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All posts for the month January, 2015

And we return to this series.

Okay. So, you’ve had your idea. You’ve painstakingly assembled your first draft. And if you’re clever, you’ve done a cursory edit or two in order to catch the little mistakes that happen when you start a conversation on one day and then finish it the next, or because you had a couple of drinks to spur the creative process, or because your spell check doesn’t flag it when you write “are” instead of “ate.” Simple stuff like that.

Now we reach the hard part… you have to show it to people.

Here’s my process. I doubt it’s everyone’s because if every creative person followed the same process that would just be freaky weird.

Step One: the trusted few

As I discussed last time, sending the first draft out is a slightly harrowing prospect, because I can never tell how well it turned out. But it takes less than a minute after emailing the script out for me to go from “Oh man, what if it’s awful” to “Why haven’t they told me what you think?” Like a switch flicks in my head from “panic” to “desperate need for feedback.”

Sadly, it turns out the other people in your life aren’t hollow simulations who only come to life when you need things from them. They’re actual people with their own dramas and commitments, so there can be a leeettle bit of a wait at this point, and I have yet to figure out a way around it, since I doubt I’m going to get decent feedback if my readers are reading the script begrudgingly. Also people take a weird amount of offense when you sabotage their lives so they have more time for your stuff.

Still, there’s an inherent eagerness to start talking about the script with people properly. This is something that’s been in my head for weeks, probably months. I want to be able to talk about these characters, what they go through, why I’ve had relatively obscure Beatles songs stuck in my head for two weeks. If it’s a comedy, I want to know what they found funny. Does the story hold up? Do they care? I need to know all of these things.

And from there, it’s back to work.

Step Two: time to fix it up

It would be amazing if everyone I sent a new script to came back and said “This is great, I can’t think of anything wrong with it.” But that never, never happens. Okay twice. Almost twice. But that’s okay. The entire point of the close group the first draft goes to is that they will be honest with you/me about the script. And as good as it might feel to hear people say nice things about something you wrote, the way the script improves is when they tell you what didn’t work and why.

The greatest purpose of a first draft is simply to exist. Defeat the blank page and get the story down in some form. Fixing it from there might not be a breeze, but at least you have a framework in place. Build on your strengths, and eliminate your weaknesses, and I don’t know, you guys, this paragraph is starting to descend into obvious cliches, so I’m-a… I’m-a move on.

Next time… hearing it out loud.

So there came a time, after Christmas and into the first days of January, when I found myself in kind of a bad place. Always feeling run-down, ill, and completely unable to maintain a positive mood for more than a couple of minutes.

It has been seven years since I’ve had THAT little fun at a New Year’s Eve party.

I think I know what the problem was. See, right at the beginning of this rough patch, I ran out of synthroid, the pill I take to replenish the thyroid hormones that my immune system targets when it could be taking less than four god damn months to get over a cough sorry, sorry, digressed a bit there… anyway, it’s the pill I take every morning so that I have anything approaching a metabolism. I’d had to switch to my hoard of older, lower dose pills while I went through the process of getting a re-up from my physician.

Ugh. See what I did there? I could have just said “I was under-medicated,” but instead I spent an entire paragraph making sure you knew this was a physical ailment, not mental. I don’t know if it was out of fear that people would assume I suffer from depression (which is a crap fear to have, that should be less embarrassing than needing to take pills for my cholesterol), or from not wanting to be one of those people faking a mental illness or disability to get attention or justify crap behaviour (“It’s not my fault, it’s my self-diagnosed Asperger’s”), but… you know what? On January 28th we’re having a conversation about this. But for now I’m moving on.

Getting out of a place

Right around the time I returned to a proper dose of synthroid, I also decided that it was time to stop looking without for solutions to my bad headspace, and look within. It was time to double down on the thing that always made me feel, well, if not always happy, per se, at least satisfied. Writing. Creating. Storytelling. So I threw myself into whatever writing project I could find. I blogged about movies, Oscar-bait or Hobbit-based. I finished a first draft of a short one-act play for a possible anthology show. I took a stab at a skeleton of an outline for a screenplay my Writers’ Circle co-writer and I want to do this year. I felt… calm. Fulfilled. Myself again. Ready to let go of some of the anxieties and bad thoughts that had been dragging me down. Not all of them, no, it was a three small writing projects, let’s not ask them to work miracles, but still, a start.

Of course, then my projects all hit the usual wall: the wall of needing someone else’s input. The short play was done (for now), I’d gotten as far as I could on the outline without input from my co-writer, and I was back to blogging about old plays. I wanted more. Writing, creating, this was my way out, and I wasn’t ready to stop, sit back, and play Assassin’s Creed until it was time to do a new draft of something.

I needed a new project. And, yes, sure, there are some ongoing projects I could have been paying attention to, at least I think there are, I haven’t checked in a lot lately, but… something got into my head.

The Spark

An old idea. One I’d cast aside a long time ago, but found that there were aspects I didn’t hate. Sure, nearly a decade ago, I couldn’t pull it off, certainly not for the stage. This wouldn’t be a dust-off or a quick polish job. This would be, if anything, only slightly less drastic than the process that turned Jade Monkey into Tyler and Selena. And it would be easy to look at everything else I’m doing, stage, internet, and possibly screen, and say… why bother? Leave it in the past. Move on to the next thing. But first, as we established, all of my “next things” are waiting on workshops, other feedback, or meetings with partners. And second…

There was one scene. One scene that I felt should have been the turning point. Where the protagonist finds his first taste of redemption, where the character I wanted to be the Kaylee-from-Firefly of the cast (the sweet one whose affection for the main character tells us we can like said character as well) is rewarded at long last. And in my first attempt… it failed. It failed as purely and utterly as everything else I tried to do with that story.

And that started to stick in my craw a little.

I didn’t want this scene to be awful. I thought there was potential for a moment of beauty here. A moment where the joy of the characters could seep through to the audience. And maybe I’m wrong, maybe that moment’s impossible, but damn it, I could get closer to it than this. And I wanted to at least try to see it realized.

And that notion lingered. How this moment could be improved. It grew from a “what if” into one of those things, where the only way to exorcise the idea from my mind was to write it down. So I decided… take a crack at it. Write that one scene. See how it turns out. And if you think it’s closer to the effect you wanted… keep going.

That was a few days back. I’m still at it.

Friends old and new

There is something… liberating about this project, for the simple reason that I’m not writing it for anything. It’s not a stage play. Scorpio Theatre needs not worry or care about it. It’s written to be filmed, but I haven’t picked a medium. If it’s not too long, maybe it’s a movie. If it keeps stretching, maybe it’s a series. I don’t know and it doesn’t yet matter. I’m just… writing it until I feel it’s written. There’s miles to go and mountains to climb before it’s even worth thinking about rolling cameras. Couldn’t begin to afford it now, have other things I want to do first if we start convincing people to give us money to make things. I’m writing it for the joy. For the rush. For the indescribable way the characters become like friends, and the pleasure of spending time in their world.

That’s when writing stops being a chore and becomes a passion. As, one by one, the cast becomes people I like, that I care about, that I want to see triumph. Well, after I’m done being awful to them in the name of the story. First things first.

It’s been a good feeling. Good enough that I’m not even sweating the fact that eventually I’ll be done, and will have to deal with wanting to do something with it, yet being largely unable to. Or the fact that despite throwing out every word of the first draft and starting over on a white piece of paper, there might be enough flaws in the basic premise that it can’t be saved. I’ll cross those bridges when I come to them.

For now, it’s just nice to be tinkering away, spending time with friends old and new, hoping that nobody thinks the amount of time I’m spending at home with my computer and DVDs is a bad sign and threatens an intervention.

Thought a “here’s the writing projects taking all of my time” post would be a better than a “here’s why there hasn’t been a blog in three weeks” post, which has been my usual approach.

‘Till next time, then.

“Then I know what I must do. It’s just… I’m afraid to do it.”
-Frodo Baggins

Been a while since the last time I did one of these, hasn’t it? Yeah, well, there’s a reason. Because the last time I talked about Quarter Century, and the play after that… I’ve been putting it off and putting it off, because to continue this series meant re-reading what some claim was the worst thing I ever wrote. And man but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that. But there’s no point in doing this if I start holding back no, so here we are. Yesterday, I cracked open a script called Quest for the first time in nearly eight years.

Are you ready for your nostalgic look at past works to get real? Because today we’re talking about failure. Pure, unadulterated failure. Sure, I had bad things to say about Illuminati in Love, because who wouldn’t, and yes, I had to resort to a speed round to sum up everything that was bad about The Course of True Love and the Curse of the Jade Monkey (why is the title so god damned long), but here’s the thing… every script I’ve written about so far?

They all got staged.

Hell, some of them got staged twice. I not only decided Jade Monkey was worth a second go, I took it to a Fringe festival. But not this one. This one never made it past the first workshop, and frankly shouldn’t have made it that far, but my first-draft readers broke out the kid gloves and I learned of my folly too late.

Let’s get into it.

What’s it about?

“WE NEED YOU TO DO THE THING, AVERAGE GUY. ONLY YOU CAN DO THE THING.” -mentor figure, every goddamn movie
Lindsay Ellis

21st century con man Tobias Rose and his partner in crime Freddy Hale steal from the wrong people, and get dragged into the final struggle of a Tolkien-esque war between good and evil, one in which both sides have begun to fade as wonder and magic were worn away by science and reason.

PREMISE!

Almost TOO dignified this time around…

After stealing both the MacGuffin gem (it’s actual name, the Gem of Anarra, wasn’t less silly, so let’s call it what it was) and a fairy who’s been imprisoned in a PDA (remember those? They used to be a thing!), Tobias’ colleague and occasional lover Pauline is killed under mysterious circumstances, and when Tobias tries to find out who killed her and why, he ends up crossing paths with the trapped fairy’s friends: two sorcerers (Victor and Natasha), and the last of the elves (Ellianna), who are trying to stop the Adversary (basically Sauron from Lord of the Rings, and equally unseen) from regaining his lost power and drowning the world in a new style of dark magic, one fed not by wonder but by fear and cynicism.

While at first Tobias only cares about finding and killing Pauline’s murderer… well, that and getting enough money to pay off a debt to a mobster… Freddy’s nagging and a recurring hallucination of Pauline that acts as his conscience drive him to use his con artist skills to aid Ellianna and company. Also he thinks Ellianna is pretty cute, because why not at this point.

Also the bad guys are all orcs. Or rather, are all descended from orcs, but distantly enough that they’re basically just mob goons: strong and dumb.

So why’d that happen?

“Not with ten thousand men could you do this. It is folly.”
-Boromir

A few reasons. The fairy trapped in the palm pilot was from a dream I had. The fairy was stuck inside the PDA, but since I’d rescued her from her captors, she was willing to try and help me hook up with her friend the elf, but did advise this was a bad idea due to the elf’s baggage. For good or ill (mostly the latter), this all ended up in the play.

As to the rest… in late 2001 and early 2002, I could watch whatever I wanted at Westhills theatre for free. But there wasn’t much playing. So what I ended up doing was rewatching two movies over and over: Fellowship of the Ring and Ocean’s 11. As such, a sketch idea wormed its way into my mind: what if instead of Gandalf the Grey, the Fellowship of the Ring was led by Danny Ocean? While it soon became clear Ocean’s Fellowship wasn’t going to be worth writing down, I guess the notion got stuck in my head, and a few years of loving con man movies later… this happened.

How’d it turn out?

“You folded with a focus and intensity normally seen only in successes.”
-Ray Smuckles

Short answer is “not well.”

For a long time now, I’ve held this one up as a cautionary tale. At the workshop, it was generally agreed to be one of the worst things I’d done (and wasn’t that fun to hear in a group setting), but until then? I had no idea I’d gotten it that wrong.

But I see now. Time, distance, and practice have shown me why Quest failed so utterly.

For starters, it’s like 90% exposition. Ninety percent. That is not okay. Alright, that percentage is a rough estimate at best, but the fact is, people spend more time standing around talking about the premise and the world and what’s been happening than actually doing anything. For something that’s trying to blend Lord of the Rings Ocean’s 11, there is barely any action and staggeringly little charm.

And despite all this exposition, nothing is developed. Why are Tobias and Freddy so close partners? If Tobias is already willing to move on and flirt with Ellianna, how could Pauline’s death have affected him so deeply that he’s imagining her talking to him? We know what the Adversary’s plans are, but do the good guys have their own plan, or is “stopping the bad guy” really the sum of their ambition? I don’t know, and I wrote this bloody thing!

The “curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal” moment happens during the traitor’s second scene. We have just met this person, how could we possibly have anything invested in whether or not they’re a traitor? In fact, it’s hard to get invested in anyone. They show up, have a stock set of characteristics (Victor’s sarcastic. Really reaching new heights there, Young Me), three of them have a token sad story from their past which end up just being more chunks of exposition in a story drowning in them… I don’t think a potential audience was ever given a concrete reason to care about Tobias, or have any investment at all in what he does. And since he’s driving the story, that is a problem.

The plot is surprisingly barren and moves way too fast. Thirty minutes after finding out magic is real, Tobias knows how to break a seemingly unbreakable curse, with no more explanation than a quick joke about “There’s always a cheap knock-off in Chinatown.”

Somebody at the workshop said “You need a comic relief character.” I said “I thought I had one.” Tells you how funny Freddy ended up.

Everything interesting happens offstage, and is described to the audience so we can quickly move to our next burst of exposition. The final con to defeat the Adversary and win the day is full of holes. Tobais is only the smartest person in the room because everyone else is so reliably stupid.

It is a failure on every level. The world building is sloppy, the characters are cobbled together and uninteresting, it’s a story about the end of the world yet doesn’t feel like it has any stakes, everything, everything, is told rather than shown… and I misused an apostrophe on page 13. It is an eternal reminder that no matter how much I’ve learned, no matter how much I grow, it is still possible to utterly and completely shit the bed.

And yet… and yet now that I’ve cracked it back open, I kind of want to save it.

Would you stage it again?

“You lost today, kid. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”
-Fedora, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Or in this case, “Would you allow it to see the light of day,” and the answer remains no, absolutely not, not like this. Like I said, I kind of want to save it, but there isn’t enough in this script that works to build a second draft. The fact is, when the first readers were trying to softball their responses, they were right: this story does not work as a stage play. There’s so much exposition, backstory on the world, its rules, and the characters that’s needed for it to make sense, but right now it’s all happening instead of actually developing the characters, the story, or the stakes. Right now everything interesting happens offstage because it all felt too hard to do in live theatre.

Maybe the story can work. Or at least elements of it. The ancient war of light and dark stuck in an era where magic is dying, a la Flight of Dragons or Carnivale, could have some legs. I might have to lose the elves and the orcs/orc descendents, though, not sure how well that played. Well, definitely the orcs. That did not work at all.

Tobias would need to have some actual charm. Ellianna would need a personality. Freddy’s comic relief would have to actually be funny. The haunted-by-imaginary-Pauline thing has to go, because the idea that anyone might see that as anything but a knock-off of Gaius Baltar from Battlestar Galactica was a pipe dream. But more than anything, to not be terrible, this story would need to have more room to breathe. Time to develop. Time to earn the audience’s interest. And a stage play ain’t gonna get it done. A novel, maybe. A TV series? Definitely.

Sadly, I have at least two other series I want to see exist in some form, and they’re both higher priorities.

One of which starts in a few weeks. For the curious.

One of which starts in a few weeks. For the curious.

Which means the notion of how this story could be told well will just have to lurk around the back of my head for a while. Which is how I got into this mess in the first place.

Repeated theme alert

  • Man and woman cannot be friends: Not sure if I should include this one, since Tobias and Ellianna were never what you’d call “friends,” but their end-of-play hook up is just SUPER tacked-on and brutally unearned.
  • Something something pop culture reference: The Pauline thing wasn’t actually stolen from Battlestar Galactica. It was stolen from Garth Ennis’ 1997 Unknown Soldier graphic novel miniseries, in which the lead character is thrown into a globe-trotting conspiracy centred around nigh-mythological black ops agent Codename Unknown Soldier because a pretty co-worker smiled at him, and was almost immediately killed. He then hallucinates her talking to him throughout the story. Not… not sure that makes it better.
  • Something something pop culture reference part two, Secret of the Ooze: Someone refers to the age of magic as being an age of “nobility and cruelty.” That’s an homage to a similar monologue that opens the first episode of Carnivale. “Before the beginning, after the great war between Heaven and Hell, God created the Earth and gave dominion over it to the crafty ape he called man. And to each generation was born a creature of light and a creature of darkness. And great armies clashed by night in the ancient war between good and evil. There was magic then, nobility, and unimaginable cruelty. And so it was until the day that a false sun exploded over Trinity, and man forever traded away wonder for reason.” That monologue shaped a lot of my vision for the world of this story, and the decline of magic.
  • “Let’s swap backstories for fifteen minutes like that’s not pacing Kryptonite!” This describes more of the script than it doesn’t.

Next time… from my worst first draft to my best, as I experiment with full-on farce.

I don’t deal well with not being able to fix things. Problems affecting me or someone close to me that I can’t personally address weigh on me something terrible. Right now it’s internet shenanigans, plumbing issues (is that who fixes garburators? Plumbers? I don’t even know), technical problems on Ye Olde Webseries, stalled career issues, all hitting a general sense of malaise.

What I’d love is something great to happen to counter-act all of this, but since that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon, instead I’m going to talk about movies I’ve seen recently, something that’ll be happening more and more as we head towards Oscar night.

In no particular order…

BIRDMAN or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

The story of a Hollywood actor, best known for the superhero movies he did 25 years ago, trying to revitalize his career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway play. You’ve probably heard about it, since it stars Michael Keaton, who as you may recall had some superhero experience himself 25 years back, before there were three or four superhero movies a year to choose from.

There are so many fascinating things to pick apart here. There’s the fact that, despite taking place over several weeks, virtually the entire movie is shot as though it were a single take. There are the brilliant performances from Keaton, Edward Norton as his supporting actor who’s brilliant onstage but a nightmare to work with, Emma Stone as Keaton’s estranged daughter, and more. There’s the way it attacks Hollywood stars for thinking of live theatre as a holiday gig they can do between films, yet has a repugnant character make that argument so that they can also attack Broadway for thinking they’re above it.

They are not.

They are not.

Plus the fact that I’m still not entirely certain what happened in the final minutes, where the line is drawn between Keaton’s growing delusions and reality, though I can’t really go into that without spoiling stuff, so… just watch it. Watch it so we can talk about it.

The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies

Second Breakfast

A year back I wrote about some of the challenges of adapting the Hobbit into film. And yes, at the time, I stood by some of Peter Jackson’s choices, including adding female characters, showing what Gandalf was up to instead of having him pop in and out of the story almost at random, and having the dwarfs be a little less helpless. But there is one choice made that I can’t support, and that is where the Desolation of Smaug ended and Battle of Five Armies begins. Ending the second movie where they did, with Smaug about to attack Lake Town, was stupid. Because that isn’t an ending. The action beat enters its second phase, and they roll credits. That’s bad narrative so matter how you slice it.

That said, once you get past the fact that Battle of Five Armies starts with what should have been the last 15 minutes of Desolation of Smaug, the actual Battle of Five Armies is worth watching. If you disagree with any of the choices made to pad out the fairly simple story of the book into three movies, this won’t bring you around, but the brinksmanship between gold-mad Thorin and the lurking armies of elves and men who feel they’re owed a piece of the hoard is well done, and when the orcs roll up, Jackson proves he still has some gas in his “epic battle” tank.

There’s really only one other thing to say here, and that’s to address one more novel vs. movies complaint: that we spend basically an entire movie (again, once the rightful end of the last movie is done) on something that lasts less than a page in the book. Well, to this I say something that will likely bring the wrath of my Tolkien fan friends down on me…

There are things that Tolkien wrote that needed to be changed.

Arwen needed a bigger part in the Lord of the Rings movies because if you want audiences to care about her relationship with Aragorn she can’t just be a background decoration like in the books, and by the same token, the Battle of Five Armies can’t really be the quick little epilogue that it was in the book.

In the book it’s this quick little skirmish in which the elves, dwarfs, and men are forced to team up against the attacking goblins to teach a lesson about the futility of war and lust for gold. It’s quickly skimmed over because the lesson is more important than the details. But the problem with that, you see, is that several of the dwarfs die in the battle, even in the book. Either the Battle of Five Armies is this little epilogue to the larger story not worth expanding, or it’s how several main characters die, but it cannot be both.

So the Battle of Five Armies doesn’t justify turning one short children’s book into three lengthy movies, but it does justify spending two hours on the battle itself, and makes it worth watching. Well, except that scene where the Mirkwood elf king tells Legolas that he should find this ranger going by the name of Strider. Come on, man. We KNOW. We GET it. There was no need for that.

Anyhoo, since it’s Oscar season, time to talk about some Inspirational Biopics™.

The Theory of Everything

Not necessarily representative of the movie

Not necessarily representative of the movie

One night, at a party at Cambridge, a girl named Jane meets a boy named Stephen. They hit it off, and Stephen pursues her, but their relationship hits a few snags: she’s a devout Christian, and he’s a brilliant physicist with an annoying habit of trying to disprove the need for God. Oh, also he has a debilitating neural disease that’s slowly shutting down his body.

The Theory of Everything, while a biopic about Stephen Hawking, is not about Hawking’s work in physics. Well, it is a little. That’s a big enough part of his life that you can’t really skip over it. But the heart of the movie is the relationship between Stephen and Jane: the religious debate that divides them, the debilitating illness that makes their lives harder and harder. And Jane’s growing friendship with church choir director Jonathon, who might be a perfect match if she weren’t already married.

Eddie Redmayne does an excellent job portraying Stephen’s long, slow slide into a weirdly non-lethal case of ALS, conveying his emotions even after he’s lost the power of speech. The movie really makes you feel for both Stephen and Jane, and the sense that however much they love each other, the marriage eventually becomes something neither of them ever signed on for.

The one thing I would have liked that wasn’t there is a potential debate between atheist Stephen and spiritual Jane on the topic that no one except John Stewart seemed to be asking… when Stephen was diagnosed, his life expectancy was two years. That was over half a century ago, he’s still going, and nobody knows why. Stephen’s always been too busy an not interested enough to look into it. Maybe his religious wife never asked the question in real life, but I’d have liked to have seen that moment.

On the other hand, probably wouldn’t have advanced the story much and would have been cut. Oh well.

The Imitation Game

Switching now from the British physicist biopic to the British mathematician biopic. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, who broke Nazi Germany’s unbreakable Enigma code, shortening World War II by two years (historians estimate) and saving millions of lives, then had his life destroyed by his own government when he was outed as a homosexual. Uplifting!

There are flashbacks to his childhood, and flash forwards to the police inquiry that outed him, but the main focus of the movie is Turing’s quest to beat Enigma not through conventional codebreaking, as the rest of his team and employers wish he would, but by building a machine capable of beating the code. In essence, Turing won the second world war by inventing computers. Or by making a substantial breakthrough in computer technology if you hate drama.

The film paints Turing as a perpetual outsider, loathed by his colleagues. Not because he was secretly gay, but because he was what we’d now recognize as on the autism spectrum (obviously I cannot verify if that’s true, but that’s clearly what the movie claims). Clueless at social nuance but brilliant at puzzles, he struggles just as hard to win over his co-workers as he does to build his machine and make it work.

Benedict Cumberbatch is going to give Eddie Redmayne a run for his money in the best actor category, I can tell you that. Although there are still other biopics in play, so who knows who’ll be on top? Could even be Steve Carell.

STEVE CARELL is in a movie, wearing a FAKE NOSE, and it's not a comedy but a serious Oscar contender. What happened to the world.

STEVE CARELL is in a movie, wearing a FAKE NOSE, and it’s not a comedy but a serious Oscar contender. What happened to the world.

Ready for your biopics to get less inspirational?

Unbroken

Theoretically, Unbroken is an inspirational biopic about the triumph of the human spirit. I say “theoretically” because the only word of that I actually agree with is “biopic.” Well, and “is,” I guess.

See that trailer I posted up above? Watch it and you’ve basically seen the whole movie. Louis Zamperini uses track and field to stay out of trouble as a kid, competes in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (setting a record for fastest lap but not winning a medal), enlists in the air force, crashes at sea, spends a month and a half in a lifeboat, is captured by the Japanese, and has a pretty crap time of it. And manages two or three acts of defiance and resilience, most of which are in the trailer. Takes a beating from fellow prisoners to protect other prisoners, lifts a heavy piece of wood until his tormentor is sad, and thus is Unbroken or whatever.

And the end result is Just. So. Boring.

Seriously, you hit a point of diminishing returns on “Wow, he endured a lot,” and that point happens before he even reaches the POW camp. The lifeboat gets dull. The cruelty of the head of his POW camp gets old in a hurry. But my real issue? All the other big biopics this year are about people who did something. Martin Luther King Jr., Alan Turing, Stephen Hawking, even the guy from Foxcatcher was trying to do something of note. Louis Zamperini just endured something. He didn’t inspire his fellow prisoners to keep hope (in the end they all march quite willingly to their almost certain death, only to be saved by a US plane flying overhead causing the guards to decide executing their prisoners might not be as good an idea as they’d been told), he didn’t escape, his only accomplishment was not dying. A lot of people in the same camps managed to not die. Only one of them got a movie.

The spiritual journey Zamperini went on after the war, which led him to forgive his captors (the worst of which escaped war crime charges due to an amnesty offered by the US to smooth US/Japan relations) might have made the story worthwhile, but all we eventually got was “This guy had a crap three years but didn’t whine about it much, isn’t that inspiring.

No. It wasn’t.

So feel free to skip this one and watch Big Hero Six instead. I like Big Hero Six.

Next time… a probable return to old plays, as there’s some relevance to my current goings-on.