Writing Practice – spontaneous plot treatment

For my writing practice today, I grabbed a line from the Writing Prompt Generator.

“A child is kidnapped.”

Immediately I got an image of a pitchman in front of movie studio execs, saying that line and just totally botching the pitch. So I started writing as if I was in the exec’s seat, just riffing:

***

“A child is kidnapped.”

Thanks, I hate it. From the overdone trope of kidnapping, to the use of passive voice, this is one pitch that isn’t going anywhere soon.

Want to jazz it up? Make me care about the kid first, his mom, or maybe even better his dad, single dad, who’s raising him alone because mom is overseas in some pointless war, patriot-like and all, and he’s taking Junior tot he park, or maybe the Strawberry Festival, for an afternoon out. They’re enjoying the sunshine, strolling through the crowds, and suddenly Papa runs into an old flame from high school. She’s back in town after a failed marriage, interested in catching up, pretending like it’s all innocent, but we int he audience can see the heat rising in her loins, even if Papa is oblivious.

Meanwhile, junior, inquisitive, and easily bored chap, curious about the world, starts following some kind of maguffin intended to distract us and him – a baby duck, maybe, or a puppy that’s romping around and playing around. Well, he meets up with another young couple, perhaps a few years older than we can see Mama and Papa are, and this intrusion into their idyllic life moment sets them off in to a crying jag. We as audience don’t get to understand why, because at that moment Papa comes swooping in and picks up Junior, shepherding him back and warily eyeing the older couple.

See, now this is a bit of a plotline beginning. We’ve got several sob stories, that could be explored, including kids growing up too fast, forgotten loves, heartbreak, devotion at the same time as betrayal, and so on.

One cool twist would be that Junior finds the couple live only a few streets away, so he starts hanging out with them. They end up, after they get to know him, admitting they had a young son a few years ago who would be about his age, but there were “complications” during the birth, so he died.

<At least, that’s what they say.>

Turns out, they have begun to suspect that this is their actual son, and so they surreptitiously obtain a little bit of his DNA (maybe a couple of strands of hair? a little fingernail? whatever) and in getting it tested they discover that he is, in fact, their biological son, but he didn’t know that he was adopted, etc.

Now we have an additional layer of conflicts, intrigue, fear, worry, burden, confusion, and an opportunity to build drama as these two sets of adults have to figure out how to navigate the lies and deceptions that their doctors fed them so many years ago.

I dunno, sounds like it may be a pretty interesting Lifetime Afternoon Special.

Movie Review – Sorry To Bother You

Warning – potential spoilers ahead. Maybe. If they come up. No guarantees or anything.

“Sorry To Bother You” is the debut project by a young filmmaker named Boots Riley. I know this because I listen to NPR, and the movie critic (Bob Mundello? I think that’s his name) had a review of this film a couple of months ago. Now that it’s available in Redbox, it’s right in my target price range for something only I would enjoy. So I picked it up, remembering that Bob was quite enamored with the opening premise.

In “Sorry”, the main character, Cassius Green (pun intended, I believe), played by Riley himself, is somewhat of a loser living with his girlfriend in his uncle’s garage. He needs money, so he hires on with a telemarketing firm. This is, of course, the alternative to signing up for the large conglomerate corporation that would provide guaranteed employment and guaranteed residence, for life, in exchange for essentially all freedoms. This idea of tradeoffs, of give and take, of options, is the essence of the movie. Cassius has traded his freedom for a job, and while at the job he will have to trade his identify for success.

Once Cassius begins his job, we experience what made Bob sit up and take notice. Instead of the traditional split-screen, we see Cassius physically transported to the locations where his call recipients are when they’re taking his call: in the kitchen, having sex on the couch, on the toilet in Japan. It’s an interesting bit of cinematography, because it gets quite on the nose about the phrase “sorry to bother you”, when, in fact, nobody who calls in the middle of dinner is actually sorry. Unfortunately, though, it’s a technique that remains underutilized throughout the remainder of the film.

“Sorry” eventually devolves into a preachy, “capitalism is the worst system, except for all the others” mode. We see the temptations of money, we see the idealism of the hero when he struggles but eventually does the right thing, we see the fawning admiration of the girlfriend when Cassius returns to the doldrums and risks himself for his friends and “comrades”. There’s also overt elements of race and class struggle, and class jealousy, and fear-mongering, and outright suspicion of “good things” anyway. All of these are pretty standard movie fare these days, so they aren’t a surprise.

You know what we don’t see? What we never see in a movie? Someone who sold out, took the money, and lived happily ever after. That’s what I want some time. I want to see one where the guy does the wrong thing, ends up rich as fuck, and just enjoys the hell out of life because, hey, YOLO. I’m tired of this ideal that everyone is going to put someone else’s needs before their own wants, and that all the greedy bastards are going to get their comeuppance. Because, frankly, it doesn’t happen that way. I guess that’s why we put it in the movies, because we want something different from the real world.

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie, even though the timeline was forced, there were large illogicalities in the chain of events, and there were a few creepy scenes. I was a bit disappointed, though. The warning said it was rated R for pervasive and explicit sexuality throughout, and if that’s the definition of “pervasive”, then we’ll have to have a talk with the good people down at the MPAA. There was, what, one sex scene in which nobody was really naked, and there were a couple of other scenes in which some creepy human/animal hybrids were naked, but that wasn’t sexual, just … creepy.

I don’t know how to give stars for movies. If I’m forced to, I’ll say 4/5 stars. Because, as I mentioned, this was an incredible production for a debut. Hell, they even got Danny Glover! But I was ultimately left wanting that the premise, when Cassius physically transports to the locations he’s talking to, wasn’t used better in the climax. I think there was an opportunity there to make something really stand out, and “Sorry” just missed the mark.

Questions I haven’t heard asked yet

Why are all the voices in the “In a world…” movie previews male?

What was eating Gilbert Grape?

How many licks does it take to get to the center of Hillshire Farms smoked sausage?

Why are there so many different words for “transportation corridor”? Words like alley, avenue, boulevard, circle, court, drive, driveway, egress, freeway, highway, lane, parkway, road, route, street, throughway, thoroughfare, trafficway, viaduct, way, exit…and that’s without consulting Wikipedia.

Does Busta Rhymes ever have to put them back together again?

Did they ever find Carmen Sandiego?

We know from physics that Power = Work done per unit of Time. P = W / T. If “time is money”, and “knowledge is power”, then, by substitution, we have K = W / M. Solve for Money: M = W / K. That means, to have more money, isn’t it simply work more and know less? Completely backwards from what we keep hearing about “work smarter, not harder”…

Nobody ever asks me, “Don’t you get tired of being right all the time?”