Missing in action: The Finest Hours sails in the wrong direction

Less-than engaging. While this is based on a true story about the most outrageous coast-guard rescue in the 20th century, this adaptation did not deliver the kind of dramatic cinematic experience that should accompany an intense life-threatening story like this. It’s slow (rather methodical), and the dialogue at large is weak and seems to be missing in action. Squeaky clean and neat-to-a-flaw, the narrative is less-engaging. Sadly, A-list actors like Chris Pine, and Casey Affleck didn’t have much to work with, and the ending was nothing short of a cheat.

Admittedly, the film exhibits some true-to-life scenarios that were reflective of life in the early 1950’s:  Innocence in love Bernie Webber and Miriam (Chris Pine and Holiday Grainger), where Webber is so shy Miriam proposes. Both Webber, the captain of the small Coast Guard Vessel that is sent out to rescue the survivors of the the S.S. Pendelton and Pendelton’s chief engineer, Ray Sybert (Casey Affleck) show very little expression (internalize), while making moment-by-moment crucial decisions.

“Bringing a wooden 36-foot motor lifeboat alongside a freighter in mountainous seas is near impossible without placing your crew in grave danger. Yet, that is exactly what Webber and his crew did. With the light from the small searchlight and timing the movement of the swells as they rolled through, Webber and his crew approached the stern of the floundering vessel more than 30 times to extract the survivors, one by one.” (60th Anniversary of the Pendelton Rescue)
According to the “actual” story, Webber had no idea what he was doing, nor did he really expect to live through the attempted rescue.  When the compass is lost, and the boat is tossed around in the violent ocean, Webber is left to instinctively find the ship that had split in two.  One of the biggest issues in the film is with Webber’s character.  He doesn’t ever change.  There is no apparent arch, nor does he display any sense of emotion during his journey — a journey that should reveal a fierce internal and external battle for survival in impossible circumstances.  However, Webber does not show this kind of raw emotion, but very methodically finds his way through a treacherous sandbar and out to a treacherous sea in search of survivors.
written by Michael J. Tougias and Casey Sherman, Bernie Webber was the son of a preacher, who did not want to follow in his father’s footsteps.  In fact, he just as he was about to run away from school, a childhood friend crashed his father’s car, and was looking for a place to hide. Webber helped him out by hiding him in his room, and stealing food from the cafeteria for him to eat. While the boys were caught, they didn’t ever suffer the consequences, because they returned back to Milton (their hometown).  According to the story, “The Reverend Bernard A. Webber struggled to understand the actions of his wayward son as young Bernie quit school and continued to drift.” Quite a different picture from the shy, reserved, obliging Coast Guard Captain, who seems intimidated by his superior.

Probably the best two things about this film are the tanker’s engineer, Casey Affleck, a character that was completely fictionalized,  and the insanely turbulent storm visuals created by cinematographer, Javier Aguirresarobe.  It’s man vs. the sea, and those moments are clearly defined visually on the screen with special effects, and a 3D option, that really isn’t necessary.  Indeed, the cinematography is well-played, for those “few” moments can leave you unnerved and holding onto your seat, in fact those moments somewhat carry the story, but that only lasts so long.

The ending is also problematic.  Once the men are successfully rescued, the trip home is a piece of cake.  While there are dozens of cars beaming their headlights toward the dark, stormy ocean, there is no real celebration of their arrival.  The men just methodically get off the boat and go home…men that also should exhibit some froze-bite and/or hypothermia.

According to history: “USCGC YAKUTAT’S MOTOR SURFBOAT RESCUES SURVIVORS FROM BOW OF SS FORT MERCER: Coast Guard rescuers in a motor surfboat carry blanket-wrapped master of tanker SS FORT MERCER, Captain Frederick C. Paetzal (far side), and purser, Edward Turner, Jr., to safety of the Coast Guard Cutter YAKUTAT.  The two survivors were plucked from the water after they jumped from the tanker’s bow section.  Captain Paetzel suffered from pneumonia and frost bitten hands and feet.”

In the final analysis, this film, though somewhat entertaining, is another adaptation that isn’t sailing in the right direction. When you use elements of nature being used as the sole catalyst to drive a story forward, it doesn’t work. Those elements are only a “part” of the action. The audience must connect to the lead characters, and that is an issue with this film, especially since the two lead characters are men that merely internalize their stress and decision-making process.  Perhaps, sticking more to the “real” story would have been a better option. Fictionalizing a “true” story can be risky.

https://i1.wp.com/www.uscg.mil/history/gifs/Pendleton_3.jpg
Official USCG Photo No. 5840; 2-18-52(2); Photographer unknown.

Coast Guardsmen from Station Chatham rescue 32 survivors from the SS Pendleton. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Richard C. Kelsey.

CG-36500 returns to the pier with  survivors of the tanker Pendleton after the rescue at sea. Photo by Richard C. Kelsey U.S. Coast Guard photo by Richard C. Kelsey.

 

How close is the film to history?  Check it out:

http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/finest-hours/

 

 

Adaptations and Authenticity

I’ve been waiting until my latest article in Creative Screenwriting Magazine came out to post this.  I am so happy this was published now, just before the Oscars happen.

I had the absolute pleasure of interviewing Spotlight co-writer Josh Singer, to discuss the writing process and the making of the Oscar-nominated film.  He discussed with me his and co-writer/director, Tom McCarthy’s commitment to truth and authenticity, the power of the newsroom, and the challenge of condensing life stories into a 2-hour film.

From a news story that broke in Boston, to a major motion picture that was just nominated for six Academy Award nominations (best picture, best director, best screenplay, best supporting actor, best supporting actress and best film editing), Spotlight is a very interesting film, because there is not one hero, but several working together to accomplish one goal. In brilliant fashion, writers Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer capture the themes of moral corruption in great institutions while revealing the power of the newsroom and crusading journalism.

To continue reading my article click HERE.

 

timthumb

Starlight Blogger Award

Greetings Blogging Community! I’ve been nominated for the Starlight Blogger Award by my blogging friend, Rami Ungar, The Writer (https://ramiungarthewriter.wordpress.com/) I am honored and surprised, since I am not always consistent with my blog posts, but thank you Rami Ungar!

Here are the RULES for this award:

  1. Thank the giver and link their blog to your post.
  2. Answer the 3 original questions and then the 3 new questions from your nominator given to you.
  3. Nominate your 6 favorite bloggers! In your nominees I would like for you to think at the light emanating from the stars the ones that truly touch your soul with their work, the ones that are the light for you a true STARLIGHT Blogger.
  4. Please pass the award on to 6 or more other Bloggers of your choice and let them know that they have been nominated by you.
  5. Include the logo of the award in a post or on your Blog, please never alter the logo, never change the 3 original questions answer that first then answer the 3 new questions from your nominator and never change the Award rules.
  6. Please don’t delete this note:

The design for the STARLIGHT Bloggers Award has been created from YesterdayAfter. It is a Copyright image, you cannot alter or change it in any way just pass it to others that deserve this award.

This Award is created to highlight and promote Inspiring Bloggers.

This Award is created to highlight and promote Inspiring Bloggers.

Copyright 2015 © YesterdayAfter.com – Design by Carolina Russo”

Here are my answers to the original questions:

  1. If you could meet anyone throughout history, who and why? Boy, that is hard. It reminds me of being asked “who” is my favorite author, which is impossible to answer…there are far too many. Honestly, because of his huge historical significance over the ages, I would first want to meet Jesus. Here are a few more: Albert Einstein, William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Aristotle, Diogenes, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Francis of Assisi, C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Lewis Carroll, to name a few. Why? Why not? It would be nice to pick their brains.
  2. What is your favorite book and why? There is absolutely no way on earth I can name my “favorite” book. That’s like asking me to choose a single star out of a constellation. Here are some all-time favorites: Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen, The Nose (short story) Nikolai Gogol, William Shakespeare (all his Sonnets, As You Like It, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Nights Dream,), The Divine Comedy by Dante, The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde’s by Geoffrey Chaucer, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Moments of Being by Virginia Woolf, The Great Gatsby by Scott Fitzgerald, The Awakening by Kate Chopin, Ovid’s Metamorphism, The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup, The Barrett’s of Wimpole Street by Rudolf Besier, shall I continue? J
  3. Who is your favorite fiction character from any medium and why? Oh, I truly wish the word “favorite” were not in any of these questions. It really is impossible to answer this. Since I am such a Shakespeare fan, let’s look at Hamlet. There is no getting around the complexities and layers that make up this character. Simply put…he’s genius. Why? The layers that make up Hamlet are many. He’s fearless and fearful, brave and confused, indecisive and calculating, and hurt and angry, and he also has a lot of questions about life.

Here are my 3 original questions:

1.) What excites you about writing and reading?

2.) What is your definition of “education?” Do you believe being educated is important?

3.) If you could meet a fictional character, who would it be and what would you discuss?

…And now…here are my six nominees:

Dana Iste @ Southern Bell Goes AWAL

Dr. Robert O. Young @ PHoreverYoung

Chris Young @ The Renegade Press (Tales from the Mouth of a Wolf)

Cogito Ergo @ iSpocklogic

Christine Murray @ Poethead

Rami Unger @ Rami Unger, The Writer

*******************************************

Well, that’s about it! Thanks for the nomination, Rami Unger. I’ve (of course) nominated you back!🙂

There’s Something Deeper Going On…

According to William Indick, author of Psychology for Screenwriters, “film is an extremely powerful psychological force.” If this is true, then we don’t just go to the movies to be entertained. There is something deeper going on.

There is nothing like a film that jolts your emotions. Whether you are moved to tears, or nearly fallout on the floor laughing, when your reactions to a story are vivid, you will remember the story long after you’ve digested the popcorn and moved on with life; it is indelible. But lasting connections do not just happen, especially in works of literature or in film. It is the result of calculated writing, which includes an understanding of human behavior and the relationship between conflict and human emotion.

Thank you screenwriter J.V. Hart and WriterDuet creator/software developer Guy Goldstein for creating a new story-mapping tool kit for screenwriters, which not only focuses on the plot, but the emotional journey of your characters.

I am excited to see how the collaborative efforts of these two masterminds will pay off!  I have used WriterDuet since it was first launched a few years ago, and I continue to stay amazed.  Screenwriter J.V. Hart has certainly seen his share of success with screenplays like:  Hook, Dracula, Tuck Everlasting, Muppet Treasure Island,  and Contact, and while HartChart is not new, it’s going live,  and I can hardly wait until its launching at the Austin Film Festival in October!

Details and Sign-Up here:  HartChart

Screenwriters should learn from Shakespeare: Language governs the action

There is no doubt that William Shakespeare’s Hamlet continues to be one of the most intriguing and highly analyzed plays ever written, and the protagonist Hamlet is arguably one of the greatest dramatic characters ever created. From the moment this disconsolate prince enters the scene the audience/reader is made acutely aware of his conflicted soul. This tragic hero is a walking dichotomy that provokes every sort of human emotion, and th-2

sets the stage for the revengeful plot to be carried out. Shakespeare uses the power of language to not only control the plot, but also to establish the storyline, reveal Hamlet’s varied complex character flaws, control fate, establish irony, and to govern the action of the play. Shakespeare brilliantly uses this character to hold the weight of the play with his dialogue, and reveal a vivid display of universal conflict within humanity.

Hamlet’s distress over his fathers death, his mother’s new-found marriage, and obvious distrust of the King are revealed with his entrance in Act 1, Scene 2 as he discourses with the Queen, his mother. However, his comment to the King is most insightful, when he reveals his suspicion and distrust. This comment reveals a lot, because Hamlet is not only displeased with his mother’s choice to marry so quickly after his father’s death, but it discloses Hamlet’s fermenting resentment.

King. Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine,

And thy best graces spend it at thy will!

Hamlet. [Aside] A little more than kin, and less than kind. (1.1.62-65)

Perhaps one of the most dramatically revealing moments in Hamlet is with Hamlet’s famous soliloquy, “To be, or not to be.” Shakespeare introduces this during the middle of the play in Act 111, Scene 1. This moving and powerful monologue alerts the audience/reader that something grim is about to happen, as Hamlet uncovers his “sea of troubles.”

th-1

Hamlet. To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?—To die,—to sleep,—
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die,—to sleep;—
To sleep: perchance to dream:—ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,—
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns,—puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought;
And enterprises of great pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. (111.1.56-88)

Hamlet moves into a very dark, contemplative state, and exposes the flaws in his thinking, his conflicting views on death and nobility, his possible fate, and the recognition that he will have to do something about his own personal conflicts and the plague that looms over Denmark. This is a perfect example of Shakespeare’s use of language to drive the plot forward, establish conflict, reveal Hamlet’s disposition, and set the tone for the remainder of the play.

The Ghost is also an interesting character whose dialogue has a pivotal affect on Hamlet’s mental and emotional state and the fate of the play. By the Ghost revealing the truth about the circumstances surrounding Hamlet’s father’s death, he motivates Hamlet to commit murder, the ultimate revenge, and lose his soul!

Ghost. My hour is almost come,

When I to sulphurous and tormenting flames

Must render up myself.

Hamlet.   Alas, poor ghost!

          Ghost. Pity me not, but lend thy serious hearing

To what I shall unfold.

Hamlet. Speak; I am bound to hear.

Ghost. So art thou to revenge, when thou shalt

hear.

Hamlet. What?

Ghost. I am thy father’s spirit;

Doom’d for a certain term to walk the night,

And for the day confined to fast in fires,

Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature

Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid

To tell the secrets of my prison-house,

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word

Would harrow up they soul, freeze thy young blood,

Make thy two eyes like stars, start from their spheres,

Thy knotted and combined locks to part

And each particular hair to stand an end,

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:

But this eternal blazon must not be

To ears of flesh and blood. List, list O, list!

If thou didst every thy dear father love—

Hamlet. O God!

     Ghost. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

     Hamlet. Murder! (1.5.7-26)

Not only does this speech reveal background, and feed Hamlet’s rage, it unlocks a thick unsettling within the plot of this play. Is the Ghost used by Shakespeare to create a diabolical manifestation that lures Hamlet into a fated doom? The dialogue certainly plays an intricate part in plot development and discloses the power of choice existent in every man. Is Hamlet’s madness self-induced? The language in this play is a powerful tool that helps impart Shakespeare’s theme within the play.

th

Whiplashed Times Three

I’ve now watched the movie Whiplash three times, and I see clearly why Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 94% rating. The movie is riveting, intense, and well-acted.

Academy Awarded for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (J.K. Simmons…he’s incredible), Best Achievement in Film Editing, and Best Achievement in Sound Mixing. It not only won 3 Oscars, it received 96 other nominations with a total of 90 wins.

Reviews:
Beat the drums for a Simmons Oscar, and add a cymbal crash for Whiplash. It’s electrifying.– Peter Travers·Rolling Stone

More Full Metal Jacket than Dead Poet’s Society, the film is an epic battle of wills between two fanatical artists, one doing everything in his power to painfully make a master out of the other.– A.A. Dowd·A.V. American Kennel Club

Indeed, Whiplash is a dramatization that takes everything to extremes, which makes a great platform for the actors. The relationship between Fletcher, the drumming instructor (J.K. Simmons and the hungry student, Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) is not just intense, it’s incredibly engaging, and one of the major focuses in the storyline.  The final scene is a wonderful culmination of the power-play and rather twisted relationship between the two, all wrapped up in an incredible drumming solo.

Rated R for violence and language content

If you’re a music/jazz lover, this is a great flick to see.

16135968997_1a9e1aa241_bWHIPLASH1