For those interested, my favorite script of February, Mike Judge’s Extract (review here), just got itself a trailer. Go check it out and let me know what you think. I’m posting this without having even watched it so I have no idea if it’s any good. Although with Mike Judge, how can you go wrong, right?

I used my internet prowess to cache back the original State of Play review so I could copy-paste then re-post it. Took down the poster and the script link so I don’t think there’s anything illegal going on here. Enjoy. :)

Genre: Political Thriller
Synopsis: A team of investigative reporters work alongside a police detective to try to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress
About: Hitting theaters a week from Friday and landing on the 2007 Blacklist as the number 2 most popular script.
Writer: Matthew Michael Carnahan – Revisions by Billy Ray, Tony Gilroy, and Peter Morgan.

State of Play may be coming to theaters in a couple of weeks but why wait that long when you can get the lowdown right here and now. I won’t even charge you ten dollars. And yeah, it’s the shooting script. So we’re talking a shot-for-shot match here baby.

As I mentioned before, State of Play was the number 2 script on the 2007 Black List. Right behind a little script called “Brigands of Rattleborge”, which just so happens to be number 6 over there on my Top 25. Why isn’t State of Play above it? Cause I never read the damn thing. Everything about it sounded boring as hell. Look at the title: “State of Play”. What the hell does that even mean?? It’s stupid. And the logline doesn’t help matters: “A team of investigative reporters work alongside a police detective to try to solve the murder of a congressman’s mistress.” Ooh, can’t wait to dive into that one. If anything, it seemed like State of Play was trying its best NOT to interest me. Operation Success.

But then that damn trailer hit in high definition and my interest did a 180. This looked like a real movie. And I mean come on. Any film that believes its good enough to survive a Ben Affleck casting has got to be awesome. All of a sudden “State of Play” sounded kind of cool. The title began to make sense. It’s like a “state” of “play”. Or the “play” that goes on in the “state”. Meaning like the government. Clearly works on many levels.

I think you know by now what this film is about. A woman’s been killed, hit by a morning subway train, and that woman is linked to congressman Stephen Collins. The problem with this is that Collins is married. When he finds out that the woman has been killed, he’s put in a rough spot. His heart is broken because he loved this girl. But he can’t emote because he has a wife. On top of that, he has to survive the media’s determination to turn it into a scandal or his career is over.

Cal, the seasoned reporter, just so happens to be old friends with Collins. The paper knows this and comes down hard on him. They have a chance to break a huge story with inside information if only Cal does what Cal needs to do. So Cal is put in that classic reporter predicament. Do I do my job or do I help a friend? That’s the central theme of State of Play and it keeps poking its head up the deeper Cal digs. It’s also why I don’t love this script. I don’t exactly have sympathy for a character who’s willing to sell his friend out to get a goddamn newspaper story.

Luckily State of Play focuses just as much time on its mystery – and its mystery is a good one. Turns out the woman who was pushed in front of the train wasn’t just a congressional aid. She was working for a corporation called Pointcorp that has begun privatizing armies to fight in the Middle East with further plans to privatize armies and even government here in the United States. Collins, who is vehemently against privatization, is lobbying congress to stop these corporations. So Pointcorp bought this woman to relay all of Collins’ secrets.

In the meantime, Collins’ wife ain’t as mad as she should be. In fact, she’s more humiliated than angry. And it certainly doesn’t help matters that she’s sleeping with Cal. Yes, Collins’ best friend and newspaper reporter Cal. So you can see how intricate and complicated all of this gets.

Somehow Cal has to navigate this jungle to get the story, as well as avoid Pointcorp, who’s willing to do anything to make sure the story doesn’t break – putting almost everybody’s life in jeopardy. And of course in the end, he has to make that decision. Get the story or keep the friend?

I liked State Of Play. I thought it was well done for a genre I don’t particularly like. But if I were a reporter, the story I’d be breaking is just how behind the times State of Play is. Rachel McAdams (my favorite actress EVER behind Audrey Hepburn) plays web blogger Della, who seems to be thrown in the mix for the sole purpose of feeling “current”. But if you eliminated her character it wouldn’t affect anything because the whole drive of the movie revolves around Cal trying to get the story in by print time for tomorrow’s paper. Um, excuse me, but when the fuck does that happen anymore? Someone gets shot these days and five minutes later it’s on Youtube. Stories get written in real time, published as keys are being pressed. When the hell do they have “newspaper deadlines” for breaking news anymore? In that sense, this could be the last time (sans period pieces) they make a movie like this. I think it also inspires a curiosity for a movie that fully explores the behind-the-scenes going-ons of the lightning fast news world of today. There’s a good movie to be written there.

Even so, State of Play is a solid thriller and a script worth reading – even with the knowledge that Ben Affleck is playing one of the leads. :)

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from State Of Play: One thing I do when I’m enjoying a script is trace back to where the feeling started. It’s a great way to learn what works in a screenplay. In this case, a nameless woman is killed by a subway train. That’s not necessarily interesting. We meet Collins, who’s told that one of his assistants, a woman, was hit by a subway car. His reaction tells us there was something between them but we don’t know what. This makes the script more interesting but not necessarily “I have to keep reading” interesting. It’s when we see Collins break down in the press conference and learn that not only did he have a sexual relationship with this girl, but that he’s married. That’s when we become truly interested. Because we’re intrigued by characters who are put in terrible and/or complex situations. Because these situations force our character to make a difficult choice. And that choice is always interesting, whether we agree with it or not. What does he say to his wife? Does he tell her the truth? What does he say to the media? Does he tell *them* the truth? What does he tell his friends? And in the case of State of Play, what does he tell his friend who works for the very people he can’t tell anything to (the media). You see how complicated and interesting this gets? That’s good writing.

Well karma comes back to bite you in the ass, huh? The State of Play script review I posted today was taken down by Blogger because of a Universal legal threat. It’s not clear to me if it’s because I posted the review, used a picture of the poster, or posted the script. What pisses me off is that they erased the review not only from the blog, but from my personal blogger database, which means it doesn’t exist anymore. Not too happy about that. For those who are screaming, “why didn’t you back it up?”, my answer will ring true to anyone who’s tried to copy and paste a Word document into Blogger (my old method). The html goes nuts and requires 18,000 adjustments before you post. Therefore I just kept everything online.

So all you angry readers pissed off about my Inception review, you got your revenge! lol

Genre: Rom-Com (but not the gay kind where Hugh Grant is involved – wait a minute, I like Hugh Grant. Good lord, what’s wrong with me?)
Synopsis: Best friends since grade school Max and Sophie move in together….and start cuddling!
About: This one generated a lot of heat when it first went out but ultimately failed to sell. Why? Let’s find out.
Writer: Kathryn McNulty

(photo by Gopher Topher)

When I first saw the title “Cuddle Bitches”, it reminded me of how important a good title is. Particularly for a comedy. If you see a comedy title and don’t at least smile, there’s something wrong with it. Good titles get scripts read. They inch them up the all important reading pile. My reading pile is now 30 scripts deep. Seriously. Although I try to keep them in order, every once in awhile I’ll just go searching for a good title. Let’s face it. When you have a choice between “Cuddle Bitches” and “The Fields Of Nebraska”, which one are you gonna choose?

Speaking of the title, Cuddle Bitches instantly reminded me of the controversial but popular 2008 Black List script “Fuckbuddies” (which you can find here). That script seemed to inspire either Nazi-like hatred or Oprah-like love. It’s written in such a distinct voice with such specific humor, I can see why some people kinda wanted to bash their face in after reading it. But I thought it was funny. It’s sorta one-note, but it’s like 95% dialogue, so it flies by.

What about this Cuddle Bitches script though? Did I spoon it? Did I whisper sweet nothings into its ear? Or did I wake up with it after a night of drinking and realize it was 50 pounds heavier than I remembered? This may come as a surprise to some but I liked Cuddle Bitches. Mainly because it follows the very simple Carson rule to writing a successful romantic comedy. Yes, I’m a broken record, but let’s say it out loud together: “Make sure we like the girl. Make sure we like the guy. And make sure we desperately want to see them get together.” Cuddle Bitches succeeds on all three fronts.

Max and Sophie have been best friends since grade school. Max is an architect (I know I know. Another rom-com, another architect male lead. That equals 643,402 and counting) who’s a bit of a playa. Not into the whole commitment thing. And Sophie’s the all around cool chick who also happens to be super duper hot. But of course Max doesn’t see her that way. And Sophie doesn’t see Max “that” way.

When Sophie’s boyfriend breaks up with her, Max offers to let her stay at his place. On the very first night she’s lonely, so she crawls into Max’s bed and spoons him. And so the beginning of the cuddle relationship begins.

During this relationship, Max begins to experience the dreaded four-eyed monster: “feelings”. Unfortunately he’s too afraid to tell her about them. As she’s on the verge of finding a new boyfriend, Max finally blurts out that he’s in love with her. She freaks out because up until this point she kinda only saw him as a brother. Confusion takes over. The inevitable miscommunication that always happens in these situations begins, making everything exponentially worse. And we’re left to wonder (or at least you’re left to wonder – I already know) if the two will end up together.

If I had to guess why Cuddle Bitches didn’t sell, my guess would be the third act. You see, with these low concept ideas, because there’s no story to hang your hat on, you’re forced to come up with a whole bunch of hibbledeegook in the end to make it seem like all this craziness is happening. When in reality, you’re just trying to come up with reasons to keep the two apart before they inevitably get together. (I mean!!! Not that they get together………spoiler alert?)

And that’s truly what it felt like. Up until that point, I was really into Cuddle Bitches. I wanted to find a bitch to cuddle with. I wanted to spoon. But the script does feel like it’s a draft or two away from a god’s honest life-changing cuddle. This was more the kind of cuddle that happens when you’re groggy and don’t really want anyone to touch you. So you pretend to cuddle to make the other person happy, yet secretly you can’t wait to get away from the cuddle. You know what I mean? Come on, you guys know what I’m talking about.

But yeah, the ending prevented me from giving this a strong recommend. Still a solid script though and definitely worth the read.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned from Cuddle Bitches: This was actually a bit of a revelation for me. One of the tell-tale signs that you’re reading an amateur script is that it takes too long to get to the plot. Good writers are efficient and get to the point fast. This is important because readers start to get antsy when the opening wanders. They start to lose trust in you, the writer. Yet by page 15, I still didn’t technically know what Cuddle Bitches was about. But I was still into it. Why, I wondered, when I blast so many other scripts for not following this rule, am I letting this one slide by? And I realized it was because the story was in the title. The two are going to turn to each other for physical support (cuddling) because the movie is called “Cuddle Bitches”. That’s what settled me down. The lesson being, use your title as part of the story. Allow it to focus your reader and actually become part of the setup. Definitely not conventional, but an option to keep in mind.