Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Neatness is always the result of deliberate planning."

I actually remembered to enter the 5 minute fiction contest last night.  It went a little better than last time but I don't think I've quite figured it out yet.  The story itself made more sense - I took a minute (just a minute) to think about where I wanted to go before I started writing and wasn’t committed to a bad idea.  I'm reminded of a poster on the wall at work three employers ago - "Why is it that there's never enough time to do it right but always enough time to do it again?"

Today's "Tales From the Script" comes from Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest".  Long considered a classic by the people who get to pick that sort of thing, NXNW has been argued as the finest work by "the master of suspense".  I enjoy a good Hitchcock most of the time, most of the way through, but I've come to the opinion that the industry has moved too far for most people to enjoy the films.  They want Cameron or Tarantino.  You have to be in the mood for an antique to appreciate something like NXNW.  (I offer you to compare "Dr. No" with "Skyfall" before arguing that old movies are equally enjoyable to a modern audience.)

What I'm getting at is that I saw NXNW in my teens and it was okay but not something I cared to see again - it was an old movie and seemed a bit hokey, not suspenseful.  Reading the script, I was struck by how much has changed in the way we are supposed to tell stories for the screen.  But I also saw how valuable reading the story of a successful film from another time can be.  The script was fantastic.

Really, it was.  There were all sorts of bits in the dialogue that were very well done.  There were real expressions of emotion rather than mindless cursing.  Everything was innuendo - it was very clear exactly what the characters were talking about, but they never said it and while we knew what they were about to do (or had just done) there was no scene showing us any of it.  If nothing else, it's proof that a good writer will find a way, no matter what the rules may be.

On the down side, it was a very long read - as scripts go.  Enjoyable, but not the easy-to-finish-in-one-sitting that now populates the world.  There were huge long blocks of descriptive text.  They moved along fairly well but it was much more novel like.  There was also quite a bit of exposition through dialogue which is not only out of vogue, but extremely boring.

The comedy played through well and so did the desperation.  I felt quite certain, by the end, that I knew Mr. Thornhill.  For some strange reason though, as I read, I kept hearing Jimmy Stewart instead of Cary Grant.

I'm wondering if there are any Hitchcock fans out there?  What was your take on NXNW?

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