Story Synopsis

The Iron Giant

Posted on February 15, 2008

"It came from outer space." Fascination with aliens--paranoia (objective story thematic counterpoint-threat) in progressive (os concern) times. Reaction to the unknown is the topic explored in the politically subversive, amazingly stellar, animated...
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The Maltese Falcon

Posted on February 15, 2007

In 60 years, the story you’re writing could be completely meaningless. Sad thought, isn’t it? Why else do we slave over characters and plot and theme if not to have some chance at immortality? Don’t our words last forever? The Maltese Falcon...
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Akeelah and the Bee

Posted on May 1, 2006

Akeelah and the Bee is an uplifting, family-oriented film that rises above its “Afternoon Special” subject matter. While treading familiar territory, it dodges most major genre clichés through the creative use of the story’s peripheral...
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Inside Man

Posted on April 4, 2006

Inside Man is a sharp, unexpected, and satisfying film with a solid story structure at its center. Through the use of clever Storyweaving and atypical character building, Inside Man rises above a traditional bank heist movie into a smart crime...
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Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Posted on March 16, 2006

(Dramatica Users Group Minutes for March 14, 2006) Tonight’s film for analysis was Here Comes Mr. Jordan, the 1941 original adaptation of the play, Heaven Can Wait. We had a nice sized group with a number of writers new to Dramatica or unfamiliar...
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A History of Violence

Posted on March 1, 2006

A History of Violence is a taut, disturbing drama about one man’s past (or supposed past) tearing apart the fabric of his family, risking their safety and the safety of the small community in which they live. The story answers the “Is he or...
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A Face in the Crowd

Posted on January 15, 2006

We started by identifying the four throughlines in general.  The Overall Story throughline was pretty easy.  The OS involves the meteoric rise (and fall) of folksy “Lonesome” Rhodes’s celebrity.  We identified Marcia Jeffries...
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King Kong

Posted on December 18, 2005

King Kong returns to the screen big as ever with a bit more heart (and story) than the 1933 original. Its detail rich storytelling expands the relatively straightforward story into a three-hour goliath. While I personally enjoyed King Kong’s slow...
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In Her Shoes

Posted on November 14, 2005

In Her Shoes is well-rounded family drama (with many comedic elements) that offers more than the usual “chick flick.” Ostensibly about the relationship between two sisters, Rose and Maggie Feller, the film explores the entire family (past and...
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Posted on November 14, 2005

Doom is a film based on the ultra-violent, ultra-popular first person shooter video game of the same name. As one film critic opined, “Doom is less a movie based on a video game than a video game made into a movie.” I see it as an opportunity...
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Good Night and Good Luck

Posted on November 12, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck is a dramatic recreation of real life events in the early 1950’s between television journalist Edward R. Morrow and Senator Joseph McCarthy.  Lovingly shot in black and white, the film explores the on-air showdown...
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Into the Blue

Posted on October 15, 2005

Into the Blue is a summer sun-and-skin flick that is about as light as the highlights in its attractive casts’ sun-bleached hair. Beyond the boobs, behinds, and brawn, Into the Blue manages to follow a bare-bones storyform that provides the...
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The Constant Gardener

Posted on October 13, 2005

The Constant Gardener is a relatively straightforward conspiracy thriller made complex through the heavy use of non-linear Storyweaving. In a somewhat unusual storytelling choice, the Main Character is shown as an unassuming, almost passive, Do-er...
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Posted on October 11, 2005

Flightplan is a taut thriller that successfully exploits the paranoia created by 9/11 but ultimately is more wind than substance. Starring Academy Award Winner Jodie Foster (“Queen of the Anxious Look”), Flightplan explores what happens to a...
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Corpse Bride

Posted on October 11, 2005

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is a beautiful, macabre fairy tale that is rich in storytelling. It seems to be structurally sound yet not structurally deep--more the feel of a short story than a feature film. This explains why it's story is both...
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Just Like Heaven

Posted on September 26, 2005

Just Like Heaven is a frothy, light romantic comedy. It covers familiar territory (live person/ghost romance) with a couple of variations to give it a slightly fresher feel than expected. One thing that keeps this film going is its solid storyform....
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Finding Nemo’s Substory

Posted on February 10, 2005

Finding Nemo has two stories in it. The larger story is the title's namesake "Finding Nemo" and can be found as a storyform here. In that story Marlin, Nemo's father, is the Main Character, with Dory (and a bit of Nemo) as the Influence...
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Harry Potter and the Suffering Structure

Posted on September 12, 2002

Though the Dramatica User's Group arrived at a single storyform for this film, it was generally agreed that the film is very underdeveloped structurally-speaking and that it could have benefitted from serious structural work. That said, the...
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Arlington Road

Posted on January 1, 2001

It is quite fitting that Angelo Badalamenti's eerie music creates the mood for screenwriter Ehren Kruger and director Mark Pellington's Arlington Road -- yet another take on the terrors that underlie white-washed suburbia. Badalamenti composed the...
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Hilary and Jackie

Posted on October 10, 2000

The quotation found at the end of story synopsis for American History X also has meaning for another pair of siblings, Hilary and Jacqueline du Pré in Hilary and Jackie. The film, written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and directed by Anand Tucker, is...
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Posted on March 10, 2000

Wade Whitehouse (main character) is a small town sheriff afflicted by daily irritants and long term dysfunctions and there's just no way he can win. His story, narrated by younger brother, Rolfe, is sad but true and far too common -- but in Paul...
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Working Girl

Posted on January 18, 2000

Main character Tess McGill is the titular Working Girl in director Mike Nichols and writer Kevin Wade's study of a baby doll Brooklyn secretary (mc domain-universe) with big hair and even bigger ideas (objective story concern-conceiving). Set in...
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Posted on December 11, 1999

Superimposing belief systems on faith in God undermines the very nature of spirituality and carries the consequences we encounter today-religious factions and dogmatic rules. Such is the basis of writer/director Kevin Smith's Dogma, a celebration of...
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Posted on November 22, 1999

Obtaining (objective story goal) a living gospel that may render the institution of the Catholic Church impotent is the premise of Stigmata, written by Tom Lazarus and Rick Ramage, and directed by Rupert Wainwright-the latest take on the politics of...
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La Belle et la Bete

Posted on November 16, 1999

Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast (La Belle et la Bete), is the French filmmaker's interpretation of Mme. Marie Leprince de Beaumont's fairy tale. "Once upon a time" begins the story about a world out of balance (os goal-obtaining), largely...
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Music of the Heart

Posted on November 15, 1999

The hard and fast rules of any horror movie are outlined in director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson's Scream. In Music of the Heart, Wes Craven's first directing effort outside of the horror genre, he is adhering to the basic rules of the:...
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The Sixth Sense

Posted on October 31, 1999

The Sixth Sense is a ghost story, but unlike The Blair Witch Project the ghosts are visible (along the lines of Dickens' restless specters) and the Dramatica grand argument story quite distinct. Writer/director M. Night Shyamalan performs a neat...
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The Blair Witch Project

Posted on October 31, 1999

The Blair Witch Project, co-writer/director/editors Eduardo Sanchez and Dan Myrick's faux documentary about an urban legend, has created its own mythology. The least of which is its tremendous financial success-a phenomenon sure to be recounted...
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Three Kings

Posted on October 26, 1999

Three Kings is a visual anti-war statement filled with techno tricks and restless zest. The film provocatively questions the rationale of Operation Desert Storm as it depicts innocents who suffered the bloody consequences of chaotic and random...
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The Big Chill

Posted on October 25, 1999

The Big Chill, directed by Lawrence Kasdan, written by Lawrence Kasdan and Barbara Benedek, is a recurring subject for Dramatica questions, particularly in the areas of multiple main characters and audience reception. To paraphrase a recent Chris...
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The Manchurian Candidate

Posted on October 19, 1999

The Manchurian Candidate, reputedly John F. Kennedy's favorite movie-suppressed for twenty-five years after his death-illustrates the maxim "paranoia will destroy you." Director John Frankenheimer and writer George Axelrod's " . . . jazzy, hip...
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American History X

Posted on October 10, 1999

American History X, written by David McKenna and directed by Tony Kaye (also the cinematographer), is a highly polished presentation of an ugly subject: the rhetoric of hate. The fine acting of Edward Norton and Edward Furlong extricates the film...
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American Beauty

Posted on October 1, 1999

"Welcome to America's Weirdest Home Videos"-an apt line from American Beauty-director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Alan Ball's stark art set piece of individual torment and family calamity. Familiar territory immediately reminiscent of Ordinary...
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Buffy the Vampire Slayer & My So-Called Life

Posted on September 21, 1999

Forget academics. When it comes to high school, the rule is to be cool. For main characters Angela in the My So Called Life episode "Self-Esteem" written by Winnie Holzman and directed by Michael Engler, and Xander, in Joss Whedon's Buffy the...
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Posted on August 26, 1999

"The fun has arrived." And the fun really is for all ages. The superb animation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan transcends the Saturday matinee cartoon. It is also an engaging Dramatica grand argument story, destined to become a Disney classic. The...
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Splendor in the Grass

Posted on August 17, 1999

William Wordsworth expressed: "Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings." Passion (overall story concern-innermost desires) denied (relationship story inhibitor) is the very essence of Splendor in the Grass. The negative feel emanates...
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Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Posted on July 22, 1999

The real menace in the latest Star Wars saga is the non-existent Dramatica grand argument story. There is an objective story, although I'm not quite sure if the problems stem from Queen Amidala and her planet Naboo's intolerable situation...
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What’s Up Doc?

Posted on July 20, 1999

What's Up Doc?, written by Buck Henry with David Newman and Robert Benton, is director Peter Bogdanovich's affectionate nod to screwball comedies, particularly the Howard Hawk's classic Bringing Up Baby. The film contains a Dramatica grand argument...
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Posted on July 12, 1999

Go. Go-go girl dance hits, head-trips, and stop-and-go motion drive this one night stand of a film. Writer John August and director and photographer Doug Liman pick the audience up and go to Hollywood and Vegas (Baby!)--traveling with outsiders who...
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Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me

Posted on July 10, 1999

Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, is written by the infectiously funny Mike Myers (with cowriter Michael McCullers) and directed by Jay Roach. It imparts the moral of many a Hollywood story (including Matt Stone and Trey Parker's surprisingly...
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What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Posted on June 15, 1999

"Want to see it again little girl? It shouldn't frighten you." The opening scene of a crying Jack in the Box toy forebodes the strangeness yet to come. Director Robert Aldrich and writer Lukas Heller's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (based on a...
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Lone Star

Posted on May 18, 1999

John Sayles' modern version of the western is rich in complex characters and thematic conflicts. Lone Star contains a textured plot layered with subplots that bolster, rather than encumber, the Dramatica grand argument woven throughout this...
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Posted on April 20, 1999

"The Lord is my shepherd/I shall not want." This is the hymn to which musician Franta Louka (main character) plays (mc concern-doing), but they are not the words by which he lives. Louka is a virtuoso cellist (mc thematic issue-experience) reduced...
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Central Station

Posted on April 11, 1999

Central Station, a Walter Salles film, wrought with obvious religious symbolism and certain dialogue that does not translate well, is nevertheless a beautifully illustrated Dramatica grand argument story complete with characters that are portrayed...
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The Terminator

Posted on March 16, 1999

"I'll be back." The "Ahnuld's" ominous warning and forbidding persona in James Cameron's The Terminator makes it one of the most memorable sci-fi pictures in our pop culture consciousness. Its staying power, from a Dramatica standpoint, can be...
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She’s All That

Posted on March 1, 1999

You have seen this movie before. Whether it was My Fair Lady, Pretty in Pink, the dance sequence from Footloose, whatever, it all rings a bell. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if the story in question is served with a Dramatica...
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Life is Beautiful

Posted on February 12, 1999

In the 1998 film season of very bad dads (Affliction, Happiness) and father figures (American History X), Roberto Benigni's portrayal of profound parental love is as moving as it is hyped up to be-and deserves its every accolade and award. As a...
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Good Will Hunting

Posted on February 12, 1999

(Quotations used in this article are from the development script dated 12/4/96 by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.) The film delivers an intellectually and emotionally fulfilling story. Cast with real life friends and screenplay authors Matt Damon and...
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Welcome to the Dollhouse

Posted on January 19, 1999

The title of Todd Solondz's 1995 film, Welcome to the Dollhouse, serves as ironic commentary on main character Dawn Wiener's situation (mc domain-universe)--neither welcome nor a pretty doll (mc thematic issue-attraction), she is put in her place...
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Boogie Nights

Posted on January 11, 1999

Nominated by the Academy for Best Original Screenplay, Boogie Nights is this reviewer's pick to win. This '70s joyride through Lala land's porn scene is a fresh twist on the extended family and the curious ties that bind. Writer/Director Paul Thomas...
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Antz and Without Limits

Posted on November 26, 1998

Pre and Z are American heroes. Steve Prefontaine, the dramatic biographical subject of Robert Towne's Without Limits, and Z, Dreamworks' insecure animated warrior in Antz, initially may not appear to have anything in common, however, each embody the...
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Shakespeare In Love

Posted on November 22, 1998

Shakespeare in Love, a fictional account of the life that inspired the art-Romeo and Juliet, is an excellent and lamentable original screenplay by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard, its every word and staged action a tribute to the Bard. From...
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Like Water for Chocolate

Posted on November 18, 1998

Akin to the ingredients for her "recipes, romances, and home remedies," Laura Esquivel's 1993 screen adaptation of her "novel in monthly installments," Like Water for Chocolate, contains all the dynamics and elements essential for a Dramatica...
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Posted on November 15, 1998

Ronin, John Frankenheimer's political thriller, is more Mission Impossible than his 1962 critically acclaimed The Manchurian Candidate. The objective characters (for the most part, mercenaries, terrorists, CIA, etc.), are barely sketched out....
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Posted on October 15, 1998

I had always attributed the odd feeling of Psycho to the conventional explanation-Hitchcock killed off his star and story's heroine early into the film, a stunt heretofore unheard of, and, as it was a psychological thriller, one could only expect a...
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Posted on October 15, 1998

Pecker is a Dramatica grand argument story emanating from John Waters' weird, yet very real, world. Pecker (main character) is a "snappy go happy-happy go lucky" amateur photographer. His sidekick and occasional assistant is Matt-a pro at...
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Posted on October 12, 1998

Happiness is anything but. Writer/director Todd Solondz' disturbing depiction of American life and the odd assortment of those who populate it, stings with caustic humor as it attacks pretension and reveals bad behavior behind closed doors....
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Posted on October 11, 1998

Regardless of what one may think about Woody Allen's personal peccadilloes, as an auteur, he does turn out smart movies. Celebrity is no exception. His casting is impeccable (Leo!) -- real life tabloid celebrities share screen time with long time...
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The Butcher Boy

Posted on October 11, 1998

In a Dramatica grand argument story, it is the influence character that has the most impact on the main character. The influence character, wittingly or unwittingly, will compel the main character to remain steadfast to their particular paradigm or...
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American Psycho

Posted on October 10, 1998

October celebrates horror. It is only fitting then, that this is the month in which Stephen King's novella, Apt Pupil, will finally be released as a feature film, directed by Bryan Singer. A more dubious undertaking is Lions Gate Films' attempt to...
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Ally McBeal

Posted on September 26, 1998

Introduction "When you just give love, and never get love You'd better let love depart. I know it's so, and yet I know I can't get you out of my heart." David E. Kelley's Ally McBeal opens with music that articulates his hapless heroine's...
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The Truman Show & Wag the Dog

Posted on August 26, 1998

Media produced constructed reality is addressed in The Truman Show, written by Andrew Niccol and directed by Peter Weir, and Wag the Dog, written by Hilary Henkin and David Mamet and directed by Barry Levinson. The Truman (television) Show...
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A Room with a View

Posted on August 19, 1998

Pensione Bertolini The window to Miss Lucy Honeychurch's (main character) room does not open to a view. The dank back alley that confronts the young English lady and her chaperone, Charlotte Bartlett (the inevitable poor relation), is distressing,...
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Saving Private Ryan

Posted on August 15, 1998

Saving Private Ryan, screenplay (principally) by Robert Rodat, directed by Steven Spielberg, is an epic WWII film without a Dramatica grand argument story. It contains an objective story throughline and an implied main character, stoic protagonist...
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Out of Sight & Get Shorty

Posted on August 12, 1998

Jersey Films presents Get Shorty and Out of Sight as slick film adaptations of Elmore Leonard novels, written for the screen by Scott Frank. The storyweaving for both, the method of revealing exposition and blending symbols to affect an audience,...
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Planet of the Apes

Posted on July 15, 1998

In the X-Files episode, War of the Coprophages, Scully and Mulder engage in typical conversation: SCULLY Mulder, I think the only thing more fortuitous than the emergence of life on this planet is, that through purely random laws of biological...
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Posted on July 15, 1998

Uncovering the Dramatica storyform in any story can be quite an undertaking--at times headache inducing. Fathoming order (mc solution) in the chaos (mc problem) of nature, human and otherwise, is an endeavor far more intense. In pi, written and...
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In the Company of Men

Posted on June 17, 1998

Bastards. That's whose company we keep In the Company of Men, writer/director Neil Labute's in your face psychological (objective story domain) horror show of men who betray women, men who betray colleagues, and men who betray each other's trust...
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Arsenic and Old Lace

Posted on May 15, 1998

Frank Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace ". . . is a Halloween tale of Brooklyn, where anything can happen and it usually does." Mortimer Brewster, dramatic critic and main character, finds himself in the situation (mc domain-universe) of "The guy who...
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Dramatica and The Grand Argument Story

Posted on May 1, 1998

"I can't write." said Chance. Steigler smiled deprecatingly. "Of course-but who can, nowadays? It's no problem. We can provide you with our best editors and research assistants. I can't even write a simple postcard to my children. So what?" "I...
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The Catbird Seat

Posted on May 1, 1998

Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature defines the short story as: Brief fictional prose narrative to be distinguished from longer, more expansive narrative forms such as the novel, epic, saga, and romance. The short story is usually...
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Il Postino

Posted on April 15, 1998

IL Postino recounts the story of a diffident postman and a world renown poet, set against a backdrop of conflicting political, societal, and spiritual ideologies (objective story domain of psychology; os concern of conceiving). Mario, the main...
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Romeo and Juliet

Posted on March 30, 1998

Writer/director Baz Luhrman's 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet invigorates Shakespeare's first tragedy. The experimental filmmaking with its postmodern storyencoding successfully delivers the star-crossed lovers to the MTV generation, making...
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Posted on March 15, 1998

Aliens is the second installment in what is, at this time, a four part "Slimy monster from Outerspace" (Videohound, 1998, p. 49) story. Written and directed by James Cameron, it is an award winning spectacle with a fairly solid underlying story...
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Gods and Monsters

Posted on March 12, 1998

James Whale, as dapper in death as dressed for dinner, is the main character in Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters. He is conscious (mc symptom-self-aware) his deteriorating health (mc domain-universe) signals the inevitable end (mc thematic...
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Titanic: One Interpretation

Posted on February 1, 1998

This historical event continues to compel the imagination and provide material for documentaries and fictional accounts. The latest film offering, hyperbolic hype notwithstanding, engages its audience on many levels--James Cameron's well-documented...
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Posted on January 30, 1998

RANDY There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to successfully survive a horror movie. For instance: One: You can never have sex. The minute you get a little nookie-you're as good as gone. Sex always equals death. Two: Never drink...
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Posted on January 12, 1998

Human sexuality will not be bound to societal mores. Incomprehensible and unpredictable, grotesque or beautiful, it is inextricably tied to the heart. Director Adrian Lyne examines this idea, advanced in Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. The classic novel...
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The House of Yes & Love and Death on Long Island

Posted on December 12, 1997

The House of Yes and Love and Death on Long Island are two recent indie presentations that have more than 90210 cast members in common. Without getting too caught up in histrionics and endless details that often attend melodrama, each film offers...
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Posted on April 16, 1997

Grease is the word that has maintained its 50's presence in pop culture vocabulary for the last 20 years. With its current re-release, the film and its soundtrack are certain to bebop right into the year 2000. One reason for the story's sustained...
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