Saturday, March 31, 2007

My Favourite Screenplay of All-Time.

As part of Mystery Man on Film’s Screenwriting Blogathon that celebrates the best of the film scripts, either original or one based on material published previously in another form. I had to think about this one, and the near misses were: Some Like It Hot, The 400 Blows, Casablanca, Finding Nemo, Brokeback Mountain and All About Eve (I did a short tribute to my top 25 screenplays a while ago here, it’s changed a little, but give it a read), but finally, I decided on my favourite screenplay, and no surprises, it happened to be my favourite film of all-time as well, The Shawshank Redemption. I know, it looks like I’m just using this opportunity to whore out my favourite film like I usually do. But that isn’t it, I promise. I took the time to actually read the screenplay to Shawshank a while ago, and it simply managed to deepen my love for the masterpiece.

Oh yes, before I forget - as we're on the topic of blogathons, I'm hosting one of my own in July:
Join up!

I adore the script for countless reasons and we would be here until Christmas if I tried to list them all, so I’ll do a simple top 7 reasons. Note, this isn’t a top 7 of why I love the movie (that would include aspects such as the acting and the score), but why I consider the script to rule.

Seven: Engaging supporting characters.
Brooks, a man incarcerated for an unmentioned crime for so long that he finds himself attached to the Shawshank and the daily life he has lead, pet bird and all. A group of long-time prison dwellers who find joy in placing bets on mean things. And of course, that charismatic up-and-getter Tommy, a fellow inmate of Andy's who suffers under the iron will of Norton (who, incidentally, was written for Brad Pitt). All these men have their quirks, all have the flaws, but all are utterly engaging and add to the charm of Shawshank.

Six: Detestable villains.
The polar opposite of charming, the cruel prison warden and the nasty officers are appropriately grim characters. Warden Norton exudes an evil, frightening presence without ever escalating into pastiche of the Christian fundamentalists. But the plaque reading "His judgment cometh and that right soon" is wonderfully ironic.

Five: Believable sense of fear.
Unlike camp horror movies and lol-inducing “dramas” (read: Crash), the horror in Shawshank is all emotional. As Andy gets violated, my heart totally broke for him, and the cruelties that he is subjected to are terrible, yet believable. In my opinion, there are not enough movies that can convincingly portray something so nasty, but Shawshank manages to, due to the nuance of Darabont’s script.

Four: Making us care and learn to hope.
I doubt many of the people who love Shawshank have been through the same experience as Andy, but in Shawshank, it just doesn’t matter. Even though the circumstances between the characters and the viewers are quite different, you don't feel that far removed from what the characters are going through; everyone’s experienced fear, loneliness, desperation in their lives. But Shawshank offers happy endings, and for this, the audience can share the joy too. Beautiful.

Masterful scripting.

Three: Red’s narration.
I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again, if there were to be a movie about my life, I’d want Morgan Freeman to narrate it. His voice is amazing to listen to, and it all really stems from his monologues as Red.

This was one of my favourites:

RED (V.O.)
I have no idea to this day what
them two Italian ladies were
singin' about. Truth is, I don't
want to know. Some things are best
left unsaid. I like to think they
were singin' about something so
beautiful it can't be expressed in
words, and makes your heart ache
because of it.

CAMERA brings us to Red.

RED (V.O.)
I tell you, those voices soared.
Higher and farther than anybody in
a gray place dares to dream. It was
like some beautiful bird flapped
into our drab little cage and made
these walls dissolve away...and for
the briefest of moments -- every
last man at Shawshank felt free.

Oh! Too sublime for words.

Two: The searing sense of redemption.
Here’s a little understatement for you: I like movies with happy endings. I really am a sucker for them, whether it’s Elle’s solving the case in Legally Blonde, to Nemo being reunited with his dad in Finding Nemo, or the wonderful redemption for all those who suffered in Erin Brockovich. But The Shawshank Redemption features the greatest redemption of all; after 19 years of Hell, Andy finds his Heaven. I love that. All in all, this is a great story vividly told that will leave you with a true sense of redemption in your soul. Like the masterful novella that the film was based on, this film manages to succeed at greater and deeper things than simply entertaining an audience. Darabont tells his story most masterfully, showing principles, values and inspiring his audience to think. He leaves us a poignant film with a powerful message of hope, and redemption, something we all seek. You don’t get that in every screenplay, now, do you?

One: Andy.
The character of Andy is the thing I treasure most about Shawshank. I think everybody at some point in their life can connect with him, and his wonderful, stoic nature. Andy's demeanour and undeniable sense of hope causes Red to take a deeper look at himself, and the world around him. Andy proves to Red and the other inmates that in the conventional walls of Shawshank prison convention will find no home in his lifestyle, and, like the bright bird that he is, he flies. Even when the audience may despair, Andy doesn’t, he fights back with that wonderful drive, and achieves redemption. Because of Andy, Red can find a different path-the path of freedom that is lit by hope.

Get busy living, dudes, or get busy dying.

I hope you enjoyed this. :D


Anonymous said...

Back on track, Emma, back on track! It's great when you finally do choose to write the odd bit of movie-related essays now and then.

I completely agree about the script, by the way, although one of the reasons I love it so much is the DEFINING, ICONIC moments. How could you forget them?

jaime said...

Emma's going for quality over quantity in these articles now, and I like it.

dan said...

One of my favourites.

Everyone needs someone like Andy in their lives

Rowena Julez said...

Emma, ManUre just pulled back a goal!

Damn it!

Come on Blackburn!

walt said...

My favorite thing about the script to Shawshank Redemption was the use of the prison.

Joe Valdez said...

Your praise of The Shawshank Redemption is the best entry in Mystery Man's blog-a-thon that I've read so far, aside from mine. Good show, Emma!

I think all seven of your reasons of why this screenplay rules can be distilled into one: it's a great story. It hooks you from the beginning and doesn't let go until the end.

All About My Movies is pretty savage as well - lots of images, lots of randomness - and I'll definitely be participating in your blog-a-thon three months from now.

Brian Erickson said...

Shawshank is such a great film. My second favorite of all time, trailing only to Sunset Boulevard.

Damian said...

Excellent post, Emma. Shawshank Redemption is one of the few screenplays I actually own and you're right, it is indeed a great script (adapted from a great story by Stephen King, which I also own) and a great film, one of my personal favorites. In fact, I wrote my own blog about it for the Lovesick Blog-a-thon a while back, because whatever else Shawshank is, it's an incredibly profound love story. My entry can be found here:

BTW you never did tell me how the "Hamlet" paper turned out!

screenwriterguy said...

Nice! You choice the same screenplay as me for the Blog-athon. You officially have good taste.

Emma said...

Damian, loved your post!

Also, ugh, about the essay - I got a C, have to do a redraft by mid-April. It's so annoying!

Anonymous said...

hey Emma, did you see 300 in the end?

Emma said...

Ugh! I went to see it in the end, against my own better judgement, just because I wanted a break from revising.


It were sh-t, basically!

paul haine said...

Hey Emma, watch this:

Woodstock said...

wow, i saw this film a long time ago and your post just made me want to see it again. i don't know if it were the first real drama i've watched for myself [i mean not because my parents were watching, so i did it], but it's the first i remember watching. i remember feeling scared in the begining, i thought it was a suspense movie, but then i got myself crying by the end. it was a long time ago and i feel i owe it a new screening. i think i'll buy it.

RC said...

it's the only screenplay i actually own...

great choice!!

Emma said...

Looooooool @ at that video, Paul. Effing hilarious!