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Boston Legal (#110 of 5)

Body of Work Lake Bell

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Body of Work: Lake Bell

LD Entertainment

Body of Work: Lake Bell

There’s plenty more to Lake Bell than the casual viewer—or gawker—might think. On the big screen (It’s Complicated), the small screen (How to Make It in America), and even online (Children’s Hospital), the 34-year-old has shown her great gift for angsty comedy, and with things like this 2011 Maxim cover story, she’s broadcasted her embrace of being a slinky sex symbol. She’s merged both attributes in recent flicks like A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, and in New Girl, on which she briefly guest-starred. But Bell has tackled her share of straight-up drama, too, in projects like the short-lived series Surface, her recurring role on The Practice and Boston Legal, and, now, the girls-gone-primal survivor thriller Black Rock, which co-stars Kate Bosworth and the film’s director, Katie Aselton. Highly rugged and often quite brutal, Black Rock sees its trio of female leads do all their own stunts, and suffer a great deal of bumps, cuts and bruises in the process. Was it a thrill for Bell to ditch the giggling and vamping and dive into no-frills combat?

“I mean, hell yes,” the actress says, calling in from L.A., “especially because I don’t get this opportunity, ever. Well, in Surface I got to do it a little bit, but it’s been many years since I’ve had the opportunity to let out my inner badass. Katie Aselton specifically did not want us to workout, train, or choreograph anything. She really wanted it to be messy, and real, so it felt very real and therefore a little more uncomfortable. In these movies, it takes you out of it sometimes when you see normal civilians all of the sudden rising to the occasion and doing a jiu-jitsu roundhouse kick or something. In order to sell this, we really kinda had to just go for it.”

Understanding Screenwriting #13: Four Christmases, Australia, Ugly Betty, Boston Legal, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #13: <em>Four Christmases</em>, <em>Australia</em>, <em>Ugly Betty</em>, <em>Boston Legal</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #13: <em>Four Christmases</em>, <em>Australia</em>, <em>Ugly Betty</em>, <em>Boston Legal</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Four Christmases, Australia, Ugly Betty, 30 Rock, Boston Legal, CSI, and the Budd Boetticher DVD Box Set, but first…

Fan Mail: “Tom” took exception to my comments in US#12 about Kim Novak’s performance in Vertigo. He thinks it’s “not bad,” since the character is supposed to be cold and mysterious. He’s got a point, but I think Novak, whom I love it a lot of other films, is more blank than mysterious. A lot of the problem is that the script gives her very little to play and Hitchcock seems happy with that. I have often suggested to my writing students (and to many others) that instead of pulling a Brian De Palma and remaking Vertigo endlessly from the man’s point of view, how about doing a rip-off from the woman’s point of view? What does she think about all this? She’s having fun running around pretending to be the wife, knowing there’s a guy looking out for her, but what does she do when she finds out it’s part of a murder plot? Does she get revenge on the husband? Does she get revenge on the Jimmy Stewart character? So far nobody has taken me up on the challenge of doing that script, probably because, to use John Sayles’s wonderful phrase, you could make the movie, but you couldn’t get it made. What would happen is that, somewhere in the development process, some male executive, producer, or director would insist it be told from the man’s point of view.

Understanding Screenwriting #12: John Michael Hayes, Quantum of Solace, Boomerang!, Boston Legal, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #12: John Michael Hayes, <em>Quantum of Solace</em>, <em>Boomerang!</em>, <em>Boston Legal</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #12: John Michael Hayes, <em>Quantum of Solace</em>, <em>Boomerang!</em>, <em>Boston Legal</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: John Michael Hayes, Quantum of Solace, Boomerang!, Boston Legal, Law & Order, Two and a Half Men, Desperate Housewives, The Twilight premiere and opening.

John Michael Hayes (1919 - 2008): An appreciation.

Screenwriter John Michael Hayes died November 19th at the age of 89. It took The New York Times six days and the Los Angeles Times eight days to get around to doing an obituary on him. Score one for the East Coast.

Hayes was one of the best screenwriters of the fifties and sixties, moving into films after being a successful radio writer in the forties and early fifties. His most commercially successful film in the fifties was Peyton Place (1957). You might think that would be an easy one: adapt a hugely successful novel. But for the fifties it was virtually unfilmable because it told in lurid detail the secrets, mostly sexual, of nearly everyone in a small New England town. Hayes got the job because he had let his agent know he wanted to do a small town story since he had grown up in one. At first he could not get a handle on the book. Finally he talked to the producer Jerry Wald “because he was like Knute Rockne at halftime,” as Hayes put it. Wald encouraged him not to give up. Finally the solution occurred to Hayes: tell the story from the point of view of Allison McKenzie, the teenage girl who was more or less the author’s surrogate. The script humanized the story and, yes, certainly softened it, but as critics noted, it also made the film much fuller and richer than the novel.

Understanding Screenwriting #9: Rachel Getting Married, Body of Lies, How I Met Your Mother, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #9: <em>Rachel Getting Married</em>, <em>Body of Lies</em>, <em>How I Met Your Mother</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #9: <em>Rachel Getting Married</em>, <em>Body of Lies</em>, <em>How I Met Your Mother</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Rachel Getting Married; Body of Lies; Beverly Hills Chihuahua; How I Met Your Mother; Boston Legal; ER; Crash; Mad Men; First Middle Passage of TV Season, but first…

Fan Mail: Just a brief word on Randy’s comment about Mad Men’s “recontextualizing” of the Carousel projector. Most good shows and films do that all the time. It becomes apparent when you watch something a second time and see how well the filmmakers (yes, I would include directors here) have set elements up that pay off in later ways, such as adding to the meaning of a later scene. See below for some examples in this column’s items.

Rachel Getting Married (2008. Written by Jenny Lumet. 113 minutes): An unpleasant woman shows up for her sister’s wedding and causes all kinds of—wait a minute, didn’t we see this picture last year and wasn’t it called Margot at the Wedding? Well, this one has more music in it. Which is not necessarily a good thing.

The good news is that Lumet has created a terrific main character, Kym, who has been let out of rehab to go to the wedding. She is played by Anne Hathaway. Yes, the cute sweety of The Princess Diaries. But there is nothing sweet about her Kym, and Hathaway tears into the part the way Halle Berry and Charlize Theron tore into their de-glamorized roles in Monster’s Ball and Monster, respectively. Maybe they should have titled this one Monster at the Wedding. What is it anyway about ugly that brings out the most ferocious sides of beautiful actresses?

Understanding Screenwriting #7: Miracle at St. Anna, The Tall Target, How I Met Your Mother, Ugly Betty, & More

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Understanding Screenwriting #7: <em>Miracle at St. Anna</em>, <em>The Tall Target</em>, <em>How I Met Your Mother</em>, <em>Ugly Betty</em>, & More
Understanding Screenwriting #7: <em>Miracle at St. Anna</em>, <em>The Tall Target</em>, <em>How I Met Your Mother</em>, <em>Ugly Betty</em>, & More

Coming Up In This Column: Biden-Palin Vice Presidential Debate; Miracle at St. Anna; The Tall Target; How I Met Your Mother; Two and a Half Men; CSI: Miami; Boston Legal; Ugly Betty; ER; Desperate Housewives; You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story, but first…

Fan Mail: And a tip of Viggo Mortensen’s hat back to Michael Peterson. I am looking forward to more of his Comics Column.

The Vice Presidential Debate (2008. Written by Joe Biden, Sarah Palin, and others. 90 minutes): While I will occasionally deal with documentaries in this column, as I did with The Order of Myths in US#2, I will generally avoid “reality television,” since the writing, especially the structuring of the shows, is so obvious and klunky. To take one guilty pleasure of mine, you always know that Carson will convince the woman of the week on How to Look Good Naked that she does look good naked.

However, what struck me about last week’s Vice-Presidential Debate was the subtle structure that emerged, which is a tribute not to Gwen Ifill and the debate sponsors, but to its two primary authors Biden and Palin and their anonymous co-writers.