Saturday, September 23, 2006

Lady in the Water

*** SPOILERS ***Despite its many flaws, I came close to loving M. Night's latest movie. It's a fairytale in modern times; its twists come in the telling of the story, not at the end; the characters are incredibly fun & the film continues to have that style of comedy that I love in his films - humour when the stakes are incredibly high (cf. the son with the gun in Unbreakable, listening for the alien signal in the car in Signs).

Unfortunately, Lady in the Water (LitW) totters on the edge of ridiculousness for almost all of its running time, which of course means it quite often falls and wipes out completely. I appreciated the risks it was taking, but it also handles its middle of Act 2 exposition badly & has a few too many plot points (I think, about 3 too many - Madame Narfs, Takamuks, and the giant eagle).

But what's most interesting to me are the flaws, and how they're actually necessary to the story M. Night is trying to tell:

The animated beginning (which I'd heard was studio imposed) is horribly overlong and expository and emotionally manipulative BUT it serves the purpose of making us believe in who Story (Bryce Dallas Howard) is, which helps Cleveland (Paul Giamatti) believe in her instantly.

But Cleveland's lack of disbelief is the second great flaw. Most reasonable modern people figuring out what Story is would go, "No. Not possible." But the film isn't interested in playing out disbelief beats. And as more and more people rally behind Cleveland and Story, without really questioning why they're doing so, their reactions become more and more implausible.

But, their belief not only fits into the overall mythology of the fairytale - it leads the ideas I enjoyed most in the film: that people who look completely normal can be imbued with mythological power and move among us undetected. Which leads to the final flaw.

Too much stuff. It's cool stuff - people with powers, three or four different creatures, a fairytale being told to Cleveland that's staggered over an hour, precognition, hypnotism, symbolism ... it goes on and on, the script overloading itself even though it's really telling a very simple story - find a special person, then return home through many dangers.

Huh, I just realised it feels like an adaptation of a 600 page Stephen King novel.

Anyway, I find myself in partial agreement with Sean (thanks for the robust post-screening discussion!) LitW feels like a first draft - it's filled with great stuff, good plot points, characters who you really get a sense of their past and future but it needs to be a) leaner, and b) flesh out a few things (the final fight, especially, felt like it was missing a beat).

But the film is not a mess in the same way as Pirates of the Caribbean 2. LitW knows what it wants to do (to bring back wonder), and for all its flaws it got there in the end, for me.
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Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Limit - Relaxing will be good


The Assembly Draft is done

It took four hours from the start of Act Three to the end. And the rewriting got faster and faster as I went through. That's always the way with this script, I find; the ending is tough to conceptualise, and a breeze to write through. Hopefully that doesn't mean that I'm ignoring some fundamental problem (cf. The Midpoint).

Lots of new stuff added. Lots of exposition shifted and deleted. Did I cry at the end? Not this time, no, but (a) it was such a radical shift that my mind had to be on the process not the emotions, (b) I think I'm going for catharsis more than tears now, (c) this is like the 15th time I've through this end, and (d) I'm not defensive about not crying, ok? Not at all. Now just back off, ok?


The script itself is down to 99 pages, and that's before the fine-tuning draft and the final polish chop out all of my notes to myself.

So, time to relax. I'm giving myself three days off. I think I'll probably tackle a rewrite of the Lucky Jones rules to clear my head ... and then back into it.

Relaxing will be good.
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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Limit - The Way forward

Today, I looked through everything I had to do from the start of Act 3 to the end, solving problems as I read through the script, and by the time I reached the end of my reading I realised I'd found a way through.

And it is good.

Then I started to procrastinate / freak out about finishing, again. So after letting that happen for a few minutes, I bit off the smallest part of the very next problem I had to solve and tackled it. Which worked pretty well.

The point: I can finish this pass on the script now.
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Saturday, September 16, 2006

A little update

The silence has been due to (a) getting together a successful application for a new-ish job, and (b) slowly but successfully cracking the end of The Limit's second act. Oh, and (c) looking after my hands.

Other stuff in the last couple of weeks includes:
A little bit of script reading and feedback for a feature and a short.
Preparing to play in a new SF game, Burning Empires (summary of our set-up, here; fuller details, here)
And finishing off our game of betrayal in Feudal Japan, The Mountain Witch. The actual play thread is here.

I've also seen Silent Hill, which was (in order) interesting, scary, dopey, disappointing and, ultimately, has the best ending of any Silent Hill game I've played so far.

Oh, and Nightwatch, which I stopped watching twice & didn't finish before it was taken back to the shop. Who wants to see yet another movie about people with special powers fighting vampires and trying to stop the end of the world? Not me.

Not unless it's really really good.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Some more writing table thoughts

If someone is really enthused about an idea, but the rest of the table isn't fired up about it, ask the Someone what's at the core of what they're excited about.

If the rest of the table is fired up about about an idea, but someone isn't really enthused about it, ask the Someone what their dislike is really about.

Write those answers down.

In fact, try and write everything down, not matter how small. It's all stuff to get inspired by later, and it sends a signal that everyone's contribution is important. Bring a couple of big pages of paper to write it all down in front of the group.

The point: Promote a shared understanding between the group about the things they're enthusiastic about, in common. Try to create a healthy brainstorming environment where everyone listens to each other. Get everyone talking and contributing - including yourself - and then keep a good ear out for interesting ideas.

And keep in mind that it takes guts, sometimes, to point out an interesting idea. Be brave about doing it yourself, and make sure everyone else respects someone who's doing it.
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