Genre: Drama
Premise: (from IMDB) A week in the life of a young singer as he navigates the Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961.
About: It’s the latest Coen Brothers film! This one stars newcomer Oscar Isaac, along with Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake and John Goodman. The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival (which, historically, is a sign that the movie will be slow, boring, and pointless – yippee!). When asked about the plot, Joel Cohen joked that it didn’t have one. I’m not sure he realized how true that answer was.
Writers: Joel and Ethan Cohen
Details: 105 minutes long

1377500922

Well this movie sure gives “Save the Cat” a whole new meaning (or should I say, meowning). No really, I’m just kittying. That joke was purrrrr-fect.

I understand, Critics of America, that the Coen Kool-Aid is usually double-packed with extra pink sugar and therefore never fails.

The Coens are great filmmakers. I’m not going to argue with you there. And they’ve won two screenwriting Oscars. So they know how to write. Not going to argue with you there.

But being great at something should never give one free reign to write a script with…

a) Boring subject matter.
b) An abysmal unlikable protagonist.
c) No story.
d) Boring music (although I guess the music itself isn’t actually in the script).

I would not rule out the possibility that the Coens are laughing at everyone who gave this movie high marks. There’s a chance (albeit small) that they made this movie just to fuck with you. Just to see how pointless they could make a film and still get you to declare it great.

Inside Llewyn Davis is like the movie Once, but without a story, likable characters, or good music. It’s just not a good movie. Okay, it has a few interesting performances. I’ll give it that. But as a movie, it’s a disaster.

The movie follows our “hero,” Llewyn Davis, who’s a really good folk singer in the early 60s. The problem is, Llewyn is a complete loser. The guy doesn’t even have a home! He just couch surfs. His entire life! Can you imagine not having a place to live? Having to call someone every few days to see if you can sleep on their couch?

Anyway, Llewyn is nearing that “point of no return” in an artist’s life where he either has to commit to being an artist forever or move on to a “normal” life. Complicating matters is that Llewyn doesn’t exactly sing the most commercial music. He sings folk. Which is even less popular than jazz, which is also not very popular.

On his last leg (and last dollar), Llewyn spends a few days in the city trying to make ends meet. As if this guy’s miserable angry existence isn’t enough to make you dislike him, it turns out he’s also impregnated one of his best friends’ girlfriends! So what does Llewyn do? Looks for a gig so he can pay for the abortion! No, I’m serious!  This is the only time this guy shows any initiative.

After taking care of that, the movie looks to have nothing more pushing it along. It’s like the people mover at the airport if all of a sudden, it just stopped. So where to go next? Why not Chicago! Of course. Makes sense. Yeah, so Llewyn decides to hop in a car with two artists and take an impromptu trip to Chicago. It’s not really clear why he’s doing this but the smart money is on meeting a club owner there who may be able to get him a job.

That doesn’t go well (the guy tells us what we already know – Llewyn’s music will never make any money). So Llewyn goes back to New York, where he finally gives up on music. He gets in a few more tiffs with all the friends he’s bummed couches off of, until the “big” finale where he gets beat up by an old folk singer’s husband for cursing her off the stage. The End.

Inside-Llewyn-Davis

I get the feeling that the Coens, if they’re even aware of sites like this, laugh at them. I don’t think they believe that there’s any reason to analyze a piece of art. You just follow your gut, make what you feel, and whatever comes of it, comes of it. It’s likely why they look so damn bored whenever they win an Oscar.

And there’s something to be said for that approach. It serves you well when you’re a genius. It doesn’t do jack daniels to those of us who aren’t, however. The rest of the world must construct an approach to storytelling that allows us to write a good story. But even if that wasn’t the case, without form or structure, you run the risk of dolling out just as many total pieces of shit as you do total pieces of genius. It’s the law of averages. And unfortunately, Inside Llweyn Davis from the Coens lies squarely in the disaster heap.

First of all, there’s no story here. I mean, there is for awhile. Our main character’s goal is to “make it.” So that drives him a little, gives him a reason to get up in the morning. Which is good. At least we have a character who’s active. But eventually, Llewyn is revealed to be so self-destructive, we know he’s never going to achieve anything. This is going to be one of those depressing movies with a depressing ending. And when that happens, we tune out.

But where this story really lost itself was when Llewyn heads off to Chicago. I mean we don’t even know where we’re going anymore. Vaguely, Llewyn’s trying to get his papers in order so he can join the Navy (or something like it – that was unclear). But that seems to be secondary to simply showing Llewyn be miserable. All. The. Time.

The Coens even have the audacity to write a scene where Llewyn goes to see his father, who lives in the saddest living assistance facility in the world and has dementia, play a really sad song for him, then watch his dad shit himself. Ooh, I’m sure the Coen critic fans were saying, “It’s so raw and real! It mirrors life!” No, it’s sad, it’s depressing, and it’s pretentious.

Don’t even get me started on our unlikable protag, who takes unlikable to a whole new level. I mean this guy doesn’t work hard enough at his dream, he impregnates his friend’s girlfriends, he then ONLY WORKS HARD to get money so he can pay for her abortion, he’s selfish, he complains all the time, he’s not thankful when people let him stay at their place. Look, I think the unlikable protag is a daring choice and it needs to be used sometimes. But there has to be a measure of balance. If your main character is going to be an unlikable loser, the rest of your movie has to have some redeeming qualities, something to offset that. But there’s nothing in this movie that does. It’s just a sad depressing movie with a pointless wandering plot.

There are really only two standout performances in the movie: John Goodman and Orange Cat. I mean this cat – he was the only character I actually cared about! When he was lost, I wanted him to be found. When Llewyn is carrying him around, I was worried he was going to slip away. When he ran away, I desperately wondered how Llweyn was going to explain it to his owners.

And I’m sorry, but in a “real” movie, the character you care most about shouldn’t be a cat. Which leads us to John Goodman. I gotta give it to the guy, his heroin-addicted crippled always-sleepy ranting jazz musician stole the show. But a lot of that is because there was nothing to steal from. It’s hard not to be the prettiest girl in the room when you’re going up against a bunch of inbreeds.

However, if you were to make an argument about this film’s merits, it would come back to, as it always does in a Coens film, the characterization. These guys do things with their characters that nobody else does. I mean they even made Carey Mulligan, a girl who’s made a living out of being boring, into a semi-interesting character. John Goodman’s silent mysterious driver kept us guessing. The weirdo actor from Girls was good in his few moments onscreen as a goofy clueless singer. But all these performances fell on deaf ears because there wasn’t a story to hold them up.

The Coens are known for always putting a bag of money in their scripts. Everyone, then, follows the money. And that usually makes things fun. At the very least, it gives the story a plot. But there’s no money here. Just a bunch of sad people living miserable existences. Yeah, the music was pretty. But it was pretty in that boring way, the kind of music you nod to your girlfriend about afterwards and say, “That was pretty good.” But no fucking way do you ever want to hear it again.

I know I get criticized for not being open enough about indie film. But trust me. Unless you’re 60+ years old and have a hard-on for folk music, this movie is going to bore you to tears. Save your moolah. This is a freshly mixed glass of disaster sauce.

[x] what the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: Parallel problems. Parallel problems are problems that are happening to your character at the same time as they’re dealing with a current scene-related problem. If you use them correctly, they create a lot of tension, since the audience will be worrying wherever your character goes. Here, it’s the cat. Llewyn loses his friend’s cat, which they don’t know about because they weren’t home. So now Llewyn is meeting up with other characters, dealing with other problems, and all we can think about is, “Is he going to be able to find the cat in time?” You can use MULTIPLE parallel problems to add even more tension to your main character’s plight.

  • Murphy

    ????

    Carson, there are plenty of reviews out there from critics that I have a lot of time for who are calling this a masterpiece. I really enjoyed the script.

    I will reserve judgement until I have seen the film but I am struggling a little to make sense of your review here. I cannot possibly imagine it can be that bad.

    Sometimes you really surprise me, especially when it comes to movie reviews.

    • carsonreeves1

      I haven’t read any reviews. But I can say this. It’s a perfect critic movie. Period piece. Unlikable protagonist (which critics love). Offbeat subject matter. Directors with a unique voice. As a story, though, this is a disaster. There’s zero story. It’s just depressing indie – I hate to say this but – garbage. Ugh, I did not like this.

      • Murphy

        As someone who looks forward to a Coen Brother’s film more than Christmas I hope you are wrong Carson. I want you to be wrong! ;-)

      • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

        Critics don’t just automatically love period pieces, or unlikable protagonists, or anything at all. Give me any example of something critics loved, like a period piece, I’ll give you another example of a period piece where they hated it.

        What it often comes down to is that critics have seen so many films that uniqueness really appeals to them. They get tired of formula, for the most part. I know that’s how I was. I used to love formulaic action films. Now they bore me. It’d be like if you ate Subway all the time, maybe you get turkey sometimes or ham or meatball but it’s still Subway, eventually you might want some Thai or Chinese or a hamburger or whatever. Or maybe you just really love Subway more than anything else and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s also nothing wrong with the guy who likes variety. It doesn’t mean he hates Subway, it just means he likes different things.

        I love small indie films. Sticking with the Coens, I loved A Serious Man (which this films strikes me as being similar to). But I also love Fargo. Or True Grit. Or, beyond the Coens, I love movies like Fast Six. or The Grey. etc etc etc

        As I’ve said, you are most certainly entitled to your opinion and in fact it is great that you aren’t afraid to express a potentially controversial opinion, and your opinions on films seems to be very consistent. You know what you like. That’s great.

        Though I do struggle to believe that you actually thought this was “garbage.” That’s a pretty damn strong word considering everything that’s out there, and especially considering you did like some aspects of this. Seems like hyperbole.

      • filmklassik

        Don’t always agree with your reviews, Carson (or anyone else’s, for that matter), but I love how unafraid you are to swim against the tide. This makes you not merely smart, but courageous too. You’re that rare thing: An independent thinker and, well, not a chump. Kudos, sir (and never stop)!

  • Murphy

    Anyway, I wanted to share something with everyone. A regular indulgence of mine is a weekly movie review podcast from the BBC. This week they had a great interview with Harvey Weinstein. I would recommend listening to the whole interview, he had some great things to say about Mandella but the part I am linking to is when he was asked what his secret was.

    His answer? It is all about writing a great script. He has some very nice things to say about writers.

    And I thought Harvey couldn’t go up any further in my estimation…

    (apologies, I am trying not to embed this video but it won’t let me just paste the link??)

    –http://youtu.be/uf4RfTB4Niw?t=14m2s

    • carsonreeves1

      He really does value writing. That’s why even though he gets a bad rap, you gotta like the guy.

    • Jim

      I walked the same halls as Harvey. Strange to think we may have actually had one of the same professors many, many years apart. Looking back, I can’t help but to think his years at Buffalo helped shape his indy-spirit. By the time he left – a year after Alan Zweibel of SNL and Larry Sanders Show fame, the media study program was just getting started (I believe both were English majors). Being a state school, it’s definitely “indy” all the way.

    • JakeBarnes12

      Bottom.

    • filmklassik

      But isn’t he supposed to be one of the biggest, well, douche nozzles in Hollywood? Can anyone who’s met or worked with the guy (or knows someone who has) please weigh in here? Thanks.

  • klmn

    John Goodman as a heroin addict? That’s like casting Roseanne Barr as a ballet dancer.

  • ximan

    Meh. I was going to skip it anyway.

    I will never watch a film with Justin Timberlake in it again. Dude just cannot act.

    • http://the-movie-nerd.com themovienerd

      Woah. Based on what?

      I say this as a trained actor (4 years conservatory) with plenty of stage cred. JT usually (not always, but usually) wins me. I would *MUCH* rather watch him delve into a character than T. Cruise or K. Reeves. Is he a Deniro or a PS Hoffman or a B Cranston? No. BUT he could hold his own opposite them, unlike many of the other pretty faces HW churns out.

      • Hadley’s Hope

        Perhaps you would like to attend the Keanu Reeves School of Acting?

      • drifting in space

        Why are people down-voting this? lol

        • http://the-movie-nerd.com themovienerd

          JT haters out there I guess. Guy has talent, don’t care what anyone says.

  • X

    “The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival (which, historically, is a sign that the movie will be slow, boring, and pointless – yippee!).”

    Carson, I think that you’d like a fair number of the Grand Prix winners. A quick Google reveals that Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, Cinema Paradiso, Life is Beautiful, Oldboy, and A Prophet all took home the honor. Perhaps a script tip breakdown of a past winner could be a great learning experience.

  • Nahmann

    First of all, I have to say that I am very much into movies that deal mainly with internal conflict in combination with personal conflict. I also am a huge Bob Dylan fan. Besides his folk songs I like very few. But I did like the ones in this movie, especially the opening one. S
    That said, I can see why you did not like this movie. If you are not into that sort of stuff, this can be hard to endure. I think if you don’t like the world of folk you will automatically put on your ‘critical goggles’ and see that in theory, yes, a lot is missing in the script. All I can say is that I watched it and was profoundly moved in a couple of scenes, for example when he plays for his dad. For me the shitting himself part worked well as a comic relief. From here on SPOILER ALERT: Or when he doesn’t take the turn off to the town with his kid. Maybe it touched me because I resonate with him, sometimes knowingly not ‘taking the right turn’.
    It’s true, they made a real effort to make him unlikeable, twice making him leave the cat behind, the second time even after hitting it with his car. This was ‘painful’ to watch but made me reflect about myself, how I do those things in a smaller scale in life and don’t really think about the consequences.
    And about going to Chicago, the reason you didn’t understand this is because you don’t know Albert Grossman, if I am not mistaken? He was one of the biggest Managers ever (managed Bob Dylan from the beginning) so Llewyn was shooting for the biggest step he could achieve in his situation by going to Chicago to see him, sort of a ‘all in’ for his music career, which makes it plausible in my opinion.
    In my opinion, this movie makes you reflect on the ‘missed turns’ and turns to come in your own life. That is, if you can immerse yourself in the world which might be difficult if you dislike folk music and are not particularly interested in stories focused on inner conflict .

  • dirtyhenry

    Not sure what your familiarity is with the history of folk music but maybe you didn’t have the keys to appreciate the script. The story is about Llewyn, who tries but fails to succeed with his folk music – and it seems impossible to succeed with folk music! -, when we know someone is about to succeed: Bob Dylan is arriving in NY at the same time. We see him coming onstage in the last scene. (+ the movie should almost be treated of a biopic of Dave Van Ronk).

  • Alex Palmer

    The 60s folk scene and Justin Timberlake? Please don’t tell me the Coens are being post-modern…

  • leitskev

    I read the script about a year ago, and based on that, I agree completely with Carson. And I remember wondering myself if the Coens were playing a bit of a joke on the world. I love their work, but they have definitely reached that cult status where their fans automatically love everything they do and find profound meaning in the meaningless.

    The story is about a guy drifting through life, and the plot feels like its also just drifting along. It’s like when the writers of Seinfeld wanted to do a show where they spend the whole time waiting for a table at a Chinese restaurant. They just wanted to see if they could get away with that kind of show. Maybe the Coens were doing the same thing.

  • Citizen M

    I didn’t think much of the script, but Carson’s guest reviewer liked it.

    http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2012/05/screenplay-review-inside-llewyn-davis.html

    • ThomasBrownen

      Yeah, I thought I remember this script being reviewed here. I remember thinking this had a lousy, rambling story with a deeply troubled main character… and I don’t think I’d like to watch it as a movie… but at the same time, I remember thinking this script had really well written characters. They just seemed to jump off the page and be real people in a way that left me sort of jealous of the writers’ talent. I’m not saying I liked what the writers did with those characters, but the characters were well developed, I thought.

  • ChadStuart

    It does sound like there’s plenty of story here. Things happen, which is all you need to have a story. But, it does sound like there’s not enough plot, which usually seems to be the sticking point with indie films.

    Story can be defined as a character does A, B and C. The events don’t have to be related. But, as long as events happen, then you have a story. However, a plot can be described as a character does A because of B, and B because of C. Events are usually cause and effect. Hollywood movies have thrived on being plot based, because plots do tend to engage audiences more than just a story.

    When it comes to movies I’m with you, Carson; I prefer plots. I’m much more forgiving of plot-less stories in novels. Usually, there can be more insight given into a character’s choices and actions in a novel due to a certain amount of omnipotence on the author’s part. We usually have a window into what the character is thinking, and therefore have a bit of insight into the author’s greater point. There’s commentary and discourse on subjects which can be interesting and engage the mind.

    In movies, though, you see what you get. You can lose the commentary. You can lose the discourse. You get random events with no compass for the mind to point you in the direction of what the author’s intent really is. That’s why you can often get wildly different theories on a film’s “meaning”. Plots help with that, which is why I prefer plots to my movies. It’s why I, too, have never jibed with the French New Wave.

    But, I do understand that it’s just a personal preference. Plot-less films aren’t “wrong”, per se. They’re just less mainstream, and not really my bag.

    • JakeBarnes12

      A character does A, B, and C is called “life.”

      A character desperately wants something and is having trouble getting it is called “story.”

      • ChadStuart

        Aristotle disagrees with you.

      • brenkilco

        A character desperately wanting something and having trouble getting it is called a script formula. While a satisfying story may require a plot, a picaresque one doesn’t require any plot at all so technically you’re wrong.

      • filmklassik

        Chad’s absolutely right. Aristotle does disagree with you… as does Evelyn Waugh, who once declared that the phrase “The King died and then the Queen died” is a story, not a plot. (In other words there’s no implied causality there — no cause and effect. It’s just, to use your phrase, “random shit” and “life.”)

        But, Waugh writes, the sentence”The King died and then the Queen died OF GRIEF” is a plot. Because now there’s cause and effect.

  • GoIrish

    Coen brothers are a little bit of hit-or-miss with me (yes, you need to come up with an ending). So, I’m not sure I’ll lose any sleep over missing this one…unless, of course, you are counting the sleep I would gain by falling asleep during the movie…hmm, I have been feeling a little run down lately, so maybe I will check it out.

    While I’m not much of a music expert and I’m sure there’s some deeper meaning, I’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that Pearl Jam wanted to see how much it could get away with near the peak of its popularity with the release of “Bugs.”

  • JW

    On the flip side, here’s a nicely constructed doc about what it’s like to live in the music biz from a current artist who is also an unbelievably talented actor. This is a unique storyline that will show you even after selling millions of albums how you’re still not “living the high life.” Leto is a rare breed and I have more respect for this guy each and every day.

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/artifact/id740473912

  • Poe_Serling

    “This is going to be one of those depressing movies with a depressing ending. And when that happens, we tune out.”

    I can’t say I’m a Coen brothers’ fan, but I’ve watched a handful of their films (Blood Simple, Fargo, True Grit) over the years to stay in the cinematic loop of things.

    The one I remember enjoying quite a bit was The Man Who Wasn’t There with Billy Bob Thornton. And boy, talk about a film that was leisurely paced and downbeat. Perhaps it was the film noir elements/storyline of that film that kept me so entertained.

    • ThomasBrownen

      I haven’t seen as many Coen brothers movies as I feel I should, and most of the ones I’ve seen haven’t made much of an impression, but I liked Intolerable Cruelty. It was intelligent and witty, but didn’t veer off into boring indie territory.

      • Poe_Serling

        Yeah, I’ve seen that one too. A pleasant enough time killer. ;-)

      • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

        Have you seen True Grit? Far and away their most commercial, mass-appealing film. Not surprising that it also made $100 million more than their next most successful film, No Country for Old Men.

        • ThomasBrownen

          Yeah, saw True Grit. It was good too.

  • sigmund fraud

    This is the problem with getting too deep into screenplay analysis — you might start thinking the “rules” are actual Rules. There are no rules, Carson, but you’re in so deep that it probably caused you great irritation when the movie defied the “rules” one after another. Film is not a checklist, or an acronym (GSU) or a series of scientifically-repeatable story turns and stock character traits. Hell, I haven’t seen this movie, and it may not be good, but your review makes it sound to me like its biggest sin is not sticking to a conventional formula. In which case I’m looking forward to it.

    • JakeMLB

      CTRL + F “rules”. I see 4 hits, all from your post.

    • Matthew Garry

      I don’t think it’s much of a problem at all.

      One of the things I particularly like about ScriptShadow is that it has a relatively clear goal: is this script, if produced, likely to make money (in Hollywood).

      As interesting and informative as discussions about the purely artistic side of movie writing might be, it’s bound to be somewhat subjective. In contrast to that, box office numbers are relatively concrete.

      Considering the audience, I think it’s okay to say “If you want to break through in Hollywood, _don’t_ write a movie like this.” It’s sound advice, even if you personally like or dislike the movie being discussed.

      Should “Inside Llewyn Davis” start breaking all sort of box office records, it’s time to start revisiting “the rules” and think deeper about what made it so successful in spite of its perceived flaws, but until that time having a likable protagonist and a strong plot remains solid advice _if_ you’re trying to work towards breaking through in Hollywood.

      • Mr. Blonde

        “I don’t think it’s much of a problem at all.

        One of the things I particularly like about ScriptShadow is that it has a relatively clear goal: is this script, if produced, likely to make money (in Hollywood).”

        That’s true. It’s not a problem that one person thinks one way and another person thinks another way. However, a problem I am seeing is with Carson’s actual ratings system. You would think that “What the hell did I just read?” would be reserved for the worst of the worst in terms of actual writing, formatting, characters, dialogue, etc. From the review, it has all the makings of “Wasn’t for me” because (as anybody who’s spent even the smallest amount of time here probably knows) Carson’s not big into pretentious arthouse fare. But, the script seems to succeed at what it intends to do and there is a market for people who enjoy the type of film, so I see no reason why this got the bottom rating instead of the second rating. Just me, though.

        • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

          Yes. I’ve said this before. Carson has given “what the hell did I just see” or as it was previously called “trash” to quite a few films that were very critically acclaimed and beloved by niche audiences. Even if the story is aimless, good acting, cinematography, etc. should be enough to warrant this not being the bottom of the barrel.

          It does sound more like “wasn’t for me.” Because that’s exactly what it was – a film that didn’t appeal to Carson’s particular taste, but very obviously is appealing to others’.

          • drifting in space

            I’ve read the screenplay, and being one that likes reading indie films, I wasn’t a huge fan of this. Not to say it isn’t great, I haven’t seen it. Page to film could be different.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Coen scripts just don’t read well. The dialogue never reads well, which is one of their strong suits. Because they are masters at knowing how it’ll play on the screen, and getting those performances to sing. I read A Serious Man before I saw it and didn’t think much of it. The film I thought was a masterpiece. Same with True Grit. After I saw both of those films, I went back and re-read them, this time with the imagery and actors behind the dialogue. Totally 100% different experience re-reading it. One reason I envy them so much.

          • Acarl

            “Coen scripts just don’t read well. The dialogue never reads well, which is one of their strong suits.” Read Fargo…

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Fargo is one of their scripts that I imagine would’ve read pretty well. It’s a bit more traditional than their films these days (aside from True Grit). Problem is, I can’t really read Fargo now after seeing it 40 times because then I’m just hearing the actors delivery of the lines. I’m talking about reading their script before you see the film. PT Anderson scripts are the same way. Tarantino scripts, on the other hand, read incredibly well without having seen the film. And those are all master filmmakers, imo. Different strokes…

          • kenglo

            A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far…..

            Syd Field, (Bless him!) was the first to note “You will decide whether you like the movie or not in the first ten minutes, the first ten pages.” He was the first to analyze all the movies of his time and recognize the ones all had ‘plot points’ at certain times in the film(s). Blake Snyder refined that to his ‘beat sheet’ and ‘hello kitty’ thing. Michael Hauge also notes this stuff, and there are exceptions to the rule.

            You can’t sit there and say beats don’t matter, plot points don’t matter, The Juman mind (18-30 yr old MTV era folks) only stays focused for so long before they check out.

            As far as Coen ‘reading’ I LOVED TRUE GRIT, RAISING ARIZONA, OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU?, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN….as Matty says, their genius is in STORY TELLING, and the fact that they can write what they want how they want to write it and get it on film without anyone saying, uh, hey guys, this kinda sucks! (BAD SANTA comes to mind)……

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            I don’t think anyone (certainly not me) said beats don’t matter. Beats are what make a satisfying story. These beats have been around for thousands of years, for as long as people have been telling stories. As you say, people like Snyder and Field took them and put them into a formula (Snyder imo is too rigid in his approach). I, and I believe Sigmund, was just saying that this structure is flexible, not rigid. And particularly Carson’s GSU… not all good films have or need this! Carson loves films that do. Fair enough. But some people like films with abstract goals, goals that may be internal – look at Billy Wilder’s Best Picture winner “The Lost Weekend.” Absolutely no clear exterior goal there. There are stakes, but the protagonist doesn’t seem to care about them. Urgency? Not really. But is it a great film that hits all of those beats that these gurus have extolled? Mos def.

            I’ve taken a number of films and analyzed them scene-by-scene and then put them into the Blake Snyder beat sheet. Fargo was one of them. It fits. Not as precisely to the page numbers Snyder has (the first act, for example, is pretty long considering the length of the film). But it is there.

          • drifting in space

            A surprising number of movies that “bend the rules” hit the beats almost spot-on.

            Save the Cat! can help you avoid drags in acts, reminding you that SOMETHING needs to happen at certain points. But yeah, very rigidly.

            GSU is important in a lot of things, but as you said, not necessarily in EVERY THING.

            I tend to start with the 5 act structure from most of Shakespeare (as described by FILMCRITHULK) to see if the story I want to tell hits those merits.

            Breaking it down after that by 8 sequences or 15 beats, whatever, can serve helpful to keep everything on track and moving forward.

            Also, the fact that you said Mos Def is baller status.

            However, sticking exactly to the formula won’t help you grow.

            Like they say in Pirates of the Caribbean, they’re more like guidelines than actual rules.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Yup, I use the five act structure too. It’s really the same as Blake Snyder’s beat sheet, except it revolves around characters making character defining DECISIONS at the end of each of those acts that results in propulsion of the plot. Snyder doesn’t really emphasis that, he just kind of says “yeah the bad guys are closing in here, and then bad stuff happens, and then your protagonist is at his lowest point, and then he mans up and decides to do something, break into act three.” It’s very vague as Filmcrithulk says.

          • drifting in space

            Yeah, big focus on characters and the decisions they make affecting the story. Reading that article was a huge turning point for me a few weeks ago.

            I agree, Snyder is much too vague. It also explains why 99% of scripts are flat characters with no plot. I’ve read so many that include talking heads accomplishing nothing.

            I’ve even written a few of those clunkers.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Filmcrithulk just came out with a Screenwriting 101 book last Thursday. Like $5 on amazon (ebook). I haven’t gotten it yet, but people have told me it’s great, as expected.

            McKee was always the most helpful to me. He was far less rigid and far more detailed than Snyder. He too mainly discussed three act structure, but noted that a film can have much more than that, and even gives examples. Though I do think reading Story when you first start could be very overwhelming.

          • Alex Palmer

            It’s funny: as far as your “first screenwriting book” goes, it’s often a choice between McKee or Snyder.

            This choice will govern your writing destiny, :P

            I was more into darker, contemplative things, so I chose McKee. I found story immensely helpful, but take issue with the way he presents everything as the objective truth. Yeah, “principles” my ass. They might as well have been laws sent from the heavens.

            Its good to read a lot, because you start to formulate your own reaction to advice rather than blindly heeding it. BTW, my fave sw book is Into the Woods (John Yorke). Applicable for Film and TV, it’s worth tracking down.

            What’s yours? :)

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            “Story” is definitely my favorite. It’s what I started with, and I’ve read front to back three times. And I still reference it occasionally. I definitely hear you on the “principles” but at this stage in my writing, I know enough to be able to take what he says and apply it to a not so rigid approach. I’ve never read Into the Woods. Actually never even heard of it. I’ll check it out.

          • Alex Palmer

            My copy has got a pretty darn weathered spine too ;)

            I’m glad I started with McKee because he taught me to write from the inside out. Start with something that isn’t superficial and you’ve got starting point.

            The thing I love about Into the Woods is that it makes a point at exploring similarities and differences of the theories of other gurus. It feels refreshingly honest, taking a cohesive view rather than a singular truth.

          • Jim

            The first book I picked up was Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 101.

            Then Syd Field.

            Then Segar.

            Then McKee.

            Then I started getting into Truby.

            Came across Dramatica and was turned off, overloaded – but four years later I came back to it when I found myself wanting to go deeper and deeper. It’s got quite a learning curve, but fortunately by the time I came back to it I was primed and ready. It is, bar none, the most complex thing out there – but learning it has opened so many new doors and possibilities to storytelling.

            They’re all part of what becomes one’s toolbox, but I do believe – at least in my own experience – they represented a learning curve in themselves. Somebody jumping straight into Dramatica is going to drown whereas if they gradually work themselves there, they’ll do fine as long as they can differentiate between the various theories (though I personally like to overlap and use several at once).

          • Alex Palmer

            I’ll have to read Dramatica some time. I’m on a less well known book called “The Psychology of Screenwriting”, which is kinda heavy going. But I like it.

          • Jim

            Dram is all about psychology. There’s a free book download that should be on their website (actually, here’s the link to their free download page: http://dramatica.com/downloads).

            Very shortly into it, you’ll get an eye-opener and revelation when they start discussing the differences between main character and protagonist, particularly with the analogy used. That’s where I got hooked. It’s been around 20 years now, but I’ve been into it the last four and there’s a great community on G+.

          • John Bradley

            My first was The Hollywood Standard, which really wasn’t too helpful as it covered more rules for scripts in production than spec scripts. Your Screenplay Sucks has probably been my favorite book so far.

          • kenglo

            Name one (successful) film that does not have GSU or does not follow any of the above mentioned structures…..just one…

          • Jim

            Napoleon Dynamite.

          • kenglo

            ND had a LOT of different goals and urgency….break it down….

          • brenkilco

            Just sticking to movies that frequently make the list of the greatest ever made: The Rules of the Game, Voyage in Italy, 81/2, The Leopard, Persona, Wild Strawberries, Barry Lyndon, Late Spring , Nashville, Jeanne Dielman and 2001(not much urgency till HAL goes homicidal). Perhaps even Citizen Kane. Does it really matter if the reporter finds out what Rosebud means? And since Kane’s dead how urgent can any of this be?Some great movies are contemplative and immersive and don’t fit the GSU paradigm at all.

          • kenglo

            The Rules of the Game (French???? Doesn’t apply), Voyage in Italy (C’Mon, really??? We are talking about American made films aren’t we???), 81/2 (really???), The Leopard (The Leopard chronicles the fortunes of Prince Fabrizio Salina and his family during the unification of Italy in the 1860s – I can go into all of the films mentioned here and look them up and find the GSU in them, but on a side note, foreign films shouldn’t count, as they are sometimes a bit offshoot and artsy fartsy in their delivery. I love Asian films, but they don’t always follow American sensibilities, but I think Carson’s point, and what I am trying to convey, is that as newbies, we should be writing stories that contain these elements so that it would be easier to get them read/sold/produced/break in. That’s all I am saying. If we are too blind to recognize that, then we are lost. Unless you/we/us want to make a film on our own, then we can write how we want, whatever style we want, because you/we/us ‘am’ the filmaker!!

          • Alex Palmer

            Funny, I prefer to use the shakespearean 5 act structure too. It’s funny how much less frightening the “dreaded act 2″ becomes when it’s acts 2, 3 and 4.

            If there’s one thing we were made to study I’m glad about, it’s shakespear. R&J, The Tempest and (especially) King Lear are REALLY worth checking out if you’re into screenwriting.

          • drifting in space

            Right?! Breaking things down into smaller sections helps pacing, reveals, tension, etc. It really opened my eyes.

            I just downloaded King Lear to read, funny you mention that.

          • Alex Palmer

            [starts digging up A-Level notes]

            It’s about blindness! And truth. And the fated misery of those who truly see, like Edmund or the Fool. The Fool! Did you know the Fool and Cordelia were likely to be played by the same actor in Jacobean theatre? And that–

            (And so on :P)

          • brenkilco

            For characterization you obviously can’t do better than Billy S. But even as rabid a bardolator as Harold Bloom (who is on record as saying that the works of Shakespeare are far more culturally signifigant than the Bible) has tacitly admitted that he was a lousy plotter. Hamlet may be the supreme work of dramatic art in the English language but it meanders all over the damn place. I really think that storywise five acts is two too many.

          • Alex Palmer

            Each to his own structure, I suppose. By the way, when I say 5 acts, I don’t mean each is as long as act 2 or something. It can easily be used in conjunction wit 3 act storytelling, but you’ve divided the middle of the film into three parts.

          • kenglo

            I didn’t say you said, I was just adding to the bottom of the string….the debate is why Carson doesn’t like the film….as I mentioned once before, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to me, in my humble opinion, SUCKED. But others call it the greatest thing since whatever….even if it won Best screenplay. The movie sucked….to me…

          • NajlaAnn

            OH BROTHER WHERE ART THOU? I liked very much.

          • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

            I can’t read a script before i see the film… as an actor anyway. It ruins the movie for me. For some reason, I can see the actors acting instead of living as the characters… Kind of pisses me off lol

            There are a couple actors though, where it looks like they said the lines and then were transcribed… but that doesn’t happen too often for me. Usually I can pick up on their style of acting.

            Unless I suppose I wait to watch the movie a month later or something.

          • John Bradley

            You’ve only seen it 40 times? I’m at like 84! I love that movie!

          • Matthew Garry

            I did read Fargo, before I saw the movie. And a lot of the dialogue read like it was a joke of North Dakotan accents and stereotypes, which became tired relatively quickly.

            Once you see the movie, all the “yah”s fall quickly into place, and become endearing, but that was different from how I perceived it on the page. Once you’ve seen it though, it’s almost impossible to reread it fresh due to the very strong performances.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            That’s one thing I was wondering – how the accents would come off if you read it without seeing the film.

            But yes, exactly, you really can’t read a script after seeing the movie and have anywhere near the same experience as reading it before seeing the movie. That’s what my point was with True Grit and A Serious Man.

          • brenkilco

            In my opinion the Coens write the most readable scripts out there. Clear, precise description as opposed to the artificially breathless and frequently illiterate half sentences and disconnected phrases that often receive the incorrect but approving label “sparse” on this site.

            And if you think the dialogue in Miller’s crossing or Barton Fink(both readily available online) is anything other than sharp, clever and carefully tailored to each specific character than I would be fascinated to have you list a few scripts that you believe read well and contain first rate dialogue.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            You’re taking my statement a bit too literally, my apologies for not being clearer. I have ONLY ever read, before seeing the resulting film, A Serious Man and True Grit. And in both of those, without all the nuances that eventually end up in the film, and particularly the performances and delivery of the lines, they read awkwardly. True Grit’s dialogue especially, which is amazing in the film, doesn’t read that well on the page. The lack of contractions was very off-putting, including LeBeouf’s lisp in the spelling of every word, etc… just doesn’t flow like most scripts you read. But there is NOTHING wrong with that. I was just making a statement.

            I’ve read some of their other scripts, but not before I saw the film. So I can’t sit here and say, with 100% certainty, that I would’ve thought they read incredibly well before I saw the film. Having seen all of their films (except Davis), I can’t read any of their scripts without hearing the actor’s delivery, which makes a biiig difference.

            Contrast that to Tarantino’s scripts, which read very well without seeing the movie.

            Neither is better or worse. Just different. That’s all.

          • brenkilco

            Well personally I think the Coen’s dialogue is better crafted than Tarantino’s. The Django script is really flabby. The talk goes on and on. And every word he writes is not gold. He needs an editor. And too much of it sounds like Tarantino, not believable characters. But this is a matter of taste.

            I’d hesitate to be too hard on True Grit. The script hews pretty closely to the style of the Portis novel which contains a lot of highly stylized dialogue. It was a big critical hit and best seller in its day. So a lot of people clearly thought the dialogue worked.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            I’m not saying I don’t like their dialogue. I LOVE their dialogue. Their films always have some of the best dialogue you’ll find. I’m just talking about readability – how a script flows as you read it. Simply because so much of what makes their dialogue and films great is stuff that isn’t on the page – performances, little nuances in scenes, just everything like that.

            But anyway, if they read well to you (before you see the film), then fair enough.

          • John Bradley

            I love the Coens and will probably end up seeing this. However, many of their films like No Country, Fargo, Burn After Reading, The Big Lebowski, at least to me seem like they follow the formula Carson describes, Goals, Stakes and Urgncy. Their characters and dialogue are amazing, but I can see a lot of GSU in their movies. This one just does not sound like it has a good story to me.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            I completely agree – though I’m hesitant to say The Big Lebowski really has a solid GSU… I mean, it’s there, but it’s not strong. The Dude isn’t exactly the most active protagonist in the world of film, and his lackadaisical attitude kind of negates any feeling of GSU. But, the Coens make all different kinds of films. While I haven’t seen Davis, I feel as though it’s more akin to A Serious Man than any of their other works. And A Serious Man certainly lacks GSU.

            Remember, GSU – while a pretty damn good concept – is not a rule, and it’s even less applicable to professional writers. It’s really more of a tool to help amateur writers. Some films have no clear external goal – their goals are internal and abstract. Some films are just about life – and life has no urgency. Some films have no clear external conflict – it’s internal and not concrete.

            It depends on what you like. Maybe you like one and not the other. Maybe you like a little bit of everything. There’s a reason people said A Serious Man was the Coens’ most personal film to date. Inside Llweyn Davis may well be the same way.

          • John Bradley

            The newest Indiana Jones had plenty of GSU and yet was one of the worst blockbuster movies of the decade, so obviously there are a lot more to making a good movie.

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Yeah, absolutely. Tons of films out there with GSU and they absolutely suck.

            There’s so so so so much more to a good film than simple GSU. A well written script with GSU and not a whole lot more will – at best – just be merely good popcorn entertainment. Still, GSU is a decent little guideline for amateurs, because many of them can’t even get to the “writing a readable script” stage.

      • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

        But, I think there’s a difference between saying a film is bad (which is opinion and everyone is entitled to one) and saying “here is a film that a lot of people are liking, but this is why you shouldn’t write it as an aspiring writer.”

        There’s simply a huge divide between what an unknown writer is writing and what three-time Oscar winning filmmakers are making.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      Exactly. I’m not sure why Carson goes to see films like this when he’s pretty sure it isn’t going to have his beloved GSU. Simply from reading his reviews of films, his top 10 lists, etc. I can tell he likes formula. There’s nothing wrong with that. People like what they like. But there should also be some consideration given that not all people want to see a film that hits all of Blake Snyder’s beats exactly all the time (I realize Carson isn’t *that* rigid, but you get what I mean). Some people like films that have a more abstract plot – where it’s more about characters than a concept easily summed up in one or two sentences. And some people DO like melancholy. And some people do like to watch “loser” characters. Why? Because it’s cathartic. It’s something that people – even if only a handful – identify with.

      I didn’t read the entire review because I haven’t seen the film and don’t want spoilers. I just read the beginning and the end. But I have to say, on this part: “The problem is, Llewyn is a complete loser. The guy doesn’t even have a home! He just couch surfs. His entire life! Can you imagine not having a place to live? Having to call someone every few days to see if you can sleep on their couch?”….. yes, yes I can imagine both of those things. I’ve been homeless before. I’ve slept in my car. I’ve lived on many a couch. Not my entire life – I’ve had many places of my own as I do now. But point being, I can identify with this. Furthermore, I can identify with the struggling artist aspect of Llweyn. Especially him not making very commercial music. I’m not a musician, but the stuff I write isn’t the most commercial, usually. But because this is a competitive industry, I try to meld my more indie writing tendencies with commercial material. Anyway, I can identify with all of this. Many of my friends (who are screenwriters/filmmakers) that have seen this say it really resonated with them, but noted they think it’ll really appeal mostly to struggling artists or artists who have struggled before.

      Anyway, not bashing Carson’s opinion or taste in the least. Just saying that there are people – and not just 60+ people who love folk music – who will love this. I haven’t even seen it, but I know it’s true because I know quite a few people who have seen it, loved it, and don’t fit that profile.

      Carson, why do you review films that you pretty much know you won’t like? Obviously your expectations were that you wouldn’t like this. “The film won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival (which, historically, is a sign that the movie will be slow, boring, and pointless)” Why review it then?

      • Cfrancis1

        I’m with you, man. I like Hollywood movies. I don’t mind formula as long as it’s done well and offers interesting choices along the way. But then there’s the other part of me that likes different, off beat films that are more about making you feel something you might not have expected. Or want to tell more abstract stories. I do want to see this as I love the Coens. Doesn’t mean I like everything they do. But even a so-so Coen Brothers movie is far better and more interesting than most of the stuff out there.

      • Panos Tsapanidis

        Well, I’m not a big fan of the Coens either (except No Country…,), but Matty saying that Carson shouldn’t review films that he know he won’t like is something I agree with. For one simple reason: I didn’t learn anything from this article, which defeats Scriptshadow’s purpose.

    • JakeBarnes12

      Hell, son, read any Amateur Weekend script you’ll also find a writer not sticking to the rules and you’ll save yourself $12.

    • JW

      Of course, this gets a great many “up” votes because this is all how we feel as writers, but I do have to say that this is where the reality of the situation would actually warrant all of those “ups” moving over to “downs”. I know no one wants to hear it, it’s not a popular stance and everyone wants to think they can break the rules. Shit, I’ve done it. One of the most loved scripts I’ve ever written was written backwards. Not even like Memento where there were sectioned blocks of backwards, but literally, the script opens and moves backwards (front to back), but operates as though it’s moving forward (in the release of information). I love it, it’s one of my favorite stories and while it could be told straight forward, a many, many people have told me how it would take away from the ambiance of it all if I ever wrote it that way. The question inevitably becomes, “are you a Coen?” And, the answer is no. We do this as writers and can we all be honest? We find a success story that allows us to indulge in a justification of something we’re doing, even if it goes against every convention known to the industry and we “believe” because this or that person did it, that we can do it too (no matter how “ingrained” that person already is in the industry). Being creative in your approach is one thing, but saying, “there are no rules” or “film is not a checklist,” while justified in theory (and from one writer to another, preach on!), doesn’t hold water to the “real” world. As much as I love “experimentation” and I love to see writer/directors do stuff like Requiem for a Dream, Memento, Mulholland Dr. (and the list goes on) for us as “newbies” it lessens the odds of you ever getting through the pearly gates, if you simply say, “screw your rules, I’m a great writer and you’ll take what I give you.” Unless you’re truly going to shoot your own stuff and survive on the festival circuit “hoping” to be discovered, the rules can be used to your advantage. So, while I’m not touching on why C reviewed this if it seems this isn’t his “type” of film, the message attempting to be provided is to newbie writers. It’s all in your approach to the rules. When you become the Coens or you want to shoot your own stuff, do as you please. Just be true to yourself about the industry’s perspective on such topics.

      • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

        I think you’re entirely missing the point. Sigmund never said that amateur writers should try to write like the Coens, or that they shouldn’t follow the “rules.” (S)he was just saying that, since it’s a movie review, Carson is obviously rigid and expects a certain adherence to a formula, particularly GSU. Carson didn’t write an article that said “here’s stuff that Inside Llweyn Davis does that you guys should not be doing.” He wrote a review of a movie, a movie made by two of the top filmmakers in the business, and put it up against the way he thinks we should be writing. Except that, as I said, it isn’t a cautionary article, it’s a review – indicating that Carson judges all films, not just amateur scripts but all films and scripts, against his GSU formula which isn’t something professionals need or care about necessarily. It makes no sense, other than those are the types of films Carson likes. He just seems to be unable to accept that other people like different types of movies.

        There’s nothing wrong with writing a review of a movie. But a review doesn’t equate to a lesson to amateur writers. More appropriate would be to say “Okay here’s why I didn’t like Inside Llweyn Davis myself, and here’s what I suggest you, as an amateur writer, do not attempt.” And make the article about that. There’s some of that here, but not much. And some of it is downright wrong, like ONLY people 60+ that love folk music will like it. I have anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

        Anyway, on a completely different note, the script you wrote backwards…. when you say it literally moves backward, but not sectioned blocks like Memento… how does that work? Wouldn’t that be like watching a movie on rewind? Like someone says something, but what the say is actually a response to the next line. if so, and if you pulled that off, that is pretty damn impressive. Is that what you meant by your description? And would you mind sharing the script? I’d just simply like to see something like that pulled off. No snark or condescension intended here, I am legitimately interested.

        • JW

          I see what you’re saying, Matty and I agree that it’s not all that wise to walk into different styles of films and yet have the same barometer. It just seems like writers who talk about “rules” are often “amateur writers” who haven’t truly experienced inside of the industry and thus, they talk from the outside-in as though they’re going to enter the Paramount gates, announce to everyone they’ve arrived and everyone will bow to their feet and accept their particular way of writing. Why? “Well, the Coens did it.” I think it’s somewhat dangerous to tell writers they can just do whatever they want. Although you’re right, that is aside from this particular review. I’ll send you the script I mentioned. Here’s my email, shoot me a line: jwright226@hotmail.com

          • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

            Yeah, I think we’re on the same page, I don’t disagree with that at all. Sometimes amateur writers will take something you say – like so and so film is great despite bending the “rules” maybe even great *because* it bends the rules – and extrapolate that to their own circumstances, which is unwise. And they often use it as an excuse to continue writing their script inspired by David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino.

            But yeah, I was just talking about the barometer thing. You don’t walk into a Lynch film expecting the same experience as a James Cameron film. It’s like comparing Indian food to German food. Which is better? Depends on your taste.

            Shooting you an email.

        • davejc

          “shot backwards”

          I would guess that means a linear story where the scenes are put in reverse order.

          Like the film “Irreversible”.

      • kenglo

        EXACTLY!!!

    • Alex Palmer

      It’s been said before: if there was a scientifically correct formula to write the perfect script, there’d be a hellova lot of them around.

      Carson’s beloved GSU is by NO MEANS such a formula. He has merely found a correlation between well implemented goal, stakes and urgency, and scripts he LIKES.

      Its sure all shit not bulletproof. Look at Carson’s favourite unproduced script: Desperate Hours. Great story, some might say “genius”. Now compare that with A Good Day To Die Hard. AGDTDH had much higher stakes than the former. The motivation of the protagonist was there almost from the get-go. And as for Urgency? It took Desperate Hours at least an hour before it got really desperate. McClane would’ve caused millions of Rubles of damage by that point.

      So does that make Die Hard 5 better?

      Urm….

      Film taste is subjective. But lets face it: its not THAT bloody subjective.

      The only hard and fast rule of screenwriting is “don’t write a boring script”. Anything else is just an “approach”, which you are free to take or ignore. When it came to a traditional GSU, it seems the Coens went for the latter.

      Mind you, Carson has a right to find the film absolutely insufferable.

      • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

        I actually liked all the Die Hard movies =P

        • Alex Palmer

          I used it because it was a GSU driven movie that Carson hated.

          And I quite liked all the previous ones. I mean, when is a fourth entry into the franchise ever any good? DH 4 managed it.

          But AGDTDH? Man, why you do this? :P

          .

          • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

            I’m sure they won’t make any more, but I even liked the 5th one. I don’t really remember anything about it lol but it was a fun ride from what I remember. It was meant to just entertain, and for me, it did.

            Let’s see what happens on Die Hardest lol I’m not sure what’s up with this play on the name though lol

          • Alex Palmer

            The only thing I remember about the 5th one was that the bad guy’s only discernible trait was eating carrots.

            Which they cribbed off Shoot ‘Em Up..

    • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

      I say let the guy like what he wants to like, hate what he wants to hate ;)

      Though, a what the hell did I just read is a heavy check mark. That means it’s one of the worst movies ever made in his mind. Most movies don’t suck that bad. Most are just, yeah I didn’t like it.

      But everyone has their own taste, and so until that one world government (or Obama world) takes over and we’re all forced to like the same thing, dress the same way, eat the same good, now allowed to have king size sodas (which they did in New York, which I think goes against our God given, forefather constitutional rights. If I want a large soda and gain a thousand pounds, that’s my right as an American. Don’t tell me I can’t have a king size soda! lol if they can tell us we can’t have a king size soda, it may be a small thing, but where will it stop? They need to fight that new silly law, because if they just let it go, it’s going to lead to more and more government mandates on what we can and cannot do, things that have always been our right as Fricken American’s — but that’s a different argument for a different day lol though the day may come where they say no more rated R movies), and we’re told who to love, who to hate, I say let him like it or hate it.

      Because in the end, who really cares =P

      He still puts in a lot of time on this site, not that a good debate can’t liven things up a bit lol as long as it’s done respectfully.

      Alright. Done and out.

  • Mr. Blonde

    Reading this review makes me wonder whether or not Carson is a fan of Raging Bull…

    You do seem to be all over the place on your script reviews, as you tend to enjoy the “fun” movies over the more critically-liked movies. I mean, you even said it in a review, yourself, the Coens’ best aspect is their characterization (and it is) and that they made several decently-interesting characters in here, even if it had no plot to go with it. I’m a simple person, overall, but when I see a biopic that has a plot, in the normal sense, it’s annoying to me because it always ends up with this big performance at the end and everyone’s happy–the end. When you have “no plot”, you don’t have to end it like that. In fact, not having one allows you to end the movie however you want. If it’s written well, nobody gives a shit. I suppose it comes down to a certain personal preference where the movie has to have a more-fun feeling to it and follows the rules a bit closer than the Coens typically do. That’s probably also why you don’t like P.T. Anderson, the fact that (since Boogie Nights) he hasn’t written a single movie with a plot–and they’ve become less plotted as they’ve gone along. Doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for it, though…

  • Nicholas J

    I’m surprised that people are surprised that Carson didn’t like this. Expecting him to give a favorable review to a movie like this is as silly as expecting French New Wave films to follow GSU. With how long Scriptshadow has been around, you’d think people would have a better idea of Carson’s tastes by now.

    I love the Coens, but I much prefer their more accessible fare like Fargo and No Country. I’m 99% positive if I saw this I would 99% agree with Carson’s review.

    The 1% I don’t agree with is saying that the Coens haven’t earned the right to have free reign in their scripts. They’ve proven they understand screenwriting pretty much as well as one can. They’ve done what, 20ish movies? Making a screenwriting 101 film would be as boring to them as watching this movie is to Carson. They’d be treading water. They’ve more than earned the right to push themselves and make more unconventional artistic films. I like SS’s screenwriting rules/guidelines/theories/whatever, but if everyone made movies using them there would be no progression. Someone needs to push the rules to find out what else works and what doesn’t. We need films like The Master and Llewyn David. Watching The Avengers is fun and all, but it holds little value when it comes to storytelling because there are a billion other movies like it.

    • NajlaAnn

      FARGO was genius according to my preferences.

  • Kosta K

    “Burn After Reading” was the first of the worst for me. I pretty much loved everything before that. Even “No Country For Old Men” was pushing it a bit. I used to get excited when I heard “a new Coen brothers movie”, now I don’t even notice when they come out :

    • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismulligan/lunch-meat?ref=live Chris Mulligan

      My vote for worst is “A Serious Man”. That’s brutal. Best – “Barton Fink”.

      • Kosta K

        Everything up to “No Country for Old Men” fucking kicked ass. Maybe they need to start using Turturro more?

    • Deaf Ears

      I’ll stick up for BURN AFTER READING. It’s not my favorite Coen Bros film by a long shot, but it definitely had its moments, and the scenes between Pitt and Malkovich made me laugh more than any film since BAD SANTA.

  • Midnight Luck

    Fruitvale Station :
    Best movie of the year,

    want to talk about an actual great movie?
    this is the best movie to come out all year

    Interview with Fruitvale filmmaker Ryan Coogler,

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/jordanzakarin/ryan-coogler-fruitvale-station-acclaimed-filmmaker-high-scho

    • drifting in space

      I read the screenplay to that. So great.

    • Alex Palmer

      Here’s the link from the blacklist site. Don’t let the 138 page count fool you; the formatting is a little funky at the start.

  • Midnight Luck

    I am not a Coen Fan.
    Yes I loved Fargo. That was a well done, interesting film.
    The rest? Boring Garbage.
    I have no idea why everyone is so in love with literally EVERYTHING they do. I find their movies boring and usually self congratulatory. The Ego.
    I do not go running to see anything they have done. A string of awful movies and I was done with them.

    Then again, I am the only person I know ANYWHERE, who Hated ONCE. That was the most boring, repetitive awful movie. The music was bad, the acting was substandard. Again, have no idea why it was such an indie darling, it splashed everywhere. You couldn’t get away from hearing about it or reading about it. Uggh.

    So this movie is on my Don’t Watch List.

    • Jim

      Hit or miss with me. I think Blood Simple is brilliant and still probably their best. One could probably gleam a couple of dozen writing nuggets from the script and its pure economy of story. Plus, it took Hitchcock’s blurb about how difficult it really is to kill somebody to a disturbing extreme.

      • Midnight Luck

        I keep meaning to see Blood Simple, but I haven’t.
        I don’t mostly because of the Woody Allen effect. Every time I say I can’t stand Woody Allen movies someone says, “But have you seen ______, oh well you HAVE to see that, it will rock you world / change your mind / convert you”, etc… and it never does.
        When it comes to the Coen Bros, Blood Simple is that movie. Everyone says that.
        But, Since it is their first real movie, and since I really liked Fargo, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. And also because I think Francis McDormand can be brilliant.

        • klmn

          Have you seen Woody’s early movies, like Sleeper, Bananas, Take The Money and Run, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, etc?

          • Poe_Serling

            Take the Money and Run is soooo good. One classic line after another:

            “He is always very depressed. I think that if he’d been a successful
            criminal, he would have felt better. You know, he never made the ‘ten
            most wanted’ list. It’s very unfair voting; it’s who you know.”

          • brenkilco

            And how much is a copy of Orgasm?

        • DrMatt

          Blood Simple is great though. All their eccentricities and weird choices take a backseat to a really tight plot.

          • Jim

            It does retain a nice, delicious sense of black humor, though – definitely a prelude to Fargo.

        • J. Lawrence Head

          I love woody allen!

          • Midnight Luck

            the woody film I really liked seems to be the one no one liked, Whatever Works. Could be because I love Larry David, and I love Evan Rachel Wood. The two of them, gold. I think in his hundreds of movies, Whatever Works is probably at the bottom for most people though. oh well, we all have our preferences. I do have to say, I did like Midnight in Paris also. Saw Blue Jasmine a while ago, and it was awful. Sad, I love Cate Blanchett and was hoping it would surprise me too, and Andrew Dice Clay was in it? that was random.

          • J. Lawrence Head

            It is very difficult to pick a favorite, but I’m rather fond of Annie Hall, Scoop, Vicki Christina Barcelona, Purple Rose of Cairo, and Midnight in Paris. Blue Jasmine was alright but not as good as i was hoping, but maybe that’s because i psyched myself up too much for it.

    • http://the-movie-nerd.com themovienerd

      No Country For All Men, True Grit, Big *FUCKING Lebowski, Raising Arizona… in addition to Fargo are some the best stories ever put to screen imho.

      Great film makers have egos that many times show through. Kubrick, for my money, was perhaps the most guilty of this phenomenon of all time (and far more boring than anything Coens have put out).

      So either a) you like or don’t like the particular filmmaker’s voice. I.e. Their style bores you. Or b) you don’t like ego in film period.

      But I’m curious; Picasso, Michelangelo, DaVinci, Pollack, Van Gough… all great “genius” artists of that medium have distinct “styles” and recognizable methods. All of which can be chalked up to ego. Do you write off them so quickly because they paint in egotistical “self congratulatory ways” that pressed forward their particular style?

  • Poe_Serling

    Hey Carson-

    Just curious – are you planning to do any Top Ten lists for this year’s batch of feature scripts, amateur scripts on the SS site, etc.?

    • http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/chrismulligan/lunch-meat?ref=live Chris Mulligan

      YES. Top Five Desert Island week! Make it happen Carson.

    • sigmund fraud

      top 5 amateur friday scripts would be cool

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    I remember when Carson reviewed the script for this movie about a year ago. I read it JUST currious to see how the Coen brothers write, as I’d like them to do a scipt of mine someday… But I was horribly disappointed in the script, sounds like they didn’t improve much in the finished result. Too bad because I love the chances they’re willing to take. I think that’s why I like Quentin Tarantino so much too. NO, neither of these filmmakers are perfect, but their not vanilla either. I think that’s why so many people WANT to root for the Coen brothers and Quentin Tararantino.

    Anyway, GREAT review. Glad you posted it. I’m so in love with the Coen brothers I’ll probably hafta to see this movie anyway — even if it’s a complete trainwreck. Sorry, but like I said, I’m an addict.

  • klmn

    I previewed the soundtrack album on Amazon. None of the songs appealed to me.

    http://www.amazon.com/Inside-Llewyn-Original-Soundtrack-Recording/dp/B00DVZ414C/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1386614061&sr=1-1&keywords=inside+llewyn+davis

    The Imdb listing of the soundtrack shows a lot of classical music (not included in the soundtrack album). I wonder if it made it into the film?

    Also, the imdb listing shows one song that I recognized and like, but it is not on the soundtrack album. Rev. Gary Davis’s Cocaine Blues.

  • DrMatt

    This movie has been saturating film websites ever since it was announced, and try as I might, I was never able to get excited about it. The characters never looked very interesting. The plot and setting seemed kind of boring. This seals the deal for me. Granted, I love the Coen Bros, but I lean more towards their thriller fare. I loved A Serious Man, but that was ironic and funny and had some weirdly surrealistic stuff in the trailer that piqued my interest. This one seems too ernest and drab and going more for that “look at these lazy characters and their stilted way of speaking… it’s funny!”

    I was hugely disappointed in True Grit, and ever since then I’ve been yearning for them to do another Blood Simple-style thriller. But something tells me that’s not going to happen anytime soon :(

  • EH

    I think it’s simple. This film has Indie written
    all over it, but since it has the Coen’s name on it it’s being billed as some colossal
    heavyweight film and it’s not.

  • grendl

    On another topic, but not far from this one…

    I’d like to put a final nail into the coffin of those idiots who preach against “we see”s, “cut to”s ( camera directions ) and musical suggestions in scripts.

    The following are a list of examples from the scripts, some Oscar nominated, Midnight Luck posted a link to at Go Into Story some time back. But I’ll start with “Fargo”, as this is a Coen Brother’s thread and their script won the Oscar.

    “THROUGH A WINDSHIELD We are pulling into the snowswept parking lot of a one-story brick building.” -Fargo

    “Twelve Years a Slave”-” We are close on a PAIR OF BLACK HANDS as they open A

    FINELY WRAPPED PACKET OF VIOLIN STRINGS.

    WE CUT TO the hands stringing a VIOLIN. It’s not a high end piece, but it is quite nice.

    WE CUT TO a wide shot of the study.” Page One

    “42”-“White, white, white. We * move toward it even as it recedes, always out of reach. * Finally we pop out wide and high to reveal… ”

    “The catcher frowns. Standing, we see he is a big, big man.”

    “Before Midnight”-“We follow Jesse back through the airport as he finds his way to the parking lot, revealing Celine, standing outside of the car, talking on the phone.

    “The Bling Ring”-“Once inside, we follow REBECCA into a bedroom dressing area.”

    Now I’ve gone in order down the list.so far, every single one has “we” see, or follow or whatever. But wait there’s more.

    “The Croods”-“Cave paintings of a family of cavemen — we will come to know them as The Croods.”

    “Despicable Me 2″ – “We see a portapotty door open”.

    “The Fifth Estate”- We note the front page”.

    “Frozen” -We’re underwater looking up at it. A saw cuts through,heading right for us. ”

    Are you starting to see a pattern here? And yet individuals, well respected some of them, on this board have preached about the use of “we see” or “angle on” or any permutation as the sign of an amateur, suggesting pros can do it but unknowns can;t.

    I’ll cite Craig Mazin’s words on his most recent podcast. It refers to that recent breakdown of 300 scripts analysis that was floating around the web.

    MAZIN: Well, this one actually did piss me off: includes excessive camera directions, soundtrack choices, actor suggestions, credit sequences. How dare you writer that has invented an entire world, and narrative, and characters, and place, and theme, and purpose, how dare you have an idea of where the camera should be looking, or what music should be playing, or who should be playing the person. Or what could even go in the credits. How dare you! That’s the job of the director.

    No, dude, that’s old school. Listen, when you say excessive, all I hear is “too much for me” and I don’t know what that is. Now, finally, at this point in the podcast I’m getting a bit shirty. All right, listen, here’s the situation. I don’t believe there are any scripts that have excessive camera direction or any of this other stuff, unless it’s so excessive that it’s stopping you from reading the script. But in and of itself, this notion that writers aren’t allowed to touch this stuff needs to die.”

    And this regarding musical suggestions.

    “Craig: And let me just stick up for soundtrack choices for a second. No, you don’t put in soundtrack choices if it’s just background music while a car is driving. But, if you’re building a sequence that is married to music, and there’s a song that you feel will impart what your intention is for this section, then yes, I’m okay with it. And if you need to do it four times, do it four times.”

    Now I don’t quote Mazin too often but he and August are working screenwriters who concur, as long as your words aren’t tripping people up, its okay to use camera directions, and musical cues, suggestions etc.

    Here’s the problem. Some readers will see such things and they will do the equivalent of a flop in basketball or football, stumbling intentionally over a “we see” , grabbing their knee in artificial pain and crying foul, based not on any logical basis, but simply because they heard somewhere that was verbotten. I’ve seen it here, on my own scripts review thread in fact.

    So stop it. Look for other reasons to sink a script, not the bullshit minutiae you think makes you look like you know something about screenwriting. If anyone ever points out a “We See” as a mistake again, refer them to Oscar winning scripts. Refer them to probably 90% of pro scripts written and tell them to stfu.

    Emulate the pros. Don’t listen to non-pros telling you what you’re allowed to do in a script. Tell the story. If the people who decry the use of “we see” would like, I could go through the scripts nominated for Oscars and compile the thousands of incidents confirming its widespread use, if I knew you actually cared about such things, but deep down inside it was just some bullshit way for you to demean or discredit unknowns. Wasn’t it. Or maybe it was just fashionable at one time, and you’re wardrobe is outdated.

    No longer. Today it ends. So, readers, judges in contests, find some other way to elevate yourselves over the writers whose work you’re supposed to be judging fairly. “We see” is from this day forward legal and acceptable ( as are all camera directions. musical suggestions etc)

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

    • http://atticofthefilmaddict.blogspot.com/ Matty

      I very much agree with this. While I am not a fan of music stuff in scripts (like non-diegetic stuff), I’m not going to get my panties in a wad over it. Same with camera directions – I like to use those sparingly, if ever, in my own work, but once again, reading someone else’s, I won’t get crazy about it.

      And the resistance against “we see” needs to stop, period. There is absolutely nothing wrong with “we see” in a script. Some people claim it “takes them out of the story.” I’m not even sure how or why that would be the case, but I can’t say they’re lying. But for me, I have zero issue with it, and in fact prefer it over some other contrived method of description used in an attempt to avoid those two scary little words.

      The ONLY reason to avoid these things is the fact that so many people do get their panties in a bunch of it. It’s cyclical, unfortunately. People are told to avoid it because “readers” don’t like it, and then some readers end up getting in a tizzy about it solely because they’ve been told it’s “bad.”

      It’s some bullshit, is what it is.

    • Nicholas J

      Feel free to use “we see” all you want. I’ll be over here, not using it, because it’s never ever ever ever necessary, and I won’t have to hear about it from anyone who critiques my work. Instead, they’ll be using the time it would take to discuss such a pointless detail on something more worthwhile, like plot and character. Well, hopefully.

    • Crystal

      Sometimes “we see” is the easiest way to get information across.

    • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

      I’ve been talking to Billy Ray (who is also a director) the last few days, and one of the things that I brought up was camera direction in scripts, and said “they say not to put camera directions in scripts.”

      And he asked me “who is THEY? All I ever hear is THEY… but nobody really knows who THEY is.” And then he basically went on to say, if it sets up something you are trying to show, use it… if the director doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to use it.

      Personally, I think that these “RULES” get in the way of enjoying a script. I don’t look for rules… I look if the page I’m reading makes me want to read the next one. I remember when Felix had his script praised by Carson and everyone tore it apart because it didn’t follow the “RULES.” Personally, I didn’t find it a top 20 script by any means, a story that needs work, but people were giving it a hard time because of the RULES it didn’t follow.

      A structure is important, rules are important, but it’s not the BE ALL/END ALL. Don’t let yourself get brainwashed by RULES, it will not allow you to enjoy a script that could otherwise be enjoyable ;)

      • Jim

        They are “Parrots” aka those who cannot think for themselves.

        • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

          I understand people’s concerns. They don’t want to give anyone a reason to put down a script. And maybe it’s better to play on the side of caution as someone who has never sold a script.

          But I am a believer that if your story is good, they aren’t going to give a shit that you used a “we see” or a “pan down” in your script. I mean, it’s about the story, right? And how you tell it.

          And unfortunately, the readers are wannabe screenwriters like us, hearing the same stupid rules we hear, reading scripts with the same nonsense some of us read scripts. So, who knows, maybe it is better to play the game cautiously.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Don’t believe in those rules either, but
            — it’s a concern only because you don’t know who will be reading your script.
            I try to limit the “we see” to no more than 3 or 4 times. It’s more effective if you don’t overdo it. And no more than 3 times for good PRE-LAPs, clever transitions, and IMPORTANT camera angles.

            If you mix in too many unnecessary ‘we sees’ and unnecessary camera directions, the reader is going to wonder what you’re doing. Only the pros seem to be allowed to irritate the reader.

            But hey, do what works for you.

          • Poe_Serling

            I had my ‘we see’ moment a few years back…

            It was when I was reading the script for Apocalypse Now – the version credited to John Milius with a rewrite by Francis Ford Coppola.

            The first ten pages of that script were jam packed with with ‘Our VIEW,’ ‘We SEE,’ ‘We MOVE,’ ‘We PAN,’ and so forth. And I remember thinking to myself that if these two guys with over 50+ screenwriting credits between the two of them are using these camera directions liberally… how can a couple here or there in an amateur script be all that bad?

          • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

            Well, in the case of that movie, there is a small difference, in that Coppola was also the director ;)

            But if it moves your story along better than another way, then I say use it.

          • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

            Actually, most of the time you don’t even need to use “We see.” But sometimes it’s a better way to describe what we as the reader are seeing.

            The same with camera directions. Most of the time you don’t need them… and they can just lend to lazy writing. But sometimes they put a better picture in the readers mind.

            And actually how camera direction came up with Billy Ray was we had just seen All The President’s Men, and there was a scene where they are in the library or whatever going through a zillion papers, and then the camera pans up and up and up, and they get smaller and smaller and smaller… until they are ants in what looks like this maze of other ants… showing how small they are and how big of a task they really have in front of them.

            And he had mentioned that he didn’t know if that was in the script or not (I should read the script and find out!)… and so then I went ahead and mentioned that “THEY” discourage using camera angles, that’s it’s one of the deadly sins of writing… and that’s when he went on his rant about “Who’s THEY?” And he said, if the director doesn’t like it, he doesn’t have to use it, but if it sets a mood you’re trying to set, then use the fucking thing.

            An example (and I know I’m over doing this post, but I don’t care lol) is in a script I wrote called City of Dust. I believe it’s the only time I used a camera direction in this script, though I could be wrong, but it was the only way I could think of to give the desired effect that I wanted to put in the readers mind. Maybe there’s a better way to write it… but it worked for me.

            EXAMPLE:

            Ali and his men ride from behind the rocks.

            The boy tries to run, but is quickly surrounded. He looks up at a smiling Ali as he cowers behind his donkey.

            MOMENTS LATER

            The Janjaweed ride off in the direction the convoy just drove from.

            We PAN DOWN to reveal — the boy lying against his donkey, both dead, and already collecting flies.

      • fragglewriter

        They are probably the same people who keep on killing Kenny LOL (South Park).

        • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

          Janelle!… I guess now they’re killing screenplays, too =P

          • fragglewriter

            And don’t forget dialogues LOL

    • RO

      I agree with this very much so. however, I have been taught by and worked with writers in film and television and there is a conflicted view regarding this. Lots of producers, directors, actors don’t care if it’s in there, (unless ever action line starts with a “wee see” “new angle” “camera move” — this can take a reader out of the script and is probably the source of this “rule”) because they view it as a suggestion, not an order. I have come across a lot of readers that dislike the “we see” “new angle on” etc, and it’s a stupid inside rule. But when you’re in the amateur circuit and trying to get people to read your script, you need to get over those hurdles, and readers are a hurdle, you don’t please them, the next guy up doesn’t read your script.

      I’ve found that if you want to get across strong direction and visual, write your “we see” line, then after you finish your draft, go through it and delete the “we see” part.

      ie: (first draft) we see footsteps travel through the light towards the darkness
      (second draft) footsteps travel through the light towards the darkness.

      It’s a bit shorter, and more engaging. Plus when it comes to action brevity is paramount. The most you can get out of the least amount of words can do wonders for your narrative and also your page count.

      Now if you want to do “new angle” stuff, just start a new action line. DOPs look at a script and mark down a new shot for every action line separated by white space as their outline and then work with the director developing the specifics. Either breaking up the action into multiple shots or stringing a series together for one shot.

      My advice is put it in if it helps, but if it starts to get overly repetitive challenge yourself to find new ways to convey what you think should be seen.

    • John Bradley

      I’m not against using “we see” but I do think there are more elegant ways to guide the audiences imagination. The Coens have the luxury of directing the scripts they write. Most of us on here do not have that luxury.

      I am totally on board with you on musical suggestions though. I think that is a silly rule and I break it whenever it adds to my story.

    • Spitgag

      Man this Grendl reality check makes me happy. Writers would do well to spend more of their time worrying about theme, character, dialog, structure, THE FREAKIN STORY and less time whining about how many we sees and Wind Cries Marys are in a script.

    • RogueCreed

      I find “we sees” and “cut tos” a bit too distracting, especially when they’re excessive (I can’t read William (mother fucking) Goldman’s script books because I find some of the direction really distracting). Personally, I prefer drawing emphasis naturally as opposed to saying “we see”. Instead of writing “we’re on the side of a red 1956 Mercedes 190 coupe. A showroom light is shining down on it”, i’d prefer something like “the luscious curves of a 1956 Mercedes 190 coupe, lacquered red, dripping with bright showroom light”. Not only does that sound better, but it feels more natural. At least in my opinion.

    • Citizen M

      A lot of online screenplays are written AFTER the movie is made. They have a variety of names, like “shooting draft”, “final shooting draft”, “final draft” etc. Essentially, they are a record of the movie as released which is filed for legal purposes.

      They always employ a lot of “cut to”s and “we see”s and scene description.

      I wouldn’t use them as a style guide.

      Of the “for your consideration” scripts, Fruitvale seems to be a spec script with the unshot bits left out, so is okay to use as a guide.

      Philomena is a post-filming script, so don’t use as a guide for writing, but read anyway because it’s a fantastic story. 12 Years a Slave is a “final shooting script” i.e. post-filming. Haven’t checked out the others.

      Another thing with these continuity scripts, as I’ve heard them called, is they reflect editing choices and are more chopped up that a spec script should be. Rapid cutting is something best experimented with at the editing stage. At the spec stage, get the story across clearly, which generally means writing in bigger chunks.

      That said, the odd “we see” or camera move won’t sink a script. But don’t overdo it. At the spec stage your job is to tell a story, not describe a movie. Unless you’re a writer-director, in which case incorporating camera moves and significant images is your prerogative.

    • Matthew Garry

      “We see” is not an item on a checklist, it’s just a general heads up warning for lazy writing. It’s the correlation that provides for a negative stigma.

      The truth is it’s almost never needed if some more thought had been put into the prose. Novel writers get by without it, and even though screenwriting is different in places, it’s not a bad thing to try and get close to that, since the story is what matters most.

      Also I’d venture to say that, without having read most of these scripts, most of those examples occur fairly early in the script where it’s still okay to make an audience aware they are an audience (because a proper viewpoint hasn’t been established yet). You don’t really want that to happen when the narrative is steaming full speed ahead. Then you want the audience to forget they’re an audience and live vicariously through whichever character’s viewpoint in the story.

      “We see” is a shortcut, so if it’s not something that needs to be shown on screen in an introductory manner (like indeed at the beginning of a story where it is used most often to good effect), I’d say try and make something more of it; things that we need to see don’t accidentally happen on screen, they have a history in the story, so use your own words to make it more interesting.

      Like with most things in screenwriting, it’s okay to use them if used sparingly and with awareness of what you’re trying to accomplish with it.

  • klmn
  • bluedenham

    Thank you. I have been mystified as to why this movie is getting such rave reviews, when the trailers show pretty much what you’ve discussed – a miserable loser living a miserable life. And I hate folk music, so there’s that.

    Why would anyone watch this? It will be interesting to see how it does once it goes into wide distribution.

    • brenkilco

      I dunno. I guess the same reason someone would watch a film about a rich, unpleasant newspaper publisher going through two bad marriages, alienating his friends and ending up lonely and senile crying for his childhood sled. Some people will watch anything.

  • brenkilco

    Reviewing a script with an eye toward its commercial viability is perfectly fine. Though reasonable minds might disagree. But applying those same standards to a finished film is bluntly ridiculous. The thing exists. No one reads a film review because he wants to know whether the film in question will make money. The question is does it succeed as a film? And a critic cant be limited by notions of formula. I’d be curious to see Carson review the scripts of Persona, Solaris, 81/2, Rules of the Game, Vertigo or even 2001. No, actually I wouldn’t. be. I already know the verdicts.

  • Crystal

    Between this review, and the THG review a few weeks ago, I am getting the sense that Carson cannot enjoy a movie that doesn’t follow “the rules” or hit all the checks on his check boxes.

    But accusing the Coen brothers of trolling is just ridiculous. They posses the most important attribute an artist can have: a voice.

  • fragglewriter

    If you changed the young singer to a young writer, maybe it will resonate with you. Just kidding.

    From your synopsis and the reviews, I think the Coens’ wrote this script as: passion project or a semi-autbiography in which they switched from writer to singer.

    Either way, I commend them as what Indie producer/writer/director wouldn’t take this budget to utilize their vision.

    • klmn

      I think a lot of it comes down to whether you like the singer they cast.

      • fragglewriter

        True.

  • NajlaAnn

    Oh wow! Okay, I’ll take your advice and save my greenbacks.

  • Montana Gillis

    Apparently this movie is so bad that I’m sorry I wasted 2 minutes reading Carson’s review. Damn it! TWO WHOLE MINUTES! I’ll never get them back.

    • Montana Gillis

      I see some folks gave me the thumbs down… Good for you! Write what you want to write! I love to write my scripts too. I care about my characters and how they change and grow over a script. My last script deals with the people closest to us. The ones we love and trust. The ones that have the greatest opportunity to hurt, maneuver, control and betray us. The ones we care about so much we would endure anything to protect and keep them safe. Now imagine, you are a wife and mother. Your husband and daughter mean the world to you and yet you have one little issue with them… (wait for it) your family are Werewolves! Take a meaningful, heartfelt, character driven theme and stick it in a commercial vehicle. Just sayin.

  • Nicholas J

    Oh, I’m not, but it can be easily avoided, so I think it’s a good idea to leave it out. There’s no upside to using it, but there is some downside. Why give readers one more reason to look past your script?

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

    I wish movies were reviewed after they were released, that way people can actually have a chance to watch the movie lol

    Since I can’t comment on the movie or the review, since I didn’t read it, because I don’t get anything from reading a review for a movie I haven’t seen really.

    But I am about to watch the screener for Gravity… I’ve heard it’s a mixed bag… some people absolutely loved it… others were like, what’s so great about this movie, all they do is float for an hour and a half…

    Not sure if it was reviewed on the site, but what did you guys and gals think of it that have seen it?

    • Guest

      He did review Gravity

      • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1888937/ Rick McGovern

        I wouldn’t call it Oscar worthy, but I actually liked it. It was a super quick 90 minutes. I bet it takes longer to read this particular script than it does to watch the actual movie.

        • drifting in space

          Reading the script to Gravity is actually very painstaking. I hated every second of it and gave up 1/3rd through.

          But the movie is good. Not as great as everyone made it out to be, but very entertaining.

          I get that the CGI is amazing and what not, but I’ve seen more mesmerizing video that is REAL from the Hubble (Hubble 3D). Which is actually out in actual space.

          I read a quote that said something like “It’s a sad day when people celebrate fictionalized space more than the real thing.”

  • jridge32

    Completely agree with you about this character, Carson: the antithesis of likable. He’s got obvious vocal talent — and I guess the running gag is that regardless how good a singer he is, people will listen, then say, “sorry not interested” (so, um, funny) — but he’s a total azzhole. Not someone we want to spend time with.

    And yes, this movie was duller than “Nebraska”.

  • Andrew Orillion

    Hi, Greg! See you later today. Oh, and I read this script I while back and pretty much agree with everything Carson. Horrible protagonist with a dull and meandering story in which the character learns nothing, but it’s the Coen brothers so the critics already had their knee pads out.

  • filmklassik

    “He’s pure, he’s righteous, he’s powerful, he’s good looking – and he’s boring as shit. He has no flaws, which tells us he should be the most likable person imaginable, right? Wrong.”

    What’s interesting is that you also just described Jason Bourne (Powerful? Check. Good looking? Check. Righteous? Double-check).

    Bourne suffers from bouts of existential angst occasionally but as a human being, a lover, a soldier, and a fighting machine, he is flawless.

    And audiences love him.

    I, on the other hand, think he’s “boring as shit.”

    • Hadley’s Hope

      But he’s an underdog.

      Alone on the run.

      Memory loss… who to trust?

      CIA is after him.

      • filmklassik

        I agree that Bourne is alone (but so are many heroes)…I agree that he’s suffering memory loss and that the CIA is after him… but he is NOT an underdog.

        Why do I say that? Because I have yet to see ANYONE who can give Bourne a fair fight, let alone take him out.

        Bond had Oddjob, remember? Oddjob could mop the floor with him. It heightened the suspense. Same with that other henchman, Jaws, from THE SPY WHO LOVED ME.

        Indiana Jones was getting his ass whipped by the big bald guy in RAIDERS, which made for a better scene. A scene with more tension.

        Linda Hamilton and Reese had Ah-nuld, who was tougher and stronger than a squadron of police… and, later, Ah-nuld had the T-1000, who was stronger still. Maximum tension.

        But I never — for one split second — have any doubt that Bourne is faster, tougher, stronger and deadlier than ANY of his opponents.

        Which makes him incredibly boring. At least to me.

        Why not make him overmatched for once?

        Somehow, after three movies, and three opportunities to do so, I get the feeling they don’t WANT to.

        • drifting in space

          I feel like they want you to feel like he’s the underdog to government conspiracy rather than some assassin or soldier sent out to get him.

          Which = boring.

          • filmklassik

            Agreed. A gov’t conspiracy is interesting but still, it’s an abstraction. But a stronger, faster, deadlier soldier is harsh concrete reality.

            There’s no reason that couldn’t have BOTH.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Again, a good point, but I don’t think it kills all the of the relatability factor for the Bourne movies.

            As I said though, it is a good point.

            Maybe a fine line even.

            I guess an extreme example would be in first two Terminator films. In T1 you have Kyle Reese as the hero, while Arnie the Terminator is the villain. I wanted this scrappy soldier from the future to prevail against this hulking killing machine.

            In T2, it is flipped, and while we all love to watch Arnie in that movie go from cold killer to a robot that can understand why we cry, something is lost by not having it be strictly man versus machine.

            Maybe if Terminator had an alter ego that wasn’t so indestructible. Superman has Clark Kent. The Hulk has Bruce Banner. Although it would kind of kill a lot of the thematic elements of the Terminator films by doing that.

          • Hadley’s Hope

            Yeah, they could have made it a bit harder for Bourne throughout the trilogy.

            I thought the best they threw at him was Karl Urban in The Bourne Supremacy.

        • Hadley’s Hope

          I agree with Bourne being a bit overpowered throughout the entire trilogy, but even then it works to the filmmaker’s advantage in getting the audience to root for him. This is because Bourne is smart. He isn’t just a brute force human wrecking ball. He’s always planning ahead, seeing the next move or exit. He’s also maybe even setting a clever trap for the enemy (Terminator, the ultimate inhuman action character, does this type of thing too instead of just shooting first).

          I believe there is also a certain wish fulfillment aspect to the Bourne movies (at least the initial trilogy, I haven’t seen Legacy). He’s an American, alone in Europe, yet extremely capable in all manner of sticky situations. With Matt Damon in the lead, he represents an image of the all American jock/preppie everyman, yet he could kick James Bond’s ass if the two ever were to face off.

          He runs into a cute German woman and forms a bond with her, which develops into a romance. So we have another male-wish fulfillment fantasy, the Bond Girl. Yet here, there is a bit of a reality to the way the relationship develops. It isn’t just wham-bam-thank-you-honey-octopussy like it is with Bond.

          Wouldn’t we all love to go to Europe and have some adventure and met a pretty foreigner who we can form a connection with?

          Instead, most Americans probably go and get sucked into the vortex of tourist traps and have to deal with gypsies and overpriced bottled water sold by grumpy street vendors. The Bourne experience, is also exactly what is sold at Rekall in Total Recall. Just a bit more down to Earth and with a PG-13 rating for maximum audience participation.

          Audiences can relate to the everyman persona of Matt Damon and get their spy/action hero fantasy role play on all at once. They can be that lost American asking for directions and James Bond at the same time with Jason Bourne.

          At least that’s how I see it in terms of the audience getting on board with Bourne.

          You’re right though, he could have taken a few more bumps and bruises along the way. Even then, compared to Bond or Neo, I still think Bourne stands out a bit as feeling more realistic in the way the filmmakers employed a brutal fight style. Compare that to The Matrix, where the fights feel like more of a dance than a down and dirty brawl.*

          *A problem I had with both Matrix sequels. Neo was too powerful whereas in the third act subway fight with Agent Smith in the first film, he took a darn good beating.

  • Hadley’s Hope

    It’s cause The Dude abides.

  • Hadley’s Hope

    Well, to be fair there are some darn good ones in some of the superhero flicks.

    Anthony Hopkins (Thor)
    Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man/The Avengers)
    Ed Norton (The Incredible Hulk)
    Hugo Weaving (The Matrix/Lord of the Rings/Captain America)

    • SVENDAHENWHOLIKESBIGBEN

      Agreed there are some great actors. But, god knows, all it takes is one bad actor and ximan’s not having any of that.

  • Guest

    With all due respect: No.

  • Jovan Jevtic

    Carson, let me help you out. This story is about a loser, who has many opportunities not be stay a loser, but never makes that leap and stays where he is. The movie is a character study and is not at all bad.

  • FIFI LaRue

    I love indies and am in the movie business.

  • FIFI LaRue

    This movie is painfully boring. I love indie movies, and The Coen Brothers, but this is absolutely unwatchable. The lead is a great actor and musician, but Carey Mulligan is shrill and overwrought You don’t care about anything or anyone, except the nice Professor and wife who try to embrace Llewyn, and he is horrible and rude and obnoxious to them. Awful movie. Don’t waste money. Wait until incomes to HBO, and then try staying awake. Oh, did love the cat, though.

  • Syd

    I was wondering WHY this movie got so much praise. Did I miss something? My boyfriend and I thought it was one of the worst movies we’d ever seen. I couldn’t wait for it to end so I could go home. Boring non-plot, unlikable characters and wooden dialogue.

  • pocketdare

    A thoughtful, well-reasoned rant. I’m happy to find that someone wasn’t so caught up in the Coen cult that they couldn’t smelled canned poop when it was so thoughtfully laid out for them.