Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The importance of foreshadowing in writing.

One of the most important things about writing is your ability to keep your audience interested in your story. It's crucial that what you're writing makes sense and that your storylines and your characters are easy to follow.

No matter what happens in your stories, the actions and decisions of your characters always have to be at least somewhat predictable. It's never okay to write something that comes out of nowhere and doesn't make any sense at all.

The reason that I'm writing about this is that last week I managed to watch Disney's animation 'Frozen' with my friend. This was a movie that had been very successful at the box office and had also gotten pretty good reviews.

When it came to the quality of the film, I more or less enjoyed watching it during its first 60 minutes. I managed to appreciate the characters and the humor, even though the story in 'Frozen' wasn't necessarily that original.

Unfortunately, that all changed when it came to the last third of the film. This was when it became obvious that the storylines wouldn't come together, so one of the characters in the film had to be completely rewritten.

Naturally, I'm talking about the scene in which it was revealed that Hans, Anna's fiancee, turned out to be the big villain. This was a turn of events that pretty much no one could have seen coming and that made no sense at all.

Reaching up to that moment, nothing in the story had suggested that Hans could be the antagonist. We already had a real, genuine villain in Duke of Weselton, who wanted to capture and kill our 'Frozen' princess Elsa.

Yet, in one single scene the writers did a full one-eighty and changed his character completely. Hans went from being a loyal and loving fiancee to a murderous and power hungry opportunist who only cared about himself. 

Not surprisingly, it was almost impossible to enjoy the film after this turn of events. There was no foreshadowing or any kind of hint in the story that could have made this reveal even remotely plausible or acceptable.

This mistake that we saw managed to break pretty much all the basic rules of screenwriting. It was pretty incredible to see a huge company like Disney pull off a cheap stunt like this and undermine its audience the way they did.

In the end, this all goes to show that just because you have nearly unlimited resources at your disposal, it doesn't mean that your story is going to work. It still takes a lot of good judgement and good decision making before things come together.

At least in the case of 'Frozen', the writers didn't manage to fix their story so that it could work from start to finish. They screwed up and perhaps even thought that it wouldn't matter that much whether they did their jobs well or not.

Unfortunately for them, even though the film was a success, the fact remains that the characters in 'Frozen' didn't make enough sense. They were inconsistent, poorly motivated and at least in the case of Hans, completely implausible.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review of the film 'The Accountant'.

Even though I have been watching quite a few movies lately, I haven't managed to watch that many drama films. Most of the movies that I've watched in the last few months have been either animations or action films.

The biggest reason that I don't like watching drama films is that I'm worried that they don't put me on a good mood. Life is pretty depressing already, so why should I watch something that wouldn't cheer me up?

Nevertheless, a couple of days ago I managed to watch a drama film called 'The Accountant' with my friend. This is a movie that had gotten pretty good reviews at imdb.com, so we thought that we should give it a chance.

The premise of the film is that an autistic accountant, played by Ben Affleck, lives a secret life. This math genius is someone who not only excels at uncovering accounting frauds, but he also happens to be an adept killing machine.

The movie about an autistic hitman begins with an introduction that deals with his childhood. Our main protagonist is a young kid who despite his serious behavioral problems has an uncanny ability to solve intellectual tasks and puzzles.

A bit later, when the film moves to his adulthood as a small town accountant, you can't help but to be interested in his life. How does this guy manage his life and deal with us so called 'normal' everyday individuals?

In the first act, thanks to his smart accounting advice, he manages to befriend a local couple. He accepts their invitation to their countryside farm, where he spends time with them and demonstrates his sharpshooting capabilities.

Not long after that, our accountant gets his big accounting assignment (inciting incident). In this task he's supposed to uncook the books of a company and figure out whether there's a problem with this hi-tech firm that is about to go public.

Here he manages to befriend another accounting afficionado, played by the lovely Anna Kendrick. She manages to make our main protagonist seem a little bit more human and not as hopelessly distant and cold.

After pulling an all-nighter (in the picture), Affleck's character figures out where the problems within the company's accounting practices are. Someone high enough in the firm is laundering money for his or her own endeavours.

Not surprisingly, all hell breaks loose when this multi million fraud is about to be unveiled by our accountant. The bad guys go mercilessly after Affleck's and Kendrick's character - and are determined to take care of them for good.

When it comes to the story in this movie, at least during the first ninety minutes or so, just about everything in it seems to work. This is when the autistic hitman storyline works and it looks like those behind the movie know what they are doing.

That is that, during the first two acts of 'The Accountant', pretty much all the charactes are interesting in the film and the story is focused. The storyline about the slow humanization of Affleck's character is something that you can easily follow.

It's not until the last 30 minutes when the film's story unfortunately starts to get off the rails. It turns out that there are simply too many subplots in the film that get expanded and that get attention for no reason at all.

For example, there's the subplot about the federal agent and his female assistant that gets too much attention. Especially when it came to J.K. Simmons' giving that 5-6 minute speech that was all about exposition, I had to shake my head.

Not only did that speech turn the tables around and change the focus of the film, it made Affleck's character inconsistent too. I didn't know who his character really was anymore and what were the values that he represented.

It also has to be said that the stuff about Affleck's family in the third act felt way too contrived. The fact that they made one of the bad guys his brother was just too much and made the film feel like its story was all over the place.

All in all, it's fairly obvious the film would have been much better had the writers trimmed the script and cut many of the side character storylines. These needed changes, in my opinion, would have given the film a much better flow.

As far as I'm concerned, the fact that the writers had too many 'darlings' in the script was unfortunate. These 'darlings' were mistakes that could have been avoided had someone paid a bit more attention to what worked and what didn't.

I mean, even though it's true that there were a lot of good things about 'The Accountant', as a whole these good things weren't enough to redeem the movie. There were simply too many serious problems with its script.

In the end, I just wish that the film would have worked better from start to finish. In that case, 'The Accountant' could have been a really good movie, instead of being a promising film that didn't deliver all the way through.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Looking back at last year & what to do this year.

When it comes to summing up last year's events, not all things went exactly as one might have expected. 2016 as a whole, not only could have been a better year for myself, but it could have been a better year for others too.

Below I'll try to list some of the things that were important to me and that in my opinion are worth sharing about 2016. Some of these things that happened aren't that good but not everything went totally wrong last year.

🔼 When it comes to me, almost certainly the best thing about last year is that I managed to start running again. Even though I was pretty sure that I would never be able to do heavy exercises again, I have now been regularly running 4-5 times a week.

🔼 Just like last year, I managed to write 48 articles on this site that hopefully were entertaining and informative. It took a lot of serious work (700+ hours) and I'm fairly happy that I managed to have a solid writing routine.

🔽 Unfortunately, I didn't manage to write a movie screenplay in 2016, even though it had clearly been a goal for myself. It turned out be a lot harder to come up with a solid & a potential premise than I had thought at first.

🔼 The upside to this is that after a lot of procrastination, I did finally start the project late last year. This time consuming task is going to take a lot of work and probably a lot of help from others is going to be needed.

🔼 I managed to show at least some initiative after entering a television writing competition with my Modern Family spec. This slightly revised script, in my opinion, was good enough to win any competition that's out there.

🔽 Unfortunately, when it came to this contest, it turned out that I had wasted 60$ of my precious money. I didn't even make through the first qualifying round, which just goes to show that most writing competitions simply aren't legit.

🔼 I also showed some initiative when I tried to get a 'real' writing job at Remedy gaming. I thought it would be smart to give these guys a chance, especially considering that I live only like 10 minutes away from the company headquarters.

🔽 Unfortunately, those in charge of games like Alan Wake and Quantum Break didn't [even] write me back. This was one of the biggest disappointments of the year and I can't exactly say that it encouraged me to try harder.

🔜 In any case, when it comes to this new year, I know that I should probably try a bit harder than I did in 2016. Even though I did spend considerable amount of time writing stuff, I could have done a lot more too.

🔜 Hopefully, this year I'll be able to come up with a steady writing routine for my other projects. I should be able to dedicate at least a certain amount of time every week so that I could keep going further with my script.

🔜 I will also try to do my best when it comes to updating this writing blog. Even though it's true that there are times when I don't know what to write about and that I sometimes tend to get frustrated, I still love publishing articles here.

🔜 All in all, I really hope that 2017 is going to be a solid year as a whole. I hope that I'm going to be prolific as a writer and that I'll be able to come up with stuff that is not only going to be good enough for myself, but good enough for others too.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

'Storks' is a contrived but watchable film.

At least when it comes to me, one of the good things about last year was that I managed to watch a lot of animated films. I think I saw most of the animations that were released in 2016 and that had gotten decent reviews.

Of those dozen or so animations, none of them were that disappointing. Even though films like Angry Birds and Sausage Party could have been better, most of the movies that were released were fairly entertaining and well made.

In any case, a couple of days ago I managed to see 'Storks', an animated film that was also released last year. This film had received somewhat positive reviews, so I had to check how good the animation turned out to be.

In a nutshell, the story is about a stork and a girl that work in a special courier firm. This special stork powered firm used to be a baby delivering company that delivered babies for couples that wanted to become parents.

In the story we also have a young kid who is bored of being the only child in the family. This kid is more or less being neglected by his career-oriented parents, so he wants a brother or a sister that he could play with.

In the film, the kid sends a letter to the courier firm, which leads to the stork and the girl accidentally creating another baby. This baby has to be delivered to the kid and to his parents, which of course turns out to be easier said than done.

Over the course of the next hour and twenty minutes, our main characters stork and the girl run into all kinds of obstacles. These obstacles include all kinds of complications that prevent them from delivering the baby to the right address.

When it comes to the animation as a whole, I think the film is fairly entertaining and funny. Considering how contrived and derivative the premise is, I didn't expect that it could keep my attention from start to finish as well as it did.

This is not to say that there aren't any significant problems with the film and its story. Like probably many others, I couldn't help but to notice how the movie had problems with its exposition and how things didn't always make sense.

For example, the characters weren't that well drawn or well defined. I think it was fairly obvious that the writers could have done a better job with fleshing them out, even though the characters weren't by definition unlikable.

The story also felt as if it was stretched too thin and that there weren't enough story beats in the script. There were numerous scenes that didn't progress the story that were simply there to add to its running time.

Yet, despite these obvious flaws, 'Storks' as a whole managed to be relatively uplifting and enjoyable. There are certain unexpected moments in the movie that manage to surprise you and that make you feel better about it.

So if you're like me and want to be entertained, there's no reason why you shouldn't watch 'Storks'. It's not a great film, but it's still a solid animation that provides some laughs and keeps you entertained throughout its length.