Thursday, December 25, 2008

What, When, Where this Weekend: The Spirit, Valkyrie, Benjamin Button, Revolutionary Road, Secret of the Grain, Waltz with Bashir

What, When, Where is a weekly guide to select screenings, discussions and events in the NYC-area of interest to screenwriters.

Holiday edition!

Opening this weekend...

THE SPIRIT, written and directed by Frank Miller

Premise: A rookie cop returns from the dead to fight crime from the shadows of Central City. His main opposition is a former lab technician who has reinvented himself as The Octopus, an elusive criminal mastermind who knows the secrets behind his nemesis.

Playing: Everywhere.

Anyone remember when Frank Miller was a visionary comic book artist/writer? I miss that Frank Miller.

VALKYRIE, written by Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander, dir. by Bryan Singer

Near the end of WWII, Claus von Stauffenberg leads to group of fellow German army colonels in an attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler; the event would later be called the July 20 Plot of 1944.

Playing: All over.

All I can think about when I see the trailer for this one is that I already know how it's going to end. I love historical films, but even more so if I don't know the ultimate outcome right off the bat. And, eh, I'm sure I'll be netflixing this one once it's out. Until then I'm counting on Onyx to see this one and give us his review.

THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, written by Eric Roth, dir. by David Fincher

Benjamin Button was born under unusual circumstances. As everyone around him grew older, he aged backwards, making the challenges of life such as creating friendships, finding a job and falling in love all the more difficult and heartbreaking.

Playing: All over.

Cake Man caught this movie a couple weeks ago - you can check out his review here.

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, written by Justin Haythe, dir. by Sam Mendes

A young couple raising a family in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s look to break free from their frustratingly mediocre lives.

Playing: All over.

Those Titanic kids are back at it again... but, really, could there be a less-interesting logline than the one they're giving us?

THE SECRET OF THE GRAIN, written and directed by Abdel Kechiche

At the port of S├Ęte Mr. Slimani, a tired sixty year old, drags himself towards a shipyard job which has become more and more difficult to cope with as the years go by. He is a divorced father who forces himself to stay close to his family despite the scissions and tensions which are easily sparked off and which financial difficulties make even more intense. He is going through a delicate period in his life and recently, everything seems to make him feel useless; a failure. He wants to escape from it all and set up his own restaurant. However it appears to be an unreachable dream given his meagre, irregular salary which is not anywhere near enough to supply what he needs to realise his ambition. But he can still dream and talk about it with his family in particular. A family which gradually recompacts around this project which comes to symbolise the means to a better life. Thanks to their ingeniousness and hard work this dream soon becomes a reality... Or almost...

Playing: IFC Center

Can't really say I've read or heard much about this one at all - Time Out New York's rave review is the first I remember. I'm intrigued - if it's still playing when I get back to NYC I'll give it a shot.

WALTZ WITH BASHIR, written and directed by Ari Folman

By meeting and interviewing old friends from around the world, Ari, a former member of the Israeli Army, retraces his spotty personal history to a life-changing incident that occurred during his country's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Playing at: Lincoln Plaza, Landmark Sunshine

I usually avoid putting documentaries up here (y'know, trying to focus on the writers and all) but this one is too interesting to be missed. I didn't manage to catch it when it was part of the NYFF, so I'm glad I'll get a second chance to see it now.

What are you doing/seeing this weekend?

Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer: An In-Depth Analysis of the Film by a 16-Year-Old Version of Myself

Before I was an aspiring screenwriter/snarky blogger, I was once a legitimate film critic for a daily newspaper. Sure, I was a teenager, and sure, I reviewed movies like holiday classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but that didn't make me any less legit or any less snarky.

Because I thought it might be fun (and because I'm also a bit lazy) I've pulled out a piece that I wrote for the paper when I was 16. It's been eight long, crazy years...

'Rudolph' movie flawed, yet still a classic favorite

Written by Zombie, Age 16
Originally Published in the Tribune Chronicle

Legend has it that somewhere in medieval Europe, two small children were chopped up with a butcher knife and ground into sausage.

(Seriously, this is a Christmas story. Keep reading.)

As the legend goes, St. Nicholas arrived and was able to bring the two little sausage patties back to life, as children.

I've got one question:

How come we don't see claymation holiday specials about THAT?

Just imagine it: The two little claymation kids could easily be put through a sausage grinder. (Or, more likely, one of those little mold things that squeezes your Play-Doh into noodles.) The opportunities for gratuitous cartoon gore are endless.

While our animated Christmas specials weren't ever as violent as any given episode of "Mr. Bill," they were still SERIOUSLY MESSED UP.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" made its debut on NBC on Dec. 6, 1964.

"Rudolph" is the pinnacle of all Holiday TV specials. I may even venture to argue that it is one of the greatest movies of all time.

Just as when anything is considered perfect, there is always room to point fingers and laugh at it, "Rudolph" leaves itself open for much ridicule, mainly because of the large, glaring errors and distinct lack of logic in his plot.

Next time you watch, try to explain these:

- Carefully listen to what everyone calls the misfit elf who wants to be a dentist. They begin calling him "Herbie." About halfway through the movie, his name changes suddenly to "Hermey." Which one is it?

- Why does Yukon constantly lick his pickaxe?

- What's wrong with the misfit girl doll? She seems OK by me.

- What kind of stupid elf would build a train with square wheels? Put jelly in a squirt gun? Name his jack-in-the-box "Charlie?"

- What makes King Moonracer think Santa will help the misfit toys? Didn't Santa just help run Rudolph out of Christmas Town for being a misfit himself?

- Santa doesn't seem very concerned for Rudolph when his parents are missing. He's only concerned with whether or not he'll be able to fly his sleigh to all the good children in the world. Is that selfish, or what?

- The abominable snowmonster is completely harmless once they remove his teeth. Wait a minute . . . isn't he still 10 times their size? I don't understand why he doesn't just step on the elves, and knock down Christmas Town.

- Why does Santa give the misfit toys out to children at the end? They've already pointed out to us that no one wants them. I mean, I'd be pretty disappointed if I unwrapped my toy elephant and saw that some dummy (probably the one who dreamed of being a dentist) had painted polka-dots on it.

- If I were one of the mean elves at the end of the movie, I'd hate to have Hermey/Herbie/Whatever working as my dentist. I can just imagine this following scene:

Dentist: Alright, now open your mouth a little bit wider... Good. I can see in back now. Hey, wait a second, didn't you used to make fun of me? Well, buddy, looks like it's time for a root canal!


Despite all the glitches that I pointed out in the movie, it teaches us a lesson that I find valuable to this day.

Each character learns to let themselves be individuals. So, whether you're a red-nosed reindeer, an elf who wants to be a dentist, a jack-in-the-box named Charlie, or a humor columnist who wears duct-tape pants, remember that very important message.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!