Genre: Comedy/Period
Premise: A 1950s Hollywood fixer finds himself on his first job he can’t fix – the star of the studio’s biggest movie ever is kidnapped by a group of communists.
About: This is the Coens’ next movie. As you’d expect, actors are lining up in the hopes that the brilliant character-building brothers can put them in a position to win an Oscar. So this film is stacked. It will star Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton (who it should be required is in every weird movie from here on out until the end of time) and, of course, George Clooney.
Writer: Joel & Ethan Coen
Details: 111 pages

George-Clooney

There’s this rumor going around that I don’t like any movies/screenplays that don’t fall under the traditional safe Hollywood paradigm. This rumor started because I hated scripts and movies such as Upstream Color, Inside Llewyn Davis, Somewhere, and Winter’s Bone.

But it’s simply not true. I like plenty of indie movies. I enjoyed Blue is The Warmest Color, Silver Linings Playbook, Black Swan, Rushmore. What I don’t like is bad storytelling. And because indie film is a place where filmmakers take more chances, the results typically play at the ends of the spectrum, which leads to extreme reactions. So when I don’t like something, I really don’t like it. Inside Llweyn Davis still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean you had the biggest asshole main character of the past decade in a movie without a plot.

And that’s what I don’t get. The Coens are always at their best when they’ve got a good plot going. The Big Lebowski, No Country, and Fargo all had big plots thrusting the story forward. Inside Llewyn Davis had… a lost cat. That was the plot.

And you know what? I don’t even require a plot to like a movie. I need a plot OR great characters. Just one of the two. Like Swingers. Swingers didn’t have a plot. But the movie had great characters, so you enjoyed the ride.

Which leads us to today’s script, the Coens’ latest. And I can start off with some good news. This one actually has a plot. Is that plot any good? Well, let’s take a trip into the Coen Brain Collective (bring any drugs you can locate within the next 10 seconds) to find out.

Eddie Mannix is a fixer. Hollywood in the 1950s is a lot like Hollywood today, with one major difference – it was easier to control the image of its stars. Which was important. Because studios used to OWN stars back then. There wasn’t any of this “free agency” shit. A studio had you under contract. So if you drank a lot, got arrested a lot, were gay, backed up your files on icloud – it was in their best interest to keep that information out of the papers. And that’s where Eddie Mannix came in.  He was the master at getting rid of these problems.

Until this movie of course, when something goes horribly wrong. Mannix’s studio loses the star of its latest Ben-Hur-like film, “Hail, Caesar!” Baird Whitlock is yanked off the set by a bunch of commies, which was a really bad thing to be back in 1951 in Hollywood. These Commies, who happen to be screenwriters, are pissed! They’ve been writing all these movies for Hollywood, but other writers are getting the credit (hey, how is that any different from today?). So they do the obvious thing to enact revenge – they kidnap Baird and demand 100 thousand dollars from the studio (which I’m assuming was a lot of money in 1951).

As word starts to leak out that Baird may have been kidnapped, Mannix must work the phones to keep all the gossip columnists from publishing the story in tomorrow’s paper and ruining his studio’s investment forever. This little event also threatens to rekindle an old rumor of Baird’s that has plagued him since he first got into the business. We’re talking about the “On Wings as Eagles” rumor, which is something so big, so dark, that even Richard Gere would find it disturbing. Mannix has certainly got his work cut out for him. Can he save the day one last time? We shall see!

Let’s start out with the good. This is a lot better than Inside Llweyn Davis. It’s actually fun. In fact, it’s closest in tone to the Coens’ Big Lebowski. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same super memorable characters as Lebowski. Eddie Mannix is a wild-eyed work-hound, but I’m not sure I know anything about him beyond that.

Traditionally, we get to know the main character in a screenplay, understand the flaw holding him back, empathize with him, sympathize with him, hope that he changes, and that’s really why we go along for the ride. We’re rooting for this person to become better and succeed.

The Coens’, as you know, don’t always subscribe to this approach. Their characters have great big flaws, but those flaws aren’t always figured out. Look at The Dude in The Big Lebowski. His flaw is obvious. He’s a lazy irresponsible bum. He has no initiative and does nothing in life. In a normal movie, we’d watch as The Dude realized this, and eventually learned to take initiative.

Instead, The Dude keeps on being The Dude at the end. He’s The Dude. Nothing’s going to change about him. The question is, why does this work when every screenwriting book in the world tells you your main character has to have a flaw and that, over the course of the movie, they must overcome that flaw? It works because The Dude is also one of the most lovable characters ever created. Which means, purposefully or not, the Coens’ are drawing on one of the oldest screenwriting tricks in the business. They made their main character super-likable. And sometimes that’s enough.

Conversely, this is why, I believe, Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t catch fire with the public. The main character was a huge dick.  Maybe this would’ve worked had Llewyn showed growth. Audiences have proven with movies like Groundhog Day that they’re willing to watch a dick if he shows signs of improving. But Llewyn never did.

If you’re going to give us an asshole character AND they’re going to remain an asshole character throughout the movie, fuggetaboutit. I mean the Coens are so amazing at creating secondary characters that they can keep their movies at least watchable (John Goodman and Justin Timberlake were great in Llewyn Davis), but in the end, it’s that protagonist who’s either going to lead you to the promised land or not.

Which brings us back to Hail Caesar. Eddie Mannix was so busy running around saving everybody else’s ass that I never got to know him. So I never really cared. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the Coens missed a major opportunity in connecting us and making us care about Eddie. Eddie didn’t have a major relationship in the film. He never had a girl he liked, a family member he wasn’t getting along with, an important friendship or work relationship. He didn’t have that one thing that got us into his head. Again, look at The Dude. He had Walter (John Goodman). That was the entryway into The Dude’s mind so we could get to know him. That wasn’t here with Eddie.  And it really hurt the screenplay.  I mean how many screenplays survive when you don’t feel like you know the main character afterwards?

So despite having a few fun moments, Hail Caesar was a bit like a runaway chariot race. It eventually went scurrying off the tracks.

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

What I learned: The hero’s key relationship in the story (girl, family member, friend) is one of the easiest ways to get the audience into the hero’s head. It’s through dialogue with these characters that we get to see your hero’s problems, his worldview, his flaws, his fears, his dreams, his insecurities – all the things that make him him. If your main character doesn’t have anyone to talk to, it’s going to be really hard for us to connect with him.

What I learned 2: Frack for drama!  Never forget the importance of stakes for your main character.  If there aren’t major consequences for your hero failing, you’re only mining a fraction of the drama you could be in your movie.  The Coens, who are usually pretty good with stakes, had none here for Eddie (another problem with his character).  I didn’t get the sense that he would be in any trouble if he didn’t find Baird.  We needed that scene where the big scary mobster-like studio head took Eddie aside and said, “This is our biggest movie ever.  I don’t want it to bomb because you didn’t do your job.  You know what happens to people who don’t do their job, right Eddie?”  And that’s all we needed.

  • Montana Gillis

    There’s not much about this concept that screams “SEE IT ON THE BIG SCREEN”. More like “watch it on TCM tonight at 8:00pm”. There’s a ton of stars but that alone won’t overcome a lack of “Story”.

  • lonestarr357

    Haven’t read it, but (re: part 2 of ‘What I learned’) it’d be such a slam dunk to have Michael Lerner not quite as his BARTON FINK character, but in the same vein.

  • Scott Crawford

    I think Carson is preparing himself for a tidal wave of Birdman-like “you-can’t-say-this-the coens-are-the-greatest-I’m-really-looking-forward-to-this” comments. And, unfortunately, I can’t find the Hail Caesar script, so you’ll have to take Carson’s word on this. But I trust him when he talks about a story being weak.

  • Scott Crawford

    What do you get if you don’t have a good story. Well, according to Nordic god Roald Dahl:

    “… the sort of short stories I write, which are real short stories, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, instead of the modern trend, which is mood pieces. I’m judging right now a short-story competition, a very serious big one, and there’s not one single short story I’ve read so far with a plot. They’re all mood pieces. You know: I went down to the kitchen and my wife was there and she had a saucepan and we had a little row and threw the carrots out the window and the dog came in and–they’re concentrating on their writing, and not on the content. Well, the average reader doesn’t care about the writing. They want something which will keep them reading, wondering what’s going to happen next. None of these stories says what’s going to happen next. And then to finish it satisfactorily, so the reader says ha ha, I wouldn’t have guessed that, how fantastic, how fascinating, ooh, golly! That’s jolly hard.”

    Read the whole thing:
    http://www.roalddahlfans.com/articles/twilart2.php

    Here are some Dahl short stories:

    “Beware of the Dog”
    http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/botd.html

    “Lamb to the Slaughter”
    http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/lamb.html

    “Man From the South” (basis for the Quentin Tarantino section of Four Rooms):
    http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/south.html

    • brenkilco

      Dahl was great. The O. Henry of the dark side. Several of his short stories were adapted for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, most famously Lamb to The Slaughter. Did you know he wrote the screenplay for the Bond film “You Only Live Twice.”?

      • Scott Crawford

        He had a shoebox full of ideas, literally; one of the pieces of paper in there said “A girl who can move things with her eyes” and that became “Matilda”.

        He always said that he didn’t want to write “mood pieces”, which as he saw it had no stories.

    • Logic Ninja

      I’d never read “Man from the south.” Thanks! One of the greats, Mr. Dahl. If you’ve never read “Skin,” I’d highly recommend it!

      http://hrsbstaff.ednet.ns.ca/finnemc/Ms._Finnemore_HRSB_webste/Short_Story_12_AC_files/Skin%20-%20Roald%20Dahl.pdf

      • Scott Crawford

        • brenkilco

          This is the reboot. There’s also a version in the original. And I think the young guy with the lighter was Steve Mcqueen.

          • Scott Crawford

            For some reason I got redirected and couldn’t this one at first. OK, for all you B&W fans:

    • bex01

      Awesome quote from Roald Dahl! Love it, thanks for sharing

  • andyjaxfl

    “Not all films need a great story to be a great film.”

    I disagree. Saying a great soundtrack or cinematography can make a great film is the same as saying great SFX or great sound design makes for a great film. If that were the case, JUDGMENT NIGHT, TRANS4MERS and the TOTAL RECALL remake would be considered classics, and both have largely been forgotten.

    • Cfrancis1

      Uh, Total Recall ain’t forgotten by any means. It still has a huge following. Kind of a modern sci-fi classic.

      • brenkilco

        It also had a fairly intriguing plot.

      • andyjaxfl

        I was referring to the remake. Great visuals, lousy characters and story. I love the original. Damn you, Hollywood, for driving Paul Verhoeven out of the country.

        • Scott Crawford

          Do you remember the remake of The Omen from 2006? Probably not. It was written by Dan McDermott, but was credited to the original 1976 writer, David Seltzer – who, as far as I am aware, didn’t touch the script. McDermott didn’t even make enough changes to get a credit.

          Total Recall in 2012… the writers changed EVERYTHING in order to get a credit. But the changes were worse than the original, because the original was really good. Which makes you wonder, what was the point of remaking it in the first place?

          • andyjaxfl

            The only thing I remember about The Omen remake was they tried to capitalize on the 6/6/06 release date, only nobody cared.

            Total Recall 2012 was as pointless of a remake you can get. I could understand if they tried to do something closer to the original novella, but they seemed more concerned with getting in as many wink-wink, nudge-nudge references to the Verhoeven version as possible.

          • JakeMLB

            The writers didn’t change the script simply so they could get credit. That’s not how it works. Even if they wrote a near identical version they’d still get credit because they wrote the actual script. Films are rebooted all the time and are frequently changed because remaking the same exact film would be a bit pointless. Robo Cop. The upcoming Mad Max. The list goes on. I’m not sure I can think of a single remake that was beat-by-beat the same as the original. In the case of Total Recall 2012, it’s highly likely the writers just did the studio’s bidding.

          • Scott Crawford

            So what happened to Dan McDermott’s credit; did he just give it up because he’s a nice guy, along with all those, lovely, lovely residuals?

            Pointless rewriting, like changing all the names, in order to get a credit is one of the dirty secrets of Hollywood, according to Jamie Vanderbilt, who had to do his spell of arbitration once (apparently, you get a couple of candy bars for your trouble!).

          • JakeMLB

            Sure, from what I understand, arbitration is a tricky business with more than enough examples of bad happenings. Why didn’t McDermott get credit? Probably because the draft he wrote was too dissimilar than the draft written by the writers that replaced him. That happens all the time. It may have gone to arbitration and he probably lost. That doesn’t automatically mean something fishy went on unless you have evidence of wrongdoing. Whether the new writers rewrote McDermott’s script just enough to get credit I couldn’t say but I remember reading the early draft of Total Recall 2012 and it was quite different from the final product, not all that good, and lacked the polish of the final film (I can’t recall if that was McDermott’s draft). New writers get brought on to replace other writers all the time. Do they sometimes change things just to get credit? Probably. But do they also change things because a) they went to tell their own story in their own voice and b) the studio wants something different? Sure. I’d imagine the latter is more common but the former probably does happen. The arbitration system might need fixing but it’s still a somewhat competent attempt to settle accreditation.

          • Scott Crawford

            It’s difficult to know for sure… and they sure-as-shit aren’t going to tell you. From imdb on Pluto Nash: “The original script was written in 1985 (I think by Neil Cuthbert – Scott). A dozen other writers wrote treatments of it, but Neil Cuthbert was the only one credited.”

            Similar thing happened with Fifty First Dates and Hitch; every writer in town worked on those scripts, but only the original writers (George Wing and Kevin Bisch respectively) got credited.

          • JakeMLB

            Yeah it’s really unfortunate how some of this stuff goes, especially the growing trend of writers having to write treatments when bidding for jobs. And while that shouldn’t be the way it happens, the more you listen to new or mid-level writers (like the one on SS recently), the more you see that it’s simply the state of the business and something you’ll likely have to accept.

          • Scott Crawford

            Yeah, never write a “leave behind”. David Hayter reckons some of the ideas he pitched for a certain superhero movie ended up in that certain superhero movie. Then again, if you’re desperate for a job….

            Like I say, the DARKER side of Hollywood screenwriting.

          • JakeMLB

            For light to exist, there must be darkness! :)

          • mulesandmud

            Respectful disagreement, if I may.

            If a producer of note, with whom you have developed a rapport, asks you to write something up for free regarding a project that is interesting to you, then by all means do it.

            Amateurs and young pros only have one advantage over veterans and A-listers, which is that we are not yet jaded enough to demand that the commencement check clear before we put pen to paper.

            Of course some pros like to grouse about all the unpaid writing that other pitching writers do; that’s because they are having jobs taken from them by people who are willing to do more work in advance.

            Hayter is absolutely right that ideas you toss off in a pitch meeting may end up in movies you don’t write. That’s a professional hazard, totally unavoidable. It’s also an opportunity: if you can show in the room that you can toss off brilliant, movie-worthy suggestions on cue, then that makes you a creative powerhouse, and sooner than later that ability will land you a job. Being circumspect and not fully participating in a creative conversation is the surest way of making yourself irrelevant to it.

            The real trick to protecting yourself isn’t avoiding free work, it’s knowing the shape of the industry and knowing the person you’re talking to. Is this someone I can trust? Someone who can get things done? Is this a project worth my (unpaid) time? If you can make those decisions in an informed, strategic way, then doing a leave behind to secure a worthwhile project is a no-brainer.

  • brenkilco

    The Coens are tough. By this point, considered as a single creative entity, they are unquestionably the greatest writer/director in American movies. Not perfect. Probably too ironic, too detached. And as Carson suggests they may strangely be least successful when they are most themselves. They are capable of creating marvelous stories as in Miller’s Crossing and Fargo. But they seem happiest simply creating eccentric characters and writing scenes to let them interact, with barely enough plot to glue the scenes together. It helps that they write the best comic dialogue this side of Wilder and Sturges.

    What I’m not getting from this review is the tone. It sounds like it could be a screamingly funny, dark farce. But is it? Is Mannix only doing PR damage control or is he also responsible for getting the star back? Does the situation play out ingeniously or predictably? How are the secondary characters? And how is the dialogue? Are the individual scenes memorable? The situation seems to have plenty of GSU. As for the lead character, the Coens have been pretty successful with lead characters who change little in the course of the narrative(Marge in Fargo, The sheriff in No Country) and even those who remain somewhat closed off(Llewyn Davis and Tom in Miller’s Crossing). Since I don’t have the script I’d like to no more.

  • sotiris5000

    Carson, it feels like instead of talking about Hail Caesar, you are using this review to justify your previous negative review of Inside Llewyn Davis. ILD has got a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and it won numerous awards. I don’t think it’s fair to say that it didn’t ‘catch fire with the public’, I mean, it got a pretty much universal thumbs up.

  • Cfrancis1

    I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Coen Brothers fan. But I have to admit, Llweyn Davis left me completely cold.

  • Ambrose*

    What you said about not knowing much about Eddie Mannix is true, Carson.
    We never learn much about him in the script other than he’s mulling over taking another job. For help with this he seeks the counsel of a priest and says the rosary.
    But there really isn’t any pressure on him to make a decision one way or another. He can stay where he is, doing what he likes to do, or he can go with another company which is actively seeking his services.
    As an audience member there’s no real pull either way. I wasn’t rooting for him to stay or go.
    There was so sense of urgency or danger to him or his loved ones. His wife seemed to be fine with whatever decision he made.
    And as you mentioned, he doesn’t change over the course of the story. His character has no arc, which in most movies is not the case. A notable exception is James Bond.
    The way they tied up the story of the Communists was a little weak for my taste but maybe it’ll play better onscreen.
    Having said all that, I will definitely see this movie when it comes out because of its quirky tone and I’m sure the Coen Brothers will populate it with a bevy of interesting, offbeat character actors, which can be half the fun of a Coen Brothers movie.
    It won’t be one of their best but they’re about the only filmmakers who can make this type of movie nowadays – and have Hollywood stars lined to play a role – and that’s a good thing in my book.
    I had two or three little quibbles with the details in the script, one of which was Eddie’s son’s coonskin cap. The film is set in 1951 (before I was born) but the Davy Crockett movie – which I’m guessing set off the coonskin cap fad – didn’t come out until 1955, so I’m not sure if that’s historically accurate.
    Maybe one of the elder statesmen of Scriptshadow can clear that up for me. Maybe coonskin caps were popular before the Davy Crockett headgear frenzy of the mid-50s, a sort of Duck Dynasty precursor.

  • leitskev

    Really wish I had the script, I love a good Coen Brothers discussion. It seems that Carson really nailed the problems, though hard to say until I see the story.

    I am also interested to discuss the problem of flaw. And Carson is right, I think the screenwriting gurus do not have a grasp on how it really works. Let me take stab. When considering flaw, the important thing, as with other aspects of the story, is to establish audience desire. Whatever stands in the way of the audience desire that is established creates tension and drama. For example, in the rom com or romance, the set up infuses the audience with a desire to see the two characters come together. The drama unfolds around whatever is in the way of that coupling.

    Normally when we successfully establish a character with a flaw what happens is we have a character who we want to succeed, and he us not succeeding because of some flaw. It’s an internal obstacle, comparable to the external ones, such as the bad guy or Mount Everest. We want to the character to overcome his flaw and change not because we want to see him grow…who cares about that from a drama perspective. We want him to overcome it just like any other obstacle, because we want him to succeed. The important thing is that we want to see something happen(his success) and there is something in the way(his flaw).

    But in some stories, flaw is not a barrier to what we want to see happen, so there is no reason for us to want to see the character overcome it. Example: the recent Sherlock Holmes series. Holmes has a flaw: he is immature. At the basic level of his personality, he doesn’t want to grow up. He wants to continue living the life of a bachelor, gambling, doing drugs, playing around at solving cases. And Watson, his partner in crime in that, wants to grow up. He gets engaged, moves out of the bachelor pad. What drives the story is that we actually DON”T want these characters to overcome their flaw. The opposite in fact. Because they have great chemistry, and more than anything else we want to see them together as a team. The obstacle to that is….wait for it…them overcoming their flaws. If Holmes overcomes his flaws, he grows up and becomes boring, and the band never gets back together(Watson and Holmes). We don’t want that. So the device of flaw is used in a contrary way here.

    Likewise with the Dude. We don’t want to see him change. The story is about a world that wants to change us, and the world wants to change the Dude. He resists that change and we love him for it. The drama exists in watching him resist it. Even when the bad guys hold his head the toilet, he cracks jokes. Always the Dude.

    Luke does not change in Star Wars, not really. Sure, he has to learn to trust the force, but was that really a flaw? The important thing is Luke remains who he always was: a self sacrificing kid who wants to be a hero. That never changes.

    The key thing is to understand what kind of dramatic desire you are trying to set up with the audience. Flaw is just a device, no different than the antagonist. How it is used depends on the desire built in the audience. What does the audience want to see? Usually we want to the character succeed, so it depends on what that success entails. If the flaw is an endearing quality that we don’t want to see changed, then the antagonistic forces should be set up in the story in a way that constantly tries to force change on the character and he must resist those forces.

    • Midnight Luck
      • JakeBarnes12

        Thanks, Midnight. Looking forward to the read.

        • Midnight Luck

          no problem. sadly it seems, see Scott above^, i guess it isn’t the right script. It says it is the 3rd Draft? not sure if it is or isn’t.

          • JakeBarnes12

            I want my two hours back!

          • Midnight Luck

            damn. sorry, thought it was what it said it was.

          • JakeBarnes12

            Kidding, kidding. Hadn’t cracked it open yet. Thanks for trying.

      • Scott Crawford

        Afraid it’s not the right script. Tricky, no one seems to have this script. I’ve got a few Coen scripts – To the White Sea, Cuba Libra – but not this one.

        • Midnight Luck

          ok. it says it is a 3rd draft, not sure. simplyscripts has it posted saying it is. but who knows. maybe yes, maybe no. Cason read something, is this it, or something else?

          • Scott Crawford

            Carson has access to dark places I cannot go. I can’t find this one. I can’t find Three Mississippi either, so I’m hoping Carson’s reviewing THIS script tomorrow instead (he said he might):
            https://www.sendspace.com/file/7bqtoe

            Otherwise, and no offence to The Hooded Man, but no one will be able to disagree with his reviews because we don’t have access to those scripts.

          • Midnight Luck

            hey, cool. thanks for that.

          • andyjaxfl

            I was a big Marcus Sakey fan until The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes. I’m a sucker for amnesia books/movies/TV shows, but what a disappointment. Thanks for the share.

          • Scott Crawford

            Carson is choosing between this script, Brilliance, and Three Mississippi, which I don’t have, to review tomorrow. It would be interesting if people could at least read the first few pages of a script Carson’s reviewing.

      • leitskev

        Thanks Midnight, looks like not the Coen one. I did manage to get it from someone else, though. Thank you!

      • tobban

        Thanks for the link !
        I just downloaded it and will read tonight.

        • Midnight Luck

          well others are saying it isn’t the actual script, or it might not be, just so you are warned. I haven’t read it, I just found it this morning when Carson’s post went up. I guess a few people have the right one, maybe ask them to send it along.
          Good luck.

  • cjob3

    Sounds like they should have paired Eddie up with a dame or an orphan.

  • ASAbrams

    These points may be valid, but “traditional safe Hollywood paradigm” and “indie movies” aren’t necessarily opposing entities. A person saying she or he likes indie movies isn’t evidence that that person likes experimental or unconventional films. Plenty of indie productions follow a traditional storyline with conventional characters.

    Also…The Big Lebowski didn’t actually make that much money so I’m not sure what the “catch fire with the public” is all about. Unless another Coen movie is being referred to, but another one wasn’t mentioned.

    If a person prefers the Hollywood paradigm, then so be it. An individual can’t like everything. Know what you like. And there’s no reason to say that you like something when you don’t.

  • jw

    I don’t always agree with Carson, but I have to say that I’m fully with him on “crack-pot” storytelling hiding behind the guise of “indie” and I’ve been saying it a while now. There’s indie storytelling that is bad-ass – NARC, and then there’s meandering storytelling being passed off as “indie” like Winter’s Bone. There’s a lot of conversation here around “quality” of storytelling and whether one is a professional versus amateur, and I think one should look no further than the follow-ups to these “indie” films and where the writers are now, in order to understand if the writing was actually professional or not. Look at Joe Carnahan and what he’s done since Narc and then look at the writer / director of Winter’s Bone and see what level of activity she has. Although admittedly different focuses as individuals (she’s doing a documentary), I look at a lot of this stuff and you can really see whether or not a film was actually of a higher quality or not truly based upon what comes after. Another good example is Diablo Cody and Juno. Absolutely HATED that film, didn’t understand the attention and 7 years later feel pretty vindicated in the sense that there hasn’t been another success since. Sometimes luck has something to do with it!

    • Scott Crawford

      Great point as usual, although the importance of story is not always the most popular view on this board.

      Got a few Carnahan scripts: Do you have “Death Wish” remake, “The Snowman”, or “Killing Pablo”? Leave an e-mail if you want them.

      • jw

        White Jazz is my favorite.

        • sotiris5000

          Is this based on the Elroy book? I’d love a copy please.

          • jw

            It is. What’s your email?

          • sotiris5000

            Thanks dude. It’s my disqus username at Hotmail dot com. I really appreciate it.

          • Sherif001

            Can please get it also.
            s.r.alabede@gmail.com

          • jw

            Sent to all. Thanks to Scott for the link as well. I don’t know what it is about reading scripts on that site, but it drives me nuts. I have to have the file open in front of me to “properly” read!

          • Scott Crawford

            It’s horrible, everyone prefers a PDF!

          • Sherif001

            Please send it here.
            s.r.alabede@gmail.com

          • CRAYONSEED

            Me, too, please! My disqus name @icloud.com

        • Scott Crawford

          Here’s a link for White Jazz:
          http://www.imsdb.com/scripts/White-Jazz.html

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        The Snowman and Killing Pablo… Are they Carnahan scripts ? If so, would you please send them to me ?
        marija dot nielsen at gmail
        I’m a fan of Joe Carnahan, I absolutely love NARC and THE GREY ! I read his Death Wish the other day. It was… weird, to say the least. Written more like a novel than a script but still very immersive.

      • ursus

        Love to read Death Wish and The Snowman.
        jrushbear [at] aol {{dot}} com
        Thanks!

    • JakeMLB

      How can you feel vindicated regarding Diablo Cody? Young Adult was quite good and landed Cody several nominations for best screenplay. I agree with your general point but Cody probably isn’t the best example.

      • Kirk Diggler

        I enjoyed Young Adult too. Charlize was great in that. I didn’t like “Jennifer’s Body”. I liked “Juno”. Couldn’t get into “United States of Tara”. She’s hit and miss… like most writers! The Cohens being a great example of how I love some of their films while some others leave me scratching my head.

    • Linkthis83

      oh man do I want to rant :) It’s not necessary though – I’ve got some work meetings to attend in a bit so I will type as much as I can – Which means it won’t be well organized.

      I think this comes down to paradigms and your own personal value system. For me, each script/story is it’s own entity. So if someone likes WINTER’S BONE, the value of that film/script isn’t less or more depending on the work that individual has done since then. (this is where I want to yell). A film is the result of many different individuals and influences. And whether it’s a film loved by many or just one, it has value to whoever enjoyed it (and to those who created it).

      And then you have to look at who else is “saying” something has value or doesn’t. I looked at Diablo Cody’s IMDB page and she seems to be plugging away. You may think her work isn’t quality, and to support that claim you are basically saying “See, I told you Juno wasn’t any good because what has she done since.” Ummm…if people felt that JUNO was good when it first existed, then that’s what they thought.

      I like WINTER’S BONE. It doesn’t matter what happens after the fact. I liked it. It still remains as it is.

      Writer’s don’t have to craft multiple great stories or quality scripts for just one to be meaningful, impactful, etc (I can’t believe I had to type that sentence). — I must be misinterpreting your post. I must.

      • jw

        Link, I enjoy your posts, but sometimes I think you take this stuff a little too personally. Basically what I’m saying is that Cody wins Oscar for best screenplay and is now doing small television with no other “hit” since. That’s all. Nothing complicated about it. Massive hit that I didn’t really think it deserved and a few years later, mediocre television at best… enough said really. You should go smoke a joint and relax. Your blood pressure’s a little high.

        • ReadMoreDolt

          Don’t go challenging link’s “paradigm.” :)

        • Linkthis83

          Hey now, I was quite calm when I wrote that. I was trying to highlight that I wanted to rant about it, but didn’t feel it was necessary at all.

          I took your post to say – Juno didn’t deserve the award because of what the writer has done since. I think that’s absurd. That’s all.

          • jw

            That’s not what I said at all. What I said was that you can look to see if the writer of an “indie” film (at the time) has the professional chops by what comes after. Even for those talking about Young Adult, which I thought was a meandering waste of time, the fact of the matter is that Cody seems to only be able to write 2 characters – young teens who talk like they’re adults and adults who act like they’re teens. I don’t know, but for me that gets old really quickly. Just my opinion though, so relax Link — I don’t want you having an aneurism because of ScriptShadow.

          • Linkthis83

            Still not animated. Lol. I need a fun font for this reply. And I did misunderstand your point, which is what I was trying to figure out.

        • JakeMLB

          Sure, she’s done nothing but small TV as long as you overlook YOUNG ADULT (nominated for best screenplay WGA), JENNIFER’S BODY and now RICKI AND THE FLASH with Meryl Streep. If that’s what you consider failure, you’re in the wrong business.

          • jw

            Jake, I love your replies. They’re always great!

          • JakeMLB

            Hah, I like calling people out on things I disagree with. It allows an opportunity to learn another’s opinion that may then change my own opinion. I guess it comes off as confrontational but that’s only when caffeine is involved :}

          • jw

            Ahahahah! No, not confrontational at all. I guess that’s why someone came up with the phrase, “opinions are like assholes, everyone’s got one.” And, honestly, we’re all striving to get into an industry where everyone and their grandma has an opinion about something, so the sooner we learn to live with other’s opinions (especially when they differ from our own) and not have them so easily effect us, the better. Always a pleasure!

          • walker

            Actually, the reason someone came up with that unfortunate phrase is because they were utterly lacking in imagination and verbal dexterity.

          • jw

            Ahahahah! Love it! Well said.

          • walker

            Just to clarify, I am getting on the originator of the phrase and not you jw. You are frequently opinionated and acerbic but that’s ok with me.

          • jw

            Ahahah! No need to clarify. It’s all good. We all mean well at the end of the day. My comments try to come from a place of “moving forward” and often because of my background I’m the first to say something and to take a position that can be the antithesis of the “norm” so I’m used to catching flack. As in the case of “AOW betterment” eventually the crowd comes around! Always a pleasure.

          • walker

            Yes I have noticed that there is something of a consensus building that AF and AOW could be better. It raises an interesting question as to whether AF is for getting a review and feedback or for showcasing an already pretty decent script.

          • jw

            And, there are 2 things with that – 1. the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. The idea you can’t mix it up is just incorrect because Carson can do whatever he wants. 2. What AF began as isn’t what it needs to remain. All good things evolve and when they don’t is usually when they become stagnant, stale and disgruntlement forms. This is what business deals with on a daily basis, which is why I deal with it on a daily basis, so a bit of my “reaction” or response comes from that angle — looking at something and attempting to identify how it can “exceed” the expectations of those who use it. We live in a world that is ever-changing on an hourly basis and you can’t really just sit and watch it turn around you without doing anything. Just my 2 pennies.

          • Paul Clarke

            Not to mention I read she gets paid more to do uncredited rewrites on many other “big” films.

            I guess if she can’t win an Oscar every film then she must be a failure right? — Wrong business indeed.

    • Brainiac138

      How can you say Winter’s Bone had a meandering story? It was basically a detective mystery with a strong goal, high stakes, and a lot of urgency. I think there is a blog somewhere that states those things are really important.

    • Magga

      Young Adult is great

  • Linkthis83

    Seeing this poster again makes me happy.

  • Randy Williams

    Sounds like a great mystery box, a celebrity with a deep dark secret, I’m intrigued by that aspect of the script, but what is an “On Wings as Eagles” rumor?

    and is it revealed and was it shocking?

  • Kirk Diggler

    It’s hard to believe anyone on this board would give Carson a hard time for hating “Somewhere”. A meaningless movie about an aimless actor starring a guy known more for hawking e-cigarettes than just about anything else he’s done.

  • leitskev

    He’s back! I was really worried. The place is MUCH better with his insights and comments. Good to see you, G.

    And your points are well taken. I’m not sure a refusal of the call is necessarily a flaw, and I would say it is not. Generally a flaw is something that is worked out later in the story, not at the end of the first act.

    We do see the maturation of a boy. But does that involve a flaw? Is it a flaw to be worried about getting home to the farm on time? Luke grows. But he does not essentially change. But who DOES change? Hans Solo!

    What most makes the story work…contrary to all the hero’s journey stuff, which helps, but is secondary in the end…is the relationship of Luke and Hans. Luke is a believer, Hans is not. Luke wants to be a hero, Hans is out for himself. We like Hans because he is the swashbuckler. We want HANS to change…not Luke. There is a risk Luke could become like Hans. And we sense both characters are alone in the world and need each other. We WANT them to be together. For that to happen, one of them must change. And we don’t want it to be Luke, because we admire his qualities. In the end, it is Hans that changes, and it’s the most powerful moment in the movie. THIS is the stand up and cheer moment…NOT the destruction of the death star.

    Your move Mr. G. Welcome back.

    • JakeMLB

      I think the mistake is simply in calling it a “flaw” because there’s a certain negative connotation to that. I prefer framing it as an “internal obstacle” as you have. That’s much more operational and truer to reality. Of course there are indeed characters who don’t have any internal obstacle which speaks again to the idea of doing what’s best for your particular story.

      • leitskev

        Yes, I like internal obstacle better. The key thing is identifying what the obstacle is, and this has to account for what the goal is. In Sherlock Holmes, we don’t want the hero to change. But there is pressure on him to change. The drama centers on his resisting change…not because he should. But because we in the audience like him the way he is. Same as with the Dude. Maybe the Dude should grow up and get a job. But we like him the way he is. The central drama is set up that this is the Dude, it’s the way he is, and he will resist change. We root for him to succeed in that battle.

        • JakeMLB

          I feel like the internal conflict or fatal flaw is a bit more relevant to film since in film we’re really trying to have the character overcome that conflict in a meaningful way by the end. In other words, we want a resolution by the end. In TV, that’s not always the case. If Walter White had gone full badass by end of season 1, there’d probably be little drama left in terms of his character. Similarly in Sherlock, we don’t want the hero to change necessarily but it’s important that we see that inner conflict as it gives the audience some long-term investment in the character outside of each individual episode. By the series end, Sherlock will likely be forced to grow up, or he won’t, but either way there will be some kind of resolution.

          • leitskev

            I think that you are correct in that this is usually the case. What confuses people is that this is a means, not an end. Showing that a character has changed or grown is not an end in itself. What we want is the tension that comes from obstacles to the story objectives…objectives that the audience MUST care about. Indiana Jones had to learn that there are things more important than attaining the treasure. He learns this, eventually, through his relationship with Marion. And it saves their lives, because when they open the ark, he has them both close their eyes.

            Flaw or internal conflict is a device, just like the antagonistic force is the external conflict. True, in most stories it is a device which brings about change, but change is not the goal as far as the dramatic conflict is concerned. The goal is whatever the story objective is. In the case of Sherlock, the team of Watson and Holmes is ending as the story begins, their chemistry is well established for the audience in such a way that we want to see them together. For this to happen, Holmes must NOT change, and Watson must to a degree fail in his effort to change.

            Let’s take a stab at the movie Drive. The Driver has a monster within, one which he has contained all his life. When he meets the woman next store and gets close to her and her boy, it awakens in him a belief that he can be human. It’s the Frankenstein story, really. He now believes he can be normal. But when she gets into trouble, and he tries to help, he learns that the only way is to unleash the monster he has worked so hard to contain. On the elevator, he understands that the guy in front is going to kill them. He can save them by unleashing the monster, but he knows once he does she can never see him the same again. So he kisses her first…then unleashes it.

            The tragedy is that he cannot change now. But he accepts that he can use it to save the only one he cared about. In a sense, there is change because he is now a monster who did once love and connect.

          • JakeMLB

            Yes you’re right that it’s a device in your story as any other. But most successful films do use it which is why it’s so popular in analysis. In your examples you also highlight another aspect of the inner conflict device that’s often discussed — and that’s the fact that it works best when it relates directly to the external conflict. I mean that’s practically a must although there are always exceptions. Your excellent breakdown of Drive highlights this exactly. I might have to rewatch it now with this in mind! I’ve only seen the first season of Sherlock so I haven’t quite seen the relationship of the two tested to its fullest although that was obviously a prominent theme in the first season. And you’re right that change is not always the goal. I think it’s been discussed here before by Grendl (and yourself?) but sometimes the inner conflict is about a character resisting change while being pressured to change which is where Sherlock would fit.

          • leitskev

            Oh, I meant the Sherlock Holmes movies. Sorry about that. I have not seen the TV series.

            Another interesting take on change is the Godfather, a Grendl fave. I’ll see if I can provoke him.

            In the Godfather, Micheal is presented as the good hero who stays out of the family crime business. But the brilliant effect of the story is to bring the audience to WANT him to join the family business. So we actually want him to perform murder. He is the hero, we have been made to care about the family, so we want Michael to play his role as the hero, which requires him to change and become what he has resisted: a criminal.

            The story is dastardly because we don’t realize the full ramification until later that this change has cost our hero his soul. That’s why it’s brilliant. So we do want the hero to change, but at the very end we are unhappy that he did.

            None of the boys was able to follow in the father’s shoes. The Don made sure the family stayed together. Under Michael, it comes apart. He kills his brother in law, his brother(in II) and he divorces his wife(in II). So Michael changes…but he never becomes like the old man.

            Maybe there is an aspect of that in Drive. Initially, we want him to change by connecting to the woman and her boy. He becomes human. Note how this story only calls him Driver, no name. Just like Monster.

            When he needs to monster to reemerge to save his loved one, we root for that to happen, not realizing that it will result in his inability to be human again once the cat is out of the bag. Thus the tragedy. Similar, though not the same, as Michael Corleone.

            The important thing is that the audience always wants to see something happen(Holmes and Watson getting together again, Hans Solo changing, Luke growing but not changing, Michael being the hero for the family, the Dude not changing) and the thing that stands in the way(internal or external) creates the tension.

            Thanks for the discussion as always.

          • JakeMLB

            Ah okay, that explains a lot! Not sure why I assumed the TV series.

            The UK TV series is excellent! Check it out.

            Uh oh, not Godfather again… lol

            I’ll have to rewatch Drive again as I don’t recall getting the vibe that he was repressing a monster. I mean he was still a getaway Driver and all right? Or do you mean once he meets the woman? It makes sense but it’s been a while so I’ll need to refresh my memory. Either way, I think you’re right in that the film needs to establish a question regarding the character’s inner conflict, establish the positive and negative forces (internal or external) that will test that question throughout the film and finally, provide an answer.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Highly recommend the DVD extras.
            The director compares the movie to a fairy tale.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Someone once said the difference between television and movies
            is that in television — the characters don’t change. (Generally speaking.)
            People tune in each week to see the same character, not a different one. Some exceptions — the evolving characters of Breaking Bad, True Detective, Homeland and some other series.

  • MaxNorm

    I’ve never read Carson’s ”Breathless” review. But I’m hoping he gave the film a ”what the fuck did I just fucking fuck watch?!?”. That movie is unbearable. Just a French gigolo running around with a cigarette in his mouth, lurking at underaged girls, making monkey faces in the process.

    ”Upstream Color possesses beautiful cinematography”…. so does every National Geographic show. But this is the business of telling stories. Also, Upstream Color felt like reading a depressed/angsty teenage girl’s diary. Ohhhh so very profound…

    ”Inside Llewyn Davis had a great soudntrack”…. See The Last Waltz. Again, this is the business of telling stories.

    There needs to be a balance between artistic integrity and entertainement value. The greatest works of in the medium are all beautifuly shot and scored, and they all manage to tell incredible stories.

    Again, artistic integrity vs entertainement value. You need BOTH.

    • James Michael

      hahaha couldnt agree more with this.
      Storytelling always comes first

      I remember watching the special features for Reservoir Dogs and Tarintino said something to the effect that he new he had such a great script and such great actors that he could film the whole thing infront of a white backdrop and still have an awesome movie. I cant see that being the same for Upstream Color

  • klmn

    I wonder if there are any similarities between Eddie Mannix here and the real life Anthony Pellicano?

    A few years ago Pellicano was making waves because of his involvement in a few celeb scandals and was ultimately sent to prison.

    • Scott Crawford

      I’m just not sure if the Coens are interested by modern-day Hollywood power politics and celebrity. Not certain, but they just don’t seem like those kind of guys. I think Eddie Mannix is probably more or a Lew Wasserman/”Swifty” Lazar- like character, though not an agent.

    • Poe_Serling

      Eddie Mannix also popped up in “Hollywoodland” – the 2006 pic about the circumstances surrounding the death of TV actor George “Superman’ Reeves.

      • klmn

        I watched that not long ago, but the name didn’t stick with me.

        • Poe_Serling

          Mannix’s wife had a long-term affair with Reeves.

  • Scott Crawford

    Welcome to Scriptshadow, Alex!

    On your point: it’s difficult to fully invest in a screenplay where the lead character is selfish, nihilistic, misanthropic, and so on. Not impossible, but – as most screenplay books will tell you! – most stories are about someone trying to achieve a goal, and if the reader doesn’t care whether the hero achieves that goal or not, you’ve lost them. It’s not a question of whether Syd Field was right or Carson Reeves wrong, but just read a bunch of screenplays (including some submitted to this website) and you’ll see the problem of not empathizing with the lead.

    Something I heard from, I think Mark Cousins some years ago: the Greeks explored the dichotomy between good and evil through their heroes. In Die Hard, say, you have the good (Holly) and the evil (Gruber). In between you have the hero, John McClane. He does evil things – he lies, steals, kills, blows things up – but in order to do good. Sort of Jekyll and Hyde. However, if you have a hero who does bad things for selfish reasons, you MAY have a problem with your script. And I THINK that was Carson’s point.

    Keep posting!

  • Nicholas J

    I looked at that picture of George Clooney and now I’m pregnant. Please advise.

    • klmn

      Lawyer up.

  • mulesandmud

    He’s out!

    (Sorry, couldn’t find it on youtube.)

    http://www.hulu.com/watch/12830

  • leitskev

    Yes, good comparison to Platoon.

    When does Luke say no to running off like Han? I don’t remember that being an option. I remember Luke trying to get Hans to stay and fight. So in theory there is a moment of choice, but it’s not really presented as such in the story. For there to be choice, there has to be some doubt, some struggle. After Luke’s uncle is killed, I don’t recall there being any struggle, other than having to trust in the force.

  • leitskev

    Everything you have said is true and is part of the standard analysis of Star Wars. Those elements are all indeed there and Lucas was very conscious of them. But the emotional success of the story depends on the relationship of Hans and Luke. Yes, Luke in a sense has a choice: the way of Kenobi or the way of Hans. And of course, since there is nothing like the personality if Hans in Luke, what this means is we hope that Luke will not change into Hans: selfish and cynical. The very essence of many a dark hero. But not what we want from Luke.

    However, we very much want Hans to change…to become like Luke! That relationship is more important to the audience than any other. We want to see Hans become more the selfless hero like Luke, and we want to see that friendship cemented. Hans is the one who changes. Luke grows up, sure, but Hans changes. Hans has his character flaw healed.

  • Paul Clarke

    Good to see you back Grendl.

    I agree, Luke’s overcoming a flaw is pretty clear. Not to mention it doesn’t have to be the main character overcoming a flaw. Sometimes they’re there to help others (Han). In fact in terms of coming-of-age films Star Wars may just be the best example around. It’s no coincidence that the character who represents the all-powerful authority figure in his life is in fact his own father.

    Star Was is the perfect example of the two different arcs that can take place:

    The character who is already all he needs to be but has to learn to believe in himself (Luke).

    And the character who believes in himself already, when in actual fact isn’t all that he thinks he is and must change for the better (Han).

    Having them work side by side as this happens is genius.

  • charliesb

    “this film is stacked. It will star Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton”

    That this is considered “stacked” made me a little sad. Tilda is a talent for sure, but the lines between box office draw and gifted actor seem to be growing further and further apart.

    Or perhaps I’m just getting old and all the actors I love are past their prime.

  • carsonreeves1

    What in GOD’S NAME??? Grendl is alive! Dare I say I’m… happy?