In addition to being a talented producer, editor and sometimes director, David Wappel runs the writing department here at ECG Productions. You’re just as likely to find him pouring over a new screenplay or leading a creative meeting in the writer’s room as you are to find him an edit bay. While there’s a lot of work being done on various video projects at almost any hour of the day at ECG, we also like to have fun. Whether we’re playing chess, throwing darts in the studio, getting in a few games of Street Fighter II Alpha on the arcade machine in the lobby or just shooting the shit over lunch in the conference room, the topic of conversation pretty frequently falls on content: ours, other people’s, the classics or the latest box office offering or TV episode. The conversations range from passive chatting to spirited (read: LOUD) debates. David is opinionated and very vocal about his tastes in both film and television, so I was very much looking forward to his responses.
If you need to refresh your memory, you can find my original Content Survey post that runs down the concept and lists off the various categories HERE.
Best Dialogue: The Lion In Winter (technically originally a play) (if original film preferred: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid)
Every line of dialogue in these films does double, often triple, duty. They reveal character, have active intent and always delight. Exposition is completely invisible unless you are looking for it, and there isn’t a single line where text and subtext are the same.
Best Action: Speed
First of all, let’s talk about how great it is to have an action movie that doesn’t have any gunfights or martial arts duels. Speed employs none of the crazy overcutting and shaky cam that is in all action movies these days. Almost every stunt is practical, and the sheer variety is overwhelming. The audience always knows the space, and where people and things are in relation to one another. And most importantly, every action sequence and stunt has clear stakes and consequences within the film.
Best Emotional Connection With The Audience: Kramer vs Kramer
I don’t have kids, I have no firsthand experience with split parents, nor have I had a relationship break down so far down the road. So I have no immediate well to draw from and no sympathetic experiences to relate to the characters in this film. And yet the emotional stakes are crystal clear, the obstacles are realistic, all characters motivations are honestly established and warranted. No matter what, you can’t help but feel for these guys.
Guilty Pleasure: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole/Paul Blart: Mall Cop
Photorealistic non-stylized owls with helmets and armor battling one another in super slow motion. How was this not a hit?! And if you want to meet up to tell me that Paul Blart is not brilliant, let’s get a coffee on the corner of Ne and Ver. (Never. It’s from the movie guys. Seriously, go watch it, but avoid sequels.)
Guaranteed Tears: The Return of the King
When I see the moment realization on the other hobbits’ faces that Frodo is leaving them, it gets me a little bit. That Howard Shore score sure helps. But that reaction isn’t fully earned by the movies, and I’m remembering a lot of my feelings about the books being over the first time I read them. The part in this film that truly gets me is when Eomer sees his sister, Eowyn, lifeless upon the battlefield and he runs over, holds her body and lets out this harrowing cry. I immediately think about my younger sister and well up. (The Extended Edition brings extended teary moments when you see him worry at her side in the Houses of Healing.)
Movie You Feel Like You SHOULD Like, But You Don’t: Up
I get everyone’s love of this movie, but without the opening scene, this movie is so scattered. Shoulda been a short, that ended when that house took off into the clouds. And as for Inside Out, that’s a movie that I feel like I shouldn’t like, but everyone else does. Good storytelling and honest humor were traded in for shallow nostalgia of forgetting imaginary friends and cheap gags that reinforce stereotypes of mothers and fathers.
Movie You Hate Purely Out Of Spite: Scarface
I like to think I don’t hate any movie out of spite, but Scarface is a terribly tragic movie, and everything I see in what I would call “Scarface culture” celebrates it as the opposite.
All-Time Favorite (pick one! no ties): Raiders of the Lost Ark
When I look back at my childhood, Indiana Jones is all over it, so with a personal connection to this movie, it’ll probably never be topped as my all time favorite. I didn’t know until years after I first saw it, but this film is what made me want to make movies. But it isn’t purely nostalgia. As I continue studying motion picture storytelling, this film is consistently rewarding in learning why I love it so much. Name a cylinder this movie isn’t completely firing on. Story, screenplay, cinematography, design, stunts, acting…it’s got it all.
Best Episodic Drama: Justified
I’ll put it this way. The dynamic between the two main characters is engaging enough to carry an entire episode, and it is only used about 1/3 of the time because everything else is that good. Just check it out.
Best Comedy (Low Brow): n/a
Best Comedy (High Brow): Arrested Development
Smart comedy about stupid people.
Best Reality/Contest: n/a
Comfort Food/Hangover Fodder: Scrubs
Mainly because this literally was hangover fodder for me in college when UPN used to show reruns all day, but also because the world and supporting cast just continues to build on itself that by the later seasons the jokes seem to write themselves.
Best Series Finale: Firefly
You guys didn’t see it? In all seriousness though, Serenity counts as a finale, right?
Lived Up To The Hype: Star Trek: The Original Series
Even by today’s standards, some really original stories here.
Pressured Into Watching This And…Meh: Daredevil
I’m not saying it was bad. I’m just saying it wasn’t as good as everyone made it out to be.
All-Time Favorite (pick one! no ties): Sports Night
Aaron Sorkin before he was full of himself and wanted to hear his own writing more than create an original story. Also, Josh Charles is so likable, which makes his season two arc so good.