Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Writing Suspense

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

The only thing to withhold is what happens next.– Orson Scott Card

I made a basic mistake while writing my latest children’s novel. I tried to create suspense by withholding information from the reader. The result was a confusing plot that had no gripping power – so I edited the opening chapters, introducing the central problem up front. The Hitchcock Principle is that you create suspense by showing the audience as much as you can, and as early as you can. He gives the example of two characters talking at a table for 5 minutes then a bomb explodes, providing a few seconds of surprise. But if we see the bomb under the table from the start of the scene, it provides 5 minutes of suspense.

Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. – Kurt Vonnegut

As soon as the character engages with the problem, narrative tension starts. – Norman Bilborough

The worse drafts hide information, wrongly believing that just giving a hint here or there is the best strategy.– Darcy Pattison

A Matter of Life and Death

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

A Matter of Life and Death is both awesome and intimate, suggesting that a single tear shed for love might stop heaven in its tracks.- Roger Ebert

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) is a wonderful fantasy movie about an English pilot who’s in love with an American (it was made to boost post-war Anglo-American relationships). It begins with their unique ‘falling’ in love scene (that can be seen here) – the dead pilot argues his case in Heaven to be allowed to return to life. The scenes on Earth are in Technicolor while Heaven is in black and white (which makes it more surreal). The last words are from a Walter Scott poem:

‘For love is heaven and heaven is love.’

Forbidden Planet

Thursday, March 5th, 2015

The movie that forever changed my attitude to the future. – Michio Kaku

Forbidden Planet is a classic sci-fi movie about an alien society that has destroyed itself through technology and the scientist, Morbius, who discovers their secret.  It shares elements with The Tempest except the movie uses science in place of the supernatural – the great Arthur C. Clarke’s maxim was that any advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  The film’s science is plausible and the psychology even more so. I love this movie for the brilliant monster from the sub-conscious (designed by Disney animators); its set design; the first ever all-electronic  score (by Bebe and Louis Barron); and the melodramatic script:

My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it!Morbius

forbiddenplanet

A Love Story – Pollination

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

It’s the most important relationship on Earth – everything in Nature depends on pollinators and flowers getting together.

Pollination is ‘a love story that feeds the Earth.’ – Louie Schwartzberg.

For a flower to make fruit and seeds, its pollen (male) must get to an egg (female), usually in another flower – and bees do 80% of the moving. The result is a cornucopia of foods from cherries to cashews, courgettes to coffee. Our relationship with the pollinators is equally vital so let’s provide bees with a variety of flowers, clean water and spray-free gardens.

Scenes from Louie Schwatzberg’s dazzling movie, Wings Of Life:

Shrinking Man

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The classic sci-fi movie, The Incredible Shrinking Man (1958), was about the atomic angst of the 1950s and it’s themes have not dated. The hero is exposed to a radioactive cloud and begins to shrink. Trapped in his home, he battles his cat, a spider, and a leaking tap (always a threat to the male ego). Finally, he’s reduced to his essential self and ponders his place in the universe. This extract is from the closing monologue (script by Richard Matheson):

So close – the infinitesimal and the infinite. But suddenly, I knew they were really the two ends of the same concept. The unbelievably small and the unbelievably vast eventually meet—like the closing of a gigantic circle…

 

Black and White Film

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

I love black and white (b/w) film – the dream-like, yet oddly documentary aura. In her novel Fosterling, Emma Neale observes that the ‘yearning’ feeling of b/w film is ‘The melancholy recognition of how inaccessible and mysterious the past is.’  It’s those deep shadows in b/w movies that charge the atmosphere – watch Night of the Hunter – because it’s the unseen that fires our imagination. Perhaps the effect also applies when we read text (which is black and white) – the brain is encouraged to imagine what the words describe. The early Dr Who had a huge influence on my imagination. The opening theme had me pressed into the sofa in happy terror. Here are the creepiest five seconds of TV ever (electronic music by Delia Derbyshire):

What rhymes with Gershwin?

Thursday, August 9th, 2012

George and Ira Gershwin’s songs

Are one of life’s great pleasures,

Catchy lines and offbeat rhymes

And many tuneful treasures.

It Ain’t Necessarily So

Has this Jonah rhyme in tow:

He made his home-in

That fishes’ ab-domen.

And it was Ira who wisely said it

in Nice Work If You Can Get It:

The man who only lives for making money

Lives a life that isn’t necessarily sunny

Brian Wilson has recently Beach-Boyed the Gershwins

But it’s mellow so I won’t be casting aspersions.

Great movies 1. Rear Window

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Rear Window (1954) has a superb script and acting, but its underlying strength is the use of set design and viewpoint to carry the theme. We’re trapped in a room for 99% of the movie and ‘forced’ to spy with the main character. Each window he looks into is a window on aspects of relationship: passion, exploitation, bitterness, or loyalty. The film also has humour, suspense and Grace Kelly. Best seen on a big screen to appreciate Hitchcock’s control of detail.

‘For me, it stands alone among his movies for its warmth and humanity.’– Mike Leigh

Read a longer review and the script.

Best Hitchcock, chosen by famous film directors

 

Silent Movies

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

Following up on my review of Hugo, here’s an excellent interview with the author Brian Selznick. The article describes Hugo as ‘a perpetual motion of correspondence‘ between book and film. Fascinating too that The Artist has emerged just now as another gorgeous recreation of silent movies (no talking, no colour, no widescreen, and yes, it works!). My favourite silent movies? Metropolis (photo), and anything with Buster Keaton. Read a New Yorker article about the acting style in silent films.

Silent film is another country. They speak another language there—a language of gestures, stares, flapping mouths, halting or skittering walks, and sometimes movements and expressions of infinite intricacy and beauty. David Denby

Misunderstood Monster

Sunday, February 12th, 2012

The Groke (Moomins)

Hugo Review: Movie and Book

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Scorsese’s Hugo is a beautiful movie complement to Brian Selznick’s brilliant novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The book is in the style of a film, using pictures interspersed with tightly-wound prose –and the movie takes the style of a novel, with a leisurely pace and richly detailed scenes. Both movie and book successfully use a children’s character to pay tribute to Georges Melies, pioneer of cinema. And much of the story is true: about his magical movies, his rise and fall, even the automaton and the train crash. (Watch a video about how the special effects were done). This film, The Four Troublesome Heads, made in 1898, shows Melies having fun:

Extraordinary movie

Monday, November 28th, 2011

When a City Falls is an extraordinary movie. The opening shots of the intact Christchurch cathedral before the quakes had me in tears. I remembered the excitement of running up the worn steeple steps as child to look down on the Square. Shot mostly by an inner city resident, Gerard Smythe, it is an amazing tribute to the strength of the people and the city.

Mission Impossible

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Every writer I know has trouble writing. – Joseph Heller

Confession: I play 1960s TV themes while I write. Mission Impossible is the best:

A pale car stops alongside a dingy desk. A writer gets out, unlocks the desk and takes out a laptop. His mission, should he decide to accept, is to release a novel from captivity. Should the plot fail, he will disavow any knowledge of the effort and his career will self-destruct in five rejections. The writer opens a file and selects likely characters: a trickster, a tough guy, a feisty female. After a planning session the plot is all action. The set-up is smooth, tension rises, but everything falls apart near the end. A contrived twist saves the novel (endings are difficult).

The dynamic theme to Mission Impossible is by Argentine composer, Lalo Schiffrin. This artful video commercial portrays Schiffrin in the composing process.

Artists: Michelangelo, Bees, Herge

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

 

Brilliant film-making

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

The world didn’t end yesterday as predicted, but one thing is for sure, we’ll all die one day.  Of Gods and Men is a powerful movie about facing death and questioning one’s purpose. This story of monks  caught in the Algerian civil war has 2 stunning scenes: the monks facing down the guns of extremists armed only with their convictions about peace; and a meal where they agree to face death together.  Peter Bradshaw says this scene  ‘is an overwhelming fusion of portraiture and drama, and perhaps one of the most sensational things I have seen on the big screen’ (read review). I agree, it’s a riveting moment of film-making. (I’m biased – the monks were beekeepers).