Saving Cats and Enjoying the Rain

It’s gray outside. It’s damp. There’s a slight mist anchoring the last chill winter has to offer. It’s bleak.

And it’s perfect.

I have this sadness inside of me that requires release. I’ve decided to release it as a screenplay. I’ve also decided death will be involved. And there will be tears. Aquatic mountains of tears. And there will be pain. Insurmountable rushes of pain. But with death and tears and pain comes life and joy and laughter.

Last year, I attempted to write a screenplay about a girl whose best friend’s engagement spurs her to persuade her boyfriend to propose. Only he can’t propose until he gets his family’s approval. Spoiler Alert: they don’t approve. I had the misfortune of telling Hunny this couple was based on us and that they would not end up together. In all honesty, the couple was loosely based on us and I hadn’t decided whether or not they would repair their broken relationship. The boyfriend’s inability to stand up to his parents to defend the woman he loved made this decision difficult. Would the girl go back to him? Could he make it up to her? Needless to say, I gave up on the story. Hunny’s dislike of the narrative and my inability to fully overcome my grief was a bad combination.

This year, I’m writing something else. I’m going to use Blake Snyder’s book Save the Cat! as a guide and finish a screenplay. I’m going to share my journey with you, but I won’t share many clear specifics, because I’m still in a fragile state. Hunny said my logline, a one to two sentence description of a screenplay, “sounded good.” His lack of excitement nearly derailed me, so he is officially out of the loop. He’ll be getting the same amount of information as you do. As I read this aloud to him after I post it, I’m sure you’ll be able to hear his protests. Sometimes you have to do something that is uncomfortable for others in order to protect yourself.

I’m excited and nervous! I think it will be great and cathartic. Mainly cathartic.

Here we go!

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 11} Voice Over Narration or (Stranger than Fiction)

Will Ferrell is the type of actor that you either love him or hate him.  Other than me, most people either light up when they talk about him or they complain about how stupid he is and how much money he owes them.  My father is one of the latter.  He always says that if he ever meets Will Ferrell, he’s going to ask for his movie back.

My father loves Stranger than Fiction.  He says it is the only good movie Will Ferrell will ever make.  Why does my father, who loathes Will Ferrell to the very core, love Stranger than Fiction?

Blake Snyder  shares his screenwriting wisdom in his book, Save the Cat!  He says that every good screenplay should be a primal story.  It should speak to our inner drives as a human being.

Stranger than Fiction is an amazing story.  It is about the most primal of subjects: mortality and survival.  We are all going to die one day.  None of us knows which day will be our last.  Harold Crick, Will Ferrell’s character in the movie, doesn’t know which day will be his last, but he knows his day is coming.  He has to find and convince someone he doesn’t know that he deserves to live.  Although Harold wants to prolong his life, he doesn’t want to at the expense of someone else’s life.  This movie makes one feel as though we all could be noble if we only try.

Stranger than Fiction’s estimated budget was $38 million and it only grossed $40.1 million.  Why did this great story do so poorly at the box office?  This movie was marketed as a comedy.  It is definitely not a comedy.  Movie goers expecting another Talladega Nights or A Night at the Roxbury were completely disappointed.  This is a dark comedy.  I know someone who went into viewing thinking it was a comedy, hates the movie AND refuses to watch it again.  People do not like being tricked.  That is what makes marketing so important.

If you haven’t seen Stranger than Fiction, you definitely should.  But don’t expect to laugh very much, and you may want to have a box of Kleenex handy.

Favorite Line: Get bent, taxman!

Favorite Character: Professor Jules Hilbert

Favorite Scene:  When Professor Hilbert gives Harold the quiz to find out what kind of story he is in.

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 4} Black and White or (It’s A Wonderful Life)

I am a nerd.  Did you notice that already?  I love movies, especially black and white movies.  I love them.  There’s something about the movies that were made during the “Golden Age” of Hollywood that can’t be replicated now.  Or at least if it is, it is not very often.

I dedicated the Black and White movie day to Hunny.  It’s A Wonderful Life is his all time favorite movie, and I bought it for him as a Christmas present on our first Christmas as a married couple.  Hunny wanted me to point out that despite not growing up together, our relationship is very similar to George and Mary’s.  It is evident that they love each other.  I tear up every time I watch George tell Mary that he doesn’t want to marry anyone and he wants to do what he wants to do (then they are married in the next scene).  Hunny had a similar conversation with me a couple weeks before he proposed, “I don’t know if I want to be married, but I know that I don’t want to be married to anyone but you.”   Men.  Am I right?

I have to let you in on a big secret: I don’t like this movie.  I have never cared for this movie.  Until I met Hunny, I was always able to avoid watching it during the holiday season.  Every Christmas this movie is shown on one channel or another in America.  It wasn’t a tradition to watch it every year for my family, so as long as I steered clear of the channel it was being shown on, I was home free.  Since giving this movie to Hunny, we’ve watched it at least five times.  We’ve only been married 2 1/2 years!  We have only spent two Christmases together married!  Can I just say that I love my husband?

This movie was a disappointment at the box office and ignored at the Academy Awards.  I have a theory about it.  This movie is two hours and ten minutes long.  At the one hour mark, we are still watching the main character’s life unfold, but we haven’t gotten to the point of the story.  The whole point of the story is that an angel needs to go to earth to save George Bailey’s life.  We should know why his life is in jeopardy well before the one hour mark.  Blake Snyder agrees.  In his book, Save the Cat!, he devotes a chapter on “The Immutable Laws of Screenplay Physics.”  One of the laws is that audiences can only stand so much “pipe,” which means people can only sit so long to get to the point of the story.  An hour plus is a really long time for me.

Just because I do not care for this movie does not mean it isn’t a good movie.  The acting in it is phenomenal.  Did you know that when George’s Uncle Billy walks away drunk, a production assistant dropped some equipment off camera, which led the actor to yell, “I’m ok!”?  That take was used by Frank Capra in the film.  It’s A Wonderful Life has a great message.  Playing George Bailey was Jimmy Stewart’s favorite role.  It’s A Wonderful Life was Frank Capra’s favorite of the films he made.  Not to mention, people watch it as a Christmas tradition every year!  That is really something special.

Do you watch It’s A Wonderful Life during Christmas or as part of your Christmas celebration?  Or do you feel that it is too depressing and too much of a downer to watch as part of your Christmas tradition?

Favorite Line: “George Bailey, I’ll love you till the day I die.”

Favorite Character: Mary Bailey

Favorite Scene: When George and Mary unknowingly dance into a swimming pool

30 Days, 30 Movies {Day 1} Twisted Love Story or (A Life Less Ordinary)

A Life Less Ordinary is a visually stunning film that includes a perfectly groomed soundtrack evoking the exact emotion expressed in the story.  This movie follows two “couples:” O’Reily (Holly Hunter) and Jackson (Delroy Lindo) a pair of angel police officers who have been assigned the task of bringing Robert (Ewan McGregor) and Celine (Cameron Diaz) together.  If they do not complete their mission, they will be stuck on earth forever.  A scary proposition for anyone, let alone angels.

Robert is a janitor for Celine’s father’s company.  After being replaced by a robot, dumped by his girlfriend, and evicted from his home (thanks to angelic intervention), Robert decides to threaten Celine’s father into getting his job back.  He ends up kidnapping Celine.  Celine and Robert strike up an unlikely friendship with Celine becoming the kidnapping mastermind.

I saw this movie as a teenager and loved it.  It opened my eyes to what film could do and how you could weave any kind of story – the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.  Although, I love this movie and appreicate the story, it is not without it’s problems.  The end is pretty much a train wreck.

In Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!, he warns against writing a story containing “double mumbo jumbo.”  That means you can’t have two kinds of magic in a movie- aliens and vampires, for example.  This movie has angels working as heavenly law enforcers, dream sequences, premonitions, a shot through the chest that does not kill, and a drunken vision that never really explains itself.  And don’t get me started on the final converstaion between Celine and Robert; where they break the fourth wall by discussing their feelings and views on love, to the camera, all the while clips from the movie flash behind them.  Yikes.

I can’t mention a fault of the film without mentioning a strength.  One of the strengths that I have yet to mention is the well developed female characters.  The women in this movie are not one dimensional.  They are complex.  Celine is the archetypal modern woman who has been jaded by her past relationships with men causing her to weild her sexuality as a weapon against them.  But she’s more than that.  She resents her father for discarding her mother, and secretly abhors the fact that her father compares her to her mother and assumes that she will sink to her “natural level,” never accomplishing anything or make something of herself.  Holly Hunter’s character is an angel, and unlike her partner, she was not a human before becoming an angel (Can someone tell me where that crazy idea came from?  It’s not in the Bible, so I don’t know how it became associated with Christianity), which makes her curious about the human experience and interested in humanity.

Even though the film ends in a ridiculous way, I still think it is worth watching.  The supporting cast is amazing.  In his acting career pre-Monk, Tony Shaloub perfectly portrays a down and out bar owner.  Stanley Tucci plays Celine’s spurned ex-boyfriend and orthodontist.  At the very least, check out the soundtrack.