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Covert Affairs (#110 of 5)

Understanding Screenwriting #104: Lincoln, Skyfall, Flight, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #104: <em>Lincoln</em>, <em>Skyfall</em>, <em>Flight</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #104: <em>Lincoln</em>, <em>Skyfall</em>, <em>Flight</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Lincoln, Skyfall, Flight, Silver Linings Playbook, Middle of Nowhere, Covert Affairs but first…

Fan Mail: First an addition to US#103. I mentioned in the credits for Argo that there was another source listed in the credits of the film, but I could not find it. Shortly after I sent off the column, the new issue of the British magazine Sight & Sound arrived. It identifies the other source as “based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez.” I’m guessing that’s the Tony Mendez.

David Ehrenstein liked my Sharon and Roman story so much he has added it to his one-man show, currently at finer bookstores near you.

“Erbear423” understandably took me to task for appearing to dump Paul Dano and Jesse Eisenberg into the same category as Adam Sandler and Andy Samberg. I can see how you can read my comments that way, but what I was trying to get at was more the kinds of roles they often play rather than the actors themselves. I like Dano and Eisenberg very much and they have been terrific in some very good movies, but even then they are often playing the sensitive young man finding his way in the world. My point was that there were no characters like that in Argo, for which I was grateful. As for Adam and Andy, they’re on their own.

Lincoln (2012. Written by Tony Kushner, based in part on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. 150 minutes.)

The public figure: I have always liked Tony Kushner, and not just the concept of Tony Kushner the public writer. The latter would be the playwright and activist who writes about public issues like AIDS, race, violence and politics. What I like about Kushner is that he is a hell of an interesting writer. OK, I will admit that when I first saw the stage play Angels in America in 1995, the writing instructor in me mentally got out my red grading pen. I imagined waving it in the air, saying, “You can cut this;” “You’ve said that three times, twice is probably enough;” “We don’t need all that.” Even though the TV film of Angels (2004) was shorter than the play, I brought out the mental red pen again. And his 2001 play Homebody/Kabul was probably talkier than it needed to be. But his book for the 2002 musical Caroline, or Change was a model of precision. And his screenplay, co-written by Eric Roth, of the 2005 film Munich was one of the smartest scripts of the last decade.

Understanding Screenwriting #78: Friends with Benefits, Crazy, Stupid, Love., Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #78: <em>Friends with Benefits</em>, <em>Crazy, Stupid, Love.</em>, <em>Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #78: <em>Friends with Benefits</em>, <em>Crazy, Stupid, Love.</em>, <em>Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Friends with Benefits; Crazy, Stupid, Love.; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2; Point Blank (2010); Mr. And Mrs. Smith (2005); The Great Escape; MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot (book); The Fox Film Corporation, 1915-1935: A History and Filmography (book); Covert Affairs, but first…

Fan Mail: Contrary to what David E. thinks, I love films that are poetically structured. If you can find it, look at the great British documentary Song of Ceylon (1934), one of the most poetically structured films of all time. In my History of Documentary film course, the classes were always split: there were those who loved it and those who hated it because it didn’t tell a story. That gave me a chance early in the course to let them know that all films do not have to tell stories.

“Pippa” appears to be upset with David and me for taking things to “the Nth degree of irrelevance.” Then, alas, she goes on to provide a link to the “film structure in a circle” site that I wrote about in US#76. She ought to go back and read my comments on it. The problem I have with so much writing about screenwriting is that it is often only about structure (Syd Field’s plot points; the Hero’s Journey, etc) without a lot of understanding of the nuances of character, tone, et al involved. As in some of the films in this column…

Friends with Benefits (2011. Screenplay by Keith Merryman & David A Newman and Will Gluck, story by Harley Patton and Keith Merryman & David A Newman. 109 minutes)

Haven’t we recently seen this? Take one: No, actually we haven’t. In US#70, I wrote about No Strings Attached (2011) which has a similar plot: Two friends agree to have sex without any emotional attachments, but one of them naturally falls in love with the other and complications ensue. It was not particularly well done, for reasons I will come back to as we discuss this one. Friends is much better in a variety of ways.

Understanding Screenwriting #56: The Other Guys, Edge of Darkness, Great Day in the Morning, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #56: <em>The Other Guys</em>, <em>Edge of Darkness</em>, <em>Great Day in the Morning</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #56: <em>The Other Guys</em>, <em>Edge of Darkness</em>, <em>Great Day in the Morning</em>, & More

Coming Up in this Column: The Other Guys, Edge of Darkness, Great Day in the Morning, The waning of the summer 2010 television season, but first…

Fan Mail: David Ehrenstein came up with some nice additional details about Henri-Georges Clouzot and L’Enfer. You can always rely on David for that sort of thing.

The Other Guys (2010. Written by Adam McKay & Chris Henchy. 107 minutes)

I am not a Will Ferrell fan: Not of his Saturday Night Live work, nor of his films. But then I have never been a fan of the man-child performers. I always thought Harry Langdon was creepy. Jerry Lewis seemed mostly silly. I want to slap Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider upside the head and tell them to grow up. I did not go out for a walk while Grown Ups was playing earlier this year, just in case it rained and I had to take refuge in a theater where it was on.

Understanding Screenwriting #54: The Kids Are All Right, The Informant!, Siberiade, Rubicon, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #54: <em>The Kids Are All Right</em>, <em>The Informant!</em>, <em>Siberiade</em>, <em>Rubicon</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #54: <em>The Kids Are All Right</em>, <em>The Informant!</em>, <em>Siberiade</em>, <em>Rubicon</em>, & More

Coming Up in this Column: The Kids Are All Right, Tom Mankiewicz: an Appreciation, The Informant!, Siberiade, Manhattan Melodrama, Rubicon, White Collar, Covert Affairs, but first…

Fan Mail: You may have missed Elaine Lennon’s comments on Inception, which were a late addition in the comments section on US#52. She is very perceptive about what the lack of Christopher Nolan’s brother Jonathan working on the Inception screenplay may have meant for it.

When I turned in US#53, my computer was misbehaving and dropped a section where I was writing about the scholarly article I had written. The paragraph just stopped when it got sent off to a publisher’s reader. To find out what happened you can go back to #53, where Keith and I have added the section that got dropped. It will also give you a link to the article.

On US#53, David Ehrenstein caught one of my occasional errors. I had the last name of the director as Waters, not Walters. Now you know why I do not wear a robe and a pointy hat and claim to infallibility. He also asked about my not mentioning the director Jacques Tourneur in the item on Canyon Passage. I had thought about it, since I liked Tourneur’s direction, especially his handling of Ward Bond and Brian Donlevy, but passed on it. I do sometimes mention directors, and sometimes don’t. After all, this is a column on screenwriting. And I also consider it a kind of karmic payback for all those times directors get mentioned and often credited with stuff the writer did while the writer does not get mentioned at all. David and others mentioned Tourneur’s other westerns, including Great Day in the Morning (1956), which I intend to watch when TCM shows it on Monday, August 16th.

Understanding Screenwriting #51: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Dark Mirror, Rizzoli & Isles, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #51: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Dark Mirror, Rizzoli & Isles, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #51: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Dark Mirror, Rizzoli & Isles, & More

Coming up in this column: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, The Dark Mirror, Rizzoli & Isles, Covert Affairs, Hot in Cleveland, but first…

Fan mail: If you did not read David Ehrenstein’s comments in US#50 on my comments, go back and read them, especially his explanation of the reference to Audrey Hepburn in his book review. On the other hand, his comments may tell you more than you ever wanted to know about Derek Jarman. David and I obviously both love Tilda Swinton. I just happened to think I Am Love was not all that good a film.

Edward Wilson asked if it wasn’t the case that there is a lot of rewriting on most movies. Yes, there is, so much so that actors notice it when there are NOT rewrites. See his line about Jeff Bridges, or my at least two so far references to Frances Fisher and the white pages on Unforgiven.

Matt Maul noted that in The Desert Rats James Mason had a German accent because he was Rommel speaking English to Richard Burton. But his earlier scenes are in German in that film and he is very guttural in them.