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Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

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Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Sevens on Fri Oct 03 2014, 02:46

SPOILERS!
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So this guy didnt review Monuments Men's script very well either...

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by jd68 on Fri Oct 03 2014, 09:16

[size=30]Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar![/size]
Genre: Comedy/Period
Premise: A 1950s Hollywood fixer finds himself on his first job he can’t fix – the star of the studio’s biggest movie ever is kidnapped by a group of communists.
About: This is the Coens’ next movie. As you’d expect, actors are lining up in the hopes that the brilliant character-building brothers can put them in a position to win an Oscar. So this film is stacked. It will star Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Jonah Hill, Tilda Swinton (who it should be required is in every weird movie from here on out until the end of time) and, of course, George Clooney.
Writer: Joel & Ethan Coen
Details: 111 pages[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.]There’s this rumor going around that I don’t like any movies/screenplays that don’t fall under the traditional safe Hollywood paradigm. This rumor started because I hated scripts and movies such asUpstream Color, Inside Llewyn Davis, Somewhere, and Winter’s Bone.
But it’s simply not true. I like plenty of indie movies. I enjoyed Blue is The Warmest Color, Silver Linings Playbook, Black Swan, Rushmore. What I don’t like is bad storytelling. And because indie film is a place where filmmakers take more chances, the results typically play at the ends of the spectrum, which leads to extreme reactions. So when I don’t like something, I really don’t like it. Inside Llweyn Davis still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I mean you had the biggest asshole main character of the past decade in a movie without a plot.
And that’s what I don’t get. The Coens are always at their best when they’ve got a good plot going. The Big Lebowski, No Country, and Fargo all had big plots thrusting the story forward. Inside Llewyn Davis had… a lost cat. That was the plot.
And you know what? I don’t even require a plot to like a movie. I need a plot OR great characters. Just one of the two. Like Swingers. Swingers didn’t have a plot. But the movie had great characters, so you enjoyed the ride.
Which leads us to today’s script, the Coens’ latest. And I can start off with some good news. This one actually has a plot. Is that plot any good? Well, let’s take a trip into the Coen Brain Collective (bring any drugs you can locate within the next 10 seconds) to find out.
Eddie Mannix is a fixer. Hollywood in the 1950s is a lot like Hollywood today, with one major difference – it was easier to control the image of its stars. Which was important. Because studios used to OWN stars back then. There wasn’t any of this “free agency” shit. A studio had you under contract. So if you drank a lot, got arrested a lot, were gay, backed up your files on icloud – it was in their best interest to keep that information out of the papers. And that’s where Eddie Mannix came in.  He was the master at getting rid of these problems.
Until this movie of course, when something goes horribly wrong. Mannix’s studio loses the star of its latest Ben-Hur-like film, “Hail, Caesar!” Baird Whitlock is yanked off the set by a bunch of commies, which was a really bad thing to be back in 1951 in Hollywood. These Commies, who happen to be screenwriters, are pissed! They’ve been writing all these movies for Hollywood, but other writers are getting the credit (hey, how is that any different from today?). So they do the obvious thing to enact revenge – they kidnap Baird and demand 100 thousand dollars from the studio (which I’m assuming was a lot of money in 1951).
As word starts to leak out that Baird may have been kidnapped, Mannix must work the phones to keep all the gossip columnists from publishing the story in tomorrow’s paper and ruining his studio’s investment forever. This little event also threatens to rekindle an old rumor of Baird’s that has plagued him since he first got into the business. We’re talking about the “On Wings as Eagles” rumor, which is something so big, so dark, that even Richard Gere would find it disturbing. Mannix has certainly got his work cut out for him. Can he save the day one last time? We shall see!
Let’s start out with the good. This is a lot better than Inside Llweyn Davis. It’s actually fun. In fact, it’s closest in tone to the Coens’ Big Lebowski. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same super memorable characters as Lebowski. Eddie Mannix is a wild-eyed work-hound, but I’m not sure I know anything about him beyond that.
Traditionally, we get to know the main character in a screenplay, understand the flaw holding him back, empathize with him, sympathize with him, hope that he changes, and that’s really why we go along for the ride. We’re rooting for this person to become better and succeed.
The Coens’, as you know, don’t always subscribe to this approach. Their characters have great big flaws, but those flaws aren’t always figured out. Look at The Dude in The Big Lebowski. His flaw is obvious. He’s a lazy irresponsible bum. He has no initiative and does nothing in life. In a normal movie, we’d watch as The Dude realized this, and eventually learned to take initiative.
Instead, The Dude keeps on being The Dude at the end. He’s The Dude. Nothing’s going to change about him. The question is, why does this work when every screenwriting book in the world tells you your main character has to have a flaw and that, over the course of the movie, they must overcome that flaw? It works because The Dude is also one of the most lovable characters ever created. Which means, purposefully or not, the Coens’ are drawing on one of the oldest screenwriting tricks in the business. They made their main character super-likable. And sometimes that’s enough.
Conversely, this is why, I believe, Inside Llewyn Davis didn’t catch fire with the public. The main character was a huge dick.  Maybe this would’ve worked had Llewyn showed growth. Audiences have proven with movies like Groundhog Day that they’re willing to watch a dick if he shows signs of improving. But Llewyn never did.
If you’re going to give us an asshole character AND they’re going to remain an asshole character throughout the movie, fuggetaboutit. I mean the Coens are so amazing at creating secondary characters that they can keep their movies at least watchable (John Goodman and Justin Timberlake were great in Llewyn Davis), but in the end, it’s that protagonist who’s either going to lead you to the promised land or not.
Which brings us back to Hail Caesar. Eddie Mannix was so busy running around saving everybody else’s ass that I never got to know him. So I never really cared. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the Coens missed a major opportunity in connecting us and making us care about Eddie. Eddie didn’t have a major relationship in the film. He never had a girl he liked, a family member he wasn’t getting along with, an important friendship or work relationship. He didn’t have that one thing that got us into his head. Again, look at The Dude. He had Walter (John Goodman). That was the entryway into The Dude’s mind so we could get to know him. That wasn’t here with Eddie.  And it really hurt the screenplay.  I mean how many screenplays survive when you don’t feel like you know the main character afterwards?
So despite having a few fun moments, Hail Caesar was a bit like a runaway chariot race. It eventually went scurrying off the tracks.
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: The hero’s key relationship in the story (girl, family member, friend) is one of the easiest ways to get the audience into the hero’s head. It’s through dialogue with these characters that we get to see your hero’s problems, his worldview, his flaws, his fears, his dreams, his insecurities – all the things that make him him. If your main character doesn’t have anyone to talk to, it’s going to be really hard for us to connect with him.
What I learned 2: Frack for drama!  Never forget the importance of stakes for your main character.  If there aren’t major consequences for your hero failing, you’re only mining a fraction of the drama you could be in your movie.  The Coens, who are usually pretty good with stakes, had none here for Eddie (another problem with his character).  I didn’t get the sense that he would be in any trouble if he didn’t find Baird.  We needed that scene where the big scary mobster-like studio head took Eddie aside and said, “This is our biggest movie ever.  I don’t want it to bomb because you didn’t do your job.  You know what happens to people who don’t do their job, right Eddie?”  And that’s all we needed.
--------------------------------
my 2 cents: Coen brothers films are incredibly visual - reading a script cannot begin to compare what we will see on the screen. They have a great record for making fantastic films.

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Way2Old4Dis on Fri Oct 03 2014, 14:01

The Coens aren't usually my cup of tea. They do make visually arresting movies, but their writing is hit-or-miss for me. They pretty much make their movies on their own terms -- writing the script, casting the roles (no veto or demands by the studio), directing the performances, and executing the production -- so however the movie turns out, it will be entirely Coen. Actors love them because their projects are instantly prestige, and they have a knack for pulling performances out of actors that other directors don't.

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Way2Old4Dis on Fri Oct 03 2014, 14:07

Add: over the years, I've found that I agree with maybe two out of ten of Carson's (the Scriptshadow guy) reviews.

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by LizzyNY on Fri Oct 03 2014, 16:34

Way2Old - Does the fact that this guy has seen the script mean that it's in final form, or is it still a work in progress? If he's accurate about the development of the main character, that could really hurt the story, IMO. That's why I'm wondering if they're still working on it.

Would the Coens be likely to see this kind of assessment? Do you think it would influence them at all?

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Donnamarie on Fri Oct 03 2014, 16:45

And because of George's close collaboration on past projects with the Coens would he have any influence over changing the script if he thought that his character wasn't fully developed?

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Sevens on Fri Oct 03 2014, 16:49

I think the Coens pretty much wrote the character with George in mind. This project has been long linked to him as the main character.
They said last December that "It's about love and faith and this business, it's still George."

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Donnamarie on Fri Oct 03 2014, 16:58

I don't know who this guy is who read this script. Don't know if he knows what he's taking about. Some you guys probably have heard of him. The points he makes about the character, Eddie (George), that you really don't get to know this guy or care about him is what he is criticizing. Those are important to the movie no doubt. That's one of the reasons I really, really didn't like Wolf of Wall Street. Felt nothing except loathing for Leo's character. Didn't think his character was really fleshed out. Maybe this guy assessment is just BS?

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Sevens on Fri Oct 03 2014, 17:25

But Leo still got Best Actor nomination at the Oscars. Though I havent seen it...

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Way2Old4Dis on Fri Oct 03 2014, 18:44

LizzyNY wrote:Way2Old - Does the fact that this guy has seen the script mean that it's in final form, or is it still a work in progress? If he's accurate about the development of the main character, that could really hurt the story, IMO. That's why I'm wondering if they're still working on it.

Would the Coens be likely to see this kind of assessment? Do you think it would influence them at all?



With the Coens, as with a lot of filmmakers, the script is always a work in progress, even while shooting. But a shooting script is pretty much the blueprint of the movie.

Carson gets his hands on a lot of screenplays; don't know how, except he has the connections. Some writers, producers, or directors like that he gives their work/project a bit of buzz in the industry community; most don't like that he's criticizing stuff that hasn't even been filmed yet. He's a critic more than a writer, and I consider him one of the many people who make a living in the Hollywood subindustry where 'experts' offer opinions, consultation services, and 'competitions' to aspiring writers  -- for a hefty fee, of course.

The general movie-going public has never heard of him and wouldn't give a flying fuck what he says. Audiences don't read screenplays. That's only geeky schmucks like me.

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by LizzyNY on Sat Oct 04 2014, 01:16

Way2Old - It seems he must have some connections in the industry if he can get hold of shooting scripts to critique. Is his opinion valued? Being that he's criticizing work that isn't yet in final form, would the Coens pay any attention to what he said? Would his opinion matter to them?

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Way2Old4Dis on Sat Oct 04 2014, 02:30

Carson Reeves (not his real name) is a former assistant/reader in Hollywood who maintained his contacts when he stopped working for the agencies. That's how he gets the screenplays. He's also a former aspiring writer who now charges amateur writers for his "insights." He started as a simple blogger with connections who gave his observations on scripts, and let other writers ask questions about theirs. It was free. Then he monetized himself.

Only other bloggers and aspiring, newbie writers pay attention to him. There is no reason for any real screenwriter or producer to value his opinion. But pro writers hate when he reviews their work online, and producers and studios don't particularly like him creating buzz -- positive or negative -- about their upcoming projects.

The Coens wouldn't pay attention, and his opinion carries no weight anywhere except among his blog followers.

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by LizzyNY on Sat Oct 04 2014, 03:27

Way2Old - Got it. Thanks. Smile

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Donnamarie on Sat Oct 04 2014, 03:32

Way2Old - love your knowledge. What's your background that you so much about the business?

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Way2Old4Dis on Sat Oct 04 2014, 13:01

I'm a wannabe with just enough experience to be a danger to myself and others.

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by LizzyNY on Sat Oct 04 2014, 13:16

Way2Old - Good morning, Sunshine! I'm hoping you're the next Shonda Rhimes. Go get 'em! Cheerleader

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

Post by Way2Old4Dis on Sat Oct 04 2014, 13:35

Hey, there! I'm trying...

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Re: Screenplay Review – Hail, Caesar!

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