April 15, 2014

Top Ten Screenplays

By Hilary Graham in LRR

April 15, 2014: Yet another rainy (almost monsoon-like) day in Storrs, Connecticut, home of our beloved Long River and the UConn Huskies. The weather outside is so stiflingly crappy, it seems like the perfect day to make yourself a cup of tea (Nyanka certainly recommends it, here’s why), curl up in bed, and read a screenplay. ‘A screenplay?!’ you say. Yes, a screenplay. Why are you so shocked? Or am I the only one who does that…? You act as if it’s abnormal.

Okay so maybe it is a little weird. Why spend the time reading endless dialogue and bland descriptions when I can just enjoy the film? It’s probably in part just because I’m strange and love movies, BUT it’s mostly because I love watching the way dialogue can move a plot and tie everything together. In my previous post, I discussed how greatly the large number of contributors influence the final interpretation of a ‘novel-to-screen’ film; the movie inevitably creates a different vision than an individual reader might. The film’s production team have the same affect on a screenplay: the final product is going to be a conglomeration of 100+ peoples’ interpretation of it. The script contains the bare bones of what the film actually becomes, so reading it allows you to see what’s there before those one hundred different people got their hands on it. What’s the benefit of this for me? First off, frankly I find admirable how much characterization and development these writers can pack into such little space and description. Second, as someone who’d like to make something of a career out of writing, I find script reading generates new ideas on how even small lines of dialogue can work to mold a character or plot.

But maybe you don’t plan on going into a career of writing for film, or are unwilling to scan through hundreds of pages of script. It’s still cool to be able to appreciate how the dialogue molds the film and be aware of the carefully structured plot. Plus, screenwriters don’t get nearly enough recognition. I laid out ten films (in no particular order) that make it easy to appreciate their witty or poignant dialogue and multilayered plot structure.


1. Annie Hall (1977)

Written by super-star director Woody Allen (winner of the Cecil B. Demille award for Lifetime achievement) and Marshall Brickman, the film follows protagonist Alvy Singer as he tries to figure out the cause of his failed relationship with Annie. The humorous and poignant conversations between Alvy and Annie create bold, three dimensional characters and whimsical, clever situations.

2. Pulp Fiction

Picking just one Quintien Tarantino film for the list was more challenging than I can say, but Pulp Fiction was the definite winner. The dialogue is electric with its witty wisecracks, and the three stories weave together seamlessly (not to mention the visuals stylistically unmatched).

3. Some Like It Hot

Billy Wilder is one of the most iconic names in script writing history, and Some Like it Hot is, in my humble opinion, his most emblematic piece. Cynical, satirical, and hilarious, the script creates dry humor in the face of ridiculous situations.

4. Casablanca (1942)

I felt that I had to include at least one classic in this list, although I may have included Casablanca regardless. The Epstein brothers (Julius and Philip) use the dialogue throughout to create a deep nostalgia and affection for Rick and Ilsa’s lost love. Rick’s repeated phrase, “Here’s looking at you kid,” works to tie the both the story and the characters together. (Not to mention the film’s final lines are some of the most frequently quoted ever).

5. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

One of my all time favorites, this film works to examine the inner workings of a dysfunctional family. Michael Arndt dialogue is charming and whimsical, but also poignant and touching. The parts each family member fulfills within the unit is so dynamic and realistic, even just through their patterns of interaction.

6. In Bruges (2008)

Great film that I discovered during over winter break this year. It’s a little known black comedy starring Colin Farrell which follows the story of a hit-man in hiding. The writing is quick, snappy, and utilizes underplayed humor. Reading the script helped me catch some of the jokes that got lost in Farrell’s quick Irish accent. (Beware Profanity!)

7. Talk to Her (2002) Habla con Ella

The film is written in Spanish, so I had to find a translated version, but even still: WOW. Pedro Almodovar presents an unflinching and haunting portrayal of miscommunications between men and women, and the inability to manage loss with love.

8. Good Will Hunting (1997)

Alright, I must admit that I have a soft spot for both Matt Damon and Ben Affleck (and their adorable freaking friendship!!), so that may have earned them a spot on this list. Regardless, the script’s portrayal of Will slowly opening up to Sean Maguire is an exquisite exploration of psychotherapy and the resistance many feel towards revealing suppressed emotions. Plus “how you like them apples”? Such a great line.

9. When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Since I only picked one Woody Allen film, I chose another that was clearly influence by his honest and quirky style. Although I personally find Harry’s big confession of love a bit cliche, the rest of the film is an honest inspection of imperfect friendship that grows into an imperfect love. Harry has huge commitment issues, Sally doesn’t quite ask for what she wants, but their relationship is realistic in all its flaws. Nora Ephron does a wonderful job of creating lovable, eccentric characters that hop off the page.

10. City Of God (2002) Cidade de Deus

This one is also a foreign film, this time out of Brazil and told in Portuguese. With its interweaving plots, the script explores the violence and mayhem created by drug culture in Rio de Janeiro. What puts this film on my top ten list is its truly unique storytelling method. The screenplay’s strange control of story amid this constant switching of character lines replicates the hectic, dangerous lifestyle these characters must adapt to for survival.


Memento: You read this far, so I suppose you deserve an extra treat. Plus, this was so close to being in the top ten because its such an awesome idea. However, story structure is a little wonky. Rewatching the film, I notice several plot holes (which many have attempted to explain, but I’m not buying it). Regardless, it’s still a film I recommend watching (or reading!!) that will have you guessing until the end.


If this post piqued any interest in reading some screenplays, Simply Scripts has a great collection of award winners!

April 12, 2014

Third Time’s Charm

By Juliemarie in LRR

A special thanks to HTML Giant for bringing UConn’s literary journal to the Final Four. Also congrats to the University of Florida, University of Wisconsin-Madison and University of Kentucky. We love you guys.

Click the bracket if you want to read the article:

lrr bracket

April 9, 2014

Writer Crush Wednesday – Ian Doescher

By Jason Wong in Fiction, LRR

I’m the kind of person that doesn’t really have a favorite author or a favorite book because that status is always changing. That being said, my current flavor of the month is Ian Doescher, an only recently published author, known for his bestselling debut novel, “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope.”

I sense…a disturbance in the Force. As if two extraordinarily nerdy things collided and became one.


It’s pretty self-explanatory, but essentially the book (and its sequel, William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back, which dropped March 18th) are retellings of the epic and well-loved Star Wars movies, but written in the blank verse style of Shakespeare, iambic pentameter sometimes aside. 

Somewhat surprisingly, Star Wars and Shakespeare go together extremely well. The epic narrative style of Shakespeare suits the similarly grandiose story of Star Wars. The opening scrolling text becomes a Shakespearean chorus, R2′s uncanny shrewdness becomes soliloquy…and let’s be real, Star Wars shares a lot of the same themes that are prevalent in Shakespeare plays. There’s unlikely love, hubris (when Luke challenges Vader without being fully trained), and though it’s not Shakespeare, there’s something vaguely Oedipal about Luke losing his hand after Vader reveals he is his father.

Considering Oedipus’s fate, I’d say Luke got off pretty easy. I mean, he even got his hand back, technically.


Anyway, on a more technical note, I’m impressed with how well the lines of the different characters match up with their modern English lines while still maintaining their “Shakespearean authenticity.” Frankly, were I a middle school or high school English teacher, I might consider putting one of these books on the curriculum as a fun end-of-the-year book. The style is approximately Shakespeare’s, and references to Shakespeare’s actual works and tropes abound. It might even be easier for students to understand the verse since they’d probably already be familiar with the story. 

You want to put “William Shakespeare’s Star Wars” on the curriculum. You want to give me an “A” for effort.


All in all, I don’t really have much to criticize about this series. It reaches at times, but I think the sheer fun of the concept more than makes up for it if you’re as much a nerd about Star Wars and Shakespeare as I am. 

April 3, 2014

Throwback Thursday – Fanfiction Edition

By Michael  Gulick in LRR

Oh god this is embarrassing. When I was young, as many aspiring writers do, I chose to take up the endeavor of fanfiction. Of course, I thought it’d be awesome to make up new stories in my favorite pre-created universes! So much easier than making up my own worlds and so much more interesting! It was more of an extension of something I had already been doing since I was eleven: forum role playing.

It took me a long while to figure out which of my awful, awful fanfiction selections to share with anyone who might end up reading it. It’s really just too hard to pick, so I ended up going for the oldest and most embarrassing! I wrote some Megaman Battle Network fan fiction (My “original” netnavi is no more than a Protoman recolor). I’ve always loves the Battle Network universe. Those games are some of my favorites growing up! In fact I still play them now!

Made (recolored) this myself!

Made (recolored) this myself!

What I am about to share isn’t even the first version of my fanfiction. It used to be in script-form, until a critic kindly informed me that such writing was actually not allowed on the site I self-published my work. Of course, I blew up on him, only to end up editing everything I had already written to be acceptable anyway.


The Prologue

“Yes I’ve done it!” Dr. Wily cackled, “I have created a navi powerful enough to destroy Net City and make it mine!” The ingenious Dr. Wily had just finish his latest project, Project Black, now a Black Net Navi that looked slightly like Protoman he had a blaster and from Dr. Wily’s point of view he was very powerful was in a newly programmed PET awaiting orders from Wily.

“Now that I have created you”, he said “you need a name, Blackman that sounds about right.”

“I am here to serve” Blackman answered barely looking on his creator.

“Good, we shall test your powers immediately!” Dr. Wily sent Blackman to Net City to wreak havoc and he did, he did.

In the center of Net City Blackman was destroying everything in site his destruction could be seen from the other side of Net City. Finally the ONBs got the word of Blackman’s destruction and sent some officials over to check it out.

“There he is!” the first said.

“Right there a top the building!” a second screamed

“Open Fire!” the third yelled.

The ONBsstart an open fire attack on Blackman but it seemed to have no effect.

Blackman answered to their violence “Ha-ha resistance is futile just give up, BLACK CONTROL”A giant black star rose from Blackman’s body and absorbed a nearby building making a black veil around it and making it under Blackman’s control. With one swift movement of his arm he crushed the ONB Navis and various building behind them. “There is no stopping me Ha-ha-ha”

Then someone or something fired from a long distance away Blackman turn his head to see huge cannon with the ONB symbol on it. Then a voice came. “Surrender now Blackman!”

“Never!” was his answered.

In response the Cannon rose from its charging position and fired three deafening shots at Blackman and he was caught in the blast. “No!”

Dr. Wily spoke thru the PET, “You are not as strong as I thought you are unworthy!”

“What! No!” answered Blackman.

Another of the charged cannon fire hit Blackman sending him flying to an unknown part of the net.

When Blackman landed he was to tired and crippled to even call for help all he could do now was watch and wait for someone and for what he knew it would be a long time a long, long time.


The Finding

200 Years After The Prologue

It was a day like any other on the Net when Zerix jacked in his normal navi.

Normal Navi Logging In

“What are we doing today?” asked Normal.

Zerix then answered, “Oh just exploring.”

Normal walked into a strange and old looking part of the Net. “What where am I?” Normal said to himself as he decided to explore the mysterious place. Normal walked around for a long time until he saw something, “What is this?” He saw a black navi that looked crippled, worn down, and hurt almost to deletion. “Zerix, there is a strange navi down here!”

“Quick send me a pic!” Zerix answered.

“Ok!” Normal looks straight at the navi activating the camera linked to Zerix’s PET.

“That navi doesn’t look so good should we bring him back to my PET.” Zerix said, looking at the pic.

“Yes, we should.” With that Normal picked up the crippled navi and logged out of the Net.

Back in Zerix’s PET, Normal set the navi down. Zerix then said “He looks near deletion I’ll try and fix him.”

“You do that” Normal answered.

For hours Zerix sat at his desk doing anything he could to fix up that crippled navi. Finally after a while Zerix was done and the strange and now good as new navi stood up. “Where am I?” it said.

Zerix quickly answered “You’re in my PET.”

The navi then said “What! Who are you?”

Zerix answered “I am Zerix, and you?”

“I am Blackman.” the navi said.

“How did you get near deletion?” Zerix asked.

“Well it started like this …” Blackman started to tell his story about how Dr. Wily created him and about his defeat. Up to the time Blackman had finish he had started to like Zerix.

Zerix then asked, “But you’re not going to do that to me are you?”

“Of course not I am in great debt.” Blackman answered

Zerix was confused, “Oh? You are?”

Blackman read his mind, “Yes and how can I repay you.”

“Will you be my friend?” Zerix asked.

Blackman was startled, “What? Oh all right I’ll be your … friend.”

Zerix yelled, “Yes now I have a powerful navi and a great friend.”

The Net Battle

A few days after Zerix found Blackman, Zerix was walking down the street to his friend, Andrew’s house. Andrew had a navi he called Archman, which he designed himself. Archman was a very good name for Andrew’s navi because Archman shot energy arrows out of a buster arm, not to mention his ability to summon viruses every time Archman punched something. Well the main reason Zerix was going over there was to show off Blackman to Andrew and maybe have a little net battle. Zerix said, “Hmm…. I wonder what Andrew will think of you, Blackman.”

“I don’t really know!” he answered.

Zerix then said, “Maybe we can get in our first net battle!”

Blackman asked a stupid question, “Uh, Zerix. What is a net battle?”

Zerix slaps his for head then remembers that Blackman was from 200 years ago and started to explain everything Blackman needed to now about it.

“Oh that makes sense.” he said after hearing all of that. By now Blackman was getting use to this friend thing with Zerix and hoped he could win against this, Andrew, for his sake.

“Well we are here!” Zerix announce, pointing to a house. He had arrived at a slightly small, blue, house in which stood Andrew waiting for Zerix up in his room. Zerix entered the house without knocking, he rarely did and he was invited, and went up to Andrew’s room. “Hello!” Zerix said excitedly.

Andrew said, “Well, well, what have we got here!”

Zerix answered, “My new net navi, Blackman!”

Andrew then said in more of a challenging tone, “My, my, he sure looks ready to battle.”

Zerix answered him, “Well, then how about a little net battle!”

“We’ll use my PC.” Andrew said.

“Jack In, Blackman!” Zerix yelled.

Andrew did the same, “Jack In, Archman!”

Blackman Logging In

Archman Logging In

Both navis appeared in Andrew’s PC with a flash of light and color. Archman was a sleek navi with a normal looking buster that actually shot out energy arrows and a small horn on his head. Blackman got into a battle position, Archman did the same.

“Ready Blackman?” Zerix asked.

“Yeah I’m ready.” he answered.

“This’ll be a good battle I can tell.” Archman said.

“Let’s start this thing!” yelled Andrew.

“Energy Arrow!” Archman brought up his buster and fired an energy arrow at Blackman but he just flipped backward to avoid it.

“Dark Blaster!” Blackman ran up to Archman and fire at close range, it hit throwing Archman backward toward the wall. “That the best you got?”

“Not even close!” Archman answered.

Zerix slotted in a chip, “Cannon Battle Chip in, Download!” a, large cannon materialized on Blackman’s arm, he lifted it up to Archman and fired with incredible force. Archman was thrown back again but got back to his feet more determined then ever.

Andrew also slotted in a chip, “Silver Fist Battle Chip in, Download!” A huge silvery fist replaced Archman’s buster. He ran at Blackman and threw a punch causing Blackman to fall to the ground. Blackman quickly got up yet again readying himself for the next assault.

“I need a sword here!” Blackman said to Zerix.

“Here, Sword Battle Chip in, Download!” A sword materialized on Blackman’s arm, replacing the blaster. Blackman brought the sword over his head and jump into the air. Blackman brought the sword down onto Archman’s right shoulder and Archman had to log out.

Archman Logging Out

Andrew said, “That was a good net battle.”

“Yeah maybe next time you’ll win.” Zerix agreed.

Blackman Logging Out

“Blackman, that was great!” Zerix told him.

Blackman answered “No sweat it!”

Andrew finally said, “Well its time for you to go home.”

Zerix answered, “See you later!” With that Zerix walked off and Blackman knew even if he was more than 200 years old he still had enough power to win at something


Oh God! The horror! Please, stop!

Sometimes, I look back on this stuff and just can’t believe I ever wrote anything so bad! How did I not realize the problematic nature of naming the net navi “Blackman” or making him 200 years old when the technology to make net navis wasn’t even close to that age, nor would that tech ever be recognizable 200 years after the Battle Network story? But, of course, there is not point in dwelling upon my mistakes of the past. I don’t really think my writing this back then was one of those mistakes, either. This stuff, as embarrassing as it is, helped shape me as a writer. I might be embarrassed by it now, but I had so much fun doing it when I did it and I don’t actually regret it.

I hope you enjoyed this instance of Throwback Thursday! If anyone REALLY REALLY wants to read more of my old crappy fanfiction, I’m not about to help you out. Unfortunately for me, I’m sure anyone even slightly internet savvy could find the rest of my stuff with what information I have provided. If not, your eyes and mind will be better off for not having read it! None of it’s even finished anyway!

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