This Week’s Script Cavalcade: Road to Perdition

Today we dust off that Depression-era fedora and flatten the pedal on a rickety Model T to delve full-throttle into 2002’s crime-drama Road to Perdition written by David Self, adapted from a graphic novel by Max Allan Collins. The flick follows a mob enforcer father and his sensitive-skewed son as they maraud across the Midwest robbing banks and evading all sides of the law. It’s equal parts Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Angels with Dirty Faces, and Little Miss Sunshine somehow.

Symbolism is implemented to optimal effect in this screenplay. And themes are explored thoughtfully and thoroughly and characters fully-realized and presented with all the complexity and nuance that such fine writing warrants. Our two filial protagonists, Michael Sullivan, Sr. and Jr., are richly layered and undergo transformative journeys that not only muddy the moral waters of what’s right and wrong but strikes at the heart of humanity, coarse and often unscrupulous, and how and if it’s possible to retain integrity when the ethical rafters start crumbling around you.

It’s a finely honed story, one that uses a wide arsenal of verdant visual descriptions to communicate character subtleties. For example, the story takes place during the height of a socio-economic depression. We’re mid-winter and morale is at an all-time low. Optimism has been obliquely obliterated. And the bleak surroundings reflect the pervading grayness of the moralistic decisions that these characters must endure and the coldness of society that prevails in the trying times of the rock-bottom 1930s.

Less is more. The screenplay is all brute force when it comes to clocking you maximally with minimalistic dialogue. It’s nonverbal in its veracity. The story is lifted by the lack of loquaciousness. The script doesn’t brook superfluous sentences and instead relies heavily upon the unspoken spaces and subtext between dialogue. Each silence is kneaded with an abundance of emotional dimensions. We can see the internal wheels and cogs spinning wildly within in those moments of profound muteness. It’s a screenplay that is unabashedly trim and lean in execution.

The depiction of violence in the film is treated with an added aura of significance. The notion of inherited violence is exactingly examined and stands as the thematic fulcrum of the father and son relationship. Sullivan, Sr. seeks to shield his son from this seedy world of speakeasies and easy-murder. Sullivan shows signs of unresolved resentment as he sees much of himself in his son. His boy’s virtue and sense of justice is in jeopardy and Sullivan will stop at nothing to preserve it. Can a man seek a semblance of redemption through the salvaging of his son? The son himself questions whether or not he’s capable of such irredeemable acts but is conflicted as it took a horrendous family tragedy to finally bring them closer together. It’s an exemplary array of moralistic questions in which to build a strong screenplay around.

Suffice it to say the theme of fathers and sons plays a prominent role in the screenplay. It’s turgid with Turgenev-ness. Beyond the overt paternal back-and-forth between Sullivan and his son, there’s also the relationship between mob boss John Rooney and Sullivan himself. John is a surrogate father figure to Sullivan, and it makes his quest for vengeance all the more torturous. Their final climactic showdown is tinged with a bittersweetness as they share one last kindred exchange before what has to happen heartbreakingly happens.

It’s a well-weaved story that withstands the weathering of time. It’s a script that provokes thought and is economical in its ethos toward character studies. Silence begets more silence and acts of violence have import and go beyond mere gratuitous carnage. Set in a modernizing and weary world wherein lawlessness is slowing being eradicated and men must be held accountable for their sins. The story is mythic and epic in proportions and poses the same enduring questions that go unanswered today.

So beat a quick retreat to the library and get reading. It’s special.

And when you’re done excavating the cavernous depths of mankind’s capacity for corruptibility, lend your eyes to these other craftily-composed and newly-nabbed scripts:

  • The pilot episode of Fox’s The Orville penned by animation-maven Seth MacFarlane.
  • Emmy-nominated episode of The Americans “The Soviet Division” written by Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg.
  • HBO’s Westworld episode “The Bicameral Mind” written by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. Yet another Emmy nominated script.
  • The Florida Project written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch.
  • And please ponder our everlastingly expanding catalog.

Duck soup.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: Punch-Drunk Love

This week’s Cavalcade has us delving deep into the lovelorn lullaby that is Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2002 romantic-dramedy Punch-Drunk Love. It’s a screenplay that boasts one of the most bizarre but exceedingly endearing schlubs since Marty. It’s a tale that uses a full range of emotional and cinematic language to convey a heartbreaking yarn of yearning and arrival at acceptance. Romantic, existential, and otherwise.

The quick run-through: Loveable and lovesick Barry Egan is eking his way through existence. Continually battered and emasculated by his domineering seven sisters and working a dead-end job, he’s quickly reaching the end of his rope. Loneliness is the only enduring constant of the day. It’s just misery Monday through Friday.

But then a beacon of light wafts in. And he’s introduced to lilting and lovely Lena Leonard. And she, in turn, introduces a little wattage into his dimming and emotionally imperiled life. But between him and his last remaining chance at happiness lays a gauntlet of blackmailing phone-sex operators, a goon squad of boorish brothers, and Barry’s own inclination to self-sabotage a good thing. Love teeters precariously in the balance. And we’re along for the ride and root for the galoot throughout.

The screenplay lays on the symbolism pretty thick. From page one we’re befuddled by a wayward and mysterious harmonium that inexplicably ends up in Barry’s possession. This little organ, drubbed and discarded, becomes a visual surrogate for his own heart. This innocuous little instrument symbolizes a chance at romantic opportunity. Like love, it arrives unexpectedly (the harmonium is abandoned on a lonely road after a horrific car crash on page one). When Barry pilfers the harmonium from the curb he finds it a little worse for wear. But he nurtures it. He takes the time to coax it into something aurally beautiful. He mends the billows with duct tape, and the act becomes a redemptive gesture of nursing his own internal wounds.

As the story progresses, beleaguered Barry will steal away to these little solitary interludes. He’ll brush a key and release a mournful chord that reflects his current inner turmoil. Scene after scene passes, and he soon starts to find a rhythm. And the larger the role Lena plays in his life, the more dulcet his tunes start to become. It’s all a very rich metaphor for the effort and strain falling in love takes on the heart. The script seems to suggest, akin to playing Carnegie Hall, that intimacy requires practice, practice, practice. And by movie’s end, they’ve learned to make swelling, symphonic music together.

The telephone also plays a prominent symbolic role. The telephone becomes an apparatus of anxiety and tension for Barry. Trouble seems to ineluctably ensue whenever he reaches for one. It’s the source of unending woe that keeps coming in waves. From the phone scam that empties his pockets to the perpetual haranguing he receives from his sisters. A ringing phone is the harbinger of heartache for Barry. And quickly represents all that is alienating and lobs him further into loneliness. But as his relationship with Lena grows stronger, he wades deep within himself and discovers newfound funds of courage heretofore unavailable to him. He sheds the telephone permanently from his life. And severs any lingering insecurities it symbolizes.

It’s a riveting read. And proffers many a canny lesson in injecting subtle symbolism into a story. The screenplay packs a compact wallop at only ninety pages. But each page is just drenched in deliberate characterization and pronounced visual pathos.

So stock up on the pudding and be frequently-flown away to a world of revealing and romantic reverie. I’ll say with no exaggeration: This script is very food.

And when you’re finished with Punch-Drunk Love, feel free to peruse and pluck out some of these latest acquisitions in the library.

  • CBS television drama Picket Fences created by David E. Kelley.
  • Crime-drama Wiseguy created by Stephen J. Cannell.
  • CBS sitcom Newhart created by Barry Kemp.
  • Gimlet Media’s popular podcast Homecoming penned by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg.
  • And spare a picosecond to have a poke-about and palaver over the new First Pages: 1931 to 2016 exhibit in the library lobby.

And I would say that’s that, mattress man.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: Children of Men

Profoundly prescient and starkly relevant to the acrimonious argy-bargy affairs of the world today, this week’s Cavalcade has us tread into the turbulent and societally troubled thriller-parable that is 2006’s Children of Men written by Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby. A screenplay that orchestrates a vast assortment of subtle cinematic themes speculating about the human condition, xenophobic hysteria run amok, and the nature of grief and hopelessness. It’s a script that levels you with lambent ideas and is just top-shelf science-fiction etched on every page.

The elevator pitch: The world over has been pitched into a crisis. An unexplainable and sustaining case of widespread infertility has blighted mankind and there hasn’t been a baby born in nearly two decades. Humanity is on the cusp of collapse and the outlook is bleak and maudlin for the surviving population. As thickets overtake playgrounds and nurseries grow eerily quiet, society has regressed to something atavistic and nihilistically primal.

The script is a masterclass in sneaking in allegorical tropes and embedding subtle soupcons of thematic imagery. Themes of hope, redemption, and fragile faith personified through rich characterization and narrative velocity. Theo Faron is our cynical and brow-beaten protagonist. A detached veteran of sorrow and melancholy from page one. He’s your prototypical everyman in every sense of the word. Grizzled and world-weary but ultimately resilient and duty-bound to meet the challenges of the mission foisted upon him. A mission that has him safeguarding the very future of humanity as he escorts a pregnant girl out from harm’s way. It’s very redolent of the Nativity but with our protagonists recast as a modern day Joseph and Mary. He becomes a reluctant savior figure. An earnest archetype that hits every one of Campbell’s hero tenets. By the script’s end, he earns his nugget of hard-fought hope and redemption.

Equal parts cynicism and sincerity. A pessimistic pollyanna.

Theo represents a lingering limn of light in an ever darkening world of despair and despondency. Resolve and courage in the face of surefire defeat and doom. These qualities make him a chivalric knight of yore. A Galahad with a slight case of alcoholism churned with nihilism. Readers are impelled to root for this highly flawed but virtuously upright figure. His suffering is biblical in scale. But he remains Quixotic in his brittle steadfastness. And that’s enough to keep us glued and emotionally invested in his crusade.

Take this scene. Basically the Obi-Wan-You’re-Our-Only-Hope scene.

The concept is an all too perspicacious perspective of a society wherein compassion and empathy fall by the wayside. We learn in this dystopian world, immigrants and refugees are regarded with a high degree of suspicion and discrimination. The dispossessed peoples are relegated to becoming second-class citizens and become perfect scapegoats for the world’s current woes. It’s a cinematic exaggeration of injustices we might see on our televisions today.

And in the world’s desperation, religious devotion bordering upon flagrant fervor comes to the forefront. The world’s remaining population perceive the contagious infertility as some kind of divine plague and scramble to make amends. The religious piety begets further balkanization of allegiances which leads to more and more societal fracturing and violence. Again, more incisive commentary and cinematic flourish on anti-immigration issues that are brimming over today and splayed all over our front pages.

The script is here at the library. Bradded and begging to be read and learned from. It’s a sophisticated and symbolism-heavy cautionary tale that will ultimately buoy you with optimism and newfound understanding. So read it. And learn to hoard hope again.

Once finished with Children of Men, feel free to move on along to these other newly minted scripts in our collection:

  • Practically an impossible amount of CBS’s Early Edition created by Ian Abrams, Patrick Q. Page, and Vik Rubenfeld. A finely-tuned fantasy drama.
  • The pilot for Fox comedy sitcom The Mick created by Dave and John Chernin.
  • Edgar Wright’s pedal-to-the-metal musical runaway romp Baby Driver.
  • The development bible for Netflix’s exceptional and Emmy-gobbling 80s sci-fi thriller Stranger Things created by the Duffer Brothers.

And if those don’t salve your scriptly itch, we’ve a nice plump catalog for you to pore over too.

Shantih shantih shantih.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: The Lobster

How’s this for an opening sequence?

It’s a befuddling tableau to start with, to say the least. But encapsulates and establishes a tone for the rest of the picture tidily.

Come and scuttle across the floors of silent seas with Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2015 dystopian tragicomedy The Lobster. As far as concepts go, you’ll find none more bizarre and original than this absurdist arc. The long and short of it: Eligible singles are relocated to a lavish estate and given approximately 45 days to attract a romantic companion otherwise risk being transmogrified into an animal of their own choosing. It’s so out there, this idea. It’s science-fiction at its most scathing and socially penetrating. It’s a screenplay that bamboozles expectations and askews and eschews all notions of a traditional romantic comedy.

We’re introduced to lovelorn David. A world-class schlub who’s wife just absconded with another man damning David to this heart-wrenching race against the clock to find a new spouse. He’s deposited into his new bachelor lifestyle and now must keep in the company of a cadre of other equally romantically ill-equipped galoots who are also scrambling to avoid becoming part of a mopey menagerie.

It’s all a very trenchant satire on modern day dating and the incumbent anxieties and inanities that are part and parcel with the farce. The singles are bombarded daily by straight-faced propaganda about the ins and outs of successful courtship and couplehood. They are diligently daffy and delivered with the stoicism of an afterschool PSA. It very cannily mirrors the torrent of subtle inveigling we receive via images plastered on billboards and magazines everywhere reinforcing one point: You are not good enough and there is no place in society for sole individuals.

It only gets more preposterous. Singles can stay their inevitable animal-transformation by brandishing tranquilizer rifles and embarking on group hunts of the free-range escapee singles that inhabit the surrounding woods. Every renegade single captured buys them another day of humanhood. It ravenously pits singles against singles and suddenly it’s Darwinism at its most reprehensible.

David develops something like a niggling conscience. David manages to orchestrate an escape to the woods to join this lonely unit of hunted and finds himself experiencing the diametrically-opposite lifestyle. The loners in the woods, contrary to his previous predicament, are forbidden to pair off and indulge in romance. The pendulum swings far off into the other extreme as the ostracized denizens of the forest resolve to live out the rest of their lives in self-imposed exile and independence. It’s a grotesque commentary on the emotionally wounded who renounce romance knee-jerkedly and drag this burden of misplaced pride around their necks like an albatross.

Both the population living in the estate and in the woods live lives most foolhardy and of folly. A burlesque of senselessness. It’s acutely insightful when it comes to parsing out the travesty that is modern day dating and the societal conventions and seemingly arbitrary social construct of relationships.

It’s such an inscrutable script. But there’s also a weird wisdom that can be winnowed within its pages. An invitation to see past the unhealthy fixation on marriage and reverence for romance that can be hobbling to the wellbeing. It’s part parable and part surrealist theatre.

So stop by the library and awkwardly shuffle up to someone and ask if that seat’s taken. You can read this Best Original Screenplay nominee together and maybe, just maybe, uncover connections the old fashioned way sans tranquilizer darts.

And for the second, third, and umpteenth date you can read these other scripts together too. Just in and primed for perusal.

  • Taylor Sheridan’s slow-burn crime drama Wind River.
  • 2008’s comedy-drama Sunshine Cleaning written by Megan Holley about two ne’er-do-well sisters starting a bio-hazardous disposal business.
  • Every episode of season one of Starz’s The Girlfriend Experience created by Lodge Kerrigan.

Have a click and a carom ‘round our catalog too, won’t you.

Scuttle, scuttle.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Renowned film critic Pauline Kael entitled her 1968 book “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” Appositely titled as she asserts that these simple words conveyed most efficiently the basic appeal of movies: A touch of romance followed by a ricochet of bullets in there somewhere. The lusty and the lurid, hopefully with love and laughs betwixt too. This week’s script highlight presents a hefty helping from both categories. It’s Shane Black’s 2005 neo-noir comedy-crime caper Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Partly based upon Brett Halliday’s 1941 mystery novel Bodies Are Where You Find Them, this script is a first-rate example of melding the heartfelt with the hardboiled. And taking cues from literary detective gems of the past and whittling out something all too anew and fresh in the genre.

Bang Bang.

We’re introduced to the hapless and always harried Harry Lockhart. Loveable, loquacious, and likely to end up in a hoosegow. Trouble seeks out and finds Harry relentlessly. His face is a magnet for knuckle sandwiches. And he certainly has his fill throughout the course of the script. Though good-intentioned, his kidneys are eternally being kneaded by a wide variety of goons. Chivalric to a fault, here Harry intervenes with bruise-y results:

Kiss Kiss.

Dismiss the mounds of murders and film noir tropes and what we have here is a pretty jaunty romantic-comedy. There’s even a perfunctory meet-cute that’s by-the-books and ebullient with playful banter. Here’s Harry meeting our spunky heroine Harmony for the first time and trading jocular jabs:

I would submit that the romantic-comedy quality also pervades the platonic patter between Harry and his begrudging accomplice, Perry. There’s a brotherly blather that’s heavy on the histrionics and humor. The exchanges get heated and the dander rises readily, but the reader can also still hone onto the affection they harbor for one another. They bicker and scold like The Honeymooners. And it leavens the grisly narrative with just the right pinch of levity.

Again, a knucklehead. But a winsome one somehow.

The romantic-comedy angle is laid on thick and the mystery-thriller side even thicker. But not at all at the expense of the general madcap tomfoolery our hero finds himself in. He’s so bumbling and inept at times we can’t help but to look away and cringe at the buffoonery of it all. There’s a Woody Allen-perpetually-on-his-heels neurotic quality that really incites a surge in the audiences’ sympathy for him. That’s some skillful characterizing when we’re actively rooting for a fool.

Looping around back to that initial Pauline Kael reference about the title “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” she went on to claim, “this appeal is what attracts us, and ultimately what makes us despair when we begin to understand how seldom movies are more than this.” The statement is a mournful one. But solace can be found when auteurs like Shane Black deliver those basest of cinematic requisites whilst also imbuing the required ribaldry and violence with renewed meaning. Shane Black has an innate understanding of the sui generis alchemy when the sultry is sprinkled on the brutality. And this screenplay touts his keen cognizance of that.

So drop on by the library. Maybe stir the kettle a bit. Stick out a hat and see who shoots at it.

And Catalog. Sleuth around some.

For here be new scriptly nonesuch such as:

  • FX’s anthology series Feud created by Ryan Murphy, Jaffe Cohen, and Michael Zam dramatizing the vast vitriol and everlasting vendetta between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.
  • Disney’s family-friendly and female-empowering visual feast Moana written by Jared Bush.
  • The riveting and richly realized Netflix crime-drama Ozark created by Bill Dubuque.
  • Season two of Love created by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, and Paul Rust about the pratfalls, paradise, and perpetual penance involved in LA dating.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: O Brother Where Art Thou?

Few films can better achieve the subtle literary epic quality that Joel and Ethan Coen manage to conjure in their Depression-era rural rollick O Brother, Where Art Thou? They masterfully homage an august and timeless Homeric work and contract and expand it narratively to wring out something altogether unique and memorable to modern audiences. The film follows the foibles of three stumblebum miscreants as they make their way through many a trial and tribulation across the dusty Mississippi Delta, encountering a collection of charming crackpots along the way.

The dialogue. The dialogue caroms and coos like the electrifying washboard bluegrass that injects this screenplay with such aural color. The pages hum with a full spectrum of forgotten musical traditions of the past, from gospel to Appalachian ballads to tin pan alley blues. The screenwriters really tap into an amusing and antiquated patois that captures adequately the era and parlance of the Deep South. Our loquacious lead, Ulysses Everett McGill, offers us a wonderfully confabulated cobble of words throughout. Labyrinthine yet lyrical:

The symbolism. The screenplay is fraught with interweaved symbolism that furthers the storytelling skillfully. Everett is constantly fussing about his hair and a fervent customer of a certain brand of hair treatment. The laughable and alliteratively labeled Dapper Dan can becomes a visual symbol of our protagonist’s fatal flaw: His narcissism and inexhaustible braggadocio. The Dapper Dan tins ultimately nigh lead to his downfall as the scent of the pomade is caught by the jailers’ hounds constantly nipping at their heels the entirety of the script.

And that symbolism just keeps providing a tide of insights. During the climax of the script, our hero is bound and knee-bent before a noose. His long and windy misadventures have inextricably led him to this miserable end. Everett peers skyward and the emotional walls finally come crumbling down. He rises above the vanities and insecurities that have hobbled him throughout the narrative. His emotional trajectory culminates at this moment of truth wherein he is resigned to acknowledge his shortcomings and make sincere entreaties toward redemption. His heartrending valediction:

And like strained mercy sprung forth from Poseidon’s trident, a biblical and baptismal flood comes deus ex machina-cally crashing down upon him and washes away the mistakes of the past. An earnest salvation upon his fervent pleas of contrition.  Absolving him and revealing to us Everett: battered, bruised, but better for it. A changed man by the script’s last page.

The character relationships. These three fools and charlatans are a finely tuned ensemble of comedic craft. From our first glimpse of them, it’s a sad sight. They’re truly men of constant sorrow. A certain pathos of pity is taken on these wretched ne’er-do-well vagabonds. We’re introduced to them in chains and on the run and generally always a hair’s distance away from their next felony. But they still pilfer our sympathies. We like them. We root for them. Through their bumblings and bickerings. It’s an antebellum Three Stooges.

All that’s missing are a few well-placed nyuk nyuk nyuks.

So this script is a wealth of writerly wisdom when it comes to cleverly employing bygone source material and winnowing out something fresh and anew. The script’s stark and sepia-toned realism laced with laughs and coarse katzenjammers. So grab a gopher, dab a little smellum in your coiffure, and R-U-N-N-O-F-T to the library and have a go at this gorgeously garrulous script.

You’ll also need to ride a roll top desk to withstand the veritable deluge of new scripts that have just washed ashore our sagging shelves. The latest and greatest include:

  • All of the scripts for HBO’s bitingly beady-eyed dark comedy miniseries Big Little Lies created by David E. Kelley based upon the book by Liane Moriarty.
  • Starz’s fantasy-drama series American Gods based upon the novel by Neil Gaiman.
  • A clutch of season two scripts for Aziz Ansari’s Millennially mendacious Master of None.

Also, catalog, for your clicking druthers.

Shake a leg, Junior.  We’re bona fide.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: The Royal Tenenbaums

This week we inspect the sinking battleship of idiosyncratic eclecticism that is 2001’s comedy-drama The Royal Tenenbaums written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. This ostentatiously oddball screenplay is a finely tuned saga of a once-brilliant family undergoing a severe existential maelstrom. It’s your classic Miltonian tale of a tragicomic figure felled by hubris and finding the real drama in picking up the pieces and pursuing something like redemption. And the writers deliver this epic chronicle of seeking grace in the face of tragedy with a pinch-perfect sprinkle of absurdity and sapience. It’s a trenchant tumble of whimsical humor and emotional hurly-burlies.  

The writers corral a large ensemble cast of characters and dedicate just the right amount of screen time to each and every one. Having numerous main players can sometimes come off a little overwrought, unwieldy, and ultimately a tangle of under-developed entities we haven’t had enough time to adequately identify with. But with this script, the writers have managed to wring optimal empathy from this gaggle of alluring and flawed characters. It’s testament to the writing’s economy of language that it so accurately hits home with us and we sympathize and gravitate so to these charmingly crackpot characters. We pretty much have them precisely sized up from frame one:

The character that we’re forced to warm up to foremost is the grand patriarch himself, ol’ pappy Royal Tenenbaum. Life has dealt Royal some cruel blows. He’s the runner whom the race outran. Washed out and weary, he’s a blowhard braggart. He’s no-good and a proper villain and a crook. But we dote on him like an elderly uncle figure who is slowly coming to terms with the bastard he was in the past. It’s a theme that audiences can’t help but relate to. The idea of someone reckoning for the sins of yesteryear and seeking a sort of thwarted sense of reconciliation with his estranged family. Maybe we commiserate with Royal because there’s a little bit of his dogged determination in all of us to salvage ourselves and re-steer the ship toward the atolls of atonement.

There’s hope for the scoundrel yet.

He’s also just a bonafide badass. Getting more pleasantly petulant with age, he’s the last of the gentleman scallywags. He’s seen and done it all but still can’t quite get down the nuances of normal socially acceptable behavior. But one must proffer the proper plaudits for his acumen for diplomacy and intercultural experiences abroad.

The writing is top shelf and it becomes but all too apparent why this was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay along with moseying its way to the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century. It’s a script that yanks every heart string taut and deflates both lungs with prolonged bouts of laughter. A tough writerly one-two to inflict and line to tip-toe. But all in all, a script definitely worth a damn.

Tinctured with tenderness, the tale of the Tenenbaums will relentlessly rouse your funny femur. So shag ass and galumph to our shelves and steal away into its pages for a spell. And feel free to take off your shoes and one of your socks and cry over how good this script is.

And when you’re done and dusted with The Royal Tenenbaums, there’re still heaps of fresh scripts all primed for you to plow your proboscis into. Such as every episode of Hulu’s runaway hit The Handmaid’s Tale. Or a helping of the comedic-stylings of The Red Skelton Show that ran for an inexhaustible two decades producing a dizzying and cancellation-defying 672 episodes. That’s legs.  

You’re also encouraged to drag a languid finger along our digital stacks for other assorted scriptly serenity.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: Miller’s Crossing

What’s the rumpus, readers?

Today we bob and weave bullets from a bootlegger’s roscoe and have a low-lit and chiaroscuro look at Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1990 neo-noir crime one-two Miller’s Crossing. There’s a wealth of lessons to be glommed from this screenplay. The characters are complex and despicably charismatic and the plot is elegantly entangled and peppered to perfection with daffy dames, priggish palookas, and fire-belching Tommy guns. It’s got it all, yah yeggs.

The characters are world-class finks. Detestable but always endearingly so. We have our protagonist Tom Reagan who sees all the angles but drinks like a fish and can’t lay off the ponies and is just your all-around no-good heel. But underneath the layers of immoral slime, Tom proves to be in possession of a wide assortment of laudable qualities. He’s loyal and adheres to a strict code. And smart. He’s whip-smart and irrepressibly a creature of logic and strategy. And commands an icy demeanor that can’t be ruffled despite being a perpetual punching bag a majority of the movie. It’s testament to his grit. And it’s why we’re rooting for him from word go. All the cynicism, shortcomings, and foibles and all.

It’s little wonder why we’re so enamored with this lump of a goon. He slangs all the best one-liners. All delivered with churlish cool comportment and diamond-precision comic timing. Tom’s all slow-burning ire and irreverence morning, noon, and night. A consummate example of grace under fire.

In these scenes he’s shaking off a particularly vicious hangover and still manages to brandish a biting bon mot or two.

All in all, not a bad guy.

It’s a screenplay that demands repeat readings. After the umpteenth thumb-thru you’re still walking away with mounds of newly discovered writerly insights. What the writers do here with language is superb. It’s English, sure, but not quite. The Coens employ this sort of antiquated pidgin palaver that just rings resoundingly authentic to audience ears. It’s both mellifluous and barking mad. And I can’t get enough of it.

Another strength this script commands in spades is the character interactions. The back-and-forths crackle like staccato machine gun fire and our ears just buzz with joy at the rhythms. In one scene we have Tom verbally sparring with Leo insouciantly speaking of broken legs. The scene just hums with playful impertinence.

It’s a script that is very mindful of the genre that it is paying homage to and borderline exaggerating at times. It’s painfully self-aware of itself and it’s but all too apparent within its pages how much respect the Coens have for the hardboiled cliches and conventions of noir. It’s rigorously self-referential as it plucks the best qualities from the film noir and gangster films of the past and lumps it all together into something that has its own voice and velocity. Miller’s Crossing stalwartly takes its place among the pantheon of great dark crime-caper films of yesteryear such as The Godfather, Double Indemnity, and The Big Sleep.

So raise a glass to Volstead and dangle on over to sip generously from this gimlet of a script.

And when you’re sick of the high hat, come coo too over these other newly acquired screenplays in our library’s collection:

  • The sun-soaked 2017 screenplay of Baywatch written by Damian Shannon and Mark Swift.
  • 2010’s action-comedy Knight and Day penned by Patrick O’Neill.
  • David Lynch’s 1984 epic science-fiction opus Dune. Critically maligned upon release but a constant cult classic that still bewilders and bifurcates opinion today.
  • Fox Searchlight Pictures’ newly released comedy-drama Gifted written by Tom Flynn.
  • The Emmy-winning Seinfeld episode “The Contest” written by the always ignoble Larry David.

If none of these strike your fancies, then have a twirl and a tumble through our ever growing online catalog.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: There Will Be Blood

This week we’ll fix our screenwriterly sights upon and scrutinize Paul Thomas Anderson’s 2007 historical-drama There Will Be Blood. This is the go-to script if you’re looking to craft nigh-irredeemable and despicable anti-heroes that enrapture and cannily capture your attention throughout. One’s fingertips start to smoke as you can’t thumb to the last page fast enough.

The script regales the Faustian cautionary tale of a self-made oilman and his unscrupulous rise to success. A profile of a man propelled by all-consuming oil gluttony. Trampling any sense of decency or moral redemption as our protagonist, Daniel Plainfield, gallops to the apex of capitalistic gain.

An inextinguishable conflagration burns within the man. And threatens to engulf him fully.

And his appetites for more and more pave his descent and eventual downfall.

The screenwriter taps into time-tested tropes and brings us a tragic figure of Citizen Kane-ian proportions. Daniel Plainfield is an overly ambitious man. A fascinating figure who has eagerly exchanged his humanity for an excess of wealth and financial might. Plainview is avaristic and single-focused to the point of near villainous caricature. But under that artifice of undiluted evil, we’re given glimpses of the character’s complexity and can start to glean glimmers of dissonance that run contrary to his worse money-hungry qualities. Despite his many dissolute shortcomings, we’d be remiss to not recognize his praiseworthy attributes: The sense of familial responsibility, his unflagging work ethic, and his nous for resourcefulness. He’s still a brazen bastard. But you can’t help but to sympathize with the reprobate a bit. And take pity upon this slouched beast hamstrung by greed, cravenness, and paranoia.

In this one particular scene, Daniel displays an avuncular protectiveness toward a little girl he learns is being mistreated by her father Abel. It’s these rare glimpses of virtue that keep him from being totally written off as completely forsaken and morally unsalvageable.

The script boasts a wide array of other capable characteristics along with the strong character development. The dialogue crackles with historical certitude. A meticulous attention to detail is evident from the exchanges. It’s unmistakably veracious and lends a real aura of authenticity to the verboseness of the piece. The characters speak with a particular patois that reflects a convincing credibility to the era we’re inhabiting for 130 pages. The scenes bristle with the evocative slang of the zeitgeist. And it’s a medley to the ears.

Slurp up this lulu of a line. A certified classic.

The script sits in the cavernous wells of our library. Waiting for you to strike it rich with new writerly acumen. It’s a welcome bowling pin cudgel to the cranium for any shrewd screenwriter worth their salt. A gushing derrick of delights.

And when you’re done wallowing around in the moral muck, have a go at these scads of screenplays newly arrived in our scriptly stockpile:

  • National Geographic’s Genius about the life and times of Albert Einstein.
  • Well-received romantic-comedy The Big Sick penned by husband and wife writer duo Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.
  • 2009’s animated jamboree Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller based upon the children’s classic written by Judi and Ron Barrett.
  • Quentin Tarantino’s samurai swashbuckling dosey-doe Kill Bill Vol 2.

And if none of these scintillating nonesuch scripts strikes the fancies, then feel free to dilly-dally around our database until something does.

I’m finished too.

This Week’s Script Cavalcade: I Heart Huckabees

This week we dive into the unfathomable depths of ontological awkwardness that is David O. Russell and Jeff Baena’s 2004 philosophically-driven comedy I Heart Huckabees.  A superb screenplay that kind of slinked in and out of theatres and under everyone’s radar that year, this yarn is just silly with existential angst and serves as a prime paragon for plying profundities with peals of laughter.

The quick pitch: It’s Camus with chortles. The story follows two existential detectives as they investigate the meaning of life and the interconnected turbulence of their clients. We have a young Albert Markovski who fights the good fight to curb suburban sprawl and cope with the copious coincidences he encounters that cause him to question his purpose. And Tommy Corn, a volatile and disillusioned firefighter examining the answers to intolerable life questions. And Caterine Vauban, the sensuous nihilistic entropist who plays the cunning Svengali to this eclectic cast of characters.

The writers Russell and Baena knead together a Nietzschean narrative that plucks from a variety of genres. A pinch of spiritual self-help, peppered with a dash of detective discourse inundated generously with wholesale heapings of comedic katzenjammers. It’s Sam Spade with dialectical deconstructionism—equal measures absurd and insightful. It treads a tough trajectory between tickling your funny tibia and enturbulating your sense of straightforward storytelling.

The dialogue. The dialogue does it for me. And here the canny circumspections are embedded into the chuckles with surgeon-like precision. It takes a certain degree of dialogue dexterity to be able to deliver the sage along with the silly. But the screenwriters display an abundant acumen for it from act one.

Business cards conveying asinine business credentials are business as usual in this surreal world the screenwriters have conjured.

In one scene, disenchanted firefighter Tommy Corn waxes to a pair of pious children the perils of petroleum and a certain messiah’s munificence toward them:

So the script for I Heart Huckabees sits ready and raring for your fervent page-flipping here at the library. Swiftly find your way to Third and Fairfax and pursue belly-laughs and brahman between the brads. We’ll save a seat and a slice of serenity for you.

Remember to bring your own chains.

And when you’re nauseous of knockin’ around in nirvana, feel free to fraternize with these all too new scripts in our collection.

  • HBO’s dramatic profile of unscrupulous Wall Street schemer Bernie Madoff The Wizard of Lies penned by Sam Levinson, John Burnham Schwartz, and Samuel Baum.
  • The mirthful monkeyshines of Fox’s Mulaney created by John Mulaney.
  • Hulu’s period drama from across the pond Harlots created by Alison Newman and Moira Buffini.
  • 2012’s action thriller Jack Reacher written by Christopher McQuarrie adapted from the bestselling series by Lee Child.

Consult our online larder for additional scriptly enlightenment.