Friday, May 29, 2009

5 Days to Light the Fire, Part IV

Funny what happens when you actually have a chance to immerse yourself in something.

When I started answering my questions listed in the previous post, I realized that I really don't know any great stories. I know great stories from film and literature, and I know great and interesting people, and I know good story vignettes from actual people. But as far as one of those full-arc Hollywood-type stories... uh uh.

So I moved on to the list of personally embarrassing moments (this is not an original idea for mining new material, I stole it from a screenwriting book I read years ago). And this was scary. Scary because it started off slowly, then I couldn't stop. Then I realized that despite the list, which keeps growing as I think of new ones, I've actually spent a good deal of time trying my damnedest NOT to be embarrassed, which makes for a pretty dull, opposite-of- Bridget-Jones-type existence.

Then I started analyzing the list-in-progress and realized that embarrassment has several categories. There are moments where you are completely and publicly embarrassed. Then there are moments where you're embarrassed looking back on it, but you weren't embarrassed at the time. Then there are moments where you should have been embarrassed but actually weren't. And then there are moments that were "embarrassing," but you didn't actively embarrass yourself. Subtle differences, but all very important.

Then I made the list of movies I truly love. Not the best movies ever made, or the most important movies ever made, but the movies I truly love. The list is as follows, in no particular order:

1. Rear Window
2. Vertigo
3. High Fidelity
4. Rushmore
5. Dr. Strangelove
6. This Is Spinal Tap
7. Waiting for Guffman
8. Being John Malkovich
9. Annie Hall
10. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
11. It's a Wonderful Life (sorry)
12. The Commitments
13. Amadeus
14. The Dead
15. Once
16. Cinema Paradiso
17. Lost In Translation
18. Glengarry Glenn Ross

I initially wrote down Manhattan, but then crossed it off. What I really love is the freedom of Annie Hall... the way Woody Allen moves from present to past, to animation, to imagining how great it would be if Marshall McCluhan appeared out of nowhere to humiliate a pseudo-intellectual standing in a movie line. I'd like to give myself that kind of creative freedom in a script, which is such a hyper-structured (and occasionally downright oppressive) format.

I wanted to watch Annie Hall instantly, so I went on Netflix to see if it was available as a "Watch It Now" movie. It wasn't, but Manhattan was. So I watched Manhattan on my laptop, lying in bed until midnight. And I remembered why I had initially put it on my list: It's the romance of it. Not the romance of Woody Allen's relationships (I don't know how he got away with having a 42-year-old man date a 17-year-old girl... yikes with the foreshadowing), but the romance that the movie is really about: New York. The opening sequence of a struggling author tripping over his own voiceover trying to express his love for the city, moving to breathtaking black-and-white shots of Manhattan set against the score of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"... it's never been equaled and probably never will.

(Then I remembered that as a teenager, I once rented a 30-pound video camera, shot scenes of downtown South Bend and later edited them against the same soundtrack. Let's add that to the embarrassing moments list...)

But making these lists has done two things so far: It's made me remember why I love movies, and it's started a new idea percolating. For better or for worse.

2 comments:

Nate said...

Thanks for your movie list! I've been looking to add movies to my NetFlix queue, but besides browsing the "award winners" lists, I never knew where to look. Now I have a bunch to look forward to.

Marc Conklin said...

Glad to be of service. I forgot Fargo.