It's precisely Zero Dark Thirty right now (that's 12:30am for the uninitiated). I just finished watching the film ZDT for the third time in two months. I can watch this film thirty more times. It is a class in economic story telling, subtle characterizations, and letting the story unfold (even though we know exactly what we are going to get at the end of the journey).
There are very few directors (particularly American directors) who can pull off this kind of film -- one that leaves sentiment and melodrama by the way side. There is no triumphant victory dance by the protagonist, aptly named Maya by Mark Boal. There is no backstory, side story, love interest, quirky character trait. There is a simple resolute determination (although I didn't much like the over use of the "her confidence" line in the trailer).
Why I bring this up? It seems people in Hollywood have read way too many books on screenwriting by writers who haven't made any successful films that I can think of. Many in town talk about "rooting interest", but there are characters you don't root for, but you root with. Because rooting for someone removes the viewer from the situation, and reduces one to an observer status rather than an active participant in the dilemma... and it becomes an exercise like watching sports.
As a writer, I don't necessarily subscribe to the "give me a character to root for", or have a fabricated "emotional" journey with. For me, ZDT is an emotional journey in the most understated way possible, because it's not in your face, and it's not heavy handed. There are tons of characters in the movie, and you don't really know much personal information about anyone of them. But you are WITH them on their journey. Invested in their mission. Perhaps this is one of those films that provides closure to what so many of us have felt for over a decade. We got that bastard. Maybe. I don't know.
I am in awe of Mark Boal's writing and Kathryn Bigelow's direction. Her work reminds me of Sydney Lumet's films. He was in my book the best director American films have had in 30 years. He was invisibly present, and didn't hit you with a sledgehammer to make you like characters, show point of view, or show off his camera tricks. And Bigelow is in that precious vanguard of filmmakers.
There's one actor in the film who goes by almost unnoticed because he has very little screen time - Taylor Kinney, who is on Chicago Fire. I have a feeling we're going to see a lot more of Taylor on the big screen. He's got magnetic screen presence.
It was a heavy movie weekend. I saw Rust and Bone in which Marion Cotillard gives an amazing performance. HOW did they shoot the stuff with her amputated legs? I have to resubscribe to American Cinematographer. Again, the film is a marvelous example of screenwriting that is economic and leaves holes for the audience to fill in. The characters (except for the one Marion plays) aren't necessarily all that sympathetic. Her "love" interest, more like a fuck-buddy, is completely "unsympathetic" by all Hollywood and Western standards, and he's not a love-to-hate type of guy either. He's just mostly a self-absorbed douche. But we "get" him. And we see the transformation and the arc - one that isn't as neat and clean as the McDonalds Arch that most formula driven screenwriting pushes writers towards. Catch the film on Redbox if you haven't.
Lastly, I also saw (yawn), Les Miserables, or as my bro called it, The Miserables (which would make for a great Pixar title.) Les Miserables made close to $450 million around the world, and was total style over substance. Amazing cinematography, visual effects, make up, hair, costumes, sing your heart out performances, but I couldn't watch it again - ever. The earlier Les Miserables with Liam Neeson was so much more compelling a picture. Perhaps I am in the minority on this one, but really, this was a soap opera with Russell Crowe singing. Next time I want to watch a musical, I'll stick to good old Bollywood.
It's Zero Dark One now and I should get to sleep. Thank you for reading and let me know what you of these films. Hope you had a great Saturday and enjoy the rest of the weekend. TYU. -- Nayan Padrai