Monday, November 22, 2010
Bad Writing or Bad Acting?
To improve your craft you not only have to study what works, but also what doesn't work. The best way to see examples of what works is of course to read good novels and analyze what's good about them. It seems reasonable then that to see what doesn't work, you need to read bad novels and see why it doesn't work.
Yes, that does seem like a good plan, but what seems reasonable, and what I can force myself to do, are two different things. I have no problem reading good novels, but I can't force myself to read bad ones. Depending on how bad they are I may put them down after 5 pages, or maybe 10. The only reason I would finish one was if I had another motive, like it being an important work or something like that.
So to find out what doesn't work, and why, I will from time to time watch a bad movie.
I think this works for me because reading a book and watching a movie are two different things. When I read a book, I can't do anything but read. When I watch a movie, however, I can do something else to keep me entertained while the movie sucks.
What makes a movie suck? Bad writing, bad acting, bad directing, bad story? The list is long and sometimes it is difficult to put your finger on the exact cause. Since there was nothing on TV last night I decided to watch an old B movie called Desperate Hours.
I had no expectations going in, and I wasn't disappointed. I thought maybe because it starred Anthony Hopkins and that it was directed by Michael Cimino that it might at least be entertaining, but one character and a few scenes were so bad, they were laughable.
In one of the climactic scenes near the end, a house is surrounded by a bunch of SWAT types with long guns equipped with electronic sights, lasers, and probably night vision. The antagonist bursts from the house with a hostage and the SWAT guys let off bullets as if it was a scene in the trenches of WWII. The unbelievable thing was that they didn't seem to hit anything but the bushes around the two characters. The antagonist then runs back inside the house and the SWAT team peppers the door as if now that they can't see him anymore they have a better chance of hitting him. Really stupid. I'm not a great shot and even I can can hit a 1 inch circle at 50 yards with a rifle.
The other thing about this movie that was so bad was one of the secondary characters. She was supposedly the team leader of a special FBI task force. I tried hard to understand whether it was the writing or the acting that made this character so bad, and I guess I'd have to say, it was both.
She was supposed to be a tough as nails, take no prisoners, hard ass team leader, but between the stupid dialog and bad acting, I could barely keep from giggling every time she appeared on the screen. In the previously mentioned scene she gets shot in the calf. One of the team members comments that she's bleeding and she responds "It's nothing, I got shot in the ego." Huh?
Watching a bad movie is probably not as good as analyzing a bad novel because it can be difficult sometimes to separate bad acting, from bad writing, from lousy screen work, but if you analyze what doesn't work about a particular scene, it can be quite helpful to show you what not to do.
How about you? Do you watch bad movies and analyze what doesn't work?