Tag Archives: brad pitt

Writing Choices – Fight Club and Characters with Multiple Personalities

The first rule of this discussion is don’t complain about spoilers.  The second rule of this discussion is don’t explain about spoilers.

Seriously, you’ve had 18 years to watch this movie.  If a movie has existed the exact amount of time it takes to bring a baby to adulthood then please, spare me your spoiler complaints.

Fight Club.  It’s a great film that has gotten better with age if you ask me.  Generation X has sort of become a lost generation.  The Baby Boomers are apparently going to stick around forever and the Millenials are leap frogging over the X’ers because they’ve all had access to some pretty sweet technology since they were babies.

Us?  We’re stuck in the middle, and that was the sense of ennui that this film was trying to portray.

If you don’t want to read about the main spoiler, then look ok.  Last chance. OK.  Here it goes:

Ed Norton’s nameless character and his new friend, the one that comes into his life, turns it upside down, urges him to start a fight club and fill it with dangerous domestic terrorist anarchists…are the same person!

I know, right?  #mindblown

Sometimes it is possible for a character to be more than one person at the same time.  Usually, this happens when a character has a split personality.  There may be other times, for example:

  • A character assuming a false identity to spy on or trick people will require the audience to keep up with which characters in the film believe the character to be Person #1 and who think he is Person #2.
  • Maybe the character is possessed by a demon or some kind of magic is involved to put two souls into one body.

Multiple personalities seems to be where this issue comes up the most and from a writing standpoint, it is a bear.

Personally, I believe it’s easier done in movie form.  When you watch Fight Club, you are taken through a series of twists and turns as it is slowly revealed that Tyler (Brad Pitt) is more than just a smooth, fast talker but in fact, he has a lot of bad things planned and the naive Ed Norton figures things out way too late.

Then, it all comes down to the ultimate reveal when Ed realizes he was Tyler all along.  Immediately, the audience starts going through all the interactions that Ed and Tyler had together and those will need to be sewn up.  Video footage, for example, shows Ed yelling at no one where cut scenes show him yelling at his imaginary friend, Tyler.

I’ve tried to write characters with false identities – people who go to one place where the people think he is A and another place where people think he is B.  It’s exhausting.  I’m not sure I’m even a good enough writer to pull that trick off yet but hopefully one day.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:  Discuss your favorite Fight Club moments, or talk about another movie or book where there was a character who was, for whatever reason, more than one person.  What challenges will a writer face while trying to pull this off?

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Movie Review – War Machine (2017)

War!  Bureaucracy!  Red tape!

BQB here with a review of Netflix’s new film, War Machine.

Based on the book, “The Operators” by Michael Hastings, this film is a dark comedy, satirizing the sheer absurdity modern warfare, not to mention the unenviable positions of those whose efforts to win are backseat driven every step of the way.

Brad Pitt plays General Glenn McMahon, a fictionalized version of General Stanley McChrystal, whose own efforts to cut through a sea of red tape eventually culminated in a Rolling Stone article that proved to be his undoing.

In 2009, McMahon is put in charge of Afghanistan.  The dirty secret no one speaks about or is even willing to admit is that he is expected to maintain the status quo and lose gracefully.  In fact, at the start of the film, McMahon is brought into a room of DC bigwigs who urge him to do a tour of the country and provide them with an assessment of what is needed but then within the same breath, they tell him he’d better not find that he needs more troops.

In other words, the days when great warriors like Eisenhower and Patton could write a check that DC would cash are over.  The warriors aren’t really in charge now.  The whole operation is second and third guessed by bureaucratic bean counting civilians who’ve never seen a battlefield in their entire lives.

With an almost Colombo-esque style of disarming charm, McMahon attempts to cut through the red tape that is slowing him and his team down.  Along the way, he steps on many a toe, but comes across as so humble and down to earth that the bigwigs whose toes were stepped on aren’t sure it was unintentional.  McMahon tapping aimlessly on his keyboard, feigning incompetence with technology in order to avoid listening to a DC bureaucrat’s orders via Skype come to mind.

This is a big role for Brad Pitt.  Hollywood’s quintessential leading man, an actor that has spent his life maintaining a top of the line physical appearance, playing parts that make the ladies swoon, gets a douse of McMahon style humility himself.

This is the first time I’ve seen him play someone with gray hair, someone who is admittedly older and too busy to hide the fact with an army of stylists.  Pitt plays McMahon as a gruff and grizzled old soldier, a man with a hand that has been mangled, who walks as though his body is in pain from years of being pushed to the limit.

Even more surprisingly, Pitt’s character has an age appropriate wife, Jeannie (Meg Tilly). Seeing Pitt snuggle up to a gray haired woman who is light years from looking like Angelina Jolie is nothing I thought I’d ever see on film.  Yet, in doing so, Pitt pulls off some of the best acting of his career, namely, convincing us that he could love a woman his age.

This is also a big film for Netflix.  The Internet streaming service spent $60 million on this film and it shows.  The result is a movie that could have been screened in movie theaters across the country had they chosen to go that route.  Brad Pitt is, by my best estimate, the biggest star Netflix has ever recruited for one of its original productions, thus proving that this company is in the movie game to win it, and the future of film is streaming.

For me, that’s a dubious prospect as I love the experience of going to see a film in a theater, though lately I wonder if saving cinema is not a cause as lost as Afghanistan.

Overall, the film asks a lot of questions and paints modern warfare in a not so rose colored light.  Bottomline – these days it sucks to be a man in uniform.  You’re expected to win, but you’re also told by bureaucrats to lose, except they don’t use the “l” word.  They won’t come right out and tell you they want you to lose, just that you should not ask for all the things you need to win.  You should essentially rubber stamp their losing plans and act like you can’t tell their plans are going to lose.

Meanwhile on the battlefield, soldiers are torn between their inner need to, you know, shoot at people who are shooting at them in order to live another day.  Yet, DC has made it clear that screw-ups (i.e. accidentally shooting a civilian) will not be tolerated and punished severely.

Ultimately, the film lampoons the idea of counter-insurgency, or the idea that men from a foreign land with guns can somehow talk the locals into siding with them against the bad man with guns that are already there.  In one heartbreaking scene, McMahon addresses residents of a territory that US forces have taken control of that he’s there to help build roads, build jobs, to protect them and so on.  A villager informs the General that all sounds great, but he has no doubt the US will eventually cut and run and when they do, the bad guys will destroy all the infrastructure that was built and punish the villagers for cooperating with the US troops.

Between desk jockeys trying to manage something they can’t comprehend, the media turning real stories of war into trashy tabloid TV and a clash of cultures (is it really wise for America to assume that they can turn third world wastelands into smaller versions of America?), the film leaves the viewer with the sad feeling that modern wars may, in fact, may never be winnable again.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Stream it on Netflix.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Rewind – Fight Club (1999)

The first rule of this review is don’t talk about this review.

The second rule of this review is don’t talk about this review.

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Fight Club.  It’s been on cable lately.  I’ve caught it a couple times and I’ve become addicted to it.  I saw it when it came out and I realized even then that it was awesome and revolutionary, but I feel like I have a greater appreciation of it now that I’ve gotten older.

The general plot:  Edward Norton plays a corporate office drone.  We never get his real name. He’s a mopey sad sack, depressed with his life.  Feeling no sense of purpose, he goes to work, comes home, and spends his money buying useless crap for his home.  Stuff that he doesn’t need.  He hopes it will make him happy but nothing makes him happy.

One day, the highly opinionated, ultra violent, doesn’t give a shit about anything Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) walks into Norton’s life.  Tyler browbeats Norton into starting “Fight Club” and the first rule of Fight Club is to never talk about Fight Club.

The club consists of grown men meeting in a basement and beating the crap out of each other.  I suppose that film critics could argue about what exactly that means but the gist seems to be that the more physical pain these dudes endure, the less shits they give.

“Stop giving a shit” is essentially Tyler’s message to Norton.  Tyler informs Norton that he needs to give up on the idea that he’ll live forever, that he must accept that he’ll die one day, that everything is in a sense of decay and people just waste their lives doing pointless shit and coming up with excuses as to why they can’t do what they want.

Millennials, you guys think you’re depressed?  Please.  You don’t hold a candle to Generation X and in many ways, this film captures the ennui my generation suffered in our younger days.

Take Tyler’s “Great Depression” Speech, for example:

“Man, I see in Fight Club the strongest and smartest men who have ever lived. I see all this potential, and I see it squandered. Goddammit, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man; no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our Great War is a spiritual war. Our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars. But we won’t; and we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

Shit.  I was just a youngster when I first heard Tyler say that.  I didn’t think much of it.  Many years later, I realize the meaning.  He’s right.  Generation X didn’t have World War II, or Vietnam.  Things were actually pretty good in the world and you’d think that’s a good thing but the problem that arises is when the people of a generation don’t have to worry about a great cause, or a big war or what have you, then they have time to focus on doing what they actually want…and sadly, it’s just human nature to come up with excuses to explain away why we aren’t doing what we want to do.  Even worse, try as we might, there just aren’t enough resources for everyone to do what they want to do.

Oddly, I’m in a weird place where I’m on the tail end of Generation X.  A few years later, I could have been a millennial.  Tyler may have been off a little bit.  Little did he know that two years after this movie, 9/11 would happen and that would change the world, especially people like me who were just becoming adults around that time.

In a way, the movie makes a lot of points about life and how its too easy to feel hopeless.  It captures the mood of Generation X well, but then again, after 9/11, it seems kind of sad that we felt bad that there wasn’t a great conflict.  Hell, I’d do anything to go back to the pre-9/11 days and be like Ed Norton with nothing to worry about but what useless crap to buy from the catalog.

Anyway, enough of the philosophy.  From a writing standpoint, the film is brilliant.  There are many twists and turns that are unexpected yet they blow you away.  The film also builds a formula and that it feeds on and uses to build itself.  Fight Club grows, the number of Fight Club members grow, they all become pawns for Tyler to move around in  the giant mental game of chess he’s playing.

Helena Bonham Carter stars as Marla Singer, a crazy lady loved by Norton but banged by Tyler, much to Norton’s dismay.

Meanwhile, a young Jared Leto appears in a supporting role as the platinum blonde Angel Face.  Even 1970s music legend Meat Loaf joins Fight Club as the large breasted Robert Paulson.

I dunno, 3.5 readers.  Check out the film.  There’s a lot of different meanings.  You can sort of get a sense of the purpose-less-ness (if that’s a word) that young people felt at the time, and then again, there’s the message of stop pursuing materialism, stop making excuses for why you aren’t doing what you want to do, stop living a boring life.  No, you don’t (and should not) start an illegal Fight Club turned widespread criminal organization, but you could realize that life is short and it is a shame if you don’t at least try to do what you want to do.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Allied (2016)

You must remember this, a yeti I did kiss…but it was against my will!

But I won’t bore you with the behind the scenes hullabaloo of being a Yeti hostage.

France!  Morocco!  Ooo la la!  BQB here with a review of Hollywood’s first Oscar bait movie of the season, Allied.

OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING.

In early 1940s French Morocco, Canadian spy Max Vatan (Brad Pitt) meets French lady spy Marianne Beauséjour (Marion Cotillard).  The duo become immersed in a whirlwind romance as they hunt Nazis together and bone in a gratuitous manner.

Alas, when they marry and head off to England, Max’s superiors begin to suspect Marianne of pulling double-duty as a spy for the Nazis.  Thus, Max is charged with the unenviable task of sniffing out the truth.

Fans of the Golden Age of Hollywood will be very impressed with this film.  With the French Morocco scenes, its almost as if we are treated to a visit to the Casablanca of Bogart’s time, except in this go-around we get to see it in full color, high definition and with more special effects, flying bullets and assorted war mayhem.

Yes, there is room for an argument that Casablanca was all the better off for not having all the bells and whistles of a modern film as such trivialities might have spoiled that classic.  And certainly this movie does not surpass the Bogie/Bergman picture that most movie critics agree is one of (if not the best) films ever produced, but it did make me yearn for a time when a man would wear a suit and a fedora just to get a cup of coffee.

Brad Pitt is every bit a classic style movie star in a time when thought provoking films are being more and more replaced with flicks revolving around costumed super heroes (not that I’m complaining as I love those films as well but I wonder why there isn’t room for both.)

Moreover, Pitt is truly one of the best preserved fifty-something year olds I have ever seen.

Meanwhile if Pitt is Bogie, then the Bergman of this film is Cotillard.  After years of being the go-to French actress in films that call for a French character, she has been rewarded handsomely with this role.

Overall, the film is visually pleasing with a plot that keeps you munching popcorn.  It will face some stiff competition come Oscar time, but gold statues (or at least nominations) for Pitt, Cotillard and Director Robert Zemeckis would not surprise me.

STATUS: Play it again, Sam.  Shelf-worthy and worth a trip to the theater.  Good date film. Dudes, take your lady because it is so emotional that you might get a little smooch-a-roo-ski out of this.

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Movie Trailer – Allied (2016)

Hey 3.5 readers.

BQB here.

Allied looks pretty good. Brad Pitt. Marion Cotillard.

Looks like a modern take on Casablanca.

Check out the trailer:

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Brangelina Breakup

Hello 3.5 readers.

Egads.  Brangelina is (are?) no more.

So startling was the news that there was an actual earthquake in CA right after they broke up.

Coincidence?

I think not.

How are you holding up, people? Don’t worry. We’ll get through this together.

 

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