Thursday, February 02, 2006

Sales, Fantastic, Oscars

Sorry for the recent AWOL-icity, I've been working on the first (well, fifth, but first since I actually mega-outlined it) draft of the... near-future... sci-fi... thingy... screenplay. Right now I'm falling asleep at work, I'm in a holding pattern on the current task, and can't think straight enough to code. But I can think straight enough to bloviate about the movies.

On to topics.

Budding screenwriters are advised to read lots of screenplays. 99% of what you can get out there are final drafts -- the last version.

What I really want to see are more of the drafts that actually got bought. Certain screenplays are famous among writers for being a first spec sale, subject of a bidding war, turned into a hugely successful film. But we rarely see the version that an executive read, and said, "Let's buy this." The version we see, I imagine, is the one that subsequently went through development and then got green-lighted for production. So that's just a pet peeve, really.

I read the shooting script of Fantastic Four the other day. I haven't seen the movie, but from what my wife described, it sounds reasonably close. I recall a lot of the reviews saying that the heroes aren't really that heroic; they spend the bulk of the movie whining and arguing and using their powers as gimmicks rather than as heroes. But I think I realized the actual, core problem:

The first act is the first three-quarters of the movie.

Presumably the inciting incident, the event that gets the ball rolling, is the accident aboard the space station. Except the way the story plays out, it's not, really. The villain, Dr. Doom, doesn't even really start to become villainous until well over halfway through the movie (and he doesn't really do much villainy until act 3)! Johnny is still off exploiting his powers for cash and poon, rather than for the good of mankind, three quarters of the way through! Reed and Sue are still arguing about what to do about their powers at the end of (what would normally be) the second act! Good lord.

Nonetheless, I (sort of) liked the writing style of the screenplay. Descriptions of characters' reactions teetered on the line of showing-what-they're-thinking, except they were almost always cases of indicating an entire set of physical motions and facial expressions with a few words. Very well-done. The style is great, the substance is... not.

Hey, the Oscars! I could prognosticate, but, meh. I thought it was interesting that for the first time in twenty-odd years, the Best Picture nominees match the Best Director nominees. And I hope Jon Stewart's good. He's not really a movie guy, despite his sporadic film résumé, and the last time we had a real solidly TV-world host was David Letterman, and, uh, nobody wants that again. Before that, you have to go way, way back to Johnny Carson, who's about as TV as you get. That's the kind of hosting we want to see, really. (I only recently came to fully appreciate the irony of an awards ceremony for the movie industry being shown on television. That's some deep shit right there.)

On the other hand, Jon Stewart will probably bring the political funny better than Chris Rock did, without spending 5 minutes of his monologue on topics that had nothing to do with the movie industry. It's still the Oscars.