Sunday, October 14, 2012

Whatever Works - A Short Analysis & Thoughts

After a short day in which my Psychology class became the only significance I could find for the 12 hours I had been awake I decided to finally watch Woody Allen's 2009 Comedy/Romance Whatever Works. After reading a few reviews of the film after seeing it I came to realize I may be in the minority of  opinions on the film.

Whatever Works takes a dive into a peculiar style of narration that hasn't been experimented with in quite some time. Especially not to the extreme that Woody Allen takes it compared to his earlier films. This of course is the aspect in which our protagonist Boris Yelnikoff (Larry David) speaks directly to us; the audience. Breaking the 4th wall. You really feel like it's Allen himself speaking directly to you in these long sequences where we get a detailed diagram inside the mind of Yelnikoff via Woody Allen's brilliant writing and Larry David's flawless, authentic style of acting. This film as a whole feels much like a roller coaster ride through the nooks and cranny's of the deepest thoughts in Woody Allen's brain - and not just a tricky love story between a few fictional characters. I don't mean to look down upon any of Allen's other recent films, because I love them all. I really do. I'm one the few who actually loves Anything Else.

There is a specific facet of comedy in Whatever Works that I must say I have never seen. I'm not claiming to be any sort of cinefile, so don't bark at me and say this film, and that film did this years ago. Please politely recommend these films to me in a nice and orderly manner. Anyway, the facet of comedy that I'm speaking of are the sequences where Boris acknowledges that there are many people standing around all of them watching and listening. This is never followed through with a confirmation that there are in fact a group of people, maybe even a camera crew around them though. There are a few times in the film where we get a very personal feeling toward the characters when they stare right into our eyes as they look for these people that Boris apparently sees. At the end of the film this is utilized to convey that Boris's genius is his crutch. He sees the big picture, therefore he can't exactly live happily and relaxed. He knows too much.

One interesting feature in this film is the shift of powers between the protagonist (Boris) and the Antagonist (Melody). I found myself rooting for Boris's genius, complex thought's on the everyday life, universe and religion. I thought he'd be the perfect guy to teach this young lady a thing or two about reality and life to help her. This was interested, because toward the end of the film Boris's ways became quite tragic and eventually led to his breakup with Melody, which in turn changed my perspective on who was really the teacher here. Melody had taught Boris to not be so cynical all the time. Although he does eventually embrace his genius and his views on life - he does become a much happier and emotionally fulfilled man by the end of the film.

It made perfect sense to me when I discovered that Allen wrote this screenplay in the 70's. It has the closest resemblance of the tone of early Woody Allen films such as Annie Hall, and Manhattan.

I truly adore all of Woody Allen's films that have come after Whatever Works, although there is part of me that wishes more of them would resemble the similar tone and comedy that Whatever Works obtains.

Now for my last note:

Dear Woody Allen,

Please cast Louis C.K. as the lead in your next film.

Thank You,
Michael M. Jones

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Standards of Art (at least "good art")

Defining standards for art can be tricky. This is because each individual has a different perspective. Weather it's taste buds or an opinion on a piece of art, we all have a unique point of view and perspective to provide. Although, there are a few broad standards that most people will agree with.

* Art should create an emotion in the consumer. And like I said this will be the same emotion, or a different emotion depending on who the consumer is. One person might see a painting of a human head without a body as a symbol for insecurity while another person might see it as meaningless absurdism.

* Art should be thought provoking. This is similar to creating an emotion, but also different in many aspects. For example: A scene in a film where a father argues with a mother while their young child secretly listens from upstairs. There is a good chance that a number of people watching this scene will relate to it on a personal level and provoke thoughts from personal experience, thus creating an emotion. This is major aspect of art, especially film, that make it so popular and timeless.

* An obvious standard is that art should provide entertainment. People go see superhero movies like The Avengers, because of the action, special effects and the overall epic-ness of them. It gets them out of the real world for 2 hours. It gets them out of their head and their day-to-day lives. This is the classic purpose of all forms of entertainment, especially television and film. Forget about your moms cancer; Captain America just saved the day.

* Art should inspire the consumer. This is especially for other artists consuming art. If your'e a painter and you go to an art show and see a painting of a guy with turquoise hair and even though it's no realistic, it looks interesting and it's thought provoking. Then you'll be like "Hey I never thought about giving somebody turquoise hair before." And then you'll incorporate that into your own work, while hopefully not ripping off the painting, but just simply being inspired by it. Another example is that a film about a lazy guy who eventually gets his shit together and achieves something by the end of the film will most likely spark inspiration in the consumer to get their shit together if it's not already together.

* Art should hold value. This is a sort of a tricky one because of all the absurdist forms of art. Some may argue that they are meaningless, therefore not art. And others may disagree and say anything is art. Well, it's all a matter of perspective. But I believe that most people would agree that the art with the most meaning, thought, emotion, and talent behind it is the most valuable and makes for real good art

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Study Methods

Since I'm not in film school I've come up with a reservoir of my own study methods that I use while watching a show or a movie.

Earlier today I was watching Curb Your Enthusiasm (if you haven't heard of it then WATCH IT). So, while I was watching it I was just jotting down funny lines. I will sometimes pause it and write out WHY that line is funny and WHAT makes it funny. On some of the jokes I write down I will go through an entire WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY, HOW scenario.

This is interesting to do with Curb, because it's not exactly set up/punchline jokes. This is because it's not even a scripted show. Each episode just has a rather detailed outline and the actors improvise from there - much like how Reno: 911 was.

So, I.E.

In the pilot there is an ongoing joke about how Larry David called this woman CaroLIN, but her name was CaroLINE (Caroline) and she ends up getting very upset about it and Larry thinks it's not a big deal.  

WHO - Larry David and a woman he just met

WHAT - The joke is that Larry pronounced this woman's name wrong and she really overreacted about it.

WHEN - I see the when as "when does the joke come up during the episode." It is an ongoing joke, so it comes up on multiple occasion's as she makes an even bigger deal about it once she confronts Larry.

WHERE - The joke first happened during a short "I just wanted to say hello" moment between Larry and Caroline.

WHY - Simply because it is a relatable situation that breaths comedy.

The HOW doesn't really relate to this.  

I'm a firm believer in breaking jokes down to see what makes them funny. It's astounding what you can learn about comedy in doing this.   

Monday, April 23, 2012

Why Is Life Worth Living?

"Well, all right, why is life worth living? That's a very good question. Well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile. Uh, like what? Okay. Um, for me... oh, I would say... what, Groucho Marx, to name one thing... and Willie Mays, and... the second movement of the Jupiter Symphony, and... Louie Armstrong's recording of 'Potatohead Blues'... Swedish movies, naturally... 'Sentimental Education' by Flaubert... Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra... those incredible apples and pears by Cezanne... the crabs at Sam Wo's... Tracy's face..."

Friday, April 13, 2012

First Spec.

I am exceptionally green to the world of television writing. For example: I am working on my first spec. script. Also, I'm in my first year of college and I do not live in Los Angeles...YET! (I will be moving there after college).

ANYWAY, when I actually decided that writing was something I really wanted to pursue I immediately began writing comedy sketches. I wrote 2 that have not seen the light of day and most likely never will, but I could care less, because what I felt while writing them, rewriting them, finishing them and reading them was that of nothing i've ever felt before. I believe it was an epiphany. I had finally found what I truly loved and wanted to pursue. I was wandering through high school and a year after high school not knowing what I wanted to do. All of my friends were so dead set and careers that sounded like hell to me. I felt so accomplished after writing those 2 comedy sketches and I knew at that moment that I had to keep working at this.

I have studied the process of writing for television front and back ONE MILLION TIMES! And in a fairly short period of time too. I know i'm obviously not a professional, but I am serious about doing this, so i'm not just fucking around. So, on this first spec. that i'm writing i'm really taking my time and doing my best on it. 

It is a spec. COMMUNITY, which to most people may sound insane. And yes... it is insane. COMMUNITY is such a brilliant, solid show and I could never write anything worthy of actually being an episode, but i'm doing it anyway. I've already gone through about 3 rewrites. I sent my first "finished" draft to Amanda, The Aspiring TV Writer and Screenwriter to get notes. She provides notes for a VERY reasonable price and the notes that she gave me were extremely helpful. I can't emphasize how helpful she was. I was such a cocky little amateur writer thinking "Hell yeah I got my first spec. done and it's perfect and she's going to read it and think it's incredible and tell me i'm the absolute greatest writer on the west coast." HAH! The reality is I had some MAJOR problems.

Britta, Annie and Shirley weren't really doing anything throughout the script. They were just there to comment on other characters stories. Amanda pointed out that they need to be involved in the other characters stories, or go and do something specific on their own. Characters need to actually be doing something, in other words THEY NEED TO HAVE SOME SORT OF GOAL, OR MOTIVATION.

Im not going to explain the plot of my spec. COMMUNITY in this post. Maybe in a later post.... like WHEN I GET SOME FOLLOWERS!

So, I'm going through a major rewrite of my spec. right now. I'm really doing some major changes to basically the entire plot and script. And I know that rewriting is a part of writing. 


I love that saying, because it is so true. I truly know that now.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

WIW (Why I Watch) - Battleground

In case you didn't know, Netflix are not the only streaming company offering orignal content anymore. Hulu has joined the gang.

Battleground is Hulu's first original show. It is a sitcom in the style of 'The Office' that follows the campagin of a Wisconsin state senator who is running for the United States Senate. The show catches the romantic and political situations of the candidates young staff members.

Battleground is great, because it contains elements of smart comedy and silly comedy. The dramatic elements are enticing as well. You really get an adequate understanding of who these characters are and what they're specifically bringing to the show. Every character deals with they're own problems that really suck you in and make you relate to them, then they'll make you laugh your ass off. I find myself relating to the personalities of almost every character, yet i'm a dummy when it comes to politics.

There are a great deal of important decisions being made in almost every episode. Usually each character has opposing opinions on the situation, which makes for a great argument, great comedy and the audience on their toes to find out who's side of the story will follow through to the decision making. 

I'm not going to go on about comparisons to 'The Office' or Netflix's 'Lilyhammer'. Yes, it is a REAL SHOW on THE INTERNET. The future is here ladies and gents - get used to it and just watch the show.

JD Walsh (creator and writer) is incredible and is doing a great job with the show.

Watch Battleground... You won't regret it.


Hollywood Reporter - The Complete Guide to TV Pilots 2012
The link is self explanatory. Lots of great information on ALL of pilots we'll be expecting soon.
I'm sure everybody knows about this, but I just discovered it. It's a screenwriting/Television Writing forum. A good place to get some quick answers if you're stumped.
I just discovered John August's blog and Podcast. I am now VERY addicted. I highly recommend.