Big Eyes and Birdman: Playing Catch-up Before the Oscars

Laura and I have been playing catch-up, trying to see lots of movies before the Oscars. Sometimes we go alone, sometimes together and sometimes we get our husbands to come with us. In the last three weeks we’ve seen:
Big Eyes, big eyes

The Imitation Game, Imitation game


Citizenfour, citizenfour

Birdman. Birdman

and Into The Woods. I couldn’t capture the poster for Woods. The website rolled out pictures of all the characters and wouldn’t stop.

Laura also saw St. Vincent, but I waited too long and it was gone by the time I was ready to go.

Citizenfour really made us think about the reach of government into our private lives and the way the dots of our lives can be connected. Then Paris and Charlie Hebdo happened and I wondered if maybe that reach was okay if it could stop such horrible events. It’s a thorny question.

Our local theater has a Thursday program that brings films that might not be big draws to the local 14 year old boys who want Transformers and Super Heroes movies. Usually a film is shown at 1pm, 4pm and at 7pm. We like the 4pm showings as we can get out of the movie and, if we haven’t eaten too much popcorn, go to dinner nearby.

We saw Big Eyes and The Imitation Game back to back in Annapolis (an hour away). It reminded us of a mini film festival. Laura and her husband have attended the Rehoboth Film Festival for at least 10 years and my husband and I have gone for the last four. That allows us to see films that don’t come to Easton or Annapolis and we usually rack up at least 12 movies in three days.

My husband and I didn’t go to that film festival in 2014. One of the attractions has been that the film festival was held in a huge movie complex with 15 theaters. Several of the theaters were set aside for the public, but the rest were turned over to the film festival which meant we could easily see three or four films a day for three days.

A big tent was erected in the parking lot with food, drink, and festival t-shirts, posters, etc. It was just steps away from the theater so everything was in one place. We loved that once you parked you didn’t have to move your car; you didn’t have to be outside very much (Festival is in November) and could see more films. Our tradition was to see three or four movies and then go out to dinner to discuss them.

Last year the big movie theater decided that 2014 would be the last year the Rehoboth Film Festival could have the big venue and not as many theaters as before. Some movies would be moved to the local high school. At that point my husband and I decided not to go. Too much car jockeying, trying to find a place to eat, rushing to get a seat, etc. We didn’t think it would be as much fun. We’ll see what happens in 2015. Laura and her husband went for one day. They’d registered for the whole festival, but business intervened. When you run a charter jet company, you fly when you get a request.

We still have movies to see before the Oscars. The Golden Globes gave us an idea of the ones we really don’t want to miss. Boyhood is at the top of my list.


My Critique Group

Last night was the monthly meeting of my critique group, the Working Writer’s Forum, that both Laura and I belong to. It’s where we met and started working together. For the last five years almost all of my writing has been done with Laura and most of it has been screenplays.

script notations

Since Laura has been very busy with her day job, I recently pulled out the first chapters of the third novel in my Caribbean series. I last worked on it almost seven years ago, but like to think I am a better writer now, so I submitted the first 25 pages to the group.

One of our rules is that you have to say some nice things before you make helpful suggestions. So my writing friends said some nice things, and then pointed out that I had forgotten some fundamental rules and made some beginner mistakes.

“I don’t know what these characters look like,” one of my critique group said. Of course I knew what they all looked like. They’d already been in two books. How could I have forgotten to describe Lissa and Yvie except to say they had green eyes?

Another reminded me that “she said” suffices most of the time. Descriptions of how someone says something is not usually needed.

“How about something more exciting in the first couple of pages, a hook for the reader,” a third person suggested. I thought I had a hook, but obviously it was too many pages into the first chapter.

As we went around the able, a number of the group noted some problems with dialogue so I went searching for help. The Writer’s Digest had some suggestions on their website.

“If you want to learn how to write effective dialogue, study the best plays and films. If possible, study dialogue both in performance (live or video) and in print. Read plays and screenplays to get the feel of writing on the page.

And, in the best scripts, what writing it is—pure dialogue unadulterated by music, actor expression, pictures, or narrative transition supplied by an author. Read it aloud to get a flavor of the emotion contained within the word choice made by the writer of the screenplay. Playwrights and screenwriters who succeed at their craft are probably the best writers of dialogue you can study. By looking at such refined gold, you can learn more than from any ten books that tell you how to write dialogue.”

Well, duh, Laura and I have been writing dialogue for several years now. I should be able to do this better. I am grateful to my critique group for letting me know there are things I need to attend to. The pages I sent for last night’s meeting were a reworking of what I had written all those years ago. I need to scrap that version and start from scratch.

When our moderator called for submissions for our next meeting, I said I’d like to submit a reworked draft of my novel’s opening pages. That gives me a goal with a deadline…thanks to my critique group the Working Writer’s Forum.