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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Helen Rittelmeyer has returned...

And it's been well worth the wait.

Helen has an interesting essay on "the distraction war" and the internet mindset which lowers the stakes of that conversation debate, in the best possible way. She sums up pretty well that these new things aren't the end of the world or its salvation, they're just new. And they serve the same purpose as talking about weather or mutual friends.

I do want to add that the biggest problem for me in this age of overwhelming content is the sense that, as a blogger, I don't have much to add to the conversation. I'm not saying this to get self-pity. I just don't have a sense that, in the final analysis, my Golgo 13/Conan comparison really merits finishing, for example. The problem gets greater when we move onto subjects that other people already cover. What can I add to a conversation on cult movies that Tim Brayton or And You Call Yourself a Scientist! or 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting haven't already said just as well, if not even better? What can I say about comics that hasn't been covered already, in detail, by the TCJ.com crowd or a dozen comics bloggers? What can I say about screenwriting that screenwriting blogs or Scriptshadow posts haven't already discussed?And so on and so forth...

Even if I don't agree with everything those blogs or sites post, to add my voice to the echo chamber just feels empty. The few times that I actually have enjoyed writing blog posts are when I've promoted something that lacks coverage or attention, like my posts on Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street, or United Trash or Your Friends Close.

I don't know what this says about me. Perhaps it says my blogging is a kind of vanity, or maybe I lack the discipline to get the words out on a regular basis. Or maybe it's just difficult to blog when also trying to balance a personal life and other writing.

I'm not saying I'm shutting this blog down. I do like posting when there's something worthwhile. The problem is that I just don't have much to say at the moment. Or anything other than snark & shallow opinions.

But I do want to sincerely welcome Helen back. She is a writer that always has a distinctive and well thought-out point of view, as well as a great intellect.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What I learned from... watching END OF WATCH

So, in the interest of actually putting things on my blog, despite the fact that I'm not really in the place for major thoughtpieces right now, I'm going to try a new thing.

I've got mixed feelings about the screenwriting site Scriptshadow on various levels, ranging from the aesthetic to the ethical. But one thing I have found interesting is the occasion feature the site does where they list 10 things they learned from a certain film from a writing perspective. So I'm going to go through a couple of movies I saw recently and talk about what I learned from them. Not going to be 10 things, not even going to review the movie. Just think of it as a series of quick thoughts on what techniques worked and which ones didn't.

END OF WATCH (2012, David Ayers)

Tip 1: Supporting characters need to have a reason to exist.

Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena's significant others barely get any screentime and they don't have a character arc of their own. But yet they occupy a lot of time and space in the movie relative to their function. What do they establish that Gyllenhaal & Pena's conversations & squad-car time do not already establish?

Tip 2: For big emotional moments, less is more.

At the end of the movie (SPOILERS), a main character gets up at someone's funeral to give the eulogy. Normally, you'd think a writer would go for broke on this. But Ayers just has the character choke out, "he was my brother" and then break down. It's a very strong choice because the character has been established as macho & intelligent & talkative. So this gives us an idea of how much the character has been hurt by this death.

Tip 3: Know when to end.

Unfortunately, Ayers decided to end the movie with a flashback to a typical "day in the life" moment. It doesn't give us anything new, emotionally or information-wise. In fact, by cutting back, it undermines the genuine emotion the previous scene had brought up.