May 2005 Archives

A short break

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I'll probably be taking a short break from posting for the next week or two.

Before I talk about screenwriting, I want to talk about fractals for a moment.

Fractals are objects where the overall shape resembles the shape of the component parts. (Yes, yes, I know that's a vast oversimplification of the proper mathematical definition, but I don't think I need to get into a discussion of the Hausdorff-Besicovitch dimension to make my point about the three-act structure.)

The Why of the Three-Act Structure

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Why do most mainstream screenplays--and virtually all good mainstream screenplays--end up fitting into a three-act structure?

Alex Epstein has posted some interesting thoughts on the three-act structure. This is something I've thought about a fair amount, so I thought I'd weigh in.

First, for those of you who aren't screenwriters, this post is going to be a brief overview of the three act structure. I'm going to take my examples from the original Star Wars (or "Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope," for my fellow geeks). If you are one of the nine sentient beings on the planet who has yet to see the film, spoilers follow. There is also a spoiler for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

An interview with yours truly

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Alex Epstein has posted an interview he did with me over at Complications Ensue. I am pleased to note that he made me sound much more articulate than I think I actually was.

(More SPOILERS for Taxi Driver follow.)

My friend James has pointed out some more info on the upcoming Taxi Driver videogame:

"The game picks up where the movie left off," said the developer in a statement. "As Travis reminisces about his bloody rescue of the young prostitute Iris, it seems the violent catharsis and recovery that ended the film has turned his life around. However, a terrible sequence of events finds him unable to stop the murder of someone very special to him. His ensuing quest for revenge finds Travis Bickle once again on an inexorable path towards violence. Players will fight their way through the mean streets of New York City in Travis's bid for vengeance, to bring the ruthless rain that will clean the scum off the streets once and for all."

Also, check out James's comments on the previous post for more information on other upcoming film-to-videogame adaptations. None of them seem as ludicrous, or as likely to miss the point of the source film, as the Taxi Driver game.

Now at Amazon.com

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The Government Manual for New Superheroes is now available for pre-order.

Next Up: Kundun

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I was rather perplexed to learn that they're making Taxi Driver into a video game.

Allow me the first to say: wha...?!?

This is a bizarre decision on so many levels. For one thing, I can't imagine there's any sort of useful brand recognition. Watching The Godfather might make you fantasize about being a mobster, but nobody who sees Taxi Driver comes out fantasizing about driving a taxi.

(WARNING: Spoilers for Taxi Driver follow)

Actually, you could make this a really creepy and disturbing game. It could be like a Japanese dating sim, where you try desperately to connect with Cybil Shephard and Jodi Foster, only unlike the Japanese dating sims, there is no right choice at any moment, and no matter what you do, you become more and more distanced from humanity until you lose the game.

Unfortunately, I can't help feeling that the more likely result is a shoot-em-up where you righteously mow down evil pimps, thereby missing the point of the film entirely. And then we can look forward to the inevitable film adaptation of the videogame, directed by Uwe Boll...

Losing his deposit

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A reporter in Haltemprice & Howden just announced that one of the candidates "is afraid he's going to lose his deposit." I have no idea what that means, but it doesn't sound like fun
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So far, there's been a lot of focus on the Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat parties, but the BBC has been suspiciously silent on the real question of the evening: how is the Official Monster Raving Loony Party doing? I don't remember how many votes they got in Sunderland South--I think it was about 150-- but I can report that their candidate listened to the results wearing a giant inflatable innertube.
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Now they're announcing the results from Rutherglen & Hamilton West, in Scotland. One thing I think the US should borrow from the Brits is having more of our results announced in rich Scottish burrs. This constituency also went for Labour. (There didn't seem to be an Official Monster Raving Loony Party member standing for parliament in this borough, so I can't tell you if the innertube is part of the party's official uniform.)
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The American commentator has clearly lived in the UK for a while; apart from his in-depth knowledge of UK politics, he just said, "We're not going to be banging on about the exit polls tonight"--I don't think I've ever heard a fellow Yankee say "not going to be banging on about..."

Return of the Swing-O-meter

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I'm watching Peter Snow once again demonstrate the amazing swing-o-meter. If you folks who don't have access to the BBC would like to experience it for yourself, just pay a visit to the BBC website.

Peter Snow is starting to sound hoarse. With only three constituencies reporting back, that doesn't bode well for his ability to last the night.

British place names

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Part of the fun of watching these election results is getting a tour of British place names. Right now, they're announcing results from Houghton (pronounced "HO-ton") and Washington East (pronounced "Washington East").

Something interesting: when they announce the results from a constituency, the candidates all stand on stage together and listen to the results being read, instead of watching the results from their individual party headquarters.

I'm also enjoying the tour of British accents--we just cut from a Labour party member with a Scottish burr to a Torry with a rich plummy accent. Now we're onto a man who (I think) has an Oxbridge accent overlaying a native Scots one.

Correction

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The first constituency to report in wasn't "Sunderland"--it was "Sunderland South." Sunderland North has just reported as well, with another Labour victory. Labour now has two districts; the Conservatives and the Lib Dems have none.

Now it's back to Peter Snow, standing in front of a giant virtual swing-o-meter, showing us what will happen if the results from Sunderland (North and South) are typical. Two constituencies isn't a very broad sampling, of course, but the fact that Peter Snow has a giant virtual swing-o-meter makes it seem much more significant.

Something odd: one of the main commentators is American. (I didn't catch his name). It's very odd to hear somebody with the standard American newscaster voice discoursing in such depth on British politics.

Humor

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So far, one thing that's impressed me with the BBC coverage is the sense of humor. Earlier, a reporter broadcasting from BBC Center announced that she had the Prime Minister there for an interview, and she pulled over the guy who imitates Tony Blair on Dead Ringers, a very funny sketch show. She did a fairly deadpan interview with him, as he fielded questions in his Blair persona.

There's also been a brief, in-studio interview with Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and a regular panelist on the satirical news showHave I Got News For You.

In the US, the humor is much more segregated--the main networks all do deadly serious election night broadcasts, even when there's no actual news for them to report.

Too Presidential

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I thought Peter Snow was a bit much, but the BBC has another trick up their sleeve: for some reason, they've corralled a few hundred volunteers and given them magic markers in the color of each of the parties (Labour is red, Conservative is blue, and the Liberal Democrats are yellow). As the results come in, the volunteers are coloring in a giant electoral map by hand. I have no idea what they are trying to prove with this, but the BBC gave it about five minutes of breathless coverage. I think they're maybe trying to provide a reality show element to the coverage.

Slightly more substantive, they interviewed a few random voters, asking what they thought about the election. One said, "It was too presidential for my taste." Meaning, I think, that there was too much focus on Blair as the leader, and not enough focus on the individual MPs.
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FOLLOWUP: A panel of political commentators have just made the same comment: this election was "too Presidential." I think this comment is a reflection of the way the PM is chosen. In the US, you vote for the President, and you vote separately for your congressman. In the UK, you vote for your members of parliament, and whichever party has the most members get to choose the Prime Minister. The two races are therefore mixed together, and focus on one side of the race automatically takes focus away from the other.

Blogging the British election

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I'm watching British election TV coverage, and I'll be reporting live on my impressions.

Right now, I'm watching Peter Snow explain the results with a variety of virtual reality graphics that swoop and zoom around him. So far, there's a lot of swooping and zooming and no actual news--only one district has reported back.

That district is Sunderland, by the way, which was frantically counting votes in an effort to be the first district to report for the 4th year in a row, thereby getting itself into the Guiness Book of World Records. The reporter waiting for the news kept talking about the tension in the room--not from the candidates, but from the counters, who were trying to beat their previous vote-counting speed record. (They were a little slower than last year, but still managed to be first.)

As a counterpoint to my previous post on the dangers of tea-sipping, take a look at The Women's Petition Against Coffee, which charges that the "Decay of that true Old English Vigour" can be blamed on "nothing more than the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE, which Riffling Nature of her Choicest Treasures, and Drying up the Radical Moisture, has so Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age, and as unfruitful as those Desarts whence that unhappy Berry is said to be brought."

Warning: the link is not safe for work, if your boss has an objection to 17th century sexual terminology.

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From Pitch to Premiere

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John August points to an interesting series of interviews tracking a film as it goes from pitch to pre-production to shooting.

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