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Understanding Screenwriting #81: Sarah’s Key, Bobby, Summer Cable TV, & More

My wife and I have been huge fans of the Canadian Cirque du Soleil since it first played in Los Angeles at an Arts Festival in 1986.

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Understanding Screenwriting #81: Sarah’s Key, Bobby, Summer Cable TV, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Iris (stage production), Sarah’s Key, Bobby, Shakespeare Wallah, End of the Summer 2011 Cable TV Season, but first…

Fan Mail: David Ehrenstein commented that the collaboration between Emeric Pressburger and Michael Powell, which I discussed a bit in US#80, was worthy of further examination. It definitely is, as are the collaborations of not only the other writers I have written about, but many more. The historiography of screenwriting is not an area where a lot of film historians, especially academic ones, work. It’s not a smart career move for opportunistic academics, given the old guys on their dissertation committees who still believe that directors make their movies as they go along. I have been promoting the idea that screenwriters should be examined in more detail for decades now. Being the Midwestern optimist I am, I see the glass as half full. Well, maybe a quarter full. There have been biographies of screenwriters, and in US#82 I will be writing about Pat McGilligan’s Backstory 5, the latest in the gold standard of screenwriter interview books. On the other hand, I recently saw a list of the Ph.D. dissertations done since 1975 at UCLA on film subjects. There were more than you can shake a stick at on film noir and feminist theory, but not a lot on screenwriting.

Iris (2011. Stage production written by Philippe Decoufle. 135 minutes)

Half a disaster: My wife and I have been huge fans of the Canadian Cirque du Soleil since it first played in Los Angeles at an Arts Festival in 1986. If you have never seen a Cirque production, you should. It is a circus without animals, but usually with incredible athletic performers (gymnasts, contortionists, aerialists, and other people who do things there are no names for) and incredibly funny clowns. The atmosphere is more European than American, and some of the acts, especially the clowns, are existentialism in motion. The organization started in 1984 with a collection of street performers in Montreal and now runs 21 shows around the world, some touring, and some (several in Las Vegas) in permanent residence. Iris is the new Cirque production settling down for what they hope will be a long run at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. That’s where the Oscars are held, so it will not surprise you to learn that the theme of Iris is Cinema. Previous Cirque shows have subtly referenced film before. Their 2007 show Corteo was very much late-period Fellini, with elaborate surrealism and special effects. The 2009 show Kooza was early Fellini, without the special effects, and a bit of an Ingmar Bergman aura as well.

So you can imagine how disappointed I am that Iris is, if not a total disaster, at least half a disaster. Even though this is a column on screenwriting, I have in the past written about stage productions that connect with films in a variety of ways. Iris raises all kinds of questions about the relationship between theater, circus and film, and the differences of writing for them. Let’s start with the issue of structure. What, you fans of Cirque say, these shows do not have a structure? Oh yes they do. It is usually in the simple form of a sometimes innocent, sometimes not-so-innocent, character who gets involved with the circus, or whatever the circus in a given production represents. He reacts to the acts, becomes part of them, and comes out either a better person or else dead. The structure is minimal, but it makes the shows hold together in a way that most circuses don’t. Here the structure seems to focus on two characters. One is Buster, the young man. He is described in the free program (just get the free program; it is the only one that tells you anything about the show. The $15 souvenir program is all pictures and no information, part of the longstanding if irritating Cirque tradition) as “a lonely young man yearning for romance.”

Well, that sounds like typical Cirque, but as written and performed, we get no feeling that a) he is lonely, or b) he is yearning for romance. Now you would think that with a name like Buster, he remind us of Keaton, but he doesn’t. In the program photographs, but not in the show, he wears horn-rimmed glasses. The program says he resembles “such humble heroes of the silent screen as Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd,” but he doesn’t. He looks and acts more like Donald O’Conner in the early numbers in Singin’ in the Rain, especially when he does the walk up the wall and backflip O’Conner does in the “Make ’em Laugh” number. If one got the sense that the show was playing around with a variety of icons, it might make sense, but here it just feels haphazard.

The other major character is Scarlett, the girl. Well, the only Scarlett we know is O’Hara, and the girl here is nothing like her. This one is a generic innocent girl who ends up becoming a movie star (although a photo spread in the September 18th Los Angeles Times makes it clearer than onstage that she is played by several different performers. If you are going to call Buster Buster and if you are going to call Scarlett Scarlett, we had better see the connection with their forebears, or else make it a non sequitur so we see there is no connection. In a film it would need to be more specific, but in a Cirque show you could get away with them being more abstract. An ongoing problem is that for all the money Cirque spent on the show and refurbishing the Kodak Theatre, they couldn’t be bothered to get the rights to portray real actors or use real film clips. The movies are a very concrete medium: Charlie Chaplin turns a corner in a different way than Keaton or Lloyd do. Cirque shows are often wonderfully abstract and movies are not (with the exception of certain art films). If you are going to do a show about Cinema, you may need to be more specific. On the other hand, they may just have had their “abstract” caps on and figured they could be more general. But then they shouldn’t call them Buster and Scarlett.

Even if you make Buster and Scarlett more specific, the next problem with Act One is that they very seldom show up. Traditionally the “access characters” relate to the performing acts, but that does not happen here. That would not be a problem if the acts themselves were better. I have always judged Cirque shows by how early in the show I think “A human body cannot do what I just saw a human body do.” Often it’s in the first ten or fifteen minutes. Here it never happened. Not in Act One, not in Act Two. It may be that with 21 shows running around the world, plus all the imitation Cirques floating around, that the world has run out of astonishing acts. If that’s true, the world is a much sadder place than I want to live in. The aerialists and the contortionists here are good, but they are never dazzling. It may also be that since Iris is in a big, 2,500-seat theater rather that in a tent, the audience (we were in the mezzanine) is perhaps a little too far away to be overwhelmed.

The best number in Act One is a “Filmstrip,” where there are seven panels, each representing a frame of film, with people in each one performing the same motions one after the other, so it looks like a Zoetrope strip. The supertitle over the set reads “In Motion We Trust,” which is a great motto for both Cirque in general and this production, but the show only fitfully lives up to it. Act One focuses on motion, and the show seems obsessed with the early motion films of the Zoetropes and Muybridge film series. One of the characters is a woman dressed in a device that appears to be sort of a hulahoop with a what the Times piece calls a Praxinoscope strip inside, so when she twirls we see two boxers fighting. At least that’s what I think it is. The characters work the main floor, but did not come up to the mezzanine. And even though the characters are oddly dressed, especially the clowns, they don’t look all that different from people you see every day outside the theater on Hollywood Boulevard. In the “pre-game” period before the show proper begins, it was hard to tell the “characters” from some members of the audience.

Fortunately Act Two gets better. Buster and Scarlett are a little more involved in the action, and the opening number should have been the opening number of the show. We are on a soundstage/location where all kinds of characters are running in and out, bouncing up and down, and swinging through the multiple levels of the set. It is an imaginative recreation of all those scenes you have seen in films set in movie studios where suddenly somebody in a weird costume walks by. Here everybody is in a weird costume, and they walk, swing, bounce and fly. That is matched by a later number called “Noir,” which is exactly what you think it is: There is a slinky dame, although it’s not clear if it’s supposed to be Scarlett. She is blonde like Scarlett, but played by a gymnast rather than the women playing her elsewhere. There is also a lot of bouncing around on trampolines that are the roofs of the buildings. Who knew somebody who was shot could bounce so high when they hit a “roof”? The show might be better off if it had more numbers like “Noir” that reference other genres like westerns, musicals, fantasy films, and especially for the Cirque tradition, sci-fi. The Chinese girl contortionists would fit nicely in the latter, and the two guys on ropes could be a twin Tarzan act in an Indiana Jones adventure ripoff.

I mentioned earlier that one of the glories of Cirque shows were the clowns. The clowns here are just not funny. That’s not helped by them being given some truly stale jokes about Hollywood and the Oscars. And the jokes are not even true enough to be funny. In the Act Two opener, somebody asks the “writer,” one of the clowns, what his name is. He replies “Alan Smithee.” Now in Los Angeles, even four-year olds know that “Alan Smithee” is the pseudonym directors use when they don’t want their name on the credits. What could he reply? How about “Joe Gillis”? Or “Robert Rich”? OK, “Rich” is a little too obscure for the masses (it was Dalton Trumbo’s pseudonym on the story he won an Oscar for when he was blacklisted), but “Gillis” would get at least as much a laugh as “Smithee” did, and a more comfortable laugh at that. Or. Given that the clown runs around, try “Aaron Sorkin.” One gets the feeling that this show was put together by people who have never seen a movie. I am not asking for everything to be historically correct, since in a Cirque show what we want is an imaginative view. With the few exceptions mentioned, we don’t get that. In an audience participation number mimicking the Oscars, they include a film clip that is a parody of the shower scene in Psycho (1960), but it is very amateurishly done. I have had first semester students who have done more imaginative rip-offs, including one who showed a murder in a lawn sprinkler.

Iris was still officially in previews when we saw it. Traditionally one does not review shows in previews, although the Broadway production of Spiderman having seven years of previews has pretty much killed off that tradition. Iris has been running since July and its opening date is September 24th, so by the time you read this it will have officially opened. Cirque du Soleil does have a long history of continuing to work on their shows after they open as acts come and go. The one thing they definitely ought to keep is Danny Elfman’s music, which I liked a lot better than most Cirque scores. It might be worth it to check in a couple of years from now, assuming it runs that long, to see what the Cirque kids have done. One bad show should not be enough for any of us to give up on Cirque forever.

Sarah’s Key (2010. Screenplay by Gilles Paquet-Brenner and Serge Joncour, based on the novel by Tatiana De Rosnay. 111 minutes)

Doing what The Debt does, but not as well: We are time-traveling with the Jews again, this time between 1942 and 2009, but with one exception we do not have to worry about multiple castings of the same character. We start in Paris in July 1942 as Jews are being rounded up to be sent to concentration camps. Sarah, a young girl, locks her brother in the closet of their apartment to keep him from being taken by the police. She then spends the first hour of the film escaping from the Vélodrome d’Hiver, where the Jews are being temporarily held, so she can rescue the brother. She does get back to the apartment, but it is too late. He’s dead. Meanwhile, we are intercutting with Julia, a journalist who in 2009 is writing a piece on the roundup of the Jews. It is she, in the second scene of the film, who tells some younger journalists that it was not the Germans who ran the roundup, but the French. The youngsters are shocked, but if you are familiar with history, it may not be that much of a surprise to you. The 1942 sequences are very dramatic, but in very obvious ways. There is a lot of yelling and crying, as you would expect, but it is all too much on the nose. There is no subtlety in the presentation of any of the characters. The filmmakers (Paquet-Brenner also directed) should have gone back and looked at the great Marcel Ophuls documentaries The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) and Hotel Terminus (1988) for richly detailed looks at the attitudes of the French toward the Jews. We have often talked here about how documentaries are often better at showing us characters than fiction films are, and that is true of these two. For a documentary that shows the attitudes of the Vichy government they should have looked at Claude Chabrol’s The Eye of Vichy (1993), a documentary made up entirely of excerpts of Vichy newsreel and propaganda films. It is a bizarre alternate look at the reality of German-occupied France, which, since it was put together by Cabrol, shouldn’t surprise you.

While we are following Sarah, we are also following Julia as she comes to realize that the apartment she and her husband have just rented, which is the apartment he grew up in, was where Sarah and her family lived. The husband’s family moved in in August of 1942, and Julia upsets the elders of the family by digging into the history. Her husband’s father admits he was there the day little Sarah showed up and they discovered what the smell in the place really was. That’s at the one-hour mark, and you could finish the film at that point. But Julia becomes determined to track down what happened to Sarah. Two problems here. The first is that the role of Sarah, who as a child has been played in a stunningly feral performance by Mélusine Mayance, is now taken over by an attractive but totally unexpressive actress in her twenties. Worse, the older version of Sarah is not given anything to do. And Julia discovers Sarah committed suicide in the mid-‘60s. Well, the movie could end there. But Julia keeps searching and eventually finds her son, William. It is awfully late in the film to introduce a new major character. She tells him Sarah’s backstory, which he did not know, and he is upset to learn he is Jewish. Now that, like so many other reactions in the film, is standard issue. What if he loves the idea? Or at least it means certain things in his life make sense, like his love of gefilte fish? A constant problem throughout the film is that the writers and director are settling on the most obvious reactions, rather than digging deeper into the characters and their attitudes. I don’t know how much of that problem is from the novel, but the filmmakers should have fixed it.

As the film goes on, the action becomes one damned thing after another, and the writers are missing wonderful opportunities to examine attitudes not only of the French in 1942, but of the French in more recent times as well as Americans. Granted this is something the novel may well have done better, but if you are telling the story on film, you ought to get the most out of it that you can.

Bobby (2006. Written by Emilio Estevez. 120 minutes)

Grand Hotel with politics: This is one I missed in theaters and caught up with recently on cable. It is a very ambitious movie that doesn’t fulfill its promise. We are in and around the venerable Ambassador Hotel on June 4th and 5th, 1968, the night Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. You know Estevez, who also directed, was aware of the connection to the 1932 classic, since a couple of character refer to it early in the film. Fortunately that is the only reference to it, since Estevez is more interested in the politics involved. Too much so, since he loads up the film with several montages of newsreel and television coverage of Kennedy campaigning. This pulls us out of the film, since it takes us away from the multiple storylines and characters we are following. Yes, Estevez obviously idolizes Kennedy, but that could be and is better expressed in the characters he selects. And there is a whole pile of characters, nearly all of them sympathetic to Bobby. Some don’t care much, but Estevez does not go so far as to throw an anti-Kennedy Democrat or even a pro-Nixon Republican into the mix. That certainly would have made the film a little less like preaching to the choir.

Estevez, being an actor, is good at writing and directing scenes, but often the scenes are more like acting exercises than parts of a complete film. The scenes could have been sharpened to focus as much on the ideas and themes of the film and still not have lost the opportunities they give the actors. And Estevez has put together a heavyweight cast. Sharon Stone, in ‘60s hair and makeup, is unrecognizable as the beautician in the hotel beauty shop. She gets a couple of great scenes, one with Lindsay Lohan, back in the day when Lohan was a real actress, and another with William H. Macy as her husband. Freddy Rodríguez holds the screen as a busboy who has tickets to the Dodger game that night but has to work. Estevez’s father, Martin Sheen, and Helen Hunt played an established married couple with some personal problems, but their scenes are typical of the ones that don’t necessarily connect well to the Kennedy story.

As we get closer to the assassination, the tension naturally picks up, and the immediate aftermath is well handled by Estevez as both writer and director, but the ending is confusing. The way Estevez has directed the scenes, it looks as though several of “our” cast members have been killed. Given the blood that is coming out of them, I cannot see how they survived, but there is no indication in the scenes that they do. But an end title says that nobody but Kennedy was killed that night. I have the suspicion that Estevez wrote and directed those scenes intending the characters to die, but when somebody pointed out the reality of the night, the title was added later.

Estevez hadn’t directed a film after Bobby, which was not a commercial success, until The Way (2010). It sounds even more ambitious than Bobby. It is scheduled for release this month.

Shakespeare Wallah (1965. Screenplay and Story by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. 120 minutes)

Near the beginning of a beautiful relationship: In 1961 the young team of producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory decided to make their first feature film. They bought the film rights to the novel The Householder by Jhabvala. Since they had never made a film before, they figured why not ask the novelist to adapt it into a screenplay. As Jhabvala later told interview Vincent LoBrutto (the interview is in Backstory 4), “We made a lot of mistakes.” But they all learned and went on to have a legendary artistic collaboration that included A Room With a View (1986), Howards End (1991), and The Remains of the Day (1993). Shakespeare Wallah was their second film.

Even before he met Jhabvala, Ivory had wanted to make a film about a group of traveling actors. He originally wanted to make them Indian actors, but then he met a troupe of English actors. Jhabvala read the diary of one of them and thought the story would give them an opportunity to show the end of the British Empire in India. Ivory was in America and Jhabvala was in India, so they collaborated by letter on the story and screenplay. Unfortunately, Jhabvala is still too much the novelist, and the film is long, slow, and very sluggish. She later learned that you do not need nearly as much dialogue in the film as you do in a novel, and she became a master of adaptation. The problem with a lot of the dialogue here is that it is very flat, as is the characterization of the actors. The head of the troupe and his wife are played by actors whom the film is based on. Their daughter in real life plays the daughter in the film. In spite of all that reality behind the scenes, the script simply does not give us the kind of backstage texture it should. Jhabvala does not begin to bring in the connection to the end of the Empire until midway through the film, but then in very literal chunks of dialogue in three or four scenes that are played one after the other.

The two characters who are not based on real people are more interesting to watch. One is an Indian playboy who falls in love with Lizzie, the daughter. He is rich enough to follow her around on her travels. The other is his mistress, who is a spoiled movie star. We meet her when she is filming a very “Bollywood” musical number and for a minute we think the projectionist had switched reels. The best scene in the picture is when the playboy convinces the mistress to come and see the troupe perform. She is bored out of her skull, and begins to call attention to herself. The crowd is more impressed that there is a movie star present than by the play. Unlike most of the other scenes, it has very little dialogue. Jhabvala was beginning to learn the difference between novels and film.

End of the summer 2011 cable TV season: I have been watching a bunch of shows over the summer, although I haven’t seen that much I wanted to write about. They were all doing reasonably well, and were certainly entertaining. What struck me over the last week or so is the different way they ended their half seasons.

Burn Notice has had Michael dealing with someone trying to frame him for the shooting of Max, his contact at the C.I.A.. Michael has managed to throw Pearce, the C.I.A. officer investigating the shooting, off his trail, but only by withholding information from her. He has tracked down the real killer, Tavian, but at the end of “Better Halves” (written by Lisa Joy) Pearce has finally figured out that Michael “is” Max’s killer and arrests him. At the beginning of the next episode “Dead to Rights” (written by Jason Tracey), Michael convinces Pearce to let him go to the meeting he has set up with Tavian, but with a wire. She agrees, Tavian admits he killed Max, and then commits suicide, so Michael is still at a dead end as to who has set him up and why. Pearce has cleared Michael, but we are early in the show. Who shows up but Larry, Michael’s mentor who had gone over to the dark side, not a long trip for him. He has managed to get out of the Albanian prison he went to several episodes ago, and he now wants Michael’s help to break into the British consulate. To do this Larry has kidnapped a psychiatrist, Anson, and is holding Anson’s wife with a bomb attached to her neck. Typical Larry. Anson has the access codes they need. On the way to the consulate Michael tells Anson how to escape, which he does and contacts Fi and Sam. We learn that it was Larry who got Michael burned because Michael “let” Larry kill a pile of people in Chechnya. Fi manages to attach one of her special bombs on the window of the room Larry is in and blows him up. At least we think he is dead. So that’s all to the—BOOM!—several other bombs go off around the consulate. When did Larry have time to set them? He didn’t. Who did? If you have not seen this episode, do not drink or take drugs before the last ten minutes or you will be completely lost. It was not Larry who planned all this. It was Anson, who was the one remaining person who set up the unit that burned Michael. He has manipulated all this to get a lot of nasty information on Michael that he can use to get him to do all sorts of nasty things in the next season. Oh, and he really is a shrink. And one of his patients is Maddy, Michael’s mom, which is why he knows a lot about Michael. We will see what happens when the show returns in November.

The Closer’s ongoing plot this season has been the civil case against Brenda and the LAPD on behalf of the family of Terrell Baylor, whom Brenda let out of a police car in front of his house knowing his gang would probably kill him, which they did. Brenda got herself a very smart and expensive lawyer, Gavin, who sometimes doesn’t seem as focused on the case as he should be. The Baylor family has hired Peter Goldman, and over several episodes we have seen the pre-trial events go for and against Brenda. In the season finale, “Fresh Pursuit” (written by Adam Belanoff), Gavin is asking for a summary judgment in favor of Brenda, based on Goldman’s failure to present evidence on the killing itself. That sounds like very shaky grounds for a summary judgment, but then I am not a lawyer. At the end of the episode the judgment is granted. But as with Burn Notice, that only makes things worse. Goldman comes to Brenda’s office during the celebration party and lays out the federal civil rights case he intends to file. He pulls a lot of files out of his box on a lot of Brenda’s cases where she may have cut corners. The series will end with the next set of episodes as we will see how the federal case works out. The word on the street is that there will be a spinoff series with Mary McDonnell’s Captain Raydor as the main character. Well, she has certainly developed into an interesting character, going from Brenda’s nemesis to a sort of partner. In “Death Warrant” (written by Steven Kane) she was involved in a chase after a bad guy. They had him cornered, but in a group of civilians. Raydor took a bean bag gun out of her trunk and hit with a shot right between the eyes. She told the other cops it was a “lucky shot,” and said the recoil on that gun was nasty. She’ll do.

Rizzoli and Isles, on the other hand, is just finishing up its second season, so its season finale did not have quite the elaborate continuing storylines as the other two. The finale, “Remember Me” (teleplay by Janet Tamaro, story by David J. North and Janet Tamaro), did bring back the serial killer Hoyt, who nearly killed Rizzoli on more than one occasion. Hoyt is in prison, but is somehow connected with the killing of a prisoner just about to be released on bail. When Isles does the autopsy on the prisoner, she finds a balloon full of teeth in his digestive system. Human teeth, which turn out to belong to a family Hoyt killed. Hoyt gets another chance at Rizzoli when she and Isles come to the prison hospital where Hoyt is dying of cancer. With the help of his newest acolyte, a prison guard, Hoyt nearly kills Rizzoli, but she manages to stab him with his own scalpel. So he really seems to be dead this time, although as with Larry on Burn Notice, I wouldn’t bet the farm on either one of them not appearing again.

Necessary Roughness has moved along nicely. It has not ladled on the psychobabble as much as it could have, for which much thanks. It has also kept Terence “T.K.” King, the New York Hawks football player Dani was treating in the first episode, as a recurring character, so we see that he was not immediately “cured” with his first set of treatments with Dani. A much more realistic approach than many movies and shows about shrinks. Dani has also had several very interesting other clients. For example, in “Whose Team Are You On?” (written by Antoinette Stella) Dani has to defuse fighting among the wives and girlfriends of the Hawks players. Since she is a psychologist, it all came down to an emotional problem with one of wives. By focusing on the individual, the episode passed on the opportunity to deal with the whole culture the wives of pro football players live in. In the season finale, “Goal Line,” Dani is back dealing with T.K., who has a mental block against the defender he has to deal with on the field. Dani also has to deal with Nico, the team’s Mr. Fixit. He always seems in charge and several moves ahead of everybody else, but he’s been asked by the boss’s lawyer to dig up whatever dirt he can on the boss’s wife, Gabriella (shades of the McCourt divorce and the L.A. Dodgers). One problem: Nico had an affair with Gabriella before she married the boss. Even bigger problem: she can still get him into bed. So, without telling Dani any of the details (nice writing in this scene: we know what he’s talking about, Dani doesn’t), he tries to get her advice. He decides his loyalties are with the team rather than Gabriella. T.K. actually performs selflessly in the playoff game. The cliffhanger is that he gets shot, but not killed, by an angry fan of the other team. Boy, is he going to have emotional problems for Dani to deal with next season.

Death Valley, a new show, popped up in the late summer on MTV. Here, I think, are the writing credits for the “Pilot,” which are more complicated than most television shows. It was conceived by Spider.com, developed by Erick Weinberg, created by Curtis Gwinn, the story was by Curtis Gwinn, and the teleplay was by Curtis Gwinn and Eric Weinberg. Don’t worry, there will not be a quiz later. The setup is that it is another mockumentary, this time about police fighting supernatural beings. For all the writers involved, that was as far as the development went. Cops fight supernatural beings, photographed in a documentary style. The makers seemed to think that simply having a cop fighting a zombie was funny. The show was reminiscent of such movies as Date Movie (2006) and Meet the Spartans (2008), which assume that just mentioning what you are parodying will get laughs. Sorry, guys, but it does not work that way. The writing and the show need an attitude toward the material, which this show does not have. In style it is similar to the great Reno 911, but that show has plenty of attitude. It also has very specific characters. I have not seen Reno 911 for a while, but I remember the characters more vividly than the ones in Death Valley, which I only saw a couple of weeks ago.

Tom Stempel is the author of several books on film. His most recent is Understanding Screenwriting: Learning From Good, Not-Quite-So Good, and Bad Screenplays.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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