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A Night At The Museum Battle For The Smithsonian (#110 of 2)

Hope and Chaos: The Sixth Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival

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Hope and Chaos: The Sixth Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival

Forager Films

Hope and Chaos: The Sixth Annual Los Cabos International Film Festival

Watching Australian director Jennifer Peedom’s Mountain one morning at the sixth annual Los Cabos International Film Festival, I was struck by the fullness of the auditorium and by the prominence of children in the audience. Peedom’s film is an essayistic documentary about humankind’s relationship with mountains all over the world, with tender, ruefully poetic narration (spoken by Willem Dafoe) that emphasizes how our appreciation of nature can morph into an urge to conquer it, rendering the wild another of the controlled habitats from which we seek refuge. Mountain isn’t what Americans would designate a “children’s film,” as we have a habit of parking young ones in front of whatever A.D.D.-afflicted cartoon happens to be topping the box office at any given moment. It was gratifying to see such a varied audience turn out for Mountain, imparting hope as to the communal possibilities of cinema in the 21st century. Of course, many of the children were whispering and running around the theater, seemingly bored with the film in front of them, but at least they evinced some effort and curiosity.

Understanding Screenwriting #27: Up, Summer Hours, A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #27: <em>Up</em>, <em>Summer Hours</em>, <em>A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #27: <em>Up</em>, <em>Summer Hours</em>, <em>A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Up, Summer Hours, A Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, Easy Virtue, The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story, but first…

Fan Mail: Brandon suggested I may have missed some details of How I Met Your Mother, and he certainly has been a little more perceptive about the show than I was. He’s right that the significance of the meeting with Stella is the connection to Tony and that it leads Ted to teaching. I will also buy Brandon’s point about the story being told the kids over one day, but I was getting in a dig that has bedeviled series television from the beginning: the set-up that is difficult to sustain. Here are three examples from different decades.

Racket Squad was an early fifties show, first in syndication, then on CBS. As I wrote in my book on the history of television writing, they dropped an interesting approach: “In the first episodes, [Captain] Braddock [of the Racket Squad] narrates the stories, but in the second person, addressing the victim of the con. This supposes that Braddock knows everything about the con before the victim tells him, which makes him rather obnoxious.” They changed the narration to third person.

In 1963-64 there was a ninety-minute series called Arrest and Trial. In the first 45-minutes, the cop (Ben Gazzara) arrested somebody. In the second 45-minutes, the defense attorney (Chuck Connors) proved they were innocent. As Sy Salkowitz, who wrote a couple of episodes, said, “If Ben Gazzara made a good arrest, Chuck Connors couldn’t get him off. If Chuck Connors got him off, it made Ben Gazzara look like a stupid ass.” The show died after a year, and it took another 25-years for Dick Wolf to figure out the simple solution to make it work: the lawyers in the second half of the show are THE PROSECUTORS. Duh.

In the first season of Crossing Jordan in 2001, Jordan solved crimes with the help of her ex-cop father by acting out what they knew about the crimes. It was obvious and clunky, and it was dropped fairly quickly.