Tuesday, March 12, 2013

ONE WRITER CONNECTION (everything connected with writing)...


March, 12, 2013




            Years ago, I wanted to write a continuing column for newspapers and magazines. The title of the series was, ‘According to Red’ and I wrote about a dozen pieces that went nowhere. Now I’ve got this blog but most of the red has gone out of my hair and only my aunts call me that. I’m an author – ahem, an award winning author – of more than thirty books, most hard crime novels, thus the title of this blog.

            I love movies, see three or four a week in theaters and by rent. I have even written screenplays that went nowhere or were lost when my computer crashed. If I had to pick favorites, maybe the latest two would be ‘Parker’ and ‘Jack Reacher’ because I like those books. I also like movies in beautiful black and white from the forties. In so many ways they were better than films of today.

            Movies have a rating system, set down by who knows who. Investigative media once did a television program on just who these people were that did the rating. The investigation was an abysmal failure. The rating people are secret. They are supposed to represent clergy, business, housewife, the work place and general all around folks, but nobody knows who they are or what guide they use to rate movies. What they came up with was -G- -PG- -PG-13- -R- -NC-17-. Movie makers can change the rating given their film by making cuts. The most popular rating is PG-13 so movie people aim for that. Remember ‘Midnight Cowboy?’It was an excellent film that cut the original version to change its rating from NC-17 to R. Not many regular folks are interested in NC-17 movies. Even slasher, horror movies can get a PG-13 rating. Their moneymaking popularity tells us the real intellectual level of those watching them: age 13.

            Here is my take on what the rating system really means. Certainly there are exceptions to prove the rule.

            G: For family entertainment. Actually aimed at a five year-old level.

            PG: Family entertainment with mild caution. Actually aimed at a ten year-old level.

            PG-13: Must be thirteen to see. Actually aimed directly at the thirteen year-old mind.      

            R: Restricted to those over eighteen. Actually aimed at the high school to young adult level.

            NC-17: Nobody under seventeen admitted (joke). Aimed at erotic adults.   

            There you have it. I generally avoid G, PG, and PG-13 and go straight for the R hoping it might have some adult content. One of the exceptions: ‘The Life of Pi.’

But ratings are only part of the trouble with movies. Bigger troubles loom. One is the screen full of talking head. Two people are talking but you only see one, and the head of that one is all you see. True, the male and female actors of today are quite beautiful and maybe they deserve to have their beauty plastered all over the screen, from corner to corner, edge to edge. And it is understood, actors have schedules so the two in the conversation might not even be together during the filming. But work it out. Get those people together...somehow. Movies of the forties got actors and actresses (there was a difference then, before the push to unisex) together, on the screen, at the same time. Are you not that efficient? Movies of the thirties, co-stars and extras went from film to film changing costumes as they moved. A bit player might be in three or four films in one day.

            Ah, now we come to one of the most irritating of movies: the action film. Most are rated PG-13 to garner the biggest audience. Here we have dead-eye military types covered in fatigues full of Velcro, or mean gangsters supposed to be crack shots – and they blast their endless shot weapons at everything except the target; glass walls and mirrors shattered, cars blown, bottles broken, ceilings collapsed – but nobody hit. We have impossible, illogical car chases yet nobody can actually shoot a person in the other car. None even think of aiming for the tires. After the car careens off a cliff, rolls umpteen times – and just before it explodes, the hero manages to walk away with a slight limp and a sliver of blood on his forehead, weapon in hand. Action films are popular because thirteen year-old thinkers apparently have an endless supply of cash for movies. Where do they get all that money?

            Let us not even delve into the horror, slasher stuff with its person being dragged by her heels away from the camera – again – to the tune of loud, ear splitting, screeching violins. And even agents now shout, ‘Great Scott, not another vampire script.’ 

            But perhaps the most irritating trouble with movies is what I call, shaky camera. Maybe the goal is to get artsy, or pretend we’re doing a documentary. The camera work in today’s movies looks like a junior high kid with an 8mm camera. You get a headache with the jumps and jerks and wiggles, with angle cuts so quick all you see is some blur – and your mind starts to wonder what’s for supper or you wish you had more butter fat on your popcorn, and will this mess on the screen ever be over. I will and have walked out. When a movie turns jumpy with dumb camera shots, nobody is under obligation to see the end of it.

            One of the first lessons a screenwriter learns is that the purpose of film is to tell a story through action and dialog. Movies of today give us unbelievable, illogical action, and more sophomoric dialog than we can handle, but not much story. It is rare that we get all three just right. It does happen sometimes. And those are the best movies. 

            My books are available at all online book stores. To see them: www.georgesnydersbooks.com





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