The Movies That Inspired Screenwriters To Write Their Own

Posted on March 23, 2021 at 11:23 am

Copyright 1997 New Line

LA Magazine has an entertaining article about the movies that inspired screenwriters to write their own. Several of them pointed to representation that communicated to them for the first time that it was possible for someone like them to work in show business. Felischa Marye of “13 Reasons Why” said it was the Black romances of the 90s like “Love Jones” and “Love and Basketball.” Some talked about the films that excited them as children, like Dustin Lance Black (“Milk”), who remembered seeing “ET” at age 8.

E.T. was centered on a single-parent home, its middle child, Elliot, in desperate need of connection, hope, friendship, love, and to my young mind’s eye: a father figure. He was my age. Like me, a middle child. And like him, I had no clue where my dad was. I had never connected with anyone in a film the way I did with Elliot that day. Because, unlike the solitary experience of watching TV at home, I wasn’t the only one laughing and gasping. Everyone in the audience was. Often in unison. For those treasured two hours, I knew I wasn’t alone. And for a shy boy who was certain he was too strange for this world, there was no better medicine than to learn that my heart beat in similar fashion to others’.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture Writers

What Happened to All the Great Quotable Movie Lines?

Posted on December 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Michael Cieply has a fascinating piece in the New York Times about the movie lines we love to quote and why there don’t seem to be any new ones. Look through all of the top ten lists of the year, and see if you can think of one quotable line from any of them. That doesn’t mean they aren’t well written, even literary. But it has been a long time since we’ve seen a movie like “The Princess Bride,” where any reference to it will inspire a flurry of well-loved lines. Where are the “You had me at hello” moments?

Sticky movie lines were everywhere as recently as the 1990s. But they appear to be evaporating from a film world in which the memorable one-liner — a brilliant epigram, a quirky mantra, a moment in a bottle — is in danger of becoming a lost art.

Life was like a box of chocolates, per “Forrest Gump,” released in 1994 and written by Eric Roth, based on the novel by Winston Groom. “Show me the money!” howled mimics of “Jerry Maguire,” written by Cameron Crowe in 1996. Two years later, after watching “The Big Lebowski,” written by Ethan and Joel Coen, we told one another that “the Dude abides.”

But lately, “not so much” — to steal a few words from “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Released in 2006, that film was written by Sacha Baron Cohen and others and is one of a very few in the last five years to have left some lines behind.

Maybe it’s that filmmaking is more visual, or that other cultural noise is drowning out the zingers…. it may be that a Web-driven culture of irony latches onto the movie lines for something other than brilliance, or is downright allergic to the kind of polish that was once applied to the best bits of dialogue.

I have heard that the real reason is that when movies started making more money outside the United States than they do domestically, there was less call for wit or quips or catch-phrases. Maybe the rise of social media will create a whole new market for tweet-able dialog.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture Writers

Movies About Writers

Posted on September 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm

In honor of this week’s release of “The Words,” the story of a writer who passes off another man’s book as his own, I thought I’d suggest some other movies about writers.  Movies are, after all, written by writers, so they understand and are fascinated by people who tell stories.

The Front is another story about a writer taking credit for someone else’s work, but this time it is based on a true story and with the writer’s permission. Woody Allen plays a man who is hired by a blacklisted writer during the McCarthy era to put his name on the other man’s scripts so he can continue to work.

American Splendor is the story of a man who turned his anguished view of life into a series of acclaimed graphic novels.

Shakespeare in Love is not exactly based on the real history of the greatest writer in the English language, but the script by playwright Tom Stoppard includes some insightful and heartfelt moments about the agony and inspiration of the writing life.

Little Women is a fictional version of Louisa May Alcott’s family and the character of Jo March reflects her real-life passion for writing.

Capote won Philip Seymour Hoffman an Oscar for his portrayal of writer Truman Capote as he writes his last great story, the “nonfiction novel” about a brutal real-life murder.

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Lists

Tribute: Ray Bradbury

Posted on June 6, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The world of science fiction and fantasy mourns the loss of the great Ray Bradbury, who died today at age 91. The author of classics that helped defined the genre, his works included books like Farenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Martian Chronicles.  One of the greatest thrills of my life was my Ray/Ray interview with pioneering special effects master Ray Harryhausen and his best friend since childhood, Ray Bradbury.

Bradbury was nattily attired in suspenders and a tie featuring grinning jack o’lanterns.

“We met through our mutual love of dinosaurs. King Kong inspired us both. “The Lost World” — nothing like it had been done. My first influence was Lon Chaney. I have total recall from birth on, and I can remember when I was very young seeing “Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Then “Phantom of the Opera.” These things teach you about love, falling in love, stories for a lifetime. Then there was Buck Rogers when I was nine. I got the job of reading the comic strips on the radio. My pay was tickets to the movies — “King Kong,” “Murders in the Wax Museum.” I was rich! Because we are surrounded by reality, which is stupid, we fall in love with Beauty and the Beast, Jack the Giant Killer. When I was five years old, I fell in love with fairy tales. Love what you do and do what you love and forget about the money. I wanted to become a magician, and I did, didn’t I?”

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Books Tribute Writers

What Makes a Movie Line So Quotable?

Posted on April 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm

The Huffington Post reports on a new computer analysis of the movies’ most quotable lines of dialog.

he study’s authors compiled scripts from 1,000 movies, and identified, using IMDb, Google and Bing, the lines from those movies that are quoted and remembered the most today. They paired each memorable line with other lines of similar length, voiced by the same character in the same scene, then ran each pair through a computer program to identify linguistic trends.

“Our goal is to understand what general features of language will tell you how memorable a quote will be,” fifth-year Ph.D. student Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, one of the study’s authors, told the Huffington Post.

The features that emerged were widespread applicability, straightforward syntax and distinctive diction.

If you think this brings us a step closer to computer-generated movie scripts, you’re on the same wavelength as Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil.  Not that it could make them any more formulaic than much of what is currently produced in Hollywood.

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Understanding Media and Pop Culture
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