The Jackal

This one started only as an exercise, the idea was to emulate a scene from a famous movie. The thing is, as I was planning the script I went off to create a distinct scene that deserved to come to life. This was also the first time I took the time to do good pre-production and storyboard of the whole thing, which made the shooting fast and juicy!

Snake Eyes (2021)

I’m gonna be honest here, I don’t care for GI Joe, I don’t know anyone who cares for GI Joe. To me this is a dead franchise (if it ever was alive). I’m gonna go even further, I remember watching those Gi Joe cartoons as a child, they sucked. No really, I mean these “soldiers” were competing for my attention with some crazy transforming robots, with two different dudes holding a sword, and a bit later with all kinds of Japanese craziness. So, let’s be clear, I don’t like Gi Joe cartoons and stuff, even the toys sucked in comparison with all the others. But… all that said, Snake eyes is a good movie, especially when has nothing to do with Gi Joe, truth is Gi Joe ruins the movie, tones it down, makes it dumber than it has to be and, in the process, kills the creative drive of the production team (this is so palpable through the third act of the movie). And the film has so many good things going on! It’s almost unconceivable that they butchered this action-packed film by adding stupid stuff like giant snakes???? It almost t feels like two different stories nearing the midpoint, where the cobra logo is revealed (a logo that no terrorist organization with any self-proud would use).

Anyway, let’s start from the top, shall we? So, what’s the movie about? Okay, it’s about this dude, Snake eyes, I mean the protagonist. He, as a child, gets to see his father being assassinated and makes a run for it in the middle of the forest at night (more on this a bit later) in the most awful first sequence I can remember in any film. Expository dialogue of the worst kind and cliché stuff all over the place. But I understand it’s workings, because at minute 10 you already know what’s all about (or you think you do). So, in ten minutes the movie sets a revenge path for Snake Eyes, the dude, and then moves some many years into the future without even explaining how the hell a little kid even makes it out alive in the middle of a forest, or how does he manage to stay alive with literally no more family and allies (cause the movie also tells us that the father erases the kid from records to protect him from ugh, Cobra). And I know I’m being a dick about it, I actually remember an interview of Tarantino when he talks about “There will be blood” by Paul Thomas Anderson, he says that he likes the first part of the movie, yet he doesn’t understand how the protagonist survives alone in the desert after breaking his leg falling into a pit, kinda the same thing here. But anyway, the kid grows and now has become a regular cast from Mortal Kombat. He enjoys/works beating people to a pulp, which earns him the opportunity of being scouted by the bad guys. Yet being with the bad guys, Snake Eyes fails to kill a dude which becomes his ally and then a number of plot twists start happening (I’m not gonna talk about it because this is the best part of the movie by far).

So, the story literally dies by the mid-point, the part (as I already said) where the Gi Joe stuff gets forcibly thrown into the plot and instantly destroys everything. And it’s so awful because we just come from an amazing action sequence between the three mayor characters of the movie and the villain’s army, the villain himself even makes an appearance here. I have to talk about the amazing camera work in this part, the action is top notch. And not only on this particular sequence, but since the beginning (and ending where we discussed) all fights are raw and violent, almost too violent for a ugg… Gi Joe movie. There’s Thai action vibe going on all over the place, some Tony Jaa mixed with John Woo style of direction, just really engaging and entertaining stuff. Which later on gets lost into the stablishing the franchise bullshit that ruins everything. I mean, the second half of the movie is so bad that it even adds a jewel that turns people to ashes instantly and the before mentioned giant fake snakes. Some betrayals here and there, more action sequences of the boring and no stakes kind and we get to the ending where the two main guys change roles, because everyone knows that Snake Eyes is the good one and Storm Shadow is the bad one, right? (actually who cares!)

There’s only one thing I want to add before ending this review/rant, I heard somewhere that in the really great movies the plot points are hidden and are difficult to find or to spot when they’re happening. In this case they’re so obvious that a snob writer would say “this movie sucks” without hesitating. Yet for me this is not the case, I mean everyone knows the hero’s journey, it works, okay? It’s kinda childish? Yes, but it hits the right emotional spots every time and Snake Eyes does this really good, until some stupid logo gets thrown into the mix and it becomes Hiroshima all over again. So, should you watch this movie? Yes, but beware of the dumb stuff.

Halcyon Days (Chapter I)

EXT. ROAD IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MOUNTAINS – NIGHT

Echoes of drifting wheels, to one side and to the other. A faint light is lit in the intense darkness.

As we get closer, the light reveals the outline of the street, the rows of trees around it.

It’s a winding road through a mountainous and tree-covered area, seen from the heights.

The light comes from the headlights of a BLUE NISSAN ALTIMA.

We continue to approach from the heights, the echo of a violent blow, the car crashes against the protective barriers and falls in the middle of the forest.

We keep descending, the car crashes into a tree. The horn sounds without stopping.

There’ s a person lying on the grass, bleeding.

We get closer.

To WILL (47), cuts on his face, shards of glass on his body, breathing hard, his eyes still, open.

CUT TO:

OVER BLACK: HALCYON DAYS

INT. BEACH HOUSE KITCHEN – DAY

The waves calmly hit the shore of the beach and recede, their sound is heard faint, low. The image of bluish tones is contemplated by Will from the window partially fogged.

Steam escapes from the neck of the kettle.

Will pours two cups, arranged on the table. He removes the bread from the toaster, places it on the plates.

EXT. OUTSIDE THE BEACH HOUSE – DAY

The door of the house opens and hits the frame, driven by the sea wind. Will comes out covered by a blanket, his bare feet in the sand.

He walks across the sand, ahead, near the shore of the beach, a small boat.

The crests of the waves rise. Cloudy, flat sky.

Will takes a deep breath, turns and looks back.

In the kitchen window of the weathered white wooden house he can see SOPHIA (45) with a cup in her hands. Next to her, CHRIS (8) waves effusively.

Will smiles, continues walking through the sand. He reaches the boat, leaves the blanket inside.

Then pushes the boat into the water, pushes hard against the onslaught of the waves.

He manages to get into the depths, until he can no longer stand up underwater.

Will climbs into the boat, takes the oars and places them in their positions.

He forcefully pushes himself out to sea, paddling again and again, pulling away with each embrace. Until the coast is no longer visible.

The boat stops in the middle of the sea.

Silence.

Will wipes the condensed water from his nose. He picks up the net from the floor, prepares to throw it into the water.

Suddenly.

A slight whistling sound catches Will’s attention, he looks around, he can see nothing but the calm sea.

The whistling intensifies.

From above. Will looks up at the cloudy sky. Nothing.

The whistling intensifies even more.

The clouds open up, a fireball pierces the sky, its downward trajectory takes it towards the sea.

Will watches in amazement, following the rapidly descending fireball until it hits the surface of the water.

The blow causes a wave, which comes rushing towards the boat.

Will has no time to hold on to the boat, the wave hits him and throws him into the water.

As the wave passes, Will returns to the surface, grabs the edge of the boat and climbs back up.

Looking up at the impact site, Will can see a SPACE SHUTTLE floating on the surface of the sea.

CUT TO:

FLASHBACK

EXT. OUTSIDE WILL’S HOUSE – NIGHT

Will’s car pulls up to the curb, he gets out, waves to a neighbor who is walking his dog.

Will walks up to the house, a BLUE NISSAN ALTIMA is parked in the driveway.

Will sighs, walks over to the driver’s window. Inside the Nissan sits Sophia, with both hands on the steering wheel.

Will knocks on the window twice, Sophia lowers it.

WILL
Honey, when did you get out?

SOPHIA
Don’t talk to me that way.

WILL
I just want to know.

Sophia turns to look at Will.

SOPHIA
I’m fine.

WILL
You don’t look fine.

SOPHIA
I just want to talk, okay?

Will nods, he looks to the side, tries to contain his emotions.

SOPHIA
Can you get in the car?

WILL
Why?

SOPHIA
Please.

Will takes a deep breath, walks around the Nissan.

Gets in the passenger side.

WILL
What do you want to talk about?

Sophia starts the engine, the Nissan backs into the street, drives away from the house.

END OF FLASHBACK

CUT TO:

EXT. BEACH SHORE – DAY

The tip of the boat hits the shore of the beach. Will jumps onto the sand, runs toward the house.

WILL
Sophia!

Will stumbles on a mound of sand, but manages to keep his balance.

WILL
Sophia, come out!

He looks toward the—

BEACH HOUSE

Where Sophia walks out the door.

SOPHIA
What happened?

Sophia looks at Will, looks towards the boat, where an ASTRONAUT, with a helmet covering the face, is lying down.

WILL
Come help me! Quick!

Sophia covers her chest with the sides of her vest, crosses her arms, walks towards Will with a serious look on her face.

Will runs back to the boat, grabs the astronaut from behind, tries to lift him up. Sophia reaches the boat.

WILL
He’s unconscious.

SOPHIA
Where did you find him?

WILL
He fell from the sky, take his feet.

Sophia grabs the astronaut by the feet, Will pulls and manages to lift him up. They both pull him out of the boat.

SOPHIA
What are you going to do with him?

Will looks at Sophia in confusion.

WILL
Help him.

Sophia looks away, both continue to move across the sand and toward the house.

(To be continued…)

PULP FICTION 1994 (REVIEW)

I think there’s at least two aspects of modern narrative techniques from which Pulp Fiction benefits greatly, the idea of choosing a clear premise and immediately setting the most ( apparently ) incapacitated characters to achieve that premise and the enigmatic ability to hide the chronological sense that the non-linear narrative gives to stories. Quentin Tarantino demonstrates, or demonstrated back in 1995, his great ability to build complex and yet surprisingly simple stories. This, which sounds paradoxical, can be summarized in the old proverb that sometimes the simplest is the most complex, taking the narrative technique to its simplest patterns, the essential ones, altering its order, its presentation, but maintaining its deep meaning, is what allows a story like Pulp Fiction to work and not to feel like the sum of three different stories.

Take for example the idea of protagonist, for purists, for academics, this narrative element is defined as the character who carries the emotional weight in the story. From this we can intuit that there is an emotional weight in the story, right? Well this has been called the “tunnel of emotions” or the “simple emotional journey” that the protagonist goes through and that shapes the plot, or that the plot produces in the character (depending if you’re going to be a dick about it). Well apparently Quentin Tarantino took this idea of a protagonist and really just stuck with the simple emotional journey. Why do I say this? Well because the emotional journey in Pulp Fiction is shared by 3 main characters, one for each part of the story (and yes, the movie is episodic). Three major acts define the story, the first part for John Travolta, the second for Bruce Willis and the third for Samuel L. Jackson. However, if we assume that these three characters are one and the same, or in other words, that there is only a single emotional journey between the three of them, we can clearly understand what the film is about.

First, the story of Vincent Vega, the most impulsive of the characters, is the initial world of the story. A character unable to control himself, just back from a vacation in a paradise of drugs and excesses, has the mission to take care of the boss’s wife, a femme fatale that will bring him very close to betrayal and the consequences of excess, but that will not produce in him any change. After this, Vincent arrives at the bar where he meets his boss and Butch (Bruce Willis). In a tense moment, both characters measure their strength and perhaps symbolically exchange roles.

Now it is the turn of the next character, I mean Butch (Bruce Willis), who is warned not to act impulsively, not to be “proud” is what Marcellus Wallace, Vincent’s boss and owner (apparently) of Butch’s destiny, an obviously proud and impulsive boxer, tells him to lose the next fight in the fifth round. But obviously Butch is not going to do this, worse, he has cooked up a plan to win the fight and keep the betting money. A decision that, when carried out, becomes the midpoint of the film, the fulfillment of desire. If Vincent had to restrain himself from taking Mia Wallace to bed (Uma Thurman, Marcelus’ wife) this time Butch disobeys the boss and gets (potentially) what he wants. From here on the film moves on to the classic narrative archetype of the escape from the cave, described by Christopher Vogler in his “The Writer’s Journey” and carried out to the letter, the final confrontation between Butch (here protagonist of the story) and Marcellus (opponent) results in Butch’s self revelation, the honor inherited from his father, a war hero, which leads him to take the symbolic katana and save Marcellus from the hands of “corrupted soldiers”, thus ending the conflict between the two.

After this, the film gets a little strange, after the end of Butch’s story we move on to the story of Jules, who has another self revelation relatively similar to Butch’s, after miraculously surviving a series of bullets aimed to kill him. Jules decides to quit criminal activities, retire, transform himself into a kind of Siddhartha and wander the world, what he is really telling us is that he wants to get away from conflict and here I think is the crux of the whole thing. Vincent, who doesn’t see the miraculous escape as a prophetic vision, accidentally shoots Marvin, the boy in the car, causing another conflict that makes the film even longer. Could it be that Quentin already had his story ready at the end of Butch’s story but, forced to adhere to the Hollywood canon of three acts of standard movie length, got caught up in the nature of the conflict? Well, Jules does realize that as long as he remains in the criminal world, violent acts will continue to occur and his transition, the decision to stop committing violent acts, leads him to disappear from the film without explanation, because as we already know, when Vincent goes to Butch’s apartment he is killed precisely because he is not with Julius.

For me, the third portion of the film feels a bit disconnected from the rest of the story just like the first part, I understand that it is part of the non-linear plot and that it is the most meta reflection of the story, committing violent acts never ends well or committing violent acts produces conflicts that are only ended with a positive moral decision, be it honor for Butch or a religious revelation for Lucius. Recalling John Truby, the famous script consultant, he points out that in good movies the protagonists make bad decisions all the way to the end, each of those decisions a little less bad than the last, until they reach the point where they realize how wrong they are and then change, save themselves or die. In the case of Pulp Fiction both happen, two are saved and one dies, arguably the worst one of all, the unsalvageable one.

Well, I think that’s it, I decided not to talk about the non-linear editing and stuff, I think we can all make the mental effort to tell us the tale chronologically. Besides I think that’s not the point of the story, but this reflection on the nature of conflict and decisions, something like “making good decisions leads you out of conflict”. Now, for this Quentin Tarantino (the one from 1994) it seems that making good decisions has to do with factors external to the individual, a completely religious look that is closer to the youth free of pessimism and that puts him strangely on par with contemporaries like Richard Linklater. Anyway, I think Quentin Tarantino is a person very studious of literary techniques, which is strange because he keeps saying he didn’t go to film school, but it’s obvious that he has studied a lot of narrative, I also want to say, to finish, that in narrative seems to be a general idea that existence is mostly out of control for the characters, is this a product of the narrative action? I am referring to the process of writing a story. Or is it an acute reflection on the nature of conscious existence?

Explosion of supernova feelings

The titanium alloy builded cabine of the interstellar rollercoaster vibrates upon warp speed entry as Johnny, a teenage pulsar dj practitioner, changes tracks once again, undecided about the atmospheric melody which he would like to listen upon death by suffocation, tossed imaginarilly into space and time after loosing the incoming dj battle he’s about to face. Yet, the rollercoaster arrives to the nearest star at lightspeed, alongside the new beat in Johnny´s playlist; “excitement of a burning star”. The tune hits the cabin, some dude in the back starts moving his head with a smile that fastly spreads to more and more, increasingly excited, people.

  • I bet they won’t toss me into space after listening to this killer track.

Johnny accomodates his vintage headphones and let’s himself be carried away by the melody, but he’s quickly interrupted by the harsh bass on Azeroth,  his contestant, hit track; “Cry of a pulsar”. The battle is on.

Johnny turns up the volume, along with the rising laser melody which welcomes the audience into the sudden fall of the rollercoaster and manages to take them away from the sad tunes of his adversary. But at the end of the fall, the melancholic pulse on the bridge of “Cry of a Pulsar”, pushes them back into the sadness of oblivion, conveyed by Azeroth’s feelings. Johnny concentrates on his previous sentiments, on the warm rising of the sun in the summer, but the melody only manages to upset the audience, completely caught up in sadness, and they love it. The rollercoaster spirals, taking Johnny off from concentration and giving Azeroth even more sad feelings to feed upon. Hanging in despair, Johnny notices Azeroth is looking right at him, probably feeding of Johnny’s desperation to add to his sad tune. And so, Johnny opens his safebelt and lets himself go in the middle of the rollercoaster spinning. The sudden fall of Johnny makes Azeroth laugh and the sad tune he’s conveing changes into an uprising beat, following his own feelings, and more so than that, merging with another rising tune, the hopeful arrangement that comes from Johnny’s heart, grabbing the side of the dj table and not letting himself go in the middle of the chaotic movement of the rollercoaster. Fighting for his own life, Johnny’s heart fuses with the melody from “excitement of a burning star”, transforming it into a new song; “Explosion of supernova feelings”. And the entire audience let’s themself go from their seatbelts,  and the rollercoaster travels through space with a multitude of people hanging from their chairs, fighting to stay alive and not letting go.

The spiral tracks are behind and the rollercoaster stabilises near the heart of a gigantic galaxy, purple mist and the birth of new stars accompany Johnny´s triumphant coda, as “explosion of a supernova feelings” hits the end. The audience goes back into their sits, a couple rejoice by the window, kissing passionately. Azeroth´s song has stopped for some time now, not that anyone notices it and Johnny is the only one to say goodbye to him, before the floor opens and tosses him out into space, to die. 

The End.