You Really Should See 1917

Tell them what you did!
And who you are!
Okay…my name is Tucker and I’m a Maltese.
And I am Gigi parti poodle extraordinaire. Good Afternoon. Now tell them what you did!
My name is Tucker and I got invited to a Corona party at a fraternity in Alabama. I got invited because I have a relative who was a fraternity member and I am legacy. And I thought it would be fun. My favorite movie is Animal House and my other favorite movie is Old School and if you are the first person to get Corona from going to the fraternity party you get all the money everyone throws into the pot. I thought it would be fun to go to the party and see if I could get the Corona. But Gigi…
I am Gigi.
Tattled on me and told our novelist what I was up to so my novelist scolded me and said I could not go to the fraternity party in Alabama and get the Corona and win the money. Now I am grounded.
As you should be. Without any further ado here is our novelist.

Sometimes you wonder what Oscar voters are thinking. And modern movie critics are no better. I long for the days when it was just Siskel and Ebert and not a large pool of critics, would-be critics, and an average score. Firstly, many of the critics are not as good as Siskel or Ebert and secondly, I miss the At the Movies passionate heated discussions. I doubt many critics today have as much passion about movies as Siskel and Ebert did. Although to be fair Hollywood is grinding out more and more dreck so it’s harder and harder to be passionate about film. Whether I agreed with the two Chicago film aficionados or not (and I most often agreed with them) I always respected them. I rarely respect critics now. And I respect Oscar voters even less.

Which leads me to the question what were they thinking when they screened 1917? Did they not see the same movie I did? Were they high on mescaline? Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope is a fantastic film done in one take and that was shot primarily on one set. 1917 was done in one take over an expansive amount of war-torn territory. Did they think this was easy? Did they think Sam Mendes got up one morning and said I am going to shoot a World War One film in one take, and it will be a walk in the park?

And why was George MacKay not nominated for best actor? Are you kidding me?! What more did they want this kid to do? He was amazing. His performance reminded me of Leonardo Dicaprio’s tour de force work in The Revenant. Oscars can be jackasses when it comes to the Best Actor category. They have a difficult time nominating male actors who are not pushing forty. Look at last year’s category. The youngest nomination was Adam Driver who is thirty-six.

One of the major complaints critics had of the film was it seemed like a video game. Okay, let’s think differently for a moment. Let’s just give that a try shall we. Where do you think war time video games get their inspiration? Probably from the same place Sam Mendes got his inspiration for the film: people who were in said war, and books written by people who either interviewed people who were soldiers or were soldiers themselves. So, by that rational Sam Mendes who co-wrote the script based on tales his grandfather who fought in WWI told him, really wrote out the story a video game would copy. In a sense Sam Mendes did not copy video games but rather video games copy stories like his. War is not rational. It is not a Jane Austin novel. It is unpredictable and frenetic. Telling a war story which takes place during battle therefore can be unpredictable and frenetic as well.

I do encourage you to watch 1917 if you have not already. It is a wholly different experience than a lot of films out there and that is good. Should all war films be made in the same fashion as this one? Not necessarily. There is plenty of room for Bridge on the River Kwai, Patton, The Deer Hunter, whatever. But there’s also room for films like 1917 that are not made to dive deep into a character’s psyche. Sometimes a film is about what happens in the moment and the propulsion driving it to the next moment and the one after that keeping the audience on the edge of its seat and still saying something profound about the horrors of war.

While you are waiting for my next post you can check out my novel Chicane on Amazon. Also look for more information coming up about the release of the first novel in my book series I will be publishing this summer.

The ScreenwritingU Free Friday Class tomorrow 7/3/2020 is called Want Movie Stars to Play Your Characters? You can sign up for the class here.


As it is traveling season and but not a good time to travel, I thought it would be fun to feature a couple of films about trains.

Runaway Train (1985) is one of my favorite action adventure films of all time that unfortunately often gets overlooked. It is also an existential film to boot. Jon Voight is sensational as Manny a bank robber and longtime prisoner who after serving three years in solitary confinement devises a plan to break out of a maximum-security prison in Alaska and escape his psychopathic warden (John P. Ryan). He recruits a younger prisoner named Buck played wonderfully by Eric Roberts to help him escape. They manage to head across brutal snowy terrain and hop a train. Though they think they are bound for freedom they aren’t counting on what happens to their ride. Both men earned much deserved Oscar nominations for their outstanding work. Rebecca De Mornay is also fantastic as a railroad worker. Look for Danny Trejo as a boxer and Dennis Franz as a Cop. Don’t miss this one. The screenplay was co-written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Paul Zindel. It is based on an original screenplay by the brilliant director Akira Kurosawa. Kurosawa had planned to direct the film himself but never got to because of difficulties with his American financial backers.

The Train (1964) is an American French War film starring Burt Lancaster and directed by one of the most under appreciated directors of all time John Frankenheimer. The film takes place in August of 1944 where a German Colonel Franz Von Waldeim (Paul Scofield) who has a deep appreciation of art and a keen understanding of its financial value decides to load a train with hords of France’s finest artistic masterpieces and ship them to Germany. But the curator of the museum he takes them from will have none of it and calls upon French Resistance members led by Paul Labiche (Lancaster) to stop the train and return the paintings to France without damage. This of course makes the rescue more dangerous and Labiche is reluctant to take the job. But when one of his elderly engineers sacrifices his life to sabotage the train all bets are off and Labiche and his ragtag crew brew up an elaborate plan to reroute the train.

Rango is Chinatown for kids. Set in the Nevada desert, Rango is a pet chameleon who gets lost when his terrarium gets separated from his adoptive family. While trying to find his way home Rango stumbles into an old western town and by happenstance destroys the towns enemy a large nasty hawk. The mayor appoints him to the position of sheriff. However, the former hawk served a purpose which was to keep a nasty gun slinging rattlesnake at bay. They mayor Rango finds out is in cahoots with the notorious rattler involving the disappearance of the town’s water supply. The movie won the Oscar for Best Animated Film in 2011.



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