Saturday, July 23, 2011

Movies to read

I love reading screenplays.

It was one of the first online activities I ever indulged in back circa 1994 when I launched myself into the then new frontier of cyberspace. I think it may have been Drew's Scrip-o-rama, or maybe one of its antecedents. It sparked a fire inside me to learn the craft. Which lead to writing them, which lead to books, which lead to this blog I am typing at this moment.

It is a good idea for all writers to read screenplays. Most who have done both novels and screenplays will say that scripts are far more difficult. But certainly it can argued the other way. One thing screenplays will teach for sure is discipline. Scripts all about are structure, structure, structure. Scripts are all about dialouge. Scripts are all about showing and not telling, and you have to show the reader an awful lot of story and character and action with very little page room to do it.

I also love reading novelizations of movies I like. Novelizing screenplays is a fascinating adaption in reverse process that fascinates me and is another hard to master discipline. Some writers are very good at this. Alan Dean Foster comes to mind.

This novelization of the 1983 David Cronenberg film Videodrome is very well done and was credited to "Jack Martin" which is pen name for the well regarded horror writer Dennis Etchison.

Here are a few images of some movies I love to read, both published screenplays and novelizations.

Older films and classic scripts are hard to read because the formatting was different and full of camera direction. And many movies are so director intensive and visual, they just don't make for satisfying reads. Examples would be the works of Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma,  Dario Argento, Spike Lee, or Oliver Stone.

Many of my favorite screenplays are not available in published book form (that I am aware of anyway). But some I like to read (and study) regularly include Back to the Future, Falling Down, the various drafts of  Total Recall, just about anything written by Paul Schrader, Bruce Joel Rubin, Lawrence Kasdan, Quentin Tarantino,  Daniel Waters, or Shane Black.

Also James Cameron. Contrary to what his detractors say, this guy can write. He can nail a distinct character and put a fully formed visual in your head, or describe an action sequence as good as anyone I have read. One of the best movie novelizations is the Abyss by Orson Scott Card. It makes for a great double feature read along side Cameron's screenplay.

When it comes to effectively describing a sex scene, no one did it better than guilty pleasure maestro Joe Eszterhas.

This is a novelization of Basic Instinct by Richard Osborne that follows the original script tightly.

Eszterhas's profanity laced neo-noir screenplays always make for an entertaining read.

David Cronenberg is a brilliant writer and director.

This is the published screenplay of his adaption of J.G. Ballard's novel for the 1996 subversive film. Both are must reads.

Steven Spielberg is not known as a writer, but Close Encounters is an excellent screenplay ( The conspiracy aspect seems to have been inspired by an early uncredited and mostly unused draft by Paul Schrader). Spielberg also did a great job with the final screenplay to A.I., based on the work of Kubrick, Ian Watson, and the short story by Brian Aldiss.

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