Friday, January 06, 2006

My Favorite Screenwriters

1. David Mamet
2. Susanne Bier
3. Cameron Crowe
4. Charlie Kaufman
5. Guillermo Arriaga

David Mamet’s work spans both stage and screen, sometimes bringing his stage work to the screen. And while he has had some misses along the way, you can always be sure that the dialogue will be witty, clever and intelligent. From my personal Mamet fave “Glengarry Glen Ross” to works people don’t realize are his like “The Edge” and “The Spanish Prisoner”, the actors are given all the necessary tools to create iconic, complex and memorable characters.

Susanne Bier knows how to throw a punch to your brain while ripping out your heart at the same time. American audiences may finally see some of her work in this year’s Chasing Montana but if this doesn’t live up to the hype I’m giving it, don’t blame her. She didn’t write it. But when you look at films she has written and directed, you get two of the most powerful films I’ve seen in the last decade – “Open Hearts” (Elsker dig for evigt) and “Brothers” (Brødre). If you have ANY interest in tour de force foreign cinema, put both films on your movie rental queues. They are nothing short of stunning.

Cameron Crowe has been delivering generation defining screenplays for thirty years, from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” to “Say Anything” to “Singles” to “Almost Famous”. While some of his more recent work is less than impressive, you can be sure that his films will be full of people you can relate to and the events that unfold seem to be like memories of your own past. And Peter Gabriel should be giving Crowe royalties for what Lloyd Dobler did to promote his song, “In Your Eyes”. If you need a way back off the couch with your wife, pop that bad boy in the stereo and prepare for the make-up sex.

Charlie Kaufman has been pumping out the most offbeat and intriguing scripts in the last five years. From my personal favorite “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” to “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich”, you know your mind is going to get a workout when you see one of his films. Mad props also for inventing a brother to make “Adaptation” work both on screen and off.

In the next few years, make sure to keep an eye on films with Guillermo Arriaga listed as the screenwriter. “Amores Perros”, “21 Grams” and “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” are some of the grittiest and most powerful films to have been released in the last few years. I have some reservations about how often he uses the broken time methodology in screenwriting but his characters are complex and usually flawed in such a raw way that you can’t help but get caught in their lives like watching a train wreck.

  • Other notable screenwriters:

  • Neil Jordan
    Peter Hedges

    Neil Jordan’s ability to craft deeply personal and yet also political films is astounding. I credit “The Crying Game” for turning me on to the world of independent films. It was crafted with such deft skill and precision that I truly distrust people who can’t see the beautiful sense of love and family that he creates in both “The Crying Game” and “Breakfast on Pluto”.

    I’ll be honest in that Peter Hedges was not someone I knew by name before I started to figure out what screenwriters I deem exceptional. But in doing some research I found that he did “Pieces of April”, “About a Boy” and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. Each film involved characters who were flawed and in search of a way to make themselves whole. It’s a universal theme but hard to do without being cheesy. Each of those films makes the audience identify themselves in the characters and that’s no small task.


    Blogger PowerSurgeon said...

    David Mamet....Good Call.

    2:56 PM  

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