NoiARRRRR, my film noir/pirate/buddy cop mashup film, has hit a snag: I’ve been too busy with this semester to plan out the entire thing, and it needs to be filmed by the end of this month. There’s not much time. It’s looking likely that I’ll have to rewrite the thing into a spoof trailer, rather than an actual film, and try to get that shot.
Regardless, I figured it couldn’t hurt to give you the first scene. Here’s the excerpt.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Buddy Cop film genre, as you may have noticed on this blog. While attempting to script my own version of one, I realized that I needed to understand the typical structure of a Buddy Cop friendship, in order to make sure my film hit the right beats. This chart was the result.
Fun fact: romantic comedies follow the exact same chart.
The Goonies surpasses most 80s films to stand as a great example of solid screenwriting. Chris Columbus gives all the characters personality traits that bounce against each other throughout the film, adding to the tight plot, which itself manages to connect a multitude of different elements — pirates, criminals, a misshapen ‘monster,’ a foreclosure, and a random wishing well.
The gang of kids all have their own traits, and all the other kids waste no time pointing them out: Chunk is constantly being told he’s a klutz and too loud — which gives him an entire subplot of being captured — while himself constantly asking for food — which means he’s the one to uncover a dead body in the freezer; Mouth is given disgusted looks for his self-serving, plot-advancing ways, and for his failed attempts at womanizing; Brand is the slightly egotistical but surprisingly nice older brother who tries to bring a sense of adulthood to the gang; the cheerful, inventive Data is there to solve problems as Home Alone incarnate; Andy is the nice-girl love interest; her friend Stef is the snarky pessimist; and Mikey serves to drive the plot towards his end goal of finding One-Eyed Willy and saving the Goon Docks.
In a world where we’re content to have Lone-Ranger-style plots, it’s nice to see a film that bothers to keep itself buzzing along at a proper speed, while still continuing to make sense. The film’s blend of characters and plot is its best feature.
Any thirst for 80s nostalgia can be easily quenched by the hairstyles, fashions, and entertaining dialogue, (“I’m going to punch you so hard, when you wake up your clothes will be out of style!”) even though the film’s plot doesn’t lean on it’s nostalgia to survive, like, well, the majority of eighties films. As far as the actual subject matter, the film revels in being juvenile: the pirate ship, booby traps, and blundering criminals are all clearly ridiculous. If you’re the sort of person who will enjoy the film’s crazy childish nature, you’ll appreciate it’s fantastic writing. If not, go walk a plank.
His shots are like the film’s: shaky.
The French Connection is more about atmosphere than it is about plot or characters or the more traditional features expected in a film. The plot is a thin series of chases and stake-outs and the characters are caricatures. Even the lead Doyle, played by Gene Hackman, is just a slightly more filled-out caricature: he’s a racist but moderately effective cop dedicated to stopping a huge drug deal regardless of anything or anyone else. Instead of delving deeper into his character’s drive or the lives of the criminals involved, the film highlights Doyle’s bleak, obsessive hunt.
The cinematography focuses on the scenery and on long moments of tense tracking as either the police or the criminals keep eyes out for each other, dodge each other, and chase each other indiscriminately. More often than either the action or the plot developing conversations that compose the rest of the film, the camera just shows the scenery. Gritty concrete, foggy cobblestones, and cold, dead roads are the norm. The desolate visuals contribute to the barebones plot and Doyle’s singularly minded focus.
The film work contributes to the atmosphere. It’s shaky and hand-held, even though the film’s date, ’71, means that more stable equipment was easily available. The choice gives the film more realism: the camera moves jerkily when chasing characters and even jostles up and down with the waves while on a boat. During one foot chase scene, it cuts from a jerky shot to a smooth one, as the camera switched from being handheld and on foot to a camera that was still handheld, but was in a car.
Speaking of cars, the film’s iconic car chase was great: it fit the general theme of the film: it showed Doyle’s fixation on catching the drug smugglers; it provided realism through all the vehicles Doyle kept scraping; and it was engagingly high-stakes and fast-paced. The film, overall, was one-note, since its focus was on the feeling of obsession, which naturally pushes all other elements out of the picture. Character development as a result is a non-factor. The French Connection is therefore good at what it does, but might not fully satisfy many people by what it does.
“To be fair, economics is to blame for some of the decrease in creativity. A movie studio can make more money with a sequel than a gamble on something creative.” ~Scott Adams, The Heady Thrill of Having Nothing to Do, August 6, 2011
The solution: pick an old topic, freshen it up, and pitch it. Turn a dumb board game into a good movie, and you’ll be able to create a solid work in today’s economy.
21 Jumpstreet is a great example: it’s ostensibly based on an 80s shows, but only shares the very basic premise and a few (hilarious) homages which only serve to make the rest of the original story even more fun.
Hollywood’s already covered remakes, prequels, superheroes, kid’s cartoons, Dr. Seuss books, toys, even board games – the next cash cow, judging from The Great Gatsby and Les Mis, is classical literature. And, as we transition to the inevitable ‘movies based on cereal mascots’ phase of Hollywood’s game plan, the only successes will be those who can embrace reality and craft a stellar story around a terrible terrible concept.
Zach and I wrote, filmed and finished most of the editing for this film last Saturday. If anything isn’t as stellar as you expect in such an intergalactic story, I blame it on the speed we worked with. The short is on the same type of camera that we’ll use to film Poetic Justice, and gave me a chance to see how the basics — lighting, sound, and angles — are used. I don’t have much experience with it. In the end, it was easier than I thought it would be, although I didn’t anticipate the amount of broccoli that I’d get mushed into my hair.
I think this one has a bit of rewatch value, due to touches like the broccoli I pull out of an unlikely spot at 1:48 or the sweet camera angle that we start with. Zach’s a lot better at thinking of good angles to shoot from than I am… he noticed the ceiling fan that we used for the opening shot, and also propped the camera up on an opened door in order to get the wide shot of us eating.
Fun fact: we used broccoli to steady the camera half the time. That stuff really does have a million uses.