File this one under closing image masterclass. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the Breakfast Club. It’s not one of my favorites but it’s been on my radar for at least thirty years. My girlfriend was watching it the other day and I caught something I had never before: With its amputated arms, the sculpture is the inverse of the closing image (the sculpture is a replica of Standing Figure: Knife Edge by English artist Henry Moore). If John Hughes was juxtaposing the school with communism, it would have been his Giant Lenin Head. The statue is a symbol of silencing individual expression. i.e., the voice of the teenager versus the institution fixed on shaping them, not for their own good, but the good of society at large. After the kids spend their day together, they eventually empathize with each other and discover that their struggles aren’t all that different. So, when Bender throws his arm in the air, he becomes the new symbol, metaphorically shattering the shackles of the institution.
People email questions from time-to-time. I’ve always answered these questions. I’ve also always deleted every single one of them within 60 seconds of hitting the send button. Never thought to post the questions until today. This one deals with my analysis of Good Will Hunting:
I just read your analysis of Good Will Hunting and if it’s okay by you I just wanted to get some clarification. I always thought the climax of Good Will Hunting was the “It’s not your fault” scene.
But I guess in that scene Will is on the defensive whereas in his decision to leave to go to Skylar he has truly taken the offensive. Was that your justification for making it the climax?
We’re in a subjective space here. Above all else, analyses/breakdowns like mine are meant, for the aspiring writer, to detect patterns. The patterns I found led me those beats. But to answer your question: The “It’s not your fault” scene is an internal beat. Will is trusting someone emotionally again. He doesn’t have that with any of his friends, or Skylar, for that matter. But Sean is his therapist, not a partner. He’s simply opened a door for Will. It’s Will’s choice as to whether or not he walks through it. Notice how Will never has such a scene with Lambeau? He always kept Lambeau at a distance, like there was an underlying contempt for using your brain to work instead of your body. That lines up against his blue collar identity, the rejection of a white collar career, the friends in his life, and why a therapist/Vietnam vet from South Boston could be the only one to get through to him. That’s the reason I paired Will trusting Sean in the “It’s not your fault” scene with Will accepting the job at McNeil (internal and external points of no return). Those two beats in particular setup Will taking a chance on what the future could bring with Skylar; Will rejecting the safe, white collar identity for giving a shot at trust and intimacy with Skylar. That’s why, in my opinion, it’s the climax.
If there’s one thing to learn from this video, and there’s a lot, it’s that conflict shouldn’t exist if you must compromise your character to achieve it. The creative team behind Jurassic World understood this principle (though they certainly didn’t use it to its potential). It was clear from the get-go that Claire’s misbehavior was her obsession with her career. She’s the typical workaholic. The scene where the ops team gets slaughtered by the hybrid-rex dinosaur is central to her arc. Is she as bad as this guy makes out? Is she a worthy symbol to all the heroic, female, action starlets that preceded her? If box office receipts alone answer that question, they prove that audiences don’t care about that kind of nuance. They want to see shit blow up. They want to see people get eaten by dinosaurs. They want carnage. They want a dark space to escape and not think about their problems for two hours. And they want two beautiful faces on the screen when it all goes down. You, the aspiring screenwriter, don’t have that luxury. Listen to Mike Hill and others that speak to and challenge your sensibilities.
I’ve had friends tell me to write a horror movie. I just can’t resonate with that genre as I have others, as I have been told times repeatedly, with less “commercial potential.” This video made me think about my favorite horror movies. Only two came to mind: The Silence of the Lambs, which, like David Fincher’s Seven, would more appropriately be categorized as a crime thriller, and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which is about as horror as horror gets. But it got me to thinking how much I loved Alien (broken down here). Alien was likely pitched as Star Wars meets a horror movie. It had one of the best tags of movie, perhaps, only second to “Stupid is as stupid does,” with, “In space no one can hear you scream.” Alien really isn’t any different from The Thing if you think about it. You have a small group of people trapped who must use their wits to defeat a hell-bent beast. Then there’s The Shining, Scream, and Psycho. The Lost Boys was a big movie from my childhood, and, as Alien was Star Wars to horror, it was The Goonies meets vampires. Stranger Things has recently took inspiration from that subset. That’s more than enough inspiration to do something, if I were so inclined. So that’s what I’m saying to all of you folks who are taking the time to read my thoughts: This is show business. You can be an artist or you can write what sells and then earn the privilege of being an artist. Sure, luck is involved, but understanding what makes people more lucky than others is a big part of the game. So good luck out there.
I like Rian Johnson’s movies. It’s the way they’re told, nuances you find in their emotion, story, sight, and sound. You really can’t say he’s trying to be anyone but himself. Weighing the writer/directors of his generation, Johnson has the potential to be revered in thirty years as Spielberg does now. He’s just one little, sturdy tentpole movie away from regularly working on the scale of Christopher Nolan. Whether or not that is likely largely depends on The Last Jedi. That said, I doubt one trailer can give away the main plot points from the more matured writer behind Looper and Brick, fiercely determined to write the best damn Star Wars movie he can. But when Rian called out on Twitter, recommending, at least, in part, not to watch the trailer, I immediately thought that he believed they gave too much away. And that’s what made me think about it. Hey, I highly doubt this is it, but it’s a fun exercise for the brain. So, be warned, you poor souls: Mindless reading disguised as speculation spoilers ahead…
I’m friends with the folks at Shore Scripts; It’s the reason you’ve seen posts from time-to-time promoting their contest. They were originally out of the U.K., which, in terms of the contests that regularly get promoted (Nicholl Fellowship, AFF, etc), is a rarity. Now they have offices in Los Angeles. That alone doesn’t make them better or worse than the rest. Like anybody else, take a look at who’s behind them and the success stories. For what it’s worth, they come with my recommendation. Here are this year’s contest deadlines and prices:
Shore Scripts has just announced the Quarter-Finalists for their 2016 @shore.scripts Screenwriting Competition. Quarter-Finalists from 11 different countries!