No, Other Ira at 2012-06-25 16:29:11:
Scott, the following is not a response to what you wrote about theme. Indeed, I like what you wrote. But on the general topic of "theme", and with tonight's tweet-fest with script readers, I'm inspired to offer a comment. As with many aspects of script/film analysis, there often appears to be a failure to acknowledge retrospection. I recently read an amateur's first 3 pages posted at another site and the comments that an established pro provided. The amateur's opening scene does evoke a Tarantino opening. The pro wrote: "Here's the thing about Tarantino: it all seems like aimless banter, but it's not. It's very intentional, it's almost always about theme, it's almost always about lies and truth and philosophy and power and weakness within a moment." But as I read the opening of "Reservoir Dogs" or "Pulp Fiction", while I like what I read... How could I or anyone know at the moment that Tarantino is establishing the movie's theme? Seems to me that the only way to know if an opening scene fails as a theme-setter is to first read the rest of the script and then (re)consider the opening scene. Sure, the first 3 pages of many scripts stand well on their own, but in many good scripts those opening pages can appear not-so-good. Wordy. Too many details. Too many characters. Nothing happens. For example (as to some of those "bad" elements), like the opening pages of "Ordinary People". Actually, even the opening of "Reservoir Dogs" seems a bit wrong as it's being read. Oh, but then as things develop...
James McCormick at 2012-06-25 18:16:35:
"How could I or anyone know at the moment that Tarantino is establishing the movieís theme?" Theme is ever present. It radiates in EVERY scene (or at least it should and if it doesn't that is something to fix). Every scene should be a reflection of that theme and tied to it some manner. Theme isn't just one line of dialogue stated in an early scene five pages into the film. Good writers inherently do this. Kevin Smith's Clerks is about how much it sucks to be a clerk -- from specific examples in the store, to how bad their luck is "I'm not even supposed to be here today," to the irony of the original ending (Dante getting killed on a day he isn't even supposed to be there), to off-the-cuff discussions about Star Wars... talking about how most of the employees that built the Death Star in the third film were most likely contracted freelancers, meaning not only did their job suck, but they were innocent bystanders when the Rebellion blew it up. That Star Wars talk seems like it is just a funny bit, a lot like Vincent's Royale with Cheese, but it actually goes deeper than that. Tarantino does the same thing. As does Diablo Cody. As does Aaron Sorkin. As does most good writers. Whether they do this consciously or not, it's really an arbitrary distinction. Point is, they do it. To answer the question, how do we as readers know the first couple pages in? It's just a feeling. It's there. In bad scripts it is simply missing. Maybe you can't put your finger on it, but you certainly feel it. Blake Snyder's solution is to simply give a line of dialogue to a character that states that theme, but this isn't the most artistic approach (not to mention, not all themes are so easily summed up as "Money is the root of all evil" or some other cliche).
Diogo Figueira at 2012-06-26 11:48:29:
One of GITS greatest series. Definitely helps to focus and extract what's most important.
No, Other Ira at 2012-06-26 16:22:35:
James McCormick wrote: "To answer the question, how do we as readers know the first couple pages in? Itís just a feeling. Itís there." Sorry, but that's not much of a resolution of the issue. And even if it were, I again say that it can only work retrospective - unless it's presented in an in-your-face style. Theme is kinda like points and lines in the science of geometry: A point has no dimension, and yet it can be critical, especially if it establishes the beginning of a line. Or, it might just be a point. You seem to be saying that if a point is executed well enough, an observer can intuit the line. I disagree.