

Writers: Ronald Davidson and Barry Shipman

Poster Commando Cody Sky Marshal Universe

Lead Actors: Judd Holdren, Aline Towne, Gregory Gaye, Richard Crane, William Schallert, Gloria Pall

Directors: Harry Keller, Franklin Adreon, and Fred C. Brannon

Plot Summary: As the series opens, it is the near future as seen from the perspective of the early 1950s. Earth is in radio contact with civilizations on planets in our solar system, as well as planets in other, distant solar systems, and Commando Cody has just built the world’s first spaceship. The rest of the world appears unchanged by these galactic developments. (The exterior of Cody’s headquarters building is actually a Republic Pictures office building.)

In each episode The Ruler tries to take over the Earth with a new scheme, each one designed to make maximum use of Republic’s stock footage library of various disasters and previously used action long shots. For the series, a number of new outer space scenes were filmed that had not been seen before in Republic serials, including “space walks” for several exterior spaceship repairs; aerial ray gun duels between “hero” and “enemy” spaceships; and black star fields (rather than daylight and cloud-spotted skies) for backgrounds when Cody’s or the villain’s spaceships were shown outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

Cody and his associates use special badges that conceal radios to communicate with one another, prefiguring similar communication badges used more than 30 years later in Star Trek: The Next Generation. There were futuristic props and sets, as well as shots of the intricate model-rocket special effects work of Republic’s Howard and Theodore Lydecker; the spaceships of Cody and The Ruler are the same basic shooting miniature with different attachments and markings added to make them appear different. (Summary from Wikipedia)

Why I Think This is a Classic 50’s Movie: Come with me back to yesteryear! Imagine yourself – you are just nine years old – you reach up to plunk down your 45 cents at the ticket booth in the glorious Dreamland Theater located in downtown Modesto! These are the days of Double Features and Serial one reelers. You’re paying your hard earned allowance to sit through the main feature which is a strange Western, Produced by Republic Pictures, called Johnny Guitar.

What you’re really here to see is something very special. Something so unique and stupendous it has gripped your heart and soul, and engaged your active imagination! You’ve had to wait one whole week to see what happens next!

As the intermission ends and you try to figure out why the dystopian Western Johnny Guitar disturbed you, the theater lights go down, and the light on the screen begins to flicker, it’s coming to life! Taking a big gulp from your 10 cent coke and stuffing a hand full of popcorn into your mouth here it is. Your story. Your adventure. Now, right now, this is all you want!

The title splashes across the screen as a man wearing futuristic flying suit with a bullet shaped helmet runs out of a building and leaps into the air! He’s flying! If only you had a rocket powered back pack! You would be Commander Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe!

Commando Cody: scientific genius, inventor of a Flying Suit, protector of the Earth and the Universe. (Hey, that sounds familiar.)

You’ve been on so many adventures with Commando Cody, had your close calls, trusted your sidekicks, taken advice from your wise old mentor, and had epic battles fighting the henchmen of your evil nemesis The Ruler, but this week you’ll need more. This week is colossal, stupendous. This week it’s “War of the Space Giants”!

Space Giants! This is so freekin cool.

Imagine yourself. You’re just nine years old and your name is George Lucas . . .

Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe was released into theaters just as television was growing in popularity and movie studios, in order to compete with the small screen, decided to make films in widescreen format. The small independent movie studios that cranked out these low budget serials were feeling the pressure. They were converting to the new entertainment medium of television or folding their tents and disappearing from film production altogether.

This spelled the end of the movie serial. In just three short years the last movie serial was released into theaters. Hollywood’s film industry lost it’s ability and it’s desire to tell long form stories. But these 1950’s serials had a profound and lasting impact on a generation that would come of age in Hollywood in the 1970’s and one emerging movie serial would have a budget that would dwarf anything that had ever been spent before.

Flash forward to the 6th annual Comic-Con in July 1976. Lucas has sent a promotional team to San Diego where they’ve rented a table to sell a STAR WARS novel, comic books, and they’ve scheduled a presentation in order to show slides on a portable projection screen of scenes from the upcoming film. Only a handful of Comic-Con attendees turned up to see the presentation. Yet by next May 1977 STAR WARS became a Global Phenomenon. The one key moment in the film that signaled to audiences that serials were coming back was when Darth Vader survived the destructing of the Death Star. Their curiosity was aroused. What will happen to our new Heroes if the Evil Vader survived what would happen next?

Now in 2015 we’ve seen numerous examples of Serialized movies: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Bourne films, but the biggest and baldest of them all is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Using multiple storylines and multiple characters in what seemed to be individual stand alone films is really at it’s core a Serial. Don’t believe me? Look at what an Italian fan put together on YouTube.

Low budget, Pop Art, movie serials that can trace their linage all the way back to 1910. Their subject matter covered Crime Stories, Adventures, Comic Strips, and Super Heroes. Now they have returned to Hollywood and they’ve been transformed, super-sized, and juiced-up with modern storytelling techniques, production dollars, and CGI. They’ve usurped what was once considered the High Art of the Studio Film. Modern Serials are now a multi-billion dollar business. Everything else turned into Indy Film.

But why? What’s the appeal of long form story telling? Stay tuned to hear the exciting tale . . . (Hint: The hidden Evil Genius is Socrates!)

My Favorite Moment in the Movie: My favorite moment in the Serial occurs in Episode 9: Solar Sky Raiders. It’s the moment when Cody gives Joan the Pilot’s seat of his space ship. Joan’s not here to be eye candy or a damsel in distress. (Howard Hawks would approve.)

My Favorite Dialogue: Dialogue??? Who needs dialogue when you have over the top action!

Here’s a clip from Episode 4: Nightmare Typhoon. The evil genius is out to conquer Earth and he’s manipulating Earth’s weather causing Global Climate Change to flood and destroy everything until Earth surrenders to his will. Watch as New York City gets destroyed by a massive tidal wave! (The Tidal Wave you see destroying New York City is actually stock footage Republic Pictures recycled from their film Deluge [1933] which depicts a series of natural disasters! Earthquakes destroy California and these set off a Tidal Wave that destroys New York!)

O.K. I do have some dialogue to share. Every good yarn needs a comedic side kick. Here’s Richard Crane portraying Dick Preston. (Falstaff eat your heart out.)

Key Things to Look for When Watching This Movie: Listen to the opening soundtrack. The driving horns and drums become remarkable and memorable. The soundtrack was written by Stanley Wilson who went on to score numerous films and television shows. Wilson also worked with and mentored a young up and coming composer named John Williams.

Commando Cody: Sky Marshal of the Universe is also a prequel! It was released after Radar Men from the Moon (1949) whose events take place after the action shown in Commando Cody. They didn’t use the same actors to play Cody in both Serials. To hide the fact the actor in the prequel was different they gave him a mask to wear.

Always add an element of comedy to relieve the audience’s tension. By episode three Cody’s sidekick was replaced and then played for humor.

You don’t have to spend a hundred bajillion dollars to make a Science Fiction Serial. What Republic Pictures spent was about $1.8 million in today’s dollars. Compare that to what Casablanca cost, adjusting for inflation and the Stars salaries, about $25 Million.

Concepts! Commando Cody has so many raw Concepts in it just waiting to be developed and retold in a new form.

Recycled footage from other Republic Pictures films as well as props and costumes. These Serials were very low budget affairs.

Serials do something very special to an audience. Just ask Scheherazade! They engage your active imagination, curiosity, and sense of anticipation. Combine those human qualities with Social Media Conic-Cons, and Entertainment Blogs, then sit back and watch it creates a kinetic dynamic of it’s own. As we’ve seen in more recent times audiences will wait years to see these sagas continue!

Thanks, John! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Twitter: @BadScreenWrtr.

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works!

Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – John Nilsson Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Seventh, Seal, The – Megaen Kelly
Singin’ in the Rain – Megaen Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “12 Angry Men”

May 28th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Ipsita Barik.

Movie Title: 12 Angry Men

Year: 1957

Writer: Reginald Rose

Lead Actors: Henry Fonda, Lee J Cobb, E.G.Marshall

Director: Sidney Lumet

IMDb Plot Summary: A dissenting juror in a murder trial slowly manages to convince the others that the case is not as obviously clear as it seemed in court.

Why I Think This is a Classic 50s Movie: 12 Angry Men isn’t about anger. Rather the core underlining emotion through the film is that of attempting and struggling with the emotion of empathy and being compassionate towards a stranger. The idea of trying to empathise with someone charged with criminality, to “dig deeper” (Juror 11). In the “hottest day of the year” 12 Jurors debate a verdict that leaves then twisted and twirled as the conversation proceeds. “They smoke, they sweat, they swear, they sprawl, they stalk, and they get angry.” (Roger Ebert)

When Juror 8, the dissident, casts the first non-guilty vote, everyone in the room is stunned. With questions arising as to how to proceed thereon, Juror 8 offered,“I guess we talk!” At that moment, you can never imagine the crescendo into which the “talk” develops into. I love the way the movie explores the dark corners in our minds, underlined with prejudices and judgements about the “other”. The landscape is not complex, and yet in the simplicity of the conversations we find the most intricate of human emotions emerge. The conversation turns into heated arguments, wild rants, bullying, mocking and abusing, intertwined with placid moments of watching the rain pour down. 12 Angry Men could easily be a living room conversation between friends and in that lays the familiarity of the setting. In that is also embedded the idea that amongst a few men, a conversation can often lead to significant and valuable change. The jurors step into the room with the absolute conviction of the accused being guilty and yet when they exit the room, leaving behind the remnants – the doodles, the cigarettes stubs, strewn newspapers; of their long winded and heated conversations, they carry a strong conviction of the case involving a “reasonable doubt”.

It’s amidst the conversations that the layered sense of human prejudices and biases emerge. In it also lay the sense of human strength and courage. Juror 8 is the dissenter not because he has hard facts to counter the alleged guilt of the accused, but he does have the courage to stand up to the 11 jurors all by himself, because his strength is born from empathy. The multiple questions raised through the length of the conversations are real and sharp. Is justice devoid of emotions? When Juror 8 argues, “he is a wild, angry kid..we owe him a few words”, Juror 10 counters, “do you know how much that trial costs? Let me tell you something, we owe him nothing” – the question that probes is whether justice is devoid of emotions?  Or in the instance when Juror 4, states, “we know he comes from a broken family and filthy slum – but we can’t do anything about it,” one wonders whether hard facts overpower even a remote sense of inquisitiveness or dissent, both essential to human intelligence and society. When Juror 3 mocks, “Some underprivileged kid, who couldn’t help becoming a murderer,” as the second not-guilty vote is cast, you are led into thinking whether such scorn and abhorrence isn’t commonplace. The layers of doubt that emerge at every instance of detour, such as when Juror 6 says to Juror 8, “suppose you talk us out of it, and the kid really knifed his father!” Juror 11 is the second to begin thinking differently about the case and when accused of jumping ships, he asserts, “I don’t think I have to be loyal to one side or the other, am just asking questions,” which asserts that to think differently, you just need a slight nudge, The movie is a beautiful and intricate study of human emotions and the essential human characteristics that are both fallible and strong.

My Favorite Moment in the Movie: The underlying drama essentially lays in the rounds of vote calls and when the not guilty votes begin to swing its way up the ladder. From 11-1 vote in the beginning to the slow counts when the not-guilty votes rise alongside the temper and the heat, the movie is a classic drama and thriller.

Two occasions, are absolutely thrill driven in the movie. One when it is proven by the Jurors, that the empty L train passed by the apartment building when the murder happened, and hence, questioning whether in all that din and noise, it would have been possible for the old man (a witness) to hear the accused shout “I will kill you” alongside the thump of the body hitting the floor. The second is when the its is displayed convincingly by Juror 8 that the old man couldn’t have reached the front door of his apartment to see the accused run down the stairs in 15 seconds. It turned out that dragging a leg and walking slowly, it took Juror 8 almost 43 seconds, to reach the imaginary front gate.

My Favorite Dialogue in the Movie:

Juror 8: “I want to call for another vote; I want you 11 men to vote by secret written ballot, I will abstain. If there are 11 votes for guilty, I won’t stand alone, and will take in a guilty verdict to the judge right now. If anyone votes not guilty, we stay here and talk it out.”

Key Thing You Should Look for When Watching This Movie: The highlight of the movie is that it is shot almost uniformly in a single space, that of inside a jury room. One jury room, 12 jury members, the stifling heat and the process of trying to reach a uniform verdict. What is fascinating about the movie is that the anger seamlessly navigates through the movie and yet it doesn’t seem either contrived or misplaced. Its palpable, it’s real and somehow you feel the anger is indispensable.

12 Angry Men is a case of personality study. The jury members aren’t identified by their names almost through the span of the film, and yet you don’t feel that the very key identification in human relations is missing! You naturally begin to identify with the array of disparate characters. Juror 1 is the assured moderator who gets angry at being called a controlling freak while juror 2 is nervous little man, who throughout the movie refuses to be cowed down. I think the movie beautifully weaves in the various characters, highlighting their distinctive traits. Juror 3 screams Bloody Mary at every instance, when the vote strays towards the “not-guilty” verdict. Juror 4 is the practical no nonsense man, whose focus refuses to stray from the facts. Juror 5 is the man who relates to the background of the accused and his empathy builds up in the process. Juror 6 keeps to his business and is courteous towards everyone, especially the elderly. Juror 7 is the flamboyant, off the hook guy, whose focus for a substantial part of the movie remains on the baseball tickets in his pocket. Juror 8 is the dissenter, not afraid to say and do different, even when bullied; he refuses to buckle under the pressure. Juror 9 is the old man, preacher, who is the first one to lend a sympathetic ear to the dissident Juror 8. Juror 10 is the bigot and the loudmouth and Juror 11 is the Irish immigrant who understands the position from the ‘margins’ very clearly. Juror 12 is the advertising guy, who doodles, sways and intermittently comes up with bright ideas. And yet brilliantly with the swinging lens shots, the characters struggle between detachment and apathy on one hand, and that niggling sense of “reasonable doubt” that arises as the story forwards.

“In form, 12 Angry Men is a courtroom drama. In purpose, it’s a crash course in those passages of the Constitution that promise defendants a fair trial and the presumption of innocence” – Roger Ebert.

Released in 1957, when Technicolor and lush production values were common, “12 Angry Men” was lean and mean. (Roger Ebert)

Lumet uses the “Lens Plot” in the movie. The room visually shrinks as the story progress, “he gradually changed to lenses of longer focal lengths, so that the backgrounds seemed to close in on the characters.” Lumet adds, “, “I shot the first third of the movie above eye level, shot the second third at eye level and the last third from below eye level. In that way, toward the end the ceiling began to appear. Not only were the walls closing in, the ceiling was as well. The sense of increasing claustrophobia did a lot to raise the tension of the last part of the movie.” In the film’s last shot, he observes, he used a wide-angle lens “to let us finally breathe.”

Thanks, Ipsita! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works!

Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Seventh, Seal, The – Megaen Kelly
Singin’ in the Rain – Megaen Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Tokyo Story”

May 27th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Jeff Messerman.

Movie Title: Tokyo Story

Year: 1953

Writers: Kogo Noda and Yasujiro Ozu

Lead Actors: Chishu Ryu, Chieko Higashiyama, Setsuko Hara, Haruko Sugimura, and So Yamamura

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Synopsis: An elderly couple leave their small fishing village to visit their children and grandchildren in the city but soon find themselves to be nothing more than a burden to their busy offspring.

WHY I THINK THIS IS A CLASSIC 50’s MOVIE: Not only do I find this to be a classic 50’s movie but also one of the greatest movies ever made. Granted, the story is certainly nothing terribly remarkable, almost soap opera in nature. The film, however, is made with such delicacy and gentleness and care that it never once devolves into cheap melodrama. Culturally, there may be a bit of a gap for a first time viewer of this or any of Ozu’s works but I would contend this film remains as relevant and important today as it was back in 1953.

In short, cultural quirks and mannerisms may change over time and from nation to nation, but the human condition is eternal.

MY FAVORITE MOMENT IN THE MOVIE: This is a tough one for me. The film is comprised of seemingly unremarkable life moments…a casual chat with a neighbor, a mother scolding her boys for not being polite to their recently arrived grandparents, a daughter manipulating events to be rid of the burdensome parents. It goes on and on. It’s what these small moments add up to that count in the end. So my “favorite moment in the movie?”

All of them.

MY FAVORITE DIALOGUE IN THE MOVIE: What you’ve heard is true. Ozu revels in the mundane, obviously feeling that it is in the casual exchanges where the real story is to be found. No Sorkin or Mamet style poetics here, just the poetry of real life. To lay out any patch of dialogue here would be to take it out of context and pretty much drain it of its power. Still, when seen in the framework of the film, this line by the mother to her children is, for me, particularly heartwrenching.

“Now that we’ve seen you all, no need to come down. even if something should happen to either one of us.”

A basic, simple line and yet one top loaded with meaning. Also, this exchange packs a quite punch:

“Life is disappointing.”
“Yes, it is.”

(Interestingly, I’ve seen a version where the subtitled response to that statement read, “Yes, very often,” which is almost divergently opposed to the first version. I guess it depends where you stand on that issue as to which reply works better…)

KEY THINGS YOU SHOULD LOOK FOR WHEN WATCHING: “Get in late, get out early.” Isn’t that the screenwriting adage that drives our craft these days? Ozu-san clearly would find that to be rubbish. We get in when the characters get in and we loiter, flies on the wall (though perhaps ‘flies on the floor’ is more accurate since Ozu shoots low, upwards at his actors), hearing every relationship nuance and subtlety, and we even linger in an empty room for a few moments after the characters have departed! He makes up for this “marinading of scenes” via what Ozu experts call his “ellipsoid style,” leaping forward in time, skipping what most of us would regard as key dramatic scenes…a character’s death, a conflict-filled exchange. As viewers, we are trained by Ozu to infer what occurred “while we were away.” It’s masterful storytelling that even to this day is nothing less than radical.

For me, as a screenwriter, no single director has opened my mind to the possibilities of character and story more than Yasujiro Ozu (er, for better or worse…). Check out this site for a nice springboard into his world. It is the humble opinion of this meager movie scribbler from America’s Dairyland that every practitioner of this craft should know the works of this master up, down, sideways, and backwards.

CLIPS: When it comes to supplying clips, I would truly be doing a disservice to ruin anything in this film by taking moments out of context. Thus I will do the next best thing. First, the haunting score that will remain with you for the remainder of your days:

And this. Someone collected a bunch of Ozu’s “pillow shots” (visual bumpers that establish the locale and break apart the scenes) that he became famous for. Go here to see the video.

Thanks, Jeff! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works!

Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “On the Beach”

May 24th, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Liz Warner.

Movie Title: On the Beach

Year: 1959

Writers: John Paxton (screenplay), Nevil Shute (novel, 1957)

Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins

Director: Stanley Kramer

IMDb Plot Summary: After a global nuclear war, the residents of Australia must face the fact that all life will be destroyed in a matter of months.

Here’s a link to the dramatic opening (credits) scene, scored so beautifully.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: This movie confronts a theme which troubled people deeply in its day (and yet still rings true today): that of the potential for wholesale destruction of the human race through nuclear holocaust. Remember this was the Cold War era when school children were drilled on how to “duck and cover” under their desks in case of bombing. The story is set in then-futuristic 1964, shortly after a hypothetical World War III.

The casting, too, makes On the Beach a 1950s classic.

My Favorite Moment In The Film: When Captain Towers steps up to use the periscope to look at America’s West Coast, he realizes it’s devoid of human life, and steps back down, speechless. Then another military man does the same thing. And another. They say nothing. What can they say? Their expressions say it all. There is no life and no hope for life. Why speak the unspeakable?

My Favorite Dialogue In The Film: Despite the overall bleakness of this film, there are moments, like this, when the characters, just chatty ordinary people, say something quite funny:

JULIAN OSBORNE: I shouldn’t drink, you know. I inevitably say something brilliant.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching The Film: Note that Nevil Shute wasn’t all that happy with the film version of his novel, which had placed blame for the nuclear bombing and its subsequent fallout. (The movie, conversely, intimated it was a tragic accident.) But despite Shute’s misgivings, Stanley Kramer received a “Best Director” award from BAFTA in 1960 for his work on this film.

The movie was filmed in b/w which artfully depicts the black and white, or good and bad, of humankind’s reaction to the life or death (and also black and white) choice here. Yet there is a full palette of reaction and emotion.

[Spoiler Alert] You’ll know how the film ends, and it’s dark. But watch how each of the characters face their anticipated demise and the choices they make in their short remaining time. Look for the steps they take to pretend there’s hope, for example, by planting a garden they will never enjoy.

Notice some of the ways the film seeks to create suspense, despite its inevitable outcome. For example:

1. The survivors get a Morse code signal and sail north to find the source. Will they make contact?

2. Australia issues optional “suicide” pills or injections for citizens to prevent prolonged suffering from radiation sickness. Will they really use them? Could a parent rationalize euthanizing a child?

3. Might the so-called “Jorgensen Effect,” the dispersion of Arctic radiation prior to reaching the Southern Hemisphere, save them or buy them time?

Finally, consider the ending. In another story context, the sign “there is still time, brother” might seem too on the nose or in your face, but somehow, it works here as this was, in essence, a cautionary tale of the day.

FYI: “On the beach” is an Aussie way of saying “retired from the Service.” “On the Beach” was remade into a made-for-TV movie in Australia in 2000.

Thanks, Liz! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Twitter: @writeonliz.

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.

Classic 50s Movie: “Pickpocket”

May 23rd, 2015 by

May is Classic 50s Movie month. Today’s guest post comes from Zach Jansen.

Movie Title: Pickpocket

Year: 1959

Writer: Robert Bresson

Lead Actors: Martin LaSalle, Marika Green, Kassagi (also served as technical advisor for pickpockets’ skills), Jean Pélégri, Pierre Leymarie

Director: Robert Bresson

IMDb Plot Summary: Michel is released from jail after serving a sentence for thievery. His mother dies and he resorts to pickpocketing as a means of survival.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 50s Movie: Pickpocket is a classic 50s movie (and a classic movie period) because like all of Bresson’s films, it pushes the expectations of what cinema can be. (For Bresson, there was a distinct difference between a movie—essentially filmed theatre—and film/cinema, which attempted to create new experiences with its use of moving images and sound.)

What I find most interesting about Bresson is that he was a hailed as a kind of father or forerunner of French New Wave, but none of his films fully fall into the movement. In fact, many of his early films fit in more with the Italian neorealism movement (real locations, non-actors, focus on the lower class). Granted, both movements share many commonalities, but the fact that Bresson (and Pickpocket) straddles both of these important and influential schools of filmmaking is an indication of the kind of filmmaker Bresson was. He defied categorization while still adding to various canons of film waves and movements.

And that’s also what makes Pickpocket a classic movie: It’s more or less Bresson’s masterpiece, but it’s also his most accessible film for neophytes to French New Wave and Italian neorealism and Bresson himself. It’s essentially a gateway film to styles and filmmakers some might have never discovered and enjoyed.

My Favorite Moment in The Movie: I love the tension throughout every pickpocketing scheme Michel and his accomplices perform, but Michel’s inevitable arrest (via an undercover operation he seems completely aware of) carries with it the emotional and fatalistic power of any great crime-and-redemption story.

But nothing can beat the tour de force train station sequence. There’s so much to admire, it’s probably best to just show it in its entire 4:30 instead of trying to put into words how technically sound and dramatically engaging the sequence is:

My Favorite Dialogue in the Movie: From altruism to superiority…

JACQUES: Are there many thieves?
CHIEF INSPECTOR: Many. All different kinds. An infinite variety.
JACQUES: Not all theft is so serious. Some can be excused if poverty is behind it.
CHIEF INSPECTOR: Of course.
JACQUES: Could one turn a blind eye to certain kinds of theft? (to Michel) You have a theory on that.
MICHEL: Me?
CHIEF INSPECTOR: Let’s hear it.
MICHEL: It’s nothing new.
CHIEF INSPECTOR: Let’s hear it anyway.
MICHEL: Can we not admit that certain skilled men, gifted with intelligence, talent or even genius, and thus indispensable to society, rather than stagnate, should be free to disobey the laws in certain cases?
CHIEF INSPECTOR: That could be difficult. And dangerous.
MICHEL: Society could only gain from it.
CHIEF INSPECTOR: Who will identify these supermen?
MICHEL: They themselves. Their conscience.
CHIEF INSPECTOR: You know any man who doesn’t think he’s exceptional?
MICHEL: Don’t worry. It would only be at first. Then they’d stop.
CHIEF INSPECTOR: They don’t stop, believe me. A useful thief, then? A benefactor? That’s the world upside down.
MICHEL: It’s already upside down. This could set it right.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie: I think the most important thing you should look for when watching Pickpocket is how much Bresson expects you to be involved and an active viewer of the film.

For instances, there are few establishing or master shots in the film’s 75 minutes. Oftentimes, a scene begins with a medium shot, sometimes a close-up, and the camera never “opens up” any wider. It’s up to us, the audience, to figure out where we are with the simple yet subtle clues we’re handed. For instance, the open scene (after the shot of Michel’s diary/confession, which acts as a framing device) starts with a close-up on a purse backed up on the soundtrack with crowd noise. There’s a booth with a man taking money and giving tickets in return. It’s not until almost a minute into the narrative that we know where we are location-wise. Immediately, Bresson demands your attention and pulls into trying to figure out not only what’s going on screen, but where it’s going on (there’s another scene that looks to be at an outdoor café, but a subtle reflection in a window informs us that we’re at a carnival/amusement park).

Perhaps the most important thing to take away is how important and vital film language and grammar can be in telling the story. Film isn’t just telling a story, but it’s how you tell the story (with images and sounds). It’s not just characters speaking the plot (often right on the nose), but living and being the plot. Too often nowadays, characters are only in a movie to serve the plot or story; with Pickpocket (and much of Bresson’s oeuvre), there is no story without the characters.

Thanks, Zach! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Twitter: @WriterZach.

We already have a set of classic 60s Movies, 70s movies, 80s Movies and 90s Movies. This month, we’re working on 50s movies. And thanks to the GITS community, we’ve got 31 movies in the works! Those who I put in bold have already sent me their posts. If you haven’t sent yours to me, please do so as soon as you can!!!

12 Angry Men – Ipsita Barik
A Place in the Sun – Zach Jansen
A Star is Born – Melinda Mahaffey
A Touch of Evil – David Joyner
All About Eve – Ricardo Bravo
American in Paris – stefani1601
Bridge on the River Kwai – Tom Peterson
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – uncgym44
Commando Cody: Sky Marshall of the Universe – J Nilsson-Acosta
File on Thelma Jordon, The – David Joyner
Harvey – Felicity Flesher
High Noon – Jeff Messerman
Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Rick Dyke
Kiss Me Deadly – John Henderson
Marty – jetwillie69
Night of the Demon – David Hutchison
Night of the Hunter – Mark Twain
On the Beach – Liz Warner
On the Waterfront – Bilbo Poynter
Pickpocket – Zach Jansen
Pick Up on South Street – Vincent Martini
Quiet Man, The – Traci Nell Peterson
Rear Window – Roy Gordon
Rebel Without a Cause – Jack McDonald
Searchers, The – mkm28
Seven Samurai, The – Paul Graunke
Singin’ in the Rain – Maegan Kelly
Some Like It Hot – Will King
Stalag 17 – James Schramm
Sunset Blvd. – Lisa Byrd
Tokyo Story – Jeff Messerman
Vertigo – Jason Pates

Thanks to everyone!

For the original post explaining the series, go here.

For all of the 50s movies featured in the series, go here.