As a writer, I love a good movie. Appealing characters bounce from the screen. Relationships develop and conflicts ensue. Setting can become a character. Music transports us through scenes. Filming enchants while edits provides pacing. Later I sometimes wonder, using only words how would I write those scenes or that character into a novel?
Since the holidays I’ve seen three movies at the theater. All have sparked my thoughts into a bright blaze.
Gran Torino, directed by Clint Eastwood, screenplay by Nick Schenk and story by Dave Johannson, is about Walt Kowalski, a curmudgeony Korean War Veteran who can’t get along with his children, his grandchildren, or the Hmong immigrants who have taken over his middle class Michigan neighborhood. Kowalski responds to the changes in an intriguing way, yet remains true to the man he is. This strong story touches our beliefs, our brains, and our hearts. Side note–while the ad poster is technically accurate, Gran Torino is not a shoot ’em up action flick. I guess even Hollywood legends can get bad covers. 😉 The Rotten Tomatometer for Gran Torino reads 77%. I’d rate it higher.
Frost/Nixon, directed by Ron Howard and written by Peter Morgan, tells of the 1977 televised interviews between British talk show host David Frost, and former U.S. President Richard Nixon. The beginning focuses on Frost, apparently in exile in Australia. Watching Nixon’s resignation from the Presidency on TV, Frost becomes intrigued by the “numbers.” So begins his three year quest to interview Nixon. The movie is the story of two very different men, each wanting something from the interviews. Only one can win. It’s a classic plotline. Watching it unfold on the screen is captivating. The Rotten Tomatometer for Frost/Nixon reads 91%. An appropriately high rating.
Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Dustin Lance Black, tells the story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in California. The film begins with Milk recording a tape in his kitchen, “to be listened to in the event of my assassination.” It is 1977 and he is 48. In a brilliant blend of flashbacks and real news clips, we see Milk and his partner move from New York to San Francisco where they open a camera shop in The Castro. With persecution all around, Milk is pulled into politics and becomes a fiery voice for gay rights. He forges alliances and urges gays and lesbians to come out to their families and friends so the straight community will see them as real and, as Roger Ebert writes, will “stop demonizing an abstract idea.” On so many levels, Milk works. It is warm and thought-provoking. I left the theater with a sad smile. And, as a writer, I wondered. Using only words, how would I write such a remarkable man’s journey? The Rotten Tomatometer for Milk reads 93%, calling it “Triumphant.” I agree, and hope you see it.
→Have you seen any of the above movies, or any other really good movie recently? Please share your experience and thoughts.