"Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

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  • "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

    The new podcast is 100% Raiders!

    http://johnaugust.com/

    Just downloaded and can't wait to listen. An in-depth analysis of one of my favorite movies by one of my favorite screenwriters...

    Total screenwriting nerdgasm....
    "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

    Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

  • #2
    Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

    I can't believe they attacked the ending as passive. Who cares if he was an inactive bystander? It still was a bloody good scene. It's this strict adherence to structure which I think can hurt films not meant for it.

    If it were written by August, he'd probably have set it up so that Indy had to choose between saving Marion, who was dangling from a cliff, and saving the Ark, which was also teetering on the edge of a cliff.

    Of course, this was the exact ending to Last Crusade. Indy had to choose between grabbing the cup or snagging his father's hand. The same choice Elsa was confronted with a min earlier before she fell into the abyss.

    Now HERE it works. In fact, this is one of the best ending sequences I've ever seen. It was so powerful when his dad uttered the words "Indiana, let it go."
    Conveying that even the most prized artifact in human history was still less important than the love between a father and son.


    P.S. I cried a bit writing that last sentance.
    I'm never wrong. Reality is just stubborn.

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    • #3
      Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

      I re-watched Raiders over Christmas, so my children could see it for the first time. Naturally they loved it, although partly because they'd played the Lego game so were fascinated by seeing what it was based on!

      Something that occurred to me - especially having watched so many family films over the holiday - was just how much fun the film is. With the exception of Pixar, modern family films seem to really struggle with this, the tone always retains a handle on seriousness; then when they attempt 'fun' it often comes across as camp. Raiders (and also Star Wars) is a film where you actually want to cheer after each set-piece - I'd love to see a film like that now.
      My stuff

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      • #4
        Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

        Definitely my all-time favorite ScriptNotes podcast (better even than my previous favorite, the discussion of transitions -- I learned so much from that one).

        One of the segments that I especially found rewarding was Mr. Mazin's discussion of the plasticity of the perception of time, in film -- i.e., how the opening of Raiders (13 minutes) feels like four, while the utterly perfect 5-page lecture scene doesn't feel a second too long. It doesn't! No one has ever found that lecture too long or boring. As stated in the podcast, a gripping 15-min sequence can go by in the blink of an eye, but a dull two pages can feel like hours.

        This is why analyzing screenplays in terms of page numbers is, IMO, so misguided. Perception of time doesn't accord with running time. This is true when watching films, just as it is true in life. We've all experienced how endless a day of labor feels, versus how quickly a day of enjoyment goes by.

        And on that note, it's fascinating to read, in the Raiders transcript, that Lucas, Kasdan and Spielberg didn't conceive of Raiders in the mundane "beat sheet" way. They didn't say, this will be our act break, that will be out plot point, etc. None of it. They thought in terms of sequences and events and set pieces. Even when running through the summation, Mr. August mentions different candidates for where Act 1 ends.

        Rather than thinking that an act might be too short or long based on page count, screenwriters and -readers might better consider what the content of those pages is, and how entertaining and fulfilling said content is.

        The fact that films like Raiders and Star Wars 1977 flout so many screenwriting "rules," yet are incomparably enjoyable film experiences, really shows the hollowness of those rules, IMO.

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        • #5
          Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

          Originally posted by FoxHound View Post
          I can't believe they attacked the ending as passive. Who cares if he was an inactive bystander? It still was a bloody good scene. It's this strict adherence to structure which I think can hurt films not meant for it.
          I don't think they were criticizing, I think they were just noting the unusual-ness of that scene.

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          • #6
            Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

            Originally posted by ctp View Post
            I don't think they were criticizing, I think they were just noting the unusual-ness of that scene.
            There is where there is interesting daylight between their two perspectives. If you listen from 1:06.21 on, you hear Mr. August say that it is not his favorite moment in the film and that Indy instead should have made a "choice," yet Mr. Mazin eloquently defends the ending precisely as it is. IMO, the latter is the correct view.

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            • #7
              Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

              Originally posted by FoxHound View Post
              I can't believe they attacked the ending as passive.
              The ending may be passive in that Indy is tied up, but it still shows the resolution of a character arc. Over the course of the story, he learns to respect the power of the Ark and that there are things in this world beyond his understanding and control.

              At the beginning of the story, Indy would not have closed his eyes.

              The point is hammered home in the final scene after he meets with the government agents. "Fools. Bureaucratic fools. They don't realize what they've got there."
              Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Courier12

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              • #8
                Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                Yup, Indy closes his eyes, and makes Marion close her eyes too. It's a crucial choice at a crucial moment, and everyone in the audience gets the importance of that action.

                Sure, it's overall an unconventional adventure story climax, but when you are brilliant, you can also make your unconventional choices brilliant.

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                • #9
                  Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                  Originally posted by karsten View Post
                  IMO, the latter is the correct view.
                  If it was passive, a question that leads us into a semantic mess, it was still a hugely significant choice that he made, on several levels.

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                  • #10
                    Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                    Originally posted by karsten View Post
                    Definitely my all-time favorite ScriptNotes podcast (better even than my previous favorite, the discussion of transitions -- I learned so much from that one).

                    .
                    Yup. I was LOL'ing all over the place. People were looking at me funny.

                    I just love hearing from people who CARE about this stuff.
                    "People who work in Hollywood are the ones who didn't quit." -- Lawrence Kasdan

                    Please visit my website and blog: www.lauridonahue.com.

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                    • #11
                      Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                      Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post
                      Something that occurred to me - especially having watched so many family films over the holiday - was just how much fun the film is. With the exception of Pixar, modern family films seem to really struggle with this, the tone always retains a handle on seriousness; then when they attempt 'fun' it often comes across as camp.
                      This is an interesting and important distinction -- between fun and camp. It's difficult to quantify, but at bottom, I'd put it this way: even in its fun moments, Raiders always seems to be taking itself seriously, which is why it works. The camp factor infests a film when said film feels like it isn't taking itself seriously, but is sending itself up. IMO, this camp factor crept into Indy IV, and is one of the reasons why the film didn't work.

                      The Scriptnotes podcast really puts its finger on something when the hosts bring up the issue of violence, when discussing the scene in Marion's bar. The violence is quite real and menacing there, and they point out that this is where modern studios would [wrong-headedly, IMO] ask that such a film tone things down, if it were made today.

                      In fact, the violence at that point is completely necessary and advantageous. It establishes the perception that the stakes are great, that the protagonists' plights are desperate, and that the antagonists are not kidding around. Marion, one feels, is in genuine peril, which makes Indy's rescue of her that much more heroic.

                      Paradoxically, it is this violence, or at least the threat of violence, which allows Raiders later to have fun and never feel campy.

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                      • #12
                        Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                        There was also another, earlier thread posted about the Scriptnotes podcast here:

                        http://messageboard.donedealpro.com/...ad.php?t=70802

                        Something else that I enjoyed in the podcast was the discussion of Belloq as Indy's doppelgänger. This definitely elevates him far above 90% of the villains in action/adventure films. As Mr. Mazin points out, in some ways Belloq is actually ahead of Indy. Belloq knows the language of the Hovitos, which Indy doesn't (he's the superior scholar), and he better comprehends the power of the Ark.

                        The comparison with Belloq also shows that Indy is several shades darker than most action/adventure heroes (e.g., leaving Marion tied up in Belloq's tent, because if he'd freed her, their plan would have been exposed), just as Belloq is several shades lighter than many villains.

                        Incidentally, that tent scene offers one of my favorite moments in the film/script: what I can only describe as an "averted payoff." We've seen Marion drinking people under the table in her bar, so when she begins drinking with Belloq, we think, "Oh, yeah, that was the setup, this will be the payoff, where she drinks him under the table and escapes. Empowerment cliché." But no. Kasdan is better than that. In fact, Belloq holds his own with her -- because it turns out that the wine that they're drinking is from his own family's vineyard ("I grew up with this stuff").

                        An averted payoff. Genius writing.

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                        • #13
                          Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                          Very good Scriptnote Podcast. I particularly like how Mr. Mazin channels the undead spirit of Tarantino when he gets excited about movies. There was a few moments where the excitability transferred into that breathless passion for movies that always comes out in Tarantino interviews.

                          In any case, much as I really liked the podcast, I LOVED (!!) the Indy meeting transcript which I'd never come across before.

                          It's AWESOME! Kind of strange to see someone like Spielberg have to play second fiddle, but I understand why. Whilst nowhere near on the same scale, I've been in that situation where a producer already has the story beats all laid out. They're so excited for the project you end up not trying to change the story so much as interjecting with ideas within set pieces or more the minutia of a scene as opposed to challenging actual plot decisions. Kind of showing you're on point without questioning what the producer seems so passionate about.

                          But it is strange to see these vast, 20-line streams of consciousness by Lucas and then the next line by Spielberg is simply 'Scattering chickens?'. Very odd.

                          One part did make me raise an eyebrow (apart from the suggestion that Indy could 'Black-up' to disguise himself as an Arab). This doozy from Lucas-

                          STEVEN- On top of a mountain he jumps out. The plane hits the mountain adn there's a big fire ball. The pieces go everywhere. He's on the raft holding onto the ropes, coming down the mountain. And for comic relief he should go right through some sort of village, with a fiesta or something happening, with llamas. He knocks a llama over.

                          LARRY — There could be a ceremony with monks... (garbled) They're all looking up.

                          GEORGE — It can be amusing, but at the same time it has to be very realistic. It has to be what would really happen. You have to believe that someone could live through it like that.
                          *cough*...... ermm.......

                          ATOMIC BOMB RESISTANT FLYING REFRIGERATORS!!!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                            Originally posted by Harbinger View Post
                            Very good Scriptnote Podcast. I particularly like how Mr. Mazin channels the undead spirit of Tarantino when he gets excited about movies. There was a few moments where the excitability transferred into that breathless passion for movies that always comes out in Tarantino interviews.

                            In any case, much as I really liked the podcast, I LOVED (!!) the Indy meeting transcript which I'd never come across before.

                            It's AWESOME! Kind of strange to see someone like Spielberg have to play second fiddle, but I understand why. Whilst nowhere near on the same scale, I've been in that situation where a producer already has the story beats all laid out. They're so excited for the project you end up not trying to change the story so much as interjecting with ideas within set pieces or more the minutia of a scene as opposed to challenging actual plot decisions. Kind of showing you're on point without questioning what the producer seems so passionate about.

                            But it is strange to see these vast, 20-line streams of consciousness by Lucas and then the next line by Spielberg is simply 'Scattering chickens?'. Very odd.

                            One part did make me raise an eyebrow (apart from the suggestion that Indy could 'Black-up' to disguise himself as an Arab). This doozy from Lucas-



                            *cough*...... ermm.......

                            ATOMIC BOMB RESISTANT FLYING REFRIGERATORS!!!
                            A lot happened between then and Crystal Skull. And it's interesting to note that they used the raft thing (and Spielberg's desire to have a scene where Indy uses his whip to snag the girl) in Temple of Doom.

                            Other franchises started out grounded and became ludicrous, too. (Rocky and First Blood/Rambo come to mind immediately). Audience goodwill buys you a little more suspension of disbelief, perhaps?

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                            • #15
                              Re: "Raiders of the Lost Ark" on Scriptnotes

                              Originally posted by Harbinger View Post
                              ATOMIC BOMB RESISTANT FLYING REFRIGERATORS!!!
                              ...it's a good thing that the Indy films are otherwise full of realism such as not freezing to death in the Himalayas when your ex-girlfriend's bar (and all of her winter clothing) burned up in a fire, hitching a ride on the outside of a submarine, finding your way off a Nazi run island (complete with the Ark and your girlfriend who is only wearing a nightgown), jumping out of an airplane in an inflatable raft, slaloming down the side of a mountain in said raft, riding inside a mine cart at breakneck speeds and jumping gaps in said cart (over a sea of lava!), not being lost at sea when your ship explodes (and being in the middle of a storm no less), X literally marking the spot, not being crushed by the flaming wingless airplane careering through a tunnel you're in, getting from Germany to Egypt with no money and no change of clothes without getting caught and the Nazis chasing you, and escaping Egypt with still more Nazis being on the lookout for you.

                              And all without losing your hat.

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