I’ve been running more roadtests on the new checklist, but as I do so, I feel the need to tweak questions, which means I don’t want to run them until I’m done with that (because every time I change one, I have to change it retroactively in the ones I’ve already done.) I think that process is almost done, though.
Here’s a preview of one of the changes. I’ve decided to break the mood question into three.
- Separate from the genre, does the story have a consistent mood?
- Is there a moment early on that establishes the mood (and type of jeopardy)?
- Is the mood maintained throughout?
The third refers more to what I refer to here: how Hancock, Superman Returns, and others shot themselves in the foot by failing to maintain their mood.
I’ve resisted the urge to go back and re-do the eight roadtests I’ve already done to make them conform to the new checklist, but let’s go back now and test these new questions: (Actually, I’ll skip the third question, because the answer in each is a simple “yes”)
- Bridesmaids: Mood: Gently sarcastic. Established by: Getting chased out of park for stealing exercise motivations. Big scary trainer pitifully guilt-trips them instead of chasing. Consequences are embarrassment and guilt, not physical danger.
- Silence of the Lambs: Mood: Sprightly, not-gritty, smart, slight black comedy. Established by : The briefing with Chilton. We know not to worry too much for Clarice after this: she’s our point-of-view, not a sexualized potential victim, as a female investigator would usually be in this type of movie. As she makes clear to Chilton, this is a movie about her mind, not her body.
- Donnie Brasco: Mood: Tense but cold, more threatening to the villains than the heroes. Established by: The fugazi scene. Donnie is in danger for her life, but he has all the power, and dominates Lefty. Donnie already casually endangers an innocent to serve his purpose, implying danger is more to his soul than body.
- How to Train Your Dragon: Mood: Bitterly droll and sarcastic despite harrowing life-and-death stakes. Established by: Contrast between dark, violent imagery of first scene and kid-friendly voice-over. People will die violently, but maybe not people we care about. (though they may be maimed)
- Alien: Mood: Cold, clammy creeping terror. Established by: The cold is there right away, (The beginning with the empty helmets having a conversation sets the sense of alienation nicely, before anybody wakes up) but the fear takes a while…not until the egg scene, really.
- The Shining: Mood: Cold, clinical, dehumanized creeping horror. Established by: Scene with Danny looking in mirror, seeing blood, then mom describing his abuse in a detached way.
- Casablanca: Mood: Sophisticated, witty and bemused on the surface, cold and deadly underneath. Established by: Man is shot dead in streets, but locals don’t lose their good-humor with the aghast tourists.
- In a Lonely Place: Mood: witty, detached, sarcasm on the surface, the possibility of brutal violence underneath. Established by: The almost fight in the street. Dix almost beats the man up, then satisfies himself with a humiliating aside to the man’s wife: “You shouldn’t have done it, honey, no matter how much money he has” The whole movie is about that tension between physical and verbal abuse (and the question of which is worse)