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Archive for the ‘Audience/Market’ Category

Where is the Love?

The rise in “Tent Pole” Rom-coms.

The new battle of the sexes...

The genres of film have seen a drastic shift over the past few decades. While my own writing is inspired by the rich characters and masterful themes of the classics, today’s blockbusters have left much to be desired. But while comic book heroes and worn out adaptations account for much of today’s popular releases, the genre that has peaked my curiosity the most lately is the modern day romantic comedy.

With such films as Love and Other Drugs, No Strings Attached, and the upcoming Friends with Benefits, today’s romantic comedies have thrown romance out the window in exchange for casual sex. Sam is no longer playing piano to recount fond memories, Sally’s diner orgasm has been one upped by many actresses’s climactic moans, and passionate emails have been replaced with horny text messages.

The Lost Art of Desire

It is hard to criticize this advance, however, as there is no arguing against the fact that these themes not only attract todays youth, but in many ways speak to the cultural acceptance of recreational sex. These films are telling it like it is in many ways, as the traditional plot of classic romantic comedies would generate a significant gap between themselves and their audience. Such liberated themes provide great comic opportunities as well. There is certainly something to be said for an actor’s ability to transition from an intense sexual expression to a juvenile boner joke with such fluidity, and it is moments like these that make such films so entertaining. I personally died laughing at Jake Gyllenhaal’s stubborn erection, as well as Natalie Portman’s infatuation with Kutcher’s “3-D” manhood. So the entertaining value of these films is present, but there is one industry wide shortcoming that resonates in these new sex-comedies.

The writing doesn’t convince me any more. I dont believe that our protagonists fall madly in love with their female co-stars based solely on the physicality displayed on screen. I am all for sexual chemistry and what not, but I still want dialogue that makes me fall in love with these characters. I want rich characters that come to life and make me all gooey inside. When I write romantic characters I try my best to make the audience want them to come through the screen and propose, but to be honest I found Hathaway’s character Maggie Murdoch to be irritating, and Portman’s Emma to be frustrating and insulting. So much time was spent sexualizing these women, that the only insight we had into their real characters came in the form of obstacles for our heros, which were naturally their flaws or hesitations. How is that attractive?

In this aspect I feel that the writers have sold them selves short. I think that they over looked the dramatic potential of emotional conflict that comes from longing, desire, and affection. They skipped right over the powerful stuff and jumped right in the sack. Be it as a means of raising the box office numbers by exploiting hot young stars, or by serving the demand of the audience, they didn’t pay enough attention to the good stuff. When it is presented, it’s stifled. Gylenhaal nearly has a heart attack trying to say “the L word,” and Portman stuffs her face full of doughnuts when she finally realizes what she lost.

I hope that romantic comedies can return to their prior glory. In the end, boy will always love girl, and girl will love boy, but I want to believe that what got us there was more than a string of orgasms. It will be hard to work these themes of sincere affection into today’s market, but it would be a shame to abandon America’s favorite genre on account of America’s favorite pass time.

The unacceptability of love in today's films.

The Beauty of Baumbach

Why I admire the screenwriting of Noah Baumbach.

Writer/Director Noah Baumbach

Writer/Director Noah Baumbach

Today’s films are saturated with over-the-top action sequences and flashy sexuality. The typical conventions of screenwriting have been sacrificed for commercial marketability that promises box-office success in the form of sexy casts and Deceptacons. While intimate, character driven scripts tell beautiful stories, rooted in human emotion and struggle, they don’t rake in the dollars at opening night the way a fast paced action thriller or star-studded Rom Com never fails to. Such well-crafted stories are so out of place that they are almost always produced outside of the studio system as “indie” projects, or by the smaller artsy studios such as Magnolia Pictures and Focus Features.

Throughout his years of filmmaking, writer/director Noah Baumbach has remained loyal to this exact kind of story telling. His screenwriting ignores the cheap tricks so overly utilized in today’s market, and instead focuses on crafting unique, rich characters and captivating stories rooted in simplicity and realism. While his most common criticism is that his films are too boring, I instead find them to be deeply fascinating for their ability to explore the most relatable of human emotions in a very original way.

His latest film, Greenberg, is no exception. This film follows a psychologically troubled man through his re-immersion back into society, and his efforts to do…nothing. The character of Greenberg is one riddled with insecurities and idiosyncrasies, but posses no spectacular traits of any kind. He is just a common man who suffered from intense anxiety issues that led to a nervous breakdown, and he is now learning to cope with these troubles on a daily basis. It is his struggles that allow the audience to sympathize with his character, as we can all recognize a piece of our own vulnerability amongst his complexity. It is this connection between the audience and the characters that provides a captivating element in a story that lacks fast paced action and suspense.

These conventions of storytelling are not new to film making. Instead, Baumbach is revitalizing the techniques of classic filmmaking of the 60’s and 70’s. Consider, for a moment, one of your favorite films from this time period. Does it showcase the intense action sequences of today’s popular movies? At a time when Hollywood didn’t have these cheap gimmicks at their disposal, they relied on the human realism in a fashion similar to Baumbach. They took their time developing their characters, their world, and their journey, in order to make the most fully developed and intriguing story possible. The resulting products gave us such masterpieces as The Godfather, Deerhunter, The Graduate, Taxi Driver, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Bonnie and Clyde, just to name a few. All tremendous examples of screenwriting excellence, and all the product of minimal flash and pizzazz.

This is the sign of great screenwriting. If you haven’t already discovered Baumbach’s work I suggest you give it a glance. His Greenberg script is a very fun read which taught me a lot about character development and emotional insight. Among his other notable scripts are; The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Margot at the Wedding. All are written in Baumbach’s intimate style and are very helpful in terms if story development.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Fantastic Mr. Fox

A world of its own…

Crafting your animated world through real life recognition:

 

The most basic of human desires...

Many a times I have been curious about the possibilities of writing an animated feature, targeting the young audiences that have so loyally enjoyed the Disney Pixar and Dreamworks films. The appeal in writing for this kind of film lies in the limitless possibilities of the new worlds explored, as well as the light-hearted tones and themes that drive these popular features. On the surface, the purpose of such films is to provide the young and simple minds of children with an enjoyable and entertaining story.

Upon closer examination, however, these movies deal directly with the issues at hand today in our own society. When crafting a world and characters far different from those with which we are familiar, the screenwriter must do a great deal to make the characters and conflicts relatable to their audience. This task is most commonly achieved by infusing realistic character traits into the imaginary characters and putting them in situations not unfamiliar to our own.

In many cases, an animated feature, which may seem to operate as a comedic escape from our daily issues, is in fact a direct reflection of the problems the screenwriter recognizes within our society. A great example of this lies in the film Wall-E. Wall-E takes a robot that can’t properly communicate in the way we expect, and brings him to life through the use of human emotions and goals. While Wall-E may be a robot who’s “objective” is to collect trash, the audience can recognize his humanity through his expressive mannerisms and his true goals. Like so many other protagonists, Wall-E just wants to overcome loneliness by winning over the heart of a superior female.

More significantly, however, Wall-E serves as a terrific protagonist due to the position he is in to save mankind from the damage we have done to our world and our selves. In a time of global awareness, the theme of cleaning up the world we trashed, and breaking the lack of awareness that comes from technological advances and pure laziness functions as a superb theme of timely heroism. In this way, Wall-E goes beyond being a simple children’s movie by examining so many relatable conflicts and issues within the world we know.

Wall-E does not stand alone in this success. Think back to almost any animated children’s movie, and you will see that no matter how abstract the world and characters, the film deals with issues and goals drawn from our own lifestyle. Whether it be The Lion King’s reflection of greed and betrayal, or Shrek’s focus on societal standards and judgment rooted in physical appearance, it seems that in order to successfully craft a light hearted and enjoyable animated feature, one must first focus on real-life issues of the most serious nature.

We all want the same things...

We all want the same things...

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