Captain America – Civil War

We interrupt our regular program for some quick thoughts on Captain America – Civil War.

This is not a review and spoiler free!!!

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Team Cap all the way!

I’m not sure how well you know me, but I’m a bit of a Marvel geek. I’m into comics and I have a decent collection, not total social suicide big, but big enough. I know my basic storylines and I can tell you a few things about most characters. I read DC as well (and other publishers of course) but if asked, I’m a Marvel guy.

I love the MCU, there are some misses but the hits make more than up for that. I do see problems and issues in some of the Marvel movies but overall I find those movies to be well-crafted and entertaining and to be honest, that’s what I’m looking for in a movie. Good craftsmanship and entertainment.

Unlike BvS, Marvel’s latest flick, the 3rd Captain America Movie, titled Civil War is being received well by fans and most critics alike, but there is this undercurrent, this “but” that keeps coming up and it is starting to bug me a bit. I’m not going to link to these articles1 but I’m sure you know what I’m talking about: “Is the Marvel Formula going to work for ever?”.

I’m not saying that Captain America – Civil War is a perfect movie, maybe Marvel has a bit of a third act problem, I don’t know, I’m not a critic, I’m just a guy who likes movies and thinks he knows a few things about how they are made and what kind of deliberations go into storytelling. I’m not sure that I’ve could come up with a better third act than Markus and McFeely, probably not (it’s fair to say that this is also true for act 1 and 2) but for me the important thing is that act 3 doesn’t suck, and guess what…IT DOESN’T!

It’s a perfectly fine story that works and you can feel that the writers, directors and everyone involved cared enough about the audience to tell a story that makes sense and doesn’t insult people intelligence. Some people invoke the “Marvel Formula” but I don’t think that the issue is any formula. Look at other tentpole blockbusters, that’s just the way how those stories are told today. it was a bit different in the 80s in it will be different in 10 years, that’s just how it has always been.

What I love about Marvel is easily exemplified in the Airport scene, no its not the spectacle, that’s fun too though, it’s the fact I can can tell why each character is on the side he’s on, I know why they are fighting their friends and so do they. In fact, the one (or two) character whose alliance is not totally understandable due to their history (or lack thereof) they movie takes it’s time to explain this fact.

I could go on and start comparing BvS to Civil War but I’m not going to do that. This is a screenwriting blog and not a movie review blog so I try to draw the screenwriting conclusion. In Civil War that conclusion ist definitely that you have to make sure that your audience cares about your characters and that you don’t betray that by compromising the integrity of your characters for a plot point.

So that’s it. Go see the movie now, it’s awesome.

Btw, the score is quite good too, guess what I’m currently listening to.

  1. I’m too lazy and I don’t want to generate clicks for them.

Project Report – 12 Monkeys

I’m having a really busy week so as usual I’m going to make this quick.

One book/screenplay: I had to do some grading so I didn’t have too much time but I’ve line up The Truman Show by Andrew Niccol. I also got my copy of the critical edition of Mein Kampf. Don’t worry, I’m not one of those people, it’s for study purposes.

Two movies: I Went to see the new Jungle Book movie and I really liked it. A great example on how to remake/adapt a beloved classic, seems like Disney is on a roll. I quite enjoyed Cinderella and I’m looking forward to the Beauty and the Beast now.

Seven pages: I realized that I shied away from letting my characters actually speak. I decided to let my characters say what I think, so my movie isn’t just an homage to those great times, it’s also about my worldview and to some extent how that worldview got shaped. So yes, I’m on those seven pages.

seven hours: I had to cut this time short, I already mentioned, busy week and I decided to focus on my pages. Orlindo is still AWOL. I think I have to get on that.

Lets end with a nice picture illustrating what I’m really looking forward to….

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DIVIDED WE FALL!

Project Report – Oceans’s Eleven

It’s that time of the week again.

One book/screenplay: Not too much reading this week, I finished some books for school but I have to find something good for me to read.

Two movies: I watched a couple and I’m planing to go see Jungle Book today.

Seven pages: I rewrote one of the flashbacks and outlined some scenes. I have to outline a lot because even though I have all the moments and I know how it all ends, getting there is harder than I thought.

Seven hours: Orlindo is still dormant when it comes to #ProjectMomentum, I hope he’s alright. So I’m still researching my rewrite of Tomorrow. I haven’t gotten around to the Saber Rider pass but I’ll get to that.

Sorry, but that’s it for today. I have a lot of work to do. So lets end with something fun….

Progress Report – Ten-hut

Ok….after a prolonged hiatus, lets do this again.

One book/screenplay: I did quite some reading. Unfortunately I’m not at liberty to say, well liberty is not the right word. I prepared oral exams for my students and revealing which books I, might give them an unfair hint on what to expect.

Two movies: I watched a lot. While I was sick I binged “Daredevil”, rewatched some classics and I finally saw BvS. No I’m not going to review these things. I’m a writer, not a reviewer.

Seven pages: As I mentioned in my last post, I got rid of a character and applied those changes. This week I focused on the next big sequence, actually the first and ver important sequence where I plan to reveal the characters, their motivations and their flaws. It’s a pub-crawl and it’s coming along great.

seven hours: Judging from his blog, Orlindo is probably dead. I spent some time on Tomorrow and I’m prepping a last pass on Saber Rider. There are a few tiny problems with easy fixes. I want to have a look at each of the characters and refine their arks, especially April. I had an idea on how to make her journey more appealing and relevant.

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I type, therefore I am.

So thats it for the rundown…and now for something completely different…typing.

Let’s type some words about typing. I’m a decent typer. Not the fastest one and I’m not too good with the way you’re supposed to type but I get get fairly quickly across a keyboard and get my thoughts across at a nice pace. But it always bugged me that I’m not a really good typist (is that a word?) so I googled typing course and lo and behold, the internet is full of them.

I found out that I’m a really bad typer. I’m decently fast but I hit some of the keys with the wrong finger. Seriously, the “C”? How’s that possible without being a contortionist?

But I decided to hang non there. I doubt I’ll be able to type perfectly but I hope to improve my typing speed and accuracy. I’m aiming for better, not perfect. At some point though I have to give the dictation feature of my mac another try. I started to use Siri for a couple of things like setting alarms and so and It works really well,maybe dictation will soon catch up to that.

I’m using https://www.typing.com and I quite like it.

This is about it, As you now know, this took me really long to type. 🙂

Mea culpa, aka I got a cold

So, yeah, I’m a week late. I caught a cold and was not able to attend to the duties of #ProjectMomentum. On the bright side, Orlindo is doing way worse.
I didn’t really do anything, so I don’t have to say a lot but I hope to get going again. I’m not totally throng the cold but I’m better.

I watched a couple of things while in bed, but I don’t really want to comment on them. It’s not fair to give opinions on stuff you watched while you were sick, for better and worse.

This is it for today, it’s not much but it’s all there’s going to be. I’ll be back next week with a long post.

Progress Report – Nine Lives

The same procedure as every Wednesday but this is going to be a short one.

One book/screenplay: “Room” by Emma Donoghue, I’m probably reading that one with my students next year.
Two movies: The Prestige and Beerfest and I don’t regret it. The Prestige is probably my favorite Nolan movie1 and Beerfest is just really funny.

The prestige 1

Opening shot of The Prestige.

Seven pages: Well, I got stuck a bit. I kept writing and I realized that something was off and I needed to address some issues, but more on that later.
seven hours: I’m currently making notes for the new version of “Tomorrow”. I’m looking for ways to make the story more european. So far I’m glad I made that decision. I actually think that this might turn out quite well.

…later…

So, as I was churning out pages, it occurred to me that I had way too many characters to introduce. Most of my dialogue was people telling their names and I got really bored. So I decided to cut even more characters. I have to go back and adjust for that but I think it will be for the best. It’s hard for me to get rid of those characters because I have fond memories of them but the script is not supposed to be nostalgia, I want to write an entertaining movie with a message I can get behind. It hurts me to say goodbye to some friends but I can’t do justice to 6 or more people, I need to focus and that means combining some of them into one character or even spreading them around to make the remaining characters more interesting.

I already had a character cleansing a couple of month ago but I wasn’t thorough enough. I also have to make a list of some good ensemble movies to see how other writers and directors deal with a huge cast of characters. If someone has a good idea, drop it in the comments.

For now playing I’m doing something different today. I’m a huge Screen Junkies fan. They have some great contents for movie lovers and their Honest Trailers are just great.

A quick shout-out to Orlindo. He fell behind a bit due to work but he is supposed to be back this week, at least that’s what he promises. So head over and I he’s not posting this week, flood him with comments on how to make his site more popular. 🙂

  1. I love how the first frame of the movie gives away everything.

Progress Report – Achtung Baby

Wednesday is #ProjectMomentum Day.

I have to confess that I haven’t been that busy. I wrote some pages but not as much as I need and want to. It’s exam season at work and I have to prepare and correct exams which takes time time but I hope to get some spare time on the weekend.

So yeah, #ProjectMomentum could go better but compared to the other half of this project things are looking great here at “hard but unfair…” headquarters. Orlindo has neglected his blog a bit (at least as I’m writing this post). For some reason he even decided not to publish my comment on his recent post. Not sure what’s the deal with that.

So if you have time, please head over to Orlindo’s blog and tell him to stop procrastinating, I need someone to make me feel bad when I’m not producing my pages.

But let’s look at my numbers:

One book/screenplay: I finished “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis and switched to the Screenplay. Charles Randolph and Adam McKay did a great job in making the subject matter entertaining but Michael Lewis deserves some credit for that as well. I really liked the book and I hope that thanks to the book and movie more people learn what big finance is up to.

Craft wise the screenplay was quite interesting as well. Charles Randolph and Adam McKay don’t spend too much time with descriptions and fancy writing. Their slugs and descriptions are short and concise, not too flowery. I quite liked that, content was more important than style. Obviously the biggest challenge was was structuring the movie and explaining what ever needed explain. I guess that’s what they got the Oscar for.

Two movies: House of Cards Season 4, that counts for two movies.

Seven pages: …2…mea culpa.

seven hours: Not too much from Orlindo so I focused on my D&D campaign and my time travel tv show.

And now for something completely different…

Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

I like comic books. There I said it but it’s important to me that you know, that I like comic books way more than the way most people like comic books these days, I mean let’s face it, liking comic books is almost socially acceptable and when you look at new movie releases, comic books have definitely reached the mainstream.

As a kid I loved Disney’s „Lustiges Taschenbuch“, Tintin and other fare like that. Then when I moved to Basel to study I suddenly came into contact with something that totally changed my life for the better: A real brick and mortar comic book store.

Yeah, those things still existed back then and to my knowledge the shop is still open, at least it was the last time I was in Basel and went there to buy a graphic novel.

So I came into real contact with American comic books quite late, for some reason it never really occurred to me to buy a superhero comic book as a kid, not because I wasn’t interested but because there was no supply. If there had been a comic book store next door, I’m pretty sure I’d have moved in there.

But I digress. This is not going to be a post about my favorite Superhero (Spider-Man) or my favorite graphic novel (Watchmen) of how comic books changed my life (they didn’t) its going to be a post about what we can learn from them. Yes, we can learn things from them.

Number 1: Graphic storytelling, show don’t tell. This is a no brainer and when you look at movies like Sin City (the first one) you can see how comic books can influence visual storytelling.

Number 2: Panel design and editing. I did a presentation about „editing“ in comic books once. I focused on panel design and how it changed over time. It’s really interesting to compare a Stan Lee & Steve Ditko comic book to a Todd McFarlane1 one, it’s barely the same art form. Like in a movie the panel is the connective tissue that holds the story together.

Todd McFarlane

Todd McFarlane

Number 3: Modern Mythology. This is an oldie but goldie. Superheroes as modern gods, superhero stories as the modern myths. I’m not saying that I think that a comic book has the same value as Greek mythology but in all their entirety, comic books (and it this respect they are similar to mythic stories) are a really good window into the „Zeitgeist“, even more so than Literature with a capital L. I love the great writers but if you really want to know how people ticked, read a comic book from that era. It get’s really interesting when you lookout characters who’ve been with us for a long time. Captain America for example, he used to fight the Nazis before he fought his own government. Another good example is Tintin. For today’s standards (well, it kind of depends on the kind of person you are) the way he treated the people and animals in Kongo is not at all what we expect from an enlightened and modern person like Tim. Back then (1930s and 1940s) things were different2.

If you’re interested in these matters, I highly recommend reading up on some comics history, not just characters and their adventures but the history of the medium as well. Things like the Comics Code Authority or rise and fall (and rise) of the industry are really interesting and I hope at some point someone makes a good movie out of this. Well, on that note … Where’s my Kavalier & Clay movie?

Now Playing: Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber.

  1. I highly recomend McFarlane’s Spider-Man issues, especially Torment.
  2. The Issue is called “Tintin in the Congo” and it’s really obvious why the didn’t chose that one to turn into a movie.

Progress Report – The Seven Week Itch

It’s that time of the week again.

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First the book, then the script.

One book/screenplay:I have to confess that I didn’t get that much reading done this week. I have some books queued up and I started to read “The Big Short” by Michael Lewis this week. I haven’t gotten that far but the plan is to read the book at ten follow that up with the (Oscar winning) Screenplay by Charles Randolph and Adam McKay. A couple of years ago I promised myself to read more non-fiction books and so far this seems like another winner. I’m not reading them to find stories to adapt (in this case that would be more than just useless) but to learn something new. I read “The Signal in the Noise” by Nate Silver a couple of years ago and that one helped me to think about statistics in a completely different way and even though I’m not that great at statistics (and don’t get me started about math) I feel that I have a general understanding of the subject matter. I hope Michael Lewis’ book about the mortgage crisis helps me understand our banking system a bit better.

Two movies: I rewatched “Ex Machina”, I did see it in theaters when it came out, and the movie is still really impressive. I love the performances and it shows that you don’t need flashy special effects to tell a sci-fi story, a great script is more than enough to do that. Another though I had while watching: Alicia Vikander would e a great April.

The second movie wasn’t that impressive, I was in the mood for something stupid and I watched Blade: Trinity. Honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered and I’m tempted to say thats it’s not the best David Goyer movie but definitely not the worst, but damn, they need to do more of those Blade movies.

Seven pages: Still on it.

seven hours: Very productive. I’m still waiting for new material from Orlindo1 so I decided to have a look at my old time-travel tv series and I decided to revive that idea with a german/european setting. More on that at a later time.

And now for our feature presentation. So no worries, this is not going to be another Geek Treatise about D&D, the week I’m going to be way less controversial, lets talk politics. 🙂

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Let’s look at this cute pig before we talk politics.

I’m a very opinionated person and I’m very interested in politics but I’d never go into politics. Just to e clear, I’m not hating on politicians, I’m sure that most of them try to do what they think is right and even when their worldview is different from mine, as long as they are honest and believe in what they are saying (and more importantly doing) I have no problem with them, my problem is with the people who vote for those idiots and their issues.

So yes, this is going to be a rant but let me start with a little disclaimer: If you can read this2, I’m probably not talking about you. If you have a basic understanding of how the world works3, I’m probably not talking about you. If you believe that 911 was an inside jo and the government can’t be trusted, I’m definitely talking about you.

Stop being stupid. Switzerland had an interesting vote last weekend, I don’t want to go too much into the details but one of issues they had to vote on, had something to do with throwing foreigners out of the country after they committed (petty) crime. I just oversimplified because it’s not really about the vote it’s about what happened afterwards and it shows that democracy’s biggest problem is its voters.

So, some newspapers wrote about how people voted and of the statistics (I bet you had no idea that that would develop in today’s main topic) was along the lines of: “high education, more likely to vote no”, “high salary, more likely to vote no”. The vote was quite clear: 41,1% yes, 58,9% no. So its no surprise that most of the bars in the statistic were above or around 50%. Sure people who attended university voted yes roughly 60% of the time, and among people with no formal education, 40% said no4. I’m not entirely sure about the numbers so don’t be and if they are not exactly true but I’m trying to make a point here. I looked for the original article but I can’t find it but that’s not that important. The comments are important.

I spent about ten minutes reading through the comments and what I read made me almost activate the Doomsday Machine. Some people were just idiots and threw racial slurs around and warned people who voted yes that they would regret their decision. Those people aren’t worth a rant but the next bunch are. Some people (on the yes and no side) argued that they either fit or don’t fit the profile of the people who votes no (or yes). I read many statements that said that “Even though he attended university, he voted no. So this analysis must be bull excrement.” To people like this let me say the following thing:

Having a university degree doesn’t say your smart or stupid but not being able to understand percentages does make you look really stupid!

So yeah, that’s all I wanted to say. Maybe a bit anticlimactic but it said to be said and they had deactivated the comments. Let’s end this post with politics as well. John Oliver made a new video you should watch. Enjoy!

  1. If you want, head over to his Blog an tell him to hurry up.
  2. as in not being illiterate
  3. like earth not being a disk
  4. I assume that you have a basic understanding of what % means so I wont explain that.

Progress Report – Six Pack

Let’s do a quick “State of the Union”. #ProjectMomentum is going strong. The page count could be better of course but compared to last year Orlindo and I are at least working on our projects. I hope we’ll get better at this but I’m quite happy with it so far. Strangely, the blogging has become one of my favorite parts of the process and as I mentioned before writing about writing helped (and helps) me a lot to clarify things about my story. I also have to admit that writing prose like this is getting easier week by week and it’s a great feeling, even my typing is improving.

But there’s one thing I fear. I like the 1/2/7/7 thing we’re doing but blogging about it feels like a chore I do and usually after doing chores, you go back to the couch. I do that a lot and I’m not talking about blogging instead of writing, I’m talking about writing up the numbers instead of writing about something I truly care about. So I decided to mix the format up a bit. I will keep the numbers of course (they are an important part of #ProjectMomentum) but I’m going to focus more in content than on the numbers. I realized that the last posts had barely any insight so I want to change that. The most interesting post I wrote so far was “Three Time’s the Charm”, the one about Before Sunrise. I wrote more about one thing instead of a few lines about many things. So that’s where I want to go.

Instead of writing a bit a bit about many topics I’m going to focus on one topic in each post. If I want to write a Deadpool review I’m going to do that, If I feel like writing about how great a writer Neil Gaiman is, I’ll do that and if I want to write about that D&D book I just read, guess what…I’ll write about that.

Ok, let’s do this.

One book/screenplay: Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide a D&D campaign sourcebook.
Two movies: Deadpool for fun, Ken Branagh’s Hamlet for work.
Seven pages: working on the pub-crawl scene, reminded me of some great times
seven hours: Orlindo tool a Berlinale break so I focused on something completely different…..

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I’m the one in the striped shirt.

…an now for something completely different, let’s talk some D&D1. I have to admit, I’m really late to that party. D&D is something I always wanted to get into but there were always obstacles in ma way. Last fall I decided to give it another shot. I decided to buy the Starter Set for the newest edition (5th Edition) of D&D. That starter set included some basic rules and a campaign.

I started reading and took in the pictures and I immediately fell in love. The only word that comes to mind is immersive but that’s only half the truth. You have to put a lot of effort into it but, and that’s the beauty of it, your effort is rewarded. It didn’t take long and I bought everything I could find. I have the Player’s Handbook2, the Dungeon Masters’s Guide3, the Monster Manual4 and the afore mentioned Sword Coats Adventurer’s Guide. This is a really strange book, it’s not about rules and it’s not a campaign, it’s a book that’s supposed to inform and inspire your adventures.

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D&D 5th Edition

What I love about D&D and I feel comfortable about using the word love after one game as a DM is that the rules are there to elicit creativity and not to bog you down. It’s a lot like telling a story. There are rules of storytelling (like the rules of the game) and the rest s creativity.

So together with some friends we started to play the starter set campaign and we had a great time. We are currently figuring out a way to continue the game and I hope to find a way to make this a regular thing. I’m secretly (well, I guess not anymore) working on my own campaign. I have some ideas on how to make the game my own and I think it’s a really good storytelling exercise. It’s not just about monsters and encounters it’s also about guiding your adventurer’s through a world you created (or adapted) and letting them tell their own story inside your world. It’s like writing a movie but the characters decide themselves what they want to do.

So yeah, if you haven’t played D&D yet, I highly recommend it. The Starter Set is a good starting point, just get some friends together and you’re in for a great time.

So that’s it for the first installment of my new kind of progress report but to try to keep up with another little tradition, now playing: Jon Batiste & Stay Human – Humanism5

  1. For the uninitiated, D&D is short for Dungeons & Dragons, a pen and paper roleplaying game.
  2. The D&D Player’s Handbook contains the rules of the game and character creation
  3. The Dungeon Masters’s Guide contains everything you need to run a game
  4. The Monster Manual is all about….yes, the monsters.
  5. As heard on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Progress Report – High Five

Greetings my friends. It’s time for a post again but before I go into the numbers I want to talk a little bit about #ProjectMomentum in general. We startet about a month ago and so far things are going good, not great but good. I don’t get as much writing done as I want to but it’s a a lot more than last year. It really helps to blog about your process and it’s good to write down your thoughts and lessons you learned from the books you read or the movies you watched. Reading “Before Sunrise” for example taught me some valuable lessons. I’m not sure I would’ve read that screenplay without #ProjectMomentum.

I said good, not great. Well, It’s the same old story, we (I’m talking about Orlindo and myself) are just too nice to each other. We don’t put on enough pressure on each other but how can I pressure someone else if I’m barely able to get my work done (and by barely I mean not really). So how do we fix this? I have no idea. Maybe some outside pressure would be a good idea (commenters, I’m talking to you), maybe I need to focus on my work and make sure that I’m writing enough pages to make Orlindo feel bad (or maybe the other way round….I’m talking to you Orlindo!!!!).

So, generally speaking, so far so good, but there’s room for improvement. But let’s dive into the numbers.

One Screenplay: I read the novelization of “Bend it like Beckham”. I made my students read it and I’m going to show them the movie. It’s a good story with a nice message but other than that there’s is not lot to talk about there.

The Land Before Time

Don Bluth rocks!

Two Movies: Lot’s to report here. I watched “The Good Dinosaur”. Yeah, not much to say there just that “The Land Before Time” was so much better. The other movie I watched was “When Harry met Sally”. There’s not a lot you can say about that movie that hasn’t been said before. It’s truly timeless and really funny, I’d love to write a movie like that.

Seven Pages: Getting there. The weekend was a bust but I have some good ideas and I’m planing on getting them to the page today.

Seven hours of development: Also getting there. I’m waiting for Orlindo’s pages and inspired by the recent Scriptnotes episode and the twitter feed of the week I had a look at my character introductions, especially the women and I happy to report that I’m not that horrible. Sure, some are atrocious but most were quite alright. I decided to focus on that and I looked at some old scripts and and made some changes.

So that’s it for this week. I just hope that the momentum keeps building bit I guess that’s the point.