Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Great film. Fast paced, entertaining and had enough of a message to mean something.

My Top 3 of 2006

1. The Departed (Scorsese/Monohan)

2. Thank You For Smoking (Jason Reitman)

3. Blood Diamond (Zwick/ Leavitt)

Sunday, December 24, 2006



Thursday, December 21, 2006

'The Devil Wears Prada,' Aline Brosh McKenna
Adapted screenplay contender By CAROLE HORST
CATEGORY: Adapted from the novel "The Devil Wears Prada" by Lauren Weisberger

STORYLINE: Recent journalism school grad and fashion-world neophyte Andy (Anne Hathaway) lands plum job as assistant to "boss from hell" Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor of fashion bible Runway magazine.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: "I loved the title," says McKenna. "A lot of times when you read books about the workplace, you don't believe them; the details in this book had the ring of authenticity."

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "The storyline. The novel didn't have a lot of narrative." McKenna constructed a storyline for the Stanley Tucci character and also "gave Christian (Simon Baker) a story function. We knew we wanted Andy to quit at the end, but when she quits, what is she rejecting? ... It became a choice about what kind of future she wants."
BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: "There was always the problem of why Miranda Priestly would hire Andy, because she was always unsuitable. So I pitched everyone the line: 'Go ahead, hire the smart fat girl.' I thought that would never make it into the movie, but it became a lynchpin."

CHOICE LINE: At the end, seeing Andy across the street, Miranda simply says "Go" to her driver. "That whole scene is a wonderment to me because I feel like she says everything you need to know about Miranda in a nonverbal way: 'I'm nicer than you might know.' There's loss, rejection, warmth -- that's Meryl."


'The Departed,' William Monahan
Adapted screenplay contender By PETER DEBRUGE
DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Warner Bros./ Oct. 6
ADAPTED FROM: Screenplay "Infernal Affairs" by Alan Mak and Felix Chong

STORYLINE: A rookie cop (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrates the organization of a Boston crime boss (Jack Nicholson), but the mobster has a mole of his own (Matt Damon) in the department who could blow his cover.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: Although based on the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," "In absolute fact, it isn't an 'American' adaptation at all. It's a Bostonian adaptation," says Monahan. "We're pretty much a different country." Though Scorsese added his trademark layer of insider references, Monahan says: "I'm not interested in anything which isn't working on many levels. There's no reason an action film shouldn't also make a literature professor wet himself."
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "A lot of the stuff that people think you must have chewed pencils over in your garret, you simply don't notice until later," Monahan says. "It's a matter of ear and gut. If it feels right, it's in, and if it doesn't, it isn't." That said, Nicholson brought his own ideas to the part, transforming Costello from a post-sexual old Irishman into a great "new way to play Lear."

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: "I was thinking about the past, and Boston, and people I'd lost, with real intensity, and had the job not come along I probably would have directed that energy into a novel," Monahan says..

CHOICE LINES: Nicholson asks a local, "How's your mother?" The guy sighs, "She's on her way out," to which Nicholson quips: "We all are. Act accordingly."

'Thank You for Smoking,' Jason ReitmanAdapted screenplay contender By DAVID S. COHEN
DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: Fox Searchlight/March 17
ADAPTED FROM: Novel "Thank You for Smoking" by Christopher Buckley

STORYLINE: Nick Naylor, lead spokesman for Big Tobacco, fends off a Senate investigation, lawsuits and every manner of bad publicity, all in the name of the public's right to choose -- while trying to set a good example for his young son.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: This plea for individual responsibility was Reitman's dream project. Story languished in development until he wrote part on spec. That got him attached as writer and director.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "The main character is the head lobbyist for Big Tobacco. Traditionally he'd either be a villain or you'd expect the guy to have some sort of cosmic change of heart and go work for the Lung Assn. This isn't that film. You had to understand why Nick Naylor does what he does and actually love him for it."

BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: "The creation of Nick's son Joey. The son was in the book, but you never really met him. Joey became the tool by which we understand what Nick does and why. Early on, I realized that if parenting was the answer to spin, then we needed to see Nick being a good father himself."

CHOICE LINES: When a fifth-grader says her mom claims, "Cigarettes kill," Nick asks, "Is your mother a doctor or some sort of scientific researcher?" When she demurs, Nick adds: "Well she doesn't exactly sound like a credible expert, now does she?"

Date in print: Mon., Dec. 18, 2006,, Los Angeles
'Breaking and Entering,' Anthony Minghella
Original screenplay contender By JON WEISMAN
DISTRIB/RELEASE DATE: The Weinstein Co.-MGM/Dec. 8 (N.Y./L.A.), Jan. 19 (wider)

STORYLINE: A man in a troubled marriage and a high-stakes architectural project sees his world overturned by a series of burglaries.

ABOUT THE SCRIPT: "The issue of crime or damage is a very interesting one to propel a story for me, and I wanted to write a piece that was essentially connected to repairing or healing," Minghella says. "And in order to have healing, something has to be damaged."

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: "After three quite big research-based adaptations, period films, costume dramas, which required me to really delve into the world of those stories," Minghella says, "I was looking forward to doing a film where essentially I just told a story with a camera pointed out my back door. " Then he realized that the task would not be so simple.
BREAKTHROUGH IDEA: About 15 years ago, Minghella had the idea of a couple who came home to find it had been ransacked, "and when they did an inventory, they found that things had been added, and that the things that had been added had been kind of a commentary on their marriage. But I could never get past the concept of it." After burglars repeatedly robbed Minghella's own North London office while he was away filming "Cold Mountain," he thought to adapt his original idea to tell a story about "the way that a burglary or small crime can organically take characters on a journey."

CHOICE LINES: "When you've been hurt this much, you can't be hurt twice."
John August How to Rewrite
Over the weekend, my friend Rawson came to visit the bambina, and we talked about the script he’s writing. He said he was about to start his next draft, which was mostly character tweaks. He was unsure how to go about it.
I said, “Decide out what you want to accomplish, then figure out which scenes would need to change.”
He seemed to think that was pretty good advice. And the more I thought about it, the more I agreed.
The biggest problem with most rewrites is that you start at page one, which is already probably the best-written page in the script. You tweak as you go, page after page, moving commas and enjoying your cleverness — all the while forgetting why you’re rewriting the script.
Instead, you need to stop thinking of words and pages, and focus on goals. Are you trying to increase the rivalry between Helen and Chip? Then look through the script — actual printed script, not the one on screen — and find the scenes with Helen and Chip. Figure out what could be changed in those scenes to meet your objectives. Then look for other scenes that help support the idea. Scribble on the paper. Scratch out lines. Write new ones.
Then move on to your next goal. And your next one.
At first, this “checklist” approach to rewriting probably won’t feel organic. It doesn’t have the same flow as writing the first draft. But fixing your script isn’t that different than fixing your car. If the stereo was busted, you wouldn’t start at the tailpipe and work your way forward until you got to the dashboard. You’d rip out the stereo, figure out what was wrong, and replace it if you couldn’t get it working. Then you’d do the same for the headlights, the shocks, and the windshield wipers. A car is a car, and a script is a script. But they’re both made of lots of little pieces, and you can only fix one piece at a time.
And scripts are much better than cars. If you don’t know what you’re doing when you try to fix your car, you might be stuck taking the bus. With a screenplay, you always have the old version saved on disk. So roll up your sleeves and get to it. Don’t let the fear of screwing up keep you from starting.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Scriptland This is a Great L.A. times

Few moments are more exhilarating for a screenwriter — you know, other than that whole artistic breakthrough thing — than becoming a millionaire off a mere pitch.And few moments are more miserable than being told that, well … the studio has, uh, changed its mind.When Geoff Rodkey ("Daddy Day Care," "RV") shopped around his idea for a "Scary Movie"-like parody of the family film genre back in mid-April, he was in a particularly strong position. It was two weeks before Sony's "RV" would open, and Rodkey was flush in Disney's good graces since his late rewrite of "The Shaggy Dog" was helping to push it toward $60 million at the domestic box office that week. When they heard his pitch, Sony, Disney and Dimension all expressed interest in the lush seven-figure range, until Disney executive Karen Glass and production president Nina Jacobson pocketed Rodkey's idea for a monstrous $1.25 million.Yes, and a pleasure doing business with you too.
RELATED — More ScriptlandBut three months later, as the executives were still developing the story outline with Rodkey, everything changed: One-fifth of the live-action studio department's staff, Jacobson and Glass among them, were suddenly asked to pack up their desks. In July, when Oren Aviv walked in to begin his stint as Disney's new production head, he faced a huge stack of projects in development and a Dick Cook-mandated change in direction that included reducing Disney's annual live-action slate to around a dozen features.Whether or not the perception that this was a frivolous purchase was one of the reasons Jacobson got fired, Aviv clearly viewed this particular idea as unworthy of its humongous cash outlay.In September, Rodkey was notified of the bad news: Disney was no longer interested in producing his idea and wanted him to accept a lesser payout.This situation is not uncommon. Fresh ideas, scripts and relationships go stale in mid-development all the time, and screenwriters are often shuffled out of frame clutching 20 bucks for cab fare.But Rodkey had turned down enormous offers at competing studios to sell it to Disney — bids unlikely to be re-proffered even if he bought his idea back. As a result, he was in a stronger position than most to ask the studio to honor its commitment. Rodkey obviously wanted the boffo bank he was promised, but rather than potentially alienate the studio that is the likeliest home for the broad, big-budget family comedies he likes to write, he offered to work on some other Disney project instead.A few weeks ago, Disney finally took the bait. It moved Rodkey onto a different untitled family comedy being shepherded by producer Sean Bailey ("Matchstick Men," "The Core") that had long ago stalled but which Rodkey liked. Meanwhile, Rodkey's original movie idea remains the property of Disney while its chances of becoming an enchanting theme park ride taper to never.On the plus side, he did pretty well on his negotiated settlement: He's getting the entire $1,250,000.Hungry for a break on 'Eat'I don't know how talented a screenwriter Josh "The Scribbler" Heald is, but the man can eat 11 hot dogs — with buns — in 12 minutes. And surely that's something we can all celebrate.For the last few years, Heald has been making a living as a screenwriter by spinning raunchy comedy out of the baser male desires: food, sex, booze and breasts.Exhibit A is his first screenplay, "All You Can Eat," a very physical comedy about the world of competitive eating that Heald likens to "Hoosiers" or "Rudy" — an "inspirational sports movie, except it happens to be about a sport that's completely disgusting," as he puts it.In early 2002, Heald was slouched in front of the TV with friends Hayden Schlossberg and former roommate Jon Hurwitz, the writers of "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle." They were transfixed by a Fox special called "The Glutton Bowl," a two-hour eating competition that featured the sport's newest phenom: Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi, who has since become the world record holder in the hot dog category, with 53 3/4 consumed in 12 minutes. (Five weeks ago, the peerless Kobayashi set a new Krystal hamburger record by devouring 97 in eight minutes.)Inspired, Heald wrote a feature-length script (with Hurwitz and Schlossberg as producers), and though he couldn't immediately sell "All You Can Eat," he eventually sold a pitch for an '80s-style comedy called "Open Bar" to New Line in April 2004. When "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" came out two months later and laughed its way past the $100-million mark, New Line saw the potential for "All You Can Eat's" similar exploration of an odd sporting subculture (this one real), and picked up Heald's script too.And then the writer's unquenchable pursuit of truth kicked in.Last January, Heald attended an IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating) World Chili Cheese Fries Eating Championship on the Queen Mary in Long Beach and ended up crashing an Italian sausage eating contest the organizers held as an opening event. Despite having never competed before, Heald blew away the rest of the field using the Kobayashi method he had learned during his script research — he downed three sausages in less than 90 seconds. (For the uninformed, the Kobayashi method requires separating bun from dog and dipping the bun in water before consuming.)This stunt provoked IFOCE Chairman George Shea to invite Heald to an official qualifying event at the New York New York casino in Las Vegas on May 18. This time, he arrived with a dozen members of his entourage — his agent and managers, Hurwitz, Schlossberg, producer Luke Ryan, Terra Firma Films Co-President Josh Shader, director Phil Dornfeld — all dressed in mustard-yellow "Team Heald" T-shirts. With his personal posse and a crowd of onlookers making a scene behind him, Heald went up against the No. 2 ranked eater in the world, Joey "Jaws" Chestnut. Heald was managing a respectable fifth place until the competitor next to him passed out and was removed by stretcher, pushing Heald into a fourth-place finish with his 11. (Chestnut set a U.S. record that day by swallowing a nice round 50.)Such feverish public deglutition permeates Heald's script, which has Farrelly brothers protégé J.B. Rogers ("American Pie 2," "Say It Isn't So") attached to direct. In the story, Heald portrays competitive eating as bigger than pro wrestling. In the years since he wrote it, the mania around the sport has, much like its "athletes," grown ever larger. Star competitors are winning endorsement deals, and at events, adult fans show up in face paint while their kids seek autographs from heavyweights such as Rich "The Locust" LeFevre, "Jalapeno" Jed Donahue and the league's lone female powerhouse, 105-pound Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas.Unsurprisingly, the major challenge in moving "All You Can Eat" into production has been casting — it would take some very game comic actors who are willing to be seen stuffing food in their faces for two hours while potentially risking a disqualifying "reversal of fortune," in the lingo of the sport.Perhaps Heald will have better luck with the bawdy, post-Hurricane Katrina Mardi Gras comedy script he just turned in. "It's an underdog story about guys trying to see naked breasts and live the college American dream," he says, with attendant irony. "It's something that is going to appeal to a lot of base interests."If not, there's always the new spec he's finishing up, a heartwarming John Hughes-style love story about a bunch of high school nerds looking for revenge on the school bully via the sexual conquest of his girlfriend.Its title?Unprintable, of course.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Balls of Fury Dan Fogler I knew the dude had talent when we were buds in 6th grade. Shine on you crazy diamond. Kudos. I'll see you in Hollywood soon.
Check out Fox's On the Lot.
I'm all over this. Ever since I discover Steven on the set of War of the Worlds, I knew he'd be big. It's good to see my support is paying off.