Genre: Dark Comedy/Thriller
Premise: (from Black List) After catching her husband in bed with a hooker, which causes him to die of a heart attack, Sue Bottom buries the body and takes advantage of the local celebrity status that comes from having a missing husband.
About: Today’s script finished on the 2017 Black List just under yesterday’s script, When Lightning Strikes, with 19 votes. This one came out of nowhere. It was absent from The Hit List, which charts the best spec scripts of the year, making its Top 10 ranking on the Black List a mystery in itself. Whatever the case, it’s safe to say this is Amanda Idoko’s breakthrough screenplay.
Writer: Amanda Idoko
Details: 118 pages

Anne Hathaway for Sue?

I like when writers do this.

Take a popular premise from recent years (Gone Girl) and spin it in a slightly different way. It’s like a cheat code to compete with established IP. The letters “IP” basically stand for “Green Light” in Hollywood and that’s because audiences are familiar with the material, guaranteeing that at least someone shows up to the theater. So when you spin a new idea out of a recent film, you’re hacking the IP DNA, giving yourself an attachment to a successful experience that isn’t yours. Genius!

But how bout the script itself? Was it as good as Gone Girl? Actually, Idoko takes her cues from two other famous directors, the Coens, turning a traditionally male-led genre into a female one. Let’s see how it fares.

Sue Bottom is hopelessly hanging onto the belief that her marriage is okay. The 40-something office worker who’s so invisible that people literally run into her during the day, walks around listening to affirmation-based recordings, reminding herself that she has high self-worth and lots to offer the world.

When Sue shows up to her husband Bill’s work in hopes of a birthday date, she’s shocked to see him buy some flowers and drive to a local motel. Once she’s able to locate his room, she walks in to see Bill banging an extremely large woman named Leah. As soon as the putz sees his wife, he has a heart attack and dies.

An angry Sue tells Leah to scram and then concocts a wild plan. She’ll bury her husband, trash their home, tell the world he was abducted, and have the entire nation feeling sorry for her. Darn it if Sue won’t finally be visible.

What Sue doesn’t know is that her husband was laundering money for a local Indian crime boss, whose hit man & woman found him through Bill’s waste of a brother, Petey. When Petey learns that his brother is missing, he assumes that the Indian duo have kidnapped him for not paying them back. So Petey comes to Sue, assuring her that he knows where Bill is and will get him back.

Meanwhile, Sue finds out the hard way that nobody cares about a middle aged man gone missing. So she doubles-down on her idea, telling the local news that Bill had information on the whereabouts of a famous missing girl.

This gets the nation’s attention, and soon Sue is being doted on by everyone who used to ignore her. However, as the police start connecting the dots of Bill’s “abduction,” they find that literally none of what Sue is saying makes sense. Which means it’s only a matter of minutes before Sue’s fifteen are up.

Breaking News in Yuba County was like a satisfying two eggs, two pieces of toast, breakfast. You nailed the toasting process. It was toasted just enough that it wasn’t limpy but not so much that it could double as a fossilized rock. You didn’t overcook the eggs for once. A little extra butter gave it that naughty kick. It’s the kind of breakfast that starts a day off right. However, it’s not a meal you’re going to list as one of your favorites.

That’s what’s frustrating about Yuba County. It’s the type of wacky idea that needs to be great to work. Whenever you’re following a group of crazy characters, linking all of their plotlines together and setting things up and paying them off every few pages – when all of that comes together, it’s the closest thing in screenwriting to a symphony. And while Yuba County’s arrangement was definitely pleasing to listen to, something was missing.

There was this screenwriting book that came out 20 years ago. I forget the exact title, but I think it was called, “Liked it Didn’t Love It.” This is a critical phrase in the Hollywood ecosystem because it encompasses the large majority of scripts being passed around.

There’s so much competency in the screenwriting trade that you read a lot of stuff that you “like.” But there are very few times that you “love” something. And those are the scripts that matter. Because it’s the “love” script that gets you to the mountaintop, that gets you bought, that gets you produced, that gets people to pay $15 to see your movie. So understanding the difference between a “like” and “love” script is critical to your own success as a screenwriter.

Unfortunately, it isn’t always clear why we “like” something but don’t “love” it. It’s just a feeling we get. How does one quantify that and turn it into a series of actionable steps to make the script better? The first thing you need to do is to strip away all the screenwriting gobbledygook and ask yourself purely as an audience member: “Why didn’t I love this?” Once you identify that, you can start to inspect WHY that’s the case.

When I look back at Yuba County, I keep going back to the main character, Sue. There was something about her that I didn’t like. As all Scriptshadow readers know, if the reader doesn’t love the main character, they’re going to have a hard time loving the story. Now that I’ve identified the problem, I can get into the screenwriting gobbledygook. WHY didn’t I like Sue Bottom?

Sue was overcooked. She wasn’t just ignored. She was CHRONICALLY IGNORED. She came home and her husband, sitting right there, didn’t notice her. She sits at a table with two other people at work. They don’t know she’s there. She’s in line at the store. Someone rams into her because they don’t see her. Everyone forgets her birthday. Her sister uses her. Everywhere we turn, Sue is being aggressively ignored.

I understand that this is to set up Sue’s need for attention. But the problem with going overboard on ANYTHING is that you start to bring attention to it. And once that happens, the reader becomes aware that the writer is trying to manipulate them. Which means the suspension of disbelief is broken.

Remember guys and gals, one of the most important components of writing is being INVISIBLE. You don’t want to announce “HERE I AM! THE WRITER, PULLING THE STRINGS! MANIPULATING YO ASS.” So when it comes to setting up a character like Sue, you don’t have to go 5th gear in every scene driving the point home. Drive it home hard in her introductory scene, then do so subtly in a few subsequent scenes. Because, again, the last thing you want is your reader not believing that your main character is a real person. That’s the character we have to believe in the most.

I’m being hyper-critical to make my point. But I don’t want you to think this script was bad. I actually kept marveling at how much work must’ve gone into connecting all these storylines. And the decision to place a female character in the middle of a Coen Brothers’ish script is something I don’t think they’ve done before, unless you count Francis McDormand as the main character in Fargo. And, again, it was a fun ride. I just left the ride feeling like there could’ve some bigger drops and extra loops. I wanted my Coen Brothers cake and to eat it too.

[ ] What the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: The Rule of Threes is a good starting point if you’re trying to figure out how hard to drive something home. So, if you’re trying to drive home that Sue is always ignored, you’d give us three moments of her getting ignored. Of course, there should be variation in the execution of these moments. They shouldn’t all be “screaming from the rooftops” moments of her being ignored. One of those moments could be big, one medium, and one subtle. — Also, The Rule of Threes is a STARTING POINT. Like anything in writing, its use will vary depending on the script.

  • Justin

    Coolio. Anne Hathaway can do no wrong.

    • Erica

      “Coolio. Anne Hathaway can do no wrong.”

      Have you seen Colossal?

      • Justin

        Not yet. Why, was her acting a miss on it?

        I’ve followed her since Princess Diaries and Ella Enchanted, and always enjoyed her acting.

        • Erica

          It wasn’t so much her acting as it was her choice for being in that movie. I do like her as an actress.

          • Justin

            Hmm… Interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the review, Carson! The assembly line is back in production and going
    strong.

    With the new year kicking off…

    Is the site pushing toward its 10-year anniversary? And what do you consider the
    official start date of all things Scriptshadowy?

    Or is that hush-hush too?

    ;-)

    • klmn

      Now that recreational pot is legal in California, how will that affect Scriptshadow?

    • romer6

      I may be mistaken but I think the site (including the blog that came before it) is more than ten years old. I’ve been coming to this site everyday for more than eight years, that’s for sure. It is the longest relationship I have had in my entire life! Propose to me already, Carson, I’ve commited my best years to you! (actually, you’ve commited yours to us, maybe I should give you my first born).

      • Poe_Serling

        Could be. The first post I found for the old blog: 2/1/09.

        ;-)

  • https://twitter.com/deanmaxbrooks deanb

    The What I Learned reminds me of a line from The Terminator screenplay during Sarah Connor’s introduction scene where she actually says aloud (to herself) “I’m so wholesome I could puke.” Good Lord! No wonder J.C. cut that from the film.

  • Myster82

    I actually quite liked this script. In fact, I loved that the “she is ignored” moments were overdone. I found those moments hilarious. Especially the one when her colleagues give a birthday cake to someone even though its not their birthday yet. Sure, it was over the top, but it was in line with the tone. It was those moments that made me think of the Coen brothers.

    The big two issues I found with it was the “catalyst” and “debate” moments. The main character just suddenly changes when her husband has the heart attack. It felt really jarring.

    Also her decision to hide the body and pretend her husband is missing felt really contrived and unearned. However, as Carson said, it is impressive to see how the writer managed to weave all the sub plots together.

    I reckon if the two early plot moments could be ironed out this would be an enjoyable watch.

  • PQOTD

    I must be missing something. I can’t help wonder why on Earth a wife wouldn’t just call the Police if her husband probably died of natural causes. Sure, it’d be embarrassing having found him with his paramour, but it’s tidier to bury him and get the will sorted out than have to take 7 years or whatever to declare him gone. It seems like a really convoluted set-up in the first place to try to wring a few dark laughs out of it.

    • RO

      I would go a little further, have him declared dead, then he comes back to life before the medical examiners conduct the autopsy, have him get all the attention and then she kills him with a medication overdose, only for him to come back a second time and get more attention from the world.

    • sotiris5000

      I’ve not read the script, but I think the point is she’s so starved of attention she realises she can use his death to get attention – by making herself into the wife of a missing person. I guess it’s a statement on attention-whoring / media saturation etc.

    • Malibo Jackk

      (Don’t confuse movie scripts with real life.)

      Was reading about WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF.
      The problem that the play & movie had was
      — Why don’t they just leave the house?

      • brenkilco

        Or as they asked John Ford about Stage Coach, why didn’t the indians just shoot the horses.

        Actually I think they didn’t leave the house in Virginia Wolf because they were waiting to say goodnight to the kid.

      • RS

        Funny. I just watched this movie the other day. Been a long time, but wow how depressing. Were you asking about the visiting couple, why didn’t they leave the house or Taylor/Burton? I can’t remember reading the play, but in the film I did keep wondering why the visiting couple just didn’t get out of there at the first sign of strife? I mean what normal person wouldn’t. Of course, there is a certain sort of magical realism that pervades the film so tonally that might explain it. I think for the visiting couple there was the idea that the husband is a new professor and since Taylor is the daughter of the President, currying favor with her might help his standing, but still to take it at face value it’s a wonder why the visiting couple didn’t just leave after about 5 minutes. And as for Taylor/Burton, maybe they feel bound by the son, but I think it’s really just keeping the metaphor going of being trapped in roles, in unwanted lives, being existentially stuck. So in that sense one can see why they remained…

        • brenkilco

          Wolf is one of those heightened theater pieces where we buy the characters as characters but not necessarily as real people. I mean the ‘son’ conceit is more than a little out there. If this were a kitchen sink drama about a bizarre, pathological relationship it would I suppose be suffocatingly depressing. In Albee’s hands, it remains fascinating and oddly exhilarating.

          • RS

            I think you are right, and I’d like to see it one day put on as a play. Cinematically, there’s enough realism (college campus, real looking house, etc.) that you feel grounded and want to ask why these people remain together when they loathe each other so much. I agree that we’re not really supposed to ask a logical question like that, but in the theater that question might not spring to mind as easily. In the film version, it does crop up because the medium forces us to think of the situation a bit more logically, even though Nicholl et al do a great job to straddle the line of verisimilitude (that’s my vocab word of the day).

          • brenkilco

            Albee’s other big play A Delicate Balance was also filmed once. Same basic setup and just as stagebound. Two couples plus a fifth character in a house. Middleaged friends arrive at the house, confess some inexplicable anxiety to the owners and refuse to leave. The owners are confused but let them stay. Lots of vague, soul searching chat. A lot quieter and less focused than Wolf. What Albee is actually getting at, if anything, is anyone’s guess. Since the cast includes Paul Scofield and Katherine Hepburn it all sounds like it means something anyway.

          • RS

            With Albee, I’m sensing a common thread in his oeuvre. Haven’t seen that film but not sure I can handle another depressing story like Woolf. I have to give them credit. If you have the patience to get through it all, the whole thing does turn your stomach, so in that sense Albee succeeds.

            I followed Woolf with Blade Runner. Haven’t seen that in about 20 years. Talk about another mood piece where a lot of the plot drags or does not make sense. I wanted to check it out before I see the sequel, which I still have not gotten around to.

          • RBradley

            I saw the play and it was funny, among other qualities. If you thought Bladerunner was draggy wait till you see the follow up. (Carson was right.)

          • RS

            BR is draggy but there is something fascinating about the mood and the world set. I don’t normally value form over content, but in the case of BR I’m almost convinced the tableau makes up for the pace and story problems.

          • brenkilco

            2049 is mildly entertaining if you go in with zero expectations and no need to have this world you’re in coherently explained. How’s that for a recommendation. Gosling’s appeal continues to elude me.

            An though I’ve seen Delicate Balance I’ve never seen Albee’s Seascape. In that play one of the inevitable couples is a pair of talking lizards. Hey, it got nominated for a Tony so what do I know.

          • RS

            It will be a Netflix viewing so I’m not going out of my way for it nor do I have much expectations, but I feel the need now to close the loop on the two films.

            As for Albee, I don’t know if he’d be writing plays today. Maybe some bizarre TV pilots.

  • romer6

    That’s why I prefer my eggs poached. You can’t go wrong with poached eggs.

  • Levres de Sang

    Another terrific review with much to think about in screenwriting terms. I was struck by the following:

    “There’s so much competency in the screenwriting trade that you read a lot of stuff that you “like.” But there are very few times that you “love” something. And those are the scripts that matter.”

    Actually, I think it’s fair to say we see a decent number of “like” scripts on AOW. My own feeling as to why they’re not hitting the “love” category: lack of originality — an affliction that evolves from too many first choices and the all too human desire to be finished.

    • Scott Crawford

      Biggest problems with amateur scripts (an inexhaustive list):

      * Too slow to start, unable to pull us into the story in the first ten pages.

      * Too QUICK to start, not enough time establishing character and setting.

      * Charcters all sound the same.

      * Too many first choices (absolutely true).

      * Not enough entertainment. If it’s a comedy, not enough jokes.

    • brenkilco

      The sense I get from a lot of posts is that a writer will get an ‘idea’ and he’s off to the races, banging away as if plot is something that will be discovered along the way. Turning the idea into at least a nascent story in one’s head before writing anything may be a better way to go.

  • brenkilco

    Among their many other talents the Coens have the ability to create smart movies about dumb characters. Among his many other talents writer Elmore Leonard had the ability to create complex plots about dumb characters. Leonard realized that crime complexity didin’t have to result from the machinations of some mastermind. It could be the result of a bunch of lowlife felons operating at cross purposes and completely f@#$ing up one another’s s@#$. The two basic problems are keeping the decisions of the characters believable and pulling the strands of the plot together in a satisfying way. Sounds like this falls short on both counts.

    We have a character so addled that she is willing to become a murder suspect to get attention. And whacked as she is she should be aware that she is going to remain the principal suspect in her husband’s disappearance until the body is found; at which point she’s going to be arrested. The whole thing is really beyond contrived. And she is beyond idiotic.

    Now I can kinda, sorta see this working if through her tissue of lies she somehow inadvertently exposes the criminal conspiracy her husband was involved, escapes danger, pins her sins on the bad guys, gets undeserved recognition as a heroine and finally returns gratefully to her ordinary life. But that, or something similar, would take a lot of clever plot manipulation. And I’m sensing the like didn’t love reaction may be the result of a lack of ingenuity on the part of the writer. If you have something with a lot of moving parts you better know from the jump how they’re all going to fit together.

  • Scott Crawford

    OT: I mentioned yesterday that it might an idea if we gave an update of what we had done writing-wise today, especially anyone who’s th8nking of doing a first draft b6 the end of the month (which is possible).

    To get the ball rolling, I was working all day yesterday but I managed to generate a list of twenty five ideas that I could use in a screenplay. Today is a day off, so I’m going to work all day and hopefully by the END of the day should have decided the basic story for a script. Ambitious, but the only way I could really finish a script by the end of the month, which is my goal.

    Your turn; how much have you got done today? What are YOUR goals?

    • Stephjones

      Polishing a script. Had feedback that it needed more comedic moments so beefing that aspect up. In a good mood, for a change, so having fun. One scene in particular has me giggle every time I think about it. I’ll probably catch some flack for it. Hope Carson picks it next AOW.

      • Randy Williams

        Does it involve an elephant that can’t stop pooping? That one will be a hard one to beat. Hope Carson picks it!

        • Stephjones

          Thanks, Randy. Sad to say there’s no pooping elephants, however an amorous cow and a hypochondriacal pelican are featured!

    • Marija ZombiGirl

      I’m in the last pages of a short story destined for publication in a French annual anthology. The deadline was January 1st (01/01) but for some inexplicable reason, I wrote down 01/31 (January 31st) in my Notes doc. I’ve been published by them twice before and we know each other IRL so they nicely gave me until this weekend to send in my story. It’s a Lovecraftian witch story inspired by our Sicilian vacation last summer. Weird and atmospheric, as I like them :)

      • Poe_Serling

        ” It’s a Lovecraftian … story with cats.. ”

        Here’s something that might interest you:

        Cats on Film by Anne Billson

        I think the book just hit the bookshelves in the last few months.

        The writer “explores the narrative functions of cats in one hundred
        films… ”

        Everything from The Third Man to Night of the Demon to Alien.

        :-)

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Thanks :)
          I’m gonna be reading that with my Logan. He’s wondering why a movie hasn’t been made yet about his majestic self…
          https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/83458147c5c655c6cb7dfe24c4965163f7c9426649ab76a0ae2a0ec5cd045053.jpg

        • Nick Morris

          Love me a good cat jump scare. :)

        • Stephjones

          I’m going to check that out. I finally went with superimposed hashtags to handle most of the narrative by my Let’s Be Famous cat (named Cat)
          In the excerpt below, Cat has turned his nose up at the offer of a saucer of milk by Captain Caboose…

          CAPTAIN CABOOSE
          Cheeky bugger

          FRED
          Cat doesn’t do dairy. His body can’t process it.

          CAPTAIN CABOOSE
          Ye don’t say?

          Captain Caboose and Cat have a glare-off.

          CAPTAIN CABOOSE
          He’ll be licking me arsehole when he’s hungry enough.

          Cat looks at the camera —
          SUPER: #couldhappen

          (nothing symbolic about it ;)

          • Citizen M

            Does Capt. Caboose not realize that cats have teeth on their tongues?

            He’s gonna have a might tender arsehole.

          • Stephjones

            Or consider where Cat’s tongue has recently been?

      • Poe_Serling

        Logan…

        Is it because of those wild white whiskers?

        If not, the classic movie character that I instantly think of when I
        look at the pic:

        Lee Marvin from CAT Ballou.

        ;-)

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Well, I’m a big Wolverine fan but mostly it’s because he’s a Maine Coon. Have you seen the claws on those things??? ^^
          As for ol’ Lee, I like that reference too :)

      • Adam McCulloch

        Excellent work, ZombiGirl. What a great start to the year. There’s a ton of residencies coming up too for fiction writers. I hope you apply for them as well. Might make this year’s vacation in Europe into a writing retreat. it certainly sounds like you have a good body of work. Ping me if you need some deets.

    • Angie

      Scott, thanks for keeping us posted. a very ambitious goal to complete a first draft in a month. If anybody can do that it is you because, judging from your comments here, you have flow.

      A slow person like me is taking Carson’s suggestion of doubling the time to follow the weekly goals. So far, I’ve obsessed over how to phrase the concept, and the logline. I’ve constructed a very loose basic blueprint for the story with what should happen, but without all the specifics. i know what my opening scene is or should be.

      Taking the extra time to add specificity to the basic blueprint is imperative for me. Am following the step by step guideline which I’ve never done to this extent before. Am hopeful a cohesive story line will emerge.

    • Kane

      I’m a few pages in on a first draft of an action script. I am hoping to be done by months end. Which is strange since I decided to take a sabbatical from work and get more content out there and a draft in a month would have been no problem while working. I usually crank out pages but that’s when it’s cramming them in after midnight or at lunch breaks. Now that I have time to look at those blank pages they are suddenly much more intimidating. It could also be the fact that I’m watching savings dwindle as I sit at home and write. But I figure, if I don’t think my writing is worth investing in, why should anyone else? With that said, I’m really enjoying the pages thus far.

      I also just put together audition sides for an upcoming short.

    • Randy Williams

      After notes, I’m doing a rewrite of my musical. I have one other rewrite and two new ideas. I’ve made a resolution that if 2018 doesn’t bring me any accolades of any kind, then I’m quitting this. I have other interests. I’d still read Scriptshadow, however. There’s a lot more here than how to write. There’s so much about how to live.

      • Scott Crawford

        I’ve often thought that myself, that if I don’t do this this year then I HAVE TO stop because it’s killing me, financially, psychologically, in relationships and work. But I AM really feeling as if… well, I had a bad or just busy 2017… my father’s condition had deteriorated massively, I had a calcified tendon in my shoulder that hurt like heck, and then the painkillers I took caused me the most uncomfortable night of my life. I got a new job (good) but I got kicked out of my apartment (bad), I got a new apartment, promotion at work which means more money but more stress…

        But that was last year and what have I got to moan about now? So I’m starting this year fresh.

        But – yeah – I turn 40 this year, this May actually, and if I haven’t got anywhere by then, I have to start considering things.

        I agree that this is a fantastic website, I’ve been so inspired over the past few days with the positivity and enthusiasm of people to make something of themselves.

        And YOU are a big part of that, if only for your sterling work on AOW. So I hope YOU have success but I also hope you’ll stay on and hope others better themselves.

        To 2018!

        • Randy Williams

          Thank you, Scott. My 2017 wasn’t so good either. Losing my job because of Hurricane Irma was difficult. But, it also allowed me to accept change much more when I was in a much too comfortable groove.

    • Scott Serradell

      Currently in a galaxy far, far away. And having too much fucking fun!

    • jbird669

      Working on an rewrite of Brick House and started my brainstorm/outline for my next script.

    • Erica

      I haven’t written anything since last year…

      Sorry, had to make at least one New Years joke, no one else did.

      Anyways, I got 2 1/2 pages done on my almost completed script. I finally broke through a spot that has stumped me for a month now! Hopefully I’ll be able to finally finish this script in the next short time.

    • Biju B

      Was hoping for 2 pages today.

      Got to 5, and then some. Plus a few ideas for tomorrow’s pages.

      This is January 2018 – 3 days down, 28 to go.

    • Ace

      I don’t know what you do, but is it possible for you to write while you’re at work, even on pen and paper, or is there no way for you to do that?

      If there is, you could actually get a lot done. Even if they’re not actual pages, but just general outlining/planning type stuff.

    • Adam McCulloch

      I’m off to Antarctica on assignment for a few weeks so will not be getting much screenwriting done this month. I’m excited for the former but bummed about the latter.
      But, thanks to wonderful notes from Hickey I’m currently re-writing Deathfest before tackling a new project.

    • RO

      So far for me this year (day 3) I have nearly completed a bible pitch (just need to insert some photos), done all my major character bios, completed the character stories arcs for the pilot episode and categorized them by act and tonight I’ll be typing it up as an outline and maybe even starting a new draft (as I have written 25 pages since New Years). So I think I’m going pretty well.

    • pale yellow

      I’ve been in a bit of a writing slump.. but this inspires me. A friend of mine today asked me to a screenwriting thing in Atlanta too which inspires me. I miss writing but sometimes you get beat down. Give work away. Shorts. Features. Take hardly any money for your work. It gets discouraging. I’ve been doing this five years now, and even though I’ve had at least 10 shorts produced and 2 features…one in the works(the ONLY one I got paid for)… I still have not ‘made it’. But I’m going to follow your lead Scott… I have a thriller concept I want to write and I do well with short deadline goals… so I’m writing one called FLOAT… and I’ll be done by the end of January! :) a vomit draft of course.

  • hickeyyy

    OT: Really cool article about Hollywood trends:

    https://stephenfollows.com/trends-reshaping-film-industry-development-finance/

    Something surprising? Less films are remakes or reboots. Not surprising? Less films are original.

    • brenkilco

      No room for remakes, what with all the prequels, sequels and spinoffs. So it goes.

      By the way, has fewer officially joined split infinitives and the subjunctive in the grammatical graveyard?

      • Scott Crawford

        Whomsoever it may quarrel amongst the hoi polloi. A queer bunch they.

        • brenkilco

          Can I get less hoi with my polloi?

          • Kirk Diggler

            What is tat and how can I trade it for tit?

      • hickeyyy

        ‘Less’ vs ‘fewer’ is one grammatical war I quit fighting, mostly on account of I didn’t know which side I was on at which time.

        • brenkilco

          And now you got one less thing to worry about.

        • JakeBarnes12

          If it’s a “countable” noun (i.e. can have a plural form, such “chair, chairs”) then it’s “fewer.”

          If it’s an “uncountable” noun (i.e. no plural form, such as “butter”) then it’s “less.”

          • Scott Crawford

            Teacher’s pet. Sorry… just teacher.

          • hickeyyy

            That’s easy enough. Thanks for the lesson, Jake.

          • Citizen M

            But… but… if you say “the lesser of two evils”, you have counted the evils.

          • klmn

            Actually no. One is less evil than the other, not fewer in number.

    • Scott Crawford

      Statistically – fecking statistics – the 50s and 60s, the Golden Age of Hollywood, had less originals. Most were books, plays, or even previous movies. The studio system rarely permitted chances; that something was once something else meant that it had a better chance than something that had just come into being (an original screenplay). Plus they didn’t have time.

      With these things, it always depends on how many movies they count. “Hollywood” produces probably more than 500 movies a year, I really don’t know, from the big budget blockbuster to the lowest budgeted exploitationer and everything in between.

      So I looked and the article’s a bit all over the place or I’m a bit tired and need to look at it again later. But it’s focusing on the top 100 grossers so it’s ignoring scores of other movies.

      • brenkilco

        Honestly don’t know if you’re right. There were lots of play and novel adaptations back then. But while sequels and reboots were not uncommon, they were not the norm. Of course there were numerous B movie series films. But best original screenplay was an Oscar category from the beginning. And writers were kept on staff by the studios and expected to do more than just adaptations. Lastly, they made more movies back then.

        • Scott Crawford

          It’s in the old Guinness book of Film Facts but I honestly can’t be bothered to get it out just now! So you’ll just have to trust me. It is a WEIRD statistic that movies became more original, I think it may have more to do with like the NUMBER of movies coming out independently, like in the 70s.

    • klmn

      Interesting article. I was surprised by how many horror films are made. There must be shitloads stashed away in the basements of filmmakers’ parents.

      • Scott Crawford

        Remember a few years ago when it was revealed that horror was, like, the number one genre for spec screenplays? If anyone can find the link…

      • Poe_Serling

        Also, I think a lot of up-and-coming filmmakers over the years have probably been inspired by the ton of top name directors that worked their way up from their early efforts in the horror genre:

        >>Spielberg – Night Gallery, Duel, etc.
        >>Raimi – The Evil Dead, Darkman
        >>others… Coppola, Cameron, Stone… and on and on.

        A more recent success story:

        Director David Sandberg.

        His short film Lights Out was expanded into a hit feature. Then he went on to direct Annabelle: Creation – another moneymaker at the box office.

        His latest gig?

        Shazam! for Warner Bros.

        • Nick Morris

          Just checked out Annabelle: Creation last night. MUCH better than the first one.

          • Poe_Serling

            I just watched it too. Like I mentioned the other day, the only minor issue I had with it:

            I felt the story line jumped a bit willy-nilly from one character to the
            next. So, at times, I wasn’t sure which of the girls was the main
            protag.

          • Nick Morris

            Yeah, I know what you mean there. Good performances all around, though.

        • Scott Crawford

          Michael Arndt said that when he was breaking in he felt there was a choice between horror and comedy, since both could be made relatively cheaply. He chose comedy since he felt that was more about writing and horror was more about the director.

          I don’t entirely agree with this as action, drama, thriller and many other things can be made on a lowish budget but I see his point.

        • RO

          Was Lights Out a hit?

    • Nick Morris

      Stephen Follows has also put together something called “The Horror Report” focused, obviously, on horror film trends. It includes this pretty funny compilation detailing the top recurring tropes with horror movie posters of the last 20 years. :)
      https://stephenfollows.com/six-things-every-filmmaker-should-know-about-the-horror-genre/

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c72c1f850276cadb0d2bc51a5506df70ad8cbb5ef6cb99475cac30c4de011407.png

      • Scott Crawford

        This has been MY problem with horror movies. I am a fan of some horror movies and also what Cushing and Lee called the CINEMA DU FANTASTIQUE – Dracula and Mummy and Frankenstein and so on.

        But there are TOO many horror movies produced and TOO many just look the same. I remember “video nasties” when I was a kid; I never WATCHED them but I would see the video covers in shops and, you know, they at least LOOKED different (this one take place on a farm, this one’s in an apartment building, this guy uses a nailgun, etc.).

        • Nick Morris

          Yes! I miss those crazy old hand-painted VHS horror covers so much. The artwork alone was enough to give a kid browsing the video store shelves nightmares. :)

          • Scott Crawford

            “The cities will be your TOMBS.”

            That haunted me for YEARS.

          • Nick Morris
          • Ashley Sanders

            Graham Humphreys is still working today. A Nightmare On Elm Street. The Evil Dead. And many, many fantastic posters for perhaps … lesser films. His colour palette is always instantly recognizable. I love his work.

            Perhaps when they make Do Not Open, you could stick in your contract, they need to go hand-painted for the poster! ; )

          • Nick Morris

            I can only dream. :)

        • hickeyyy

          There is seemingly always a million different horror movies and most of them look low-budget or bad. I usually have to get a recommendation before I jump into a horror movie, otherwise I am under the assumption it will not be a quality film.

        • Levres de Sang

          “… guy uses a nailgun.” Believe it or not, I’m rather fond of Driller Killer! It’s actually a 16mm art movie with something of a Taxi Driver vibe. It also acts as a record of the NY loft scene of the late 70s.

          I agree with your main point, though, about there being too many identical horror films these days. Guess it’s a proven business model.

          • Scott Crawford

            The Enema Bandit! Jonathan Ross compared it to Mean Streets. But, you know, with a guy going round trying to give women enemas.

      • Ace

        These posters are amazing. The poster for “Psycho” should have been in the building category. Such an iconic looking house. “Would You Rather” would probably be the best example for the eye category, and the poster for the movie House for the hand category.

        • Nick Morris

          House. That’s another old-school poster/VHS case that made an impact as a kid. Not a great movie but kickass cover art!

          • Ace

            True, and I just thought of one more. The incredible poster for John Carpenter’s “The Thing” should have been in the silhouette category.

          • Poe_Serling

            During my many strolls through the horror section of various DVD
            stores and such…

            The cover art that always caught my eye for whatever reason:

            The Howling

            Director Joe Dante just beginning to flex his creative muscles with
            that one.

            I know Dante is getting a producer’s credit on Acarl’s upcoming
            scary pic… which should be getting some kind of release date
            in the near future.

      • klmn

        Some comments on his six points.

        The Image labelled “Silhouette” looks suspiciously like our glorious leader.

        “Horror is the most profitable genre.” He restricts his field to movies making at least $1 at the box office. What about all the movies that never make it past the film festival stage (or aren’t shown at all)?

        “It doesn’t matter what film critics think of a horror movie.” Same response as the last.

        “Horror movies are becoming less disturbing.” If something isn’t disturbing is it really horror? Shouldn’t you be horrified?

        • Nick Morris

          ” He restricts his field to movies making at least $1 at the box office. What about all the movies that never make it past the film festival stage (or aren’t shown at all)?”
          Good point. It probably isn’t taking the myriad films that just go largely unseen into account.

          ” If something isn’t disturbing is it really horror? Shouldn’t you be horrified?”

          Part of me agrees with this but horror, perhaps more so than any other genre, comes in so many different forms. But the current trend, at least as far as the studios are concerned, is PG-13 rated haunted house type stuff. Lighter horror that’s more accessible to a wider, younger audience.

          • klmn

            As for the posters, check out the imagery in this video, featuring the most evil black cat you ever saw.

          • Nick Morris

            Far beyond cool.

  • RO

    Have you ever seen the add for Aaron Sorkin’s screenwriting master class. It’s hysterical. He starts with saying that no one ever starts a sentence with the phrase “damn it!” And I’m thinking, Aaron Sorkin has clearly never spent time in a very poor neighborhood or a factory. I’d lump him in with David E. Kelly. They have characters with clever lines but they’re far from relatable. They’re always financially well off with shallow problems. I mean, Robin Williams couldn’t keep a David E. Kelly comedy on the air.

  • brenkilco

    Sorkin is what passes for clever and sophisticated in 2017. He’s fast, bright, sententious, and artificial. And as I’ve said before he’s only ever written one line that anybody quotes and that’s ‘You can’t handle the truth’ with perhaps a bit of the monologue that follows. But we only remember it because of who said it and how he delivered it. Not because of any intrinsic quality. There are any number of golden age movie writers whose names have been forgotten to whom he couldn’t hold a candle. And yet I agree that he’s the best we’ve got right now.

    The best movies of today are simply not as literate as those of the past. That’s not nostalgia. That’s fact. That the decision makers couldn’t care less goes without saying.

    Google play had a half off coupon recently and I used it to buy a movie I hadn’t seen in years. Funeral in Berlin. Many here will never have heard of it. Perfectly understandable. It was a sequel to the movie that made Michael Caine a star, the spy thriller The Iprcress File. But Funeral didn’t make much money and the critics greeted it with a shrug. It’s really just an example of meat and potatoes sixties film making. But here’s the thing. It’s SO much better than the average movie today. The attitude is more grown up. The dialogue sharp and pointed and witty,the characters distinctive, the plotting clever and well meshed. No big deal fifty years ago. Looks like a minor classic today.

    Now I don’t want to get too misty about the movies of past decades. Tons of crap was produced in the sixties. In every decade. Just that the bar for decent back then was set a bit higher than Wonder Woman. But the target audience today is not adults. Just that simple. Nobody wants a better Sorkin. One today is more than enough.

  • http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts Eldave1

    Re: Sorkin:

    – Moneyball – Loved it.
    – The Social Network – Really liked it.
    – Charlie Wilson’s War – liked it.
    – The Newsroom – loved it
    – The West Wing – favorite series of all time
    – The American President – loved it
    – Malice – loved it
    – A Few Good Men – loved it

    etc.

    So, I like almost everything this dude does and find his work vastly better than 95% of the sheer crapola that passes off as a movie these days. Now, the oddest thing about that is that I also believe you are dead on with your criticism: ” This world of erudite people he constantly writes is the stuff of science fiction. ….”Not even in the highest halls of learning do people speak with one liners or eloquent diatribes loaded up and ready to fire..”

    Where we differ is that IMO that is not what makes Sorkin bad, it what keeps him from perfect. So, I’ll gladly tolerate the far too occasional – WTF how would anybody know that off the cuff – hiccup as a payoff for the absolutely great stories he writes. Same view with Tarentino.

  • Scott Crawford

    OT: Hmmmm…

    https://twitter.com/tom_shone/status/948710016579751936

    “The failure of every PTA movie from ‘Blood’ on: the refusal to develop an antagonist of sufficient stature to challenge the protagonist / seed their self-destruction. Imagine Kane with Kane triumphant. Or the Max De Winter story as Max de Winter would tell it.” – Tom Shone

  • Lou Rawls’ Ego

    The average Lifetime movie is better than this script. The self-seriousness of this script was hilarious—and not in a good way.

  • cjob3

    If there’s one cliche I’m tired of in modern comedies – it’s the corny white people montage-ing to some gangsta rap. I’m thinking of the Hall Pass trailer when they go into Olive Garden or wherever like slow motion thugs. Except they’re not, they’re corny. Get it? There’s probably a million better examples. Anyway, I just read that again in one of the new Blacklist scripts.