A scurrilous attack! A stirring defense!

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  • #16
    Casablanca --

    Rick's stand-offish cynicsm and bitterness would NEVER have made sense, or garnered sympathy/empathy from the audience without the scene where Ilsa stands him up at the train station. Without seeing Rick's heartbreak for ourselves, and the flashback scenes preceding it, Rick would have remained a cold and self serving character, and his noble change of heart at the end would have not been as believable, if believable at all.

    After the flashback, we see Rick as a wounded romantic who has shut much of himself down in the wake of Ilsa dumping him. We understand. We care. He's human now, not just some misanthropic American hardass who stands for his own well being. We felt his pain when the train pulled away and he ripped up Ilsa's note in the rain. We would never have felt that way without the flashback.

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    • #17
      LOL @ Jeff

      My inner Guru does like to invent terms. I admit it. I need a 12 step program but I think it should be called a "twelve phase incremental elevation paradigm" :rollin

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      • #18
        You could remove the flashback from Casablanca but you can't remove the drama contained in the flashback from the story and expect the story to continue unaffected. You would need to incorporate the dramatic elements into the rest of the story or else, as Pen says, we would not have the understanding and sympathy for Boggy that we do nor would we be rooting for them to get together as much as we do which in turn effects our reaction to every development of the story. Without the flashback would we really care or wonder if he was going to give her the papers or not, would we really care if she stayed or not, would we care if Rick got involved in the war or not? The drama contained in the flashback is essential to the forward progression of the story as much as any other sequence in the story.

        For the record, I'm not a fan of the Casablanca flashback, but I do understand why it needs to be there.

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        • #19
          We care about Rick because Rick still cares.

          Unless you guys think the writer, director, and actors didn't do a good job with this.

          The flashback is generic. It could be about any two lovers who meet again later:
          He's a successful business man - she's a prostitute.
          He's a bored shoe salesman - she's a movie star.
          He's a surgeon - she's an accident victim. etc. etc. etc.

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          • #20
            re "scurrilous"

            TwoBrad, I'm glad you were "amused" by my use of "scurrilous" in regard to your critical post.

            Almost anyone reading the frivolous, light-hearted, whimsical, purposely melodramatic way I titled the post ...

            "A scurrilous attack! A stirring defense!"

            ... would get right away I was exaggerating to make a point and to attract attention and interest in the thread, and that the post would not be some scathing reply.

            However, now that you bring it up ...

            In your post that initiated this thread, you wrote, regarding my column in "Creative Screenwriting":

            It's very easy to debunk Mainstream screenplay guidelines when you elevate them to 'rule' status and then compare them to non-mainstream movies, or to movies that don't work.

            Again, the list of movies that I cited consisted of:

            Casablanca
            Titanic
            Star Wars
            Go!
            Courage Under Fire
            Lone Star
            Batman
            Memento
            Pulp Fiction
            The Matrix

            Six of those ten movies (over half!) are decidedly mainstream. And I balanced those commercial, mainstream films with some indie films more beloved by critics and film afficionados than the general public. And most people would say that most of those films do work.

            Someone who hadn't read my article would certainly get a different -- and wrong -- impression of the types of films I cited as evidence by your (mis)characterization of them as non-mainstream and as films that "don't work."[/i]

            Your characterization of that list of movies as "non-mainstream" or as "movies that don't work," -- without naming the movies so readers could decide for themselves -- could well be considered scurrilous in the sense of mean, unfair, negative, and irresponsible.

            You could have said something like:

            "And as for the choice of movies you selected as examples to support your case -- Casablanca, Titanic, Star Wars, Go!, Courage Under Fire, Lone Star, Batman,
            Memento, Pulp Fiction, and The Matrix -- to me, these are either non-mainstream movies or movies that don't work."

            Then you would have stated your opinion and stated the facts at the same time, and others could decide whether or not your judgment call is fair or on-target.

            I don't see how you can possibly say that most aren't mainstream, when 6 -- the majority -- clearly are, and a case could be made for 7. For you to say that without naming the films -- especially to say that the choices were non-mainstream as well as ones that don't work -- that's a substantial mischaracterization and I would say unfair and irresponsible. And those indeed are one of the definitions of "scurrilous."

            So while I meant it, in the title, in a whimsical, fun, melodramatic, exaggerated-for-effect way ...

            Since you didn't respond to my defense of your mischaracterization in your subsequent posts ... I would say what you wrote in this particular regard does border on scurrilous, yes.

            Jeff Newman

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            • #21
              definitely one of those threads.

              and who is this "Boggy" you speak of?

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              • #22
                See post in "Screenwriting III"

                I think we've touched upon a fascinating subject. Well, for me, anyway:

                Which screenwriters or screenwriting students and aspirants like the flashback in "Casablanca" and think it's effective and contributes to the film, and which don't -- and why don't they like it or think it works.

                And would they simply cut it, or would they make a few changes in order to do without it? And if so, what?

                So I posted that topic -- "The Flashback in 'Casablanca' - pro or con?" at Screenwriting III, since that is purely a screenwriting craft issue ... and also since I suspect a number of posters to that board rarely or never visit this one.

                So for thems who are interested in that topic, you might want to respond if you haven't already, or just see if anyone responds, in Screenwriting III:

                pub130.ezboard.com/fdonedealfrm21

                Jeff Newman

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                • #23
                  Nice try Jeff,

                  You are doing to me exactly what you did in your article. Before you debunk me, you need to portray me as something I'm not - a mean-hearted crazed "rules" fanatic.

                  Let me reduce my comments about your article down to one simple statement. No distractions, no sidebars, just one thought to focus on:
                  "You are not debunking rules. A rule is a rule, and a guideline is a guideline no matter how many people have them confused. You are showing why guidelines are called guidelines - sometimes they work, sometimes they don't."

                  I don't know how you can tell me you're not doing this without admitting you are one of the confused.

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    1. dodging the question, 2. another mis-characterization

                    TwoBrad,

                    NOWHERE in the article do I say I am only debunking RULES.

                    The VERY FIRST SENTENCE says "In the past few year, a whole slew of rules, edicts, and "insider tips" have cropped up ..."

                    I next used the word "pronouncements." A pronouncement is a publically stated judgment or declaration, or an authoritative statement. Not necessarily -- or usually -- a rule.

                    I then SPECIFICALLY stated -- still in the first paragraph, mind you -- that this and some future columns would be discussing "Dubious Screenwriting Advice."

                    ADVICE!

                    And in the very last sentence of the column, I wrote:

                    "Hence, the precept in question doesn't stand up to scrutiny."

                    PRECEPT!

                    Okay? ."

                    NOWHERE in the article did I say that that column, or my subsequent ones, were going to be about debunking rules. It's about identifying and discussing "Dubious Screenwriting Advice."

                    ADVICE.

                    So TBB, please explain, apologize for, or defend your statement that I selected movies to support my case and as examples that were "non-mainstream or ... movies that don't work."

                    To say that without naming the movies -- especially since six of the ten are irrefutably mainstream -- seems to be unfair and a blatant mis-characterization of what I wrote.

                    Respond to your mis-characterization about the movies I cited.

                    Jeff Newman

                    (Luckily, I'm a fast typist)

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      Re: 1. dodging the question, 2. another mis-characterization

                      Apology #1 I based my primary comment on your post here in DD: "My initial series of columns will identify and debunk dubious screenwriting advice. There's a lot of it out there. Since I have a list of over 20 decrees, edicts, commandments, and so-called rules that I feel are partially or in some cases wholly false, it may be a long series."

                      All of this says "RULE" to me. Your article does not convince me you are not talking about rules. My comments were never intended to suggest what you are doing wrong, but instead what you are actually doing, and that is giving good advice about guidelines. I apologize for not being clear.

                      Apology #2 This one confuses me. Not because you posted the list of movies and people can decide for themselves without my opinion which, if any, are non-mainstream or don't work, but because this was not my issue. You were comparing apples to oranges, mainstream guidelines to non-mainstream movies. The thing that makes them "non-mainstream" movies is the fact that the writers/makers bend or even ignore some of the mainstream guidelines. That's okay ... really. Again, my comments were never intended to suggest you are doing something wrong, but instead what you are actually doing, and that is giving good advice about guidelines. I apologize for not being clear.

                      Apology #3 I apologize for suggesting that your article "may" be a disservice to newbies by not really helping to clear up the rule/guideline confusion. I shouldn't have grouped all newbies together into one group.

                      Jeff, you are welcome to reread my posts to see if I'm doing something other than what I just said. If I am, point it out and I'll apologize for that too.

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                      • #26
                        okay, good ... now a few questions for you

                        error due to codes ... see below for the real message.

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                        • #27
                          okay, good ... now a few questions for you

                          TwoBrad,

                          I appreciate your apologies and clarifications.

                          You wrote:

                          Apology #2 This one confuses me. Not because you posted the list of movies and people can decide for themselves without my opinion which, if any, are non-mainstream or don't work, but because this was not my issue.

                          I posted the list since you didn't, but felt free to say the films were either "non-mainstream or ... don't work." I wanted readers here to see the list, since I felt your characterization of the list was not accurate or fair.

                          In *my* definition of the term -- and most people's, I think -- six of the ten movies I cited and drew examples from *were* mainstream.

                          Why didn't I make sure *all* the films were mainstream? It makes for a more varied group of examples. I drew upon ten films. Six would be considered by most to be mainstream. Some would say seven. "Pulp Fiction" is the borderline case.

                          Casablanca
                          Titanic
                          Star Wars
                          Courage Under Fire
                          Batman
                          The Matrix

                          Could you tell me which of these are not mainstream?

                          And, just out of curiosity, which of the ten films (either overall, or in terms of the exceptions to the precept discussed in the column) "don't work"?

                          But I'd especially like to know which of the above six you feel are not mainstream -- and why.

                          Jeff Newman

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                          • #28
                            Re: okay, good ... now a few questions for you

                            Let me give this another try.

                            I'm saying that a guideline is not a rule no matter:
                            - how many people say otherwise.
                            - how it is phrased in print to look like a rule.
                            - what screenwriting guru says it is.
                            - how many 'how to' books say it is.
                            - how many instructors say so.

                            A guideline is a guideline - period.
                            I think you would agree with this so far. So why not say so? Say, "Those "things" you think are rules are really guidelines."

                            What you are saying is these are not rules (commandments, edicts, whatever) because they are not carved in stone, they can be broken, and then you give examples to support your statement. (I'm with you so far.)

                            I'm saying of course they are not rules - they, in truth, never were - they are guidelines.

                            Now here is where I'm going to lose you. By saying that sometimes rules can be broken it is implying that sometimes they are rules.

                            We are both saying essentially the same thing, but I'm making the big leap to "These are guidelines no matter who perceives them as rules (or absolute, or whatever)"

                            (please help - make me stop - somebody - please)

                            Instead of saying, "These are not "rules" because they can be broken in these various situations ..."
                            I would say, "These are guidelines because they work differently in these various situations ..."

                            But then my version is not as dramatic as yours.

                            edited to include another thought:

                            Let's say my preception of your article is completely wrong. I completely missed the point you're were trying to make. You don't know how much I know. Isn't that just a little bit scary.

                            This is starting to sound like my discussions with some screenwriters about their screenplays. If I don't get it then I must be an idiot.

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                            • #29
                              and the answers to the questions?

                              TB:

                              I'm hoping you're going to answer the questions I posed to you in my last post ... regarding the six movies that I hold to be mainstream movies, and which you indicated either weren't, or if they were, that they "don't work."

                              So of the six films that I consider mainstream which I cited and used for examples in support of my thesis:

                              Casablanca
                              Titanic
                              Star Wars
                              Courage Under Fire
                              Batman
                              The Matrix

                              Could you tell me which of these, in your view, are not mainstream?

                              And, just out of curiosity, which of the ten films (the above six, plus "Pulp Fiction," "Go!" "Lone Star," and "Memento" "don't work"? Either overall, or in terms of the exceptions to the precept discussed in the column?

                              But I'd especially like to know which of the above six you feel are not mainstream -- and why.

                              Jeff

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                Re: and the answers to the questions?

                                I'm glad to appreciated my apologies. I was concerned that they sounded like "I'm sorry you are an idiot" and I would never say that, especially to someone with your credentials.

                                I'll play the game. But first, I never said there are no rules - there are. For example:
                                Of the format type:
                                - number the pages.
                                - start a major SLUG with INT or EXT.
                                - indent the Dialogue.
                                Of the story-structure type:
                                - There must be a Main Character.
                                - The MC must pursue a goal - have an objective.
                                - The MC must face opposition.

                                Of course, rules change, people break rules, and under certain circumstances people will accept the bending of certain rules. That doesn't mean they are not rules.

                                Okay, I'll play the game. In spite of the fact:
                                - I don't think you are following my train of thought because you are asking the wrong questions.
                                - you think you are winning and now you're going to move in for the kill.
                                - admitting I'm right is not an admission you are wrong.

                                Okay, I'll play the game. But first a couple of definitions:
                                - Mainstream Movie does not just mean it clicks with mainstream society. (Non-mainstream movies can do that.) It means it follows the general rules and guidelines that will give the movie the potential to click with the majority of people. Non-mainstream is not a negative thing.
                                - "Works" does not just mean it just makes a lot of money. (You're not a producer, are you?) It means that all the issues are resolved (typically in Act III) in a way that is satisfying to the audience. Whether it works or not is subjective.

                                Okay, I'll play the game. With the understanding that:
                                - I don't need to prove that every movie you listed is either non-mainstream or doesn't work to support my initial statement.
                                - I'm only doing a few to see how it goes. I'm interested in your next step.

                                CASABLANCA
                                Mainstream in almost the purest sense. Still works so much today that people are compelled to justify that sappy flashback.

                                TITANIC
                                Not mainstream. Several reasons knock it out of the Mainstream category: Huge story within a story, does not follow the three-act structure, the documentary aspect.
                                Does not work. I never bought the romance. It is contrived. ("Quick, write me a love story. I have some really slick special effects I want to showcase.)

                                BATMAN
                                Not mainstream. Super-hero movie. Main Character does not have a character arc.
                                Works.

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