Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Storyteller’s Rulebook #33: It Comes Right Out

A while ago, I was talking to another writer about his sitcom development deal, and of course he was agonizing about the endless number of notes he was getting, even though he agreed with most of them and trusted the producers.

At one point, they were suggesting 20 or so moments that should come out of the script. He thought that they were all funny jokes, and the producers generally agreed, but they had a different reason to cut each one, either because it contradicted character motivation, or took the momentum out of a scene, or muddied the tone, or whatever. Then they got to another line that had gotten a big laugh at the read through, and, upon reflection, suggested that he cut that one too. “But why?,” he asked, “everybody loves that line!” “Yeah,” the producer said, “but it comes right out.”

That’s it. That was their reasoning. In the study of logic, this is known as a tautology: it comes out because it comes out so it comes out. It drove him crazy! But, after a day or so of frustration, he realized that they were right. Screenwriting is relentlessly linear and relentlessly tight. Every moment needs to be part of the cascading chain of set-up and pay-off, or else it needs to go.

In Iron Man 2, the Scarlett Johansson character was very sexy, had some funny lines, and had a lot to do. They kept her character busy, sure, but none of her actions had any major effect on the plot. In the end, if she hadn’t been there, nothing would have been different. Even worse, none of the emotional beats depend on her. If they’d left her on the cutting room floor, nobody would have ever realized she was missing. She comes right out. So she should have come out.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Underrated Movie #80: Queen Christina

Title: Queen Christina
Year: 1933
Director: Rouben Mamoulian
Writers: H. M. Harwood, Salka Viertel, Margaret P. Levino, and S. N. Behrman
Stars: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Ian Keith, Lewis Stone, Elizabeth Young

The Story: The kick-ass 17th century Swedish queen reads books, dresses like a man, and refuses to get married, laughing at those who try to impose gender roles on her. You’d almost think she was a lesbian if she didn’t have so much uninhibited sex with men. She’s allowed to get away with all of it until she tries to shut down the military-industrial complex, resulting in a whisper campaign that brings her regency to a crisis.
 
How it Came to be Underrated: Mamoulian combined the sensuousness of Ophuls with the brazen good-naturedness of Hawks, but only in recent years have moves like this, Applause and Love Me Tonight been treated like the masterpieces they are.

Why It’s Great:
  1. This movie is very much a product of that magical period from 1929-1933, after the arrival of sound but before the strict enforcement of the production code, when Hollywood movies enjoyed a brief flowering of sexual sophistication. Most “pre-code” movies used that freedom to tell tales that were lurid and dark, but this one used its frankness to celebrate sexual liberation in a way that was positive, political, and progressive. It’s pretty gobsmacking to watch it today.
  2. I love Ninotchka and Grand Hotel, but I would say that this is my favorite Garbo performance. She gets to laugh and cry, deliver speeches and still enjoy great silent moments, such as when she caresses every object in a room because “In the future, in my memory, I shall live a great deal in this room.”
  3. Movie about monarchs almost always fall into the “power corrupts” paradigm, so it’s shocking to see an unironic portrayal of a truly heroic political figure in this context. This movie is brazen in many ways, but nothing is more shocking today than its idealism.
  4. The queen meets the love of her life while cross-dressing of course, and, unlike your average “Twelfth Night” or “Merchant of Venice” production, we actually believe she might pull it off, because of her naturally deep voice combined with the excellent costuming. Garbo also refuses to inject coquettishness, even when a prostitute offers herself up to her! This is such a shocking, delightful movie!
If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: As far as great pre-code bio-pics of cold weather queens go, this makes for an extreme contrast with Von Sternberg’s even more lush (and far more lurid) The Scarlet Empress. Consider them a sort of “Goofus and Gallant” pairing: one queen becomes the personification of wisdom, the other descends into total wickedness. (But both have a lot of fun along the way)

How Available Is It?: I has a nice looking DVD with no features.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Leopard Women Of Venus!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Storyteller’s Rulebook #33: Be Unhateable

Tomorrow, there'll be a movie, I promise! Garbo! In the meantime...
Last time, I talked about the beleagered readers who are so wary of reading your submission. This is why your first page has to be better than good. Better than great. It has to be unhateable. The goal of your first page is not to get them to like your script. It’s to get them to stop hating it. They just read a script that they despised, and now they’re angry at you. They’re saying, “I’m sick and tired of all the bullshit clichés and if I see one more I’ll scream!

How do you handle such a reader? Pleasantly surprise them. The heart of all great writing is this: setting up expectations, then reversing them, over and over. Show them you can do that on the very first page.

Your very first line, even if it’s a line spoken by a minor character, especially if it’s a minor character, need to reverse an expectation. As soon as your reader recognizes your opening situation, they’ll start to dread the clichéd version of what usually happens in these situations. Why not shock them by avoiding that, right from the first line?

There’s been some sort of disaster, the hero hasn’t arrived on the scene yet, so the first line is: COP: “Let’s move it along folks, nothing to see here.” We’re never going to see that cop again, so this isn’t poor characterization, per se, but guess what? The reader hates the script now. The name “COP” set up an expectation in their mind, and then that cop said the most clichéd thing he could say, which failed to reverse that expectation. So now they assume that everyone else in your script will also let them down.

What if it had said something like this: COP: “Damn, you people are rude. We’re just trying to do our-- Hey you! I mean it-- I know your mom!” Or maybe, if it’s a bigger city: COP: “What do you guys want? You want a severed finger that you can take home as a souvenir? No? Then quit your mouth-breathing and get your noses back behind the tape.” (Note how I needed to know more about the cop and the setting in order to write a more specific line. Getting specific means doing more homework.) Let the reader know that they’re in good hands. Unlike in the last script they read, your characters won’t just say what the reader expects them to say.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

While I'm Away: My Top 20, The Epic Conclusion!

I get back in town tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s my all-time five favorite films. Is there one you hate? Have I created trust issues? Plus: more fun facts!


5. Roger and Me, 1989, Michael Moore
Fun Fact: Watching this movie made me decide to become a filmmaker! Oh how I rue the day!


4. Tales of Manhattan, 1942, Julien Duvivier
Fun Fact: The video added back in a cut sequence featuring W.C. Fields, but it ruins the flow of the movie.


3. In a Lonely Place, 1950, Nicholas Ray
Fun Fact: The novel by Dorothy Hughes is a great read, too, but it has a very different ending!


2. Harold and Maude, 1971, Hal Ashby
As a kid, I loved this and Silver Streak, but I never would have guessed they had the same writer.


1. The Crowd, 1928, King Vidor
Fun Fact: That's right folks, my favorite movie is silent. I'm a true film snob! (And hey, there's the shot that got borrowed for The Apartment.)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

While I'm Away: My Top 20, Part 2

I’m out of town for the weekend, so the countdown of my top 20 favorite movies continues! For the top ten, we'll include one fun fact about each!


10. The Apartment, 1960, Billy Wilder
Fun Fact: The opening sequence recreates a shot from my favorite movie (to be revealed tomorrow!)


9. Vertigo, 1958, Alfred Hitchcock
Fun Fact: This was written by the same fun folks who wrote the great French thriller Diabolique.


8. It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946, Frank Capra
Fun Fact: This film is adapted from a story the author sent out with his Christmas cards.


7. Brother from Another Planet, 1984, John Sayles
Fun Fact: Sayles wrote the early drafts of E.T., back when it was called Night Skies


6.
The Battle of Algiers, 1965, Gillo Pontecorvo
Fun Fact: Both the Pentagon and the Black Panthers screened this movie to learn tactics.

...to be concluded tomorrow!

Friday, June 25, 2010

While I'm Away: My Top 20

Hi guys, I’m out of town for a few days, so I thought I’d run my all-time top 20 favorite movies. This is purely subjective list, not a list of the “greatest” movies. Some of them are too canonical to be featured on this blog, but some of them will get write-ups in the future. (Only one of them has gotten a write-up so far, but that one shows up tomorrow)

20. Charade, 1963, Stanley Donen
19. M , 1931, Fritz Lang
18. Bringing Up Baby, 1938, Howard Hawks
17. Annie Hall, 1977, Woody Allen
16. Breathless, 1960, Jean-Luc Godard

15. High and Low, 1963, Akira Kurosawa (above)
14. The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, 1962, Tony Richardson (top picture)
13. Rushmore, 1998, Wes Anderson (below)
12. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962, John Frankenheimer
11. The Lady Eve, 1941, Preston Sturges

To be continued… Can you feel the suspense building? Don’t you wish that there was a way to text me your vote for number one?? Well, there isn’t! Ah, sweet agony!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Storyteller’s Rulebook #32: Imagine You're On An Airplane...

You board a airplane. You’ve brought a good book that you’re dying to read. Then the person sitting next to you turns to you and starts spontaneously telling you about their week, in great detail. Uh oh. You’ve just sat down next to the scariest beast of them all: the unwelcome storyteller.

Well I’ve got some bad news for you. If you ever submit a manuscript, you become the unwelcome storyteller, and the reader is the person who would really rather read their book. Why can’t the reader be someone who’s excited to read your manuscript? Well, maybe they were, 50 submissions ago, but now they feel hurt and betrayed by the mountain of half-ass stuff they’ve had to read and they really, really don’t want to have to read one more story. They would rather do anything than read manuscript #51, but there you are, yakking their ear off.

So try to remember what it feels like to be stuck next to an unwelcome storyteller. When the person next to you on a plane starts talking, do you just assume that they’ve got a good story to tell? You don’t. Do you automatically care about whatever they have to say? Certainly not. Could you ever possibly care? Yes, but only if they’ve got a great story to tell. How quickly do you want their story to become interesting? Right away! Do you want them to start with a lot of background about where they were born and what childhood traumas they had? No, you hope that they skip over all that and instead tell you a focused story about one unique and interesting thing they did.

If you could describe the ideal airplane conversation, what would it be like? You’d probably want them to have a fascinating job and tell you clever stories about the fun and fascinating adventures they’ve had doing that job. (And yes, you want them to be good at that job, don’t you? That makes the stories a lot more interesting.)

Whenever the person next to me on a plane starts talking, I smile impassively and try to suppress my fears. I know that there’s a 90% chance that this will turn out to be an insufferable bore who makes my flight seem ten times longer than usual. But occasionally, just occasionally, I have a great conversation. There’s that slim 10% chance that this person will be clever and fascinating, and I’ll tell everyone after I land that I just heard a great story on the plane.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Storyteller’s Rulebook #31: A Director Has to Be A Little Bored

An overly bored director is a terrible thing. They’re easy to spot: any movie with a 360 degree pan in it has an overly-bored director. Martin Scorsese has unfortunately become one of the worst offenders. Judging from the camerawork, he seemed to lose interest halfway through Shutter Island, shortly after I did. The answer should have been to cut 30 pages out, not spin the camera around like a yo-yo.

So bored director = bad movie, right? Well, at the risk of offending my screenwriting brethren, I’m going to say that it’s not that simple. A totally-un-bored director is just as bad. Obviously, a director should love a screenplay if she’s going to direct it, but she shouldn’t love it too much.

You would think that a Charlie Kaufman screenplay would be enough to keep anyone in rapt attention, but Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze, who have made two Kaufman movies each, still allow themselves to get a little bored. They capture the writer’s genius, but they also find ways to amuse themselves in movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Adaptation. Scenes are shot in kooky, inventive ways, over and above the inherent strangeness of the scripts. When George Clooney directed Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, on the other hand, he was too reverent. And what happens when Kaufman tries to direct his own script? You end up with Synecdoche, New York, a movie that was filled with long, lingering shots of a writer/director’s excrement, both literally and figuratively.

I directed a lot of my own writing before I finally decided that I wasn’t meant to be a director. One day I took a look at my stuff and I realized that I loved my words too much to direct them well. I thought my words were so interesting that I could just plop the actors down, pick a few interesting camera angles, and let them recite several pages of dialogue. A good director, whether directing their own stuff or someone else’s, needs to think to themselves “Jeez, how can I make this more interesting?” They need to get a little bored.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Underrated Movie #79: Jump Tomorrow

Title: Jump Tomorrow
Year: 2001
Writer / Director: Joel Hopkins
Stars: Tunde Adebimpe, Natalia Verbeke, Hippolyte Girardot

The Story: A shy, charming Nigerian-American has to travel across upstate New York for an arranged marriage, but a crazed Frenchman encourages him to pursue his crush on a Spanish cutie making the same trip.

How it Came to be Underrated: I saw this randomly at Sundance and I fell in love with it. When it failed to get much of a release, I was afraid to watch it again—had I merely been intoxicated by the mountain air once again? No, I liked it even more the second time, and everybody who I show this movie to goes crazy for it (and curses the pea-brains who failed to market it properly.)

Why It’s Great:

  1. It’s a modern romantic comedy! Hey, where‘s everybody going? These days, just hearing those words sets anybody’s teeth on edge, the genre has become synonymous with treachly formulaic crapola. It’s absolutely remarkable that anyone can still breathe life into this tired genre, but Hopkins’ love of life (and filmmaking) is absolutely infectious. Surely he got a bunch of offers to make Sandra Bullock movies after this came out?
  2. As with Monday’s movie, I fell in love with both the director and the two leads, then watched them all disappear off the radar, at least for a while. Adebimpe was an NYU animator who got shanghaied into acting by his friend Hopkins, so then he became, what else… a rock star, as the unlikely lead singer of indie darlings “TV on the Radio”. According to imdb, the adorable Verbeke ended up on Spanish TV.
  3. Too often in these movies, the filmmakers tell us who is supposed to be in love and we just have to go along with it. This movie lets us decide that we want them to get together. Even then, the jilted fiancé doesn’t automatically get labeled a jerk. They have to convince us separately that those two don’t belong together. Likewise, no matter how much we love Girardot’s character, we come to admit that he isn’t ready for love. In bad rom-coms, we’re told to root for character we don’t love. In the good ones, we sometimes love them too much to root for them.
  4. There’s no greater source of conflict than an irrepressible character trying and failing to repress themselves. Once we know who they are and who they’d rather be, then we can enjoy the struggle as their true nature attempts to burst forth with each line.

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out:? After establishing himself as a rocker, Adebimpe unexpectedly popped back up as another groom years later in Rachel Getting Married and he still had all the same charm. Hopkins finally re-emerged with the quiet Dustin Hoffman / Emma Thompson romance Last Chance Harvey, which isn’t as good as this one but still worth seeing.

How Available Is It?: It’s on DVD and Watch Instantly. The DVD has a fun commentary with Hopkins and Adebimpe

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Yakkety-Yak!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Storyteller’s Rulebook #30: Be A Good God


Here’s a depressing thing that you’ll sometimes hear writers say: “You know you’re doing it right when it’s not any fun anymore.” By the time you start saying that out loud, you may just be a burnout case, but it is true that the more careful you become, the less it feels like play and the more it feels like work.

Last week I talked about the need to know what every character did all day. When you first dream up a story, you don’t think about things like the career and hobbies of the character’s love interest. But eventually you admit that you have to start figuring out all those incidental character details, even if they don’t directly impact your larger story.

At first, you let yourself get away with expediencies like writing, “he goes home and she’s waiting there to talk.” And why not? It allows you to get started without having to do the tedious part of the job. Later, when you realize that everybody, even the cops who interact with your hero in just one scene, need to have individual personalities, it becomes less fun.

The biggest bummer is when you realize that you need to know a lot more about each character than you’ll ever show. You have to know everything that makes each character tick, even though your story will only reveal their surface actions over the course of a few days. That’s hardly fair! It was so much easier back when you could just toss in a generic wife, and a straw man villain, and a random hobby. It used to be that everything you invented wound up in the story.

Great fiction writers must know and understand everybody in the little universe they’ve created. They have to take an insider-perspective on every profession, really feel every character’s wants and needs, even justify everybody’s actions, at least long enough to write that character’s dialogue. Writers can create anything. Within our worlds, we are all-powerful gods. But only the really good writers go further, and become all-knowing gods. Only truly great writers go beyond that, to become all-loving gods. It turns out that being god is actually a pretty hard job, if you want to do it right.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Underrated Movie #78: Funny Bones

Title: Funny Bones
Year: 1995
Director: Peter Chelsom
Writers: Chelsom and Peter Flannery
Stars: Oliver Platt, Lee Evans, Jerry Lewis, Leslie Caron

The Story: Surreal, funny, heartbreaking magic-realist comedy-drama about a failed American comedian who absconds to the faded resort town of Blackpool, England, where his father performed when he was a child, hoping to steal material from the local comics. Instead, he uncovers his father’s secrets and discovers he has a monstrously funny half-brother.

How it Came to be Underrated: This movie seemed to announce Chelsom as a major writer/director, but his follow-up (The Mighty) was a flop and his next (Town and Country) was a notorious mega-flop, so he was done, and this movie was unfortunately forgotten.

Why It’s Great:

  1. And it wasn’t just Chelsom. This movie also seemed like it would turn Platt and Evans into major stars. They both give intense, heartbreaking lead performances. Platt has been too often relegated to “fat friend” roles, which was perhaps inevitable, but the utter disappearance of Evans is stranger. He’s a revelation here, like a strange combination of Sean Penn and Jim Carrey. He’s been rarely seen again, which makes this one of the great one-off performances I've seen.
  2. And the great roles don’t end there-- this movie gave us the best later work for both Lewis and Caron! You can see why top talent wanted to work with Chelsom after this, but he didn’t seem to have the temperament for Hollywood. Maybe he’ll manage a comeback soon and pay off the promise of this movie.
  3. It must seem like I spend a lot of time defending cliché on this blog, but make no mistake, I love a movie that breaks all the rules. This movie is constantly lurching off in new directions (and shifting in tone) so you never have any idea what’s going to happen next. I should have been a big mess, so it’s totally exhilarating to watch it all pay off. Ultimately, the movie centers on a dilemma we’ve truly never seen before: “A boxer kills a guy in the ring and he maybe gets another fight. A clown kills a guy in the ring? …You have to admit that that’s bad box office.” Now that's an unique problem.
  4. This is a funny movie, but it’s more interested in being about comedy, which is an inherently painful subject. The opening sequence, where Platt bombs in Vegas, is as excruciating as a horror film. The whole movie explores the symbiotic relationship between comedy and brutality. As Evans rhetorically asks, “You can’t pull your punches, can you?”

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: Lewis first proved that he was ready to be serious with Scorsese’s King of Comedy. The existential wretchedness of English seaside resort towns was also explored in the great film noir Brighton Rock.

How Available Is It?: The DVD has no features, but it looks nice and shows off the gorgeous cinematography of Eduardo Serra.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Mr. Bat Sings!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Great Moments in Comics #14: Ditko's Mr. A

And now for some black and white comics—some VERY black and white comics. I’ve talked before about that moment in the late ‘60s when Patrick McGoohan decided to transform his TV show Secret Agent into a wildly surreal allegory about mechanisms of control in modern society, re-named “The Prisoner”. What you may not know is that Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko had a similar revelation around the same time.

At first Ditko tried to graft his own increasingly radical liberatarian politics onto Peter Parker, but when co-writer Stan Lee called a halt to that, Ditko went out on his own. He ultimately decided to self-publish his vision of the ultimate hero, Mr. A, who took his name from Ayn Rand’s objectivist dictum: “Above all else, A is A!”

I’m no Randian, but I love Mr. A more than anything. It’s like the rosetta stone of all other comics: Mr. A says out loud what other heroes merely imply—he actually gives impromptu lectures about why he should be allowed to use force while he’s beating up the bad guys! One thing I love about this comic is that, for all its claims of moral certainty, Ditko and Mr. A himself never stop thinking about this stuff. Each page in this short story ends in a philosophical dissection of the story so far, diagrammed onto Mr. A’s symbol: a card on which black and white do not mix. But by page 6, he’s already had to adjust the diagram to show how corruption causes the two sides to bleed through onto each other. Maybe the world wasn’t all black and white after all… Maybe he just wanted it to be that way.





Friday, June 18, 2010

Underrated Movie #77: Million Dollar Legs

Title: Million Dollar Legs
Year: 1932
Director: Edward F. Cline
Writers: Joseph L. Mankiewicz (!) and Henry Myers
Stars: W. C. Fields, Jack Oakie, Susan Fleming, Andy Clyde

The Story: Fields has retained the presidency of a treacherous little country called Klopstockia thanks to his arm-wrestling prowess, but now his enemies are going to take it all away. Luckily, an American brush salesman who wants to marry his daughter has a plan to save the country: win all the medals in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics!

How it Came to be Underrated: W. C. Fields’s movies, most of which are from the early sound era, have been in terrible shape for a while, which hurts his chances of finding new audiences. This one has never been on available an American DVD.

Why It’s Great:

  1. I recently discovered this one thanks to a wonderful screening held by friend of the blog Elliott Kalan here in NYC, with guest appearances by John Oliver and W. C. Fields’s granddaughter. If you were lucky enough to be there, there’s little I can say here that they didn’t cover in their hilarious discussion. According to my stats, I get readers from all over the world here, but I recommend that you all somehow make it New York for Elliott’s next screening on July 7th, Fritz Lang’s Human Desire, which is another not-on-DVD gem.
  2. The tagline on the poster says it all: “It’s insane – It’s joyous!” and the story couldn’t be crazier, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hold together, in its own odd way. There’s actualy a lot of “set-up and pay-off”. Each one of the special skills that they wind up needing in the Olympics has been established beforehand in a fairly organic way, as far as anything can be said to organic is utterly absurd movie.
  3. Susan Fleming is famous today for her long marriage to Harpo Marx, but it turns out that she a talented comedienne as well. She gets big laughs by being absurdly deadpan. Here she tells her American suitor that she wants him to sing her an old Klopstockian love song. “It’s an old family copy.” “Tell me, what’s it printed on?” “My grandfather.” Now that’s pre-code comedy!
  4. Why don’t comedies have angry little deep-voiced kids in them anymore? They were still showing up as late as Monkey Business. It’s not too late to bring them back!

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: This would make a great triple-feature with two other movies featuring classic comedians in charge of their own small country: the Marx Brothers’ Duck Soup and Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.

How Available Is It?: It’s not available stateside, but at least there’s a Region 2 British DVD that’s well-restored.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: Genuine 6 Proof Stuff!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Storyteller’s Rulebook #29: Know What They Do All Day

You’re writing a scene. A man finds out some shocking news. He goes home to tell his wife. He walks into his apartment where she’s been waiting for him to come home. She asks what’s wrong. He tells her everything. What does she say? Well, we don’t care what she says because the scene is already dead. She was waiting for him to come home? Really? She had nothing better to do? 

In how many ways does this sabotage the scene? Well, first of all, you’ve pretty much guaranteed that you’ll have crappy performances, because the actress playing the wife has nothing to play. She has nothing in her hands, no business to complete, no goal of her own to accomplish rather than have this conversation. You’ve drained the scene of conflict because she wants to have this conversation, and in fact needs to have this conversation, since she has nothing better to do. What if she didn’t want to get into it and she needed to complete something else? That’s two more sources of conflict, right off the bat.

But more importantly, you’ve hobbled your own thought process. If you had taken the time to figure out what she would actually be doing all day, then you would have had to create a much richer, fuller character, and you would have thought about what these people do for work and what they do for play. In other words, you would have thought about what they value. And that would inform every conversation.
 
The ultimate example is a truly terrible movie that you may never have heard of: Attack of the Clones. (I think I’m the first person to ever complain about this movie on the internet, so bear with me…) In this airless, weightless, computer-rendered world, every actor stands around in front of green screens and blandly converses about who gets to control the universe. If you listen to two seconds of dialogue, you know the movie is bad, but you don’t even have to listen that long. Just look at their homes and offices.

Where is all their stuff?
How do these people live without stuff?

In this movie, as far as I understood it, Natalie Portman plays a character who is both queen of the galaxy and the president of the new Senate.
Those are two big jobs! Where is her desk? Where are her papers? Is there no paper at all in this universe? Okay, so do they use computers instead? No? Do they write everything on their hands? Can she at least have a pen? No? There’s not a single usable prop on any set. This lack of stuff makes the visuals look hopelessly unconvincing and it makes the acting painful to watch, but more importantly, it makes the high-falutin’ ideas they’re discussing sound vapid and pointless. Why should we listen to you people? You obviously don’t do anything.

These people had very important jobs, or so we were told, but they did nothing, and they had nothing, so they were nothing. And out in the audience, nobody cared. Don’t make the same mistake. Never let anybody enter a room and find somebody waiting around to have a conversation.