Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Keep 'Em Guessing

My son convinced me to watch "The Other Guys," and I had to admit it was a lot of fun. Here's the logline: Two desk cops get their chance to step up to the big leagues, but do they have what it takes to go toe-to-toe with the city's top criminals?

"The Other Guys" reinforced a valuable storytelling lesson: keep 'em guessing. This movie was like one long opposite day. Here's what I mean:
  • The tough, hunky NYPD cop (Mark Wahlberg) is drowning in insecurities. He plays the harp and dances ballet. Oh, and he's hated by all of New York because he accidentally shot Derek Jeter in the leg.
  • The goofy, awkward police accountant (Will Ferrell) is married to jaw-dropping, out-of-his-league Eva Mendes. And he's the one with an exciting, dark past.
  • A Toyota Prius, which is mocked early in the movie, becomes the kick-butt car that muscles through a chase scene with killers (while saving gas at the same time).
  • The mellow "Monday, Monday," by The Mamas & the Papas, is background music throughout the fast-paced chase scene. A fun contrast.
  • The nerdy captain quotes TLC lyrics without realizing it (or does he?)
  • It wasn't high-powered rifles that brought down the bad guy's helicopter. Nope. It was golf balls.
  • I expected another "the top brass is in on it" ending, but the writers didn't resort to that tired gag. Another surprise.
This story was packed with hilarious dialogue and fun twists that kept me guessing. Although I don't write comedy, I still learned important lessons about ditching stereotypes and surprising the viewer/reader by weaving in the unexpected.

Have you learned storytelling lessons from a movie? Please share!

43 comments:

  1. Just wanted to say that I just watched this movie with my husband (I like Will Ferrell, he likes Mark Wahlberg). It was a lot of fun, especially watching Mark's insecurities (as you pointed out). Contrast is a great thing for manuscripts, as are surprises. Thanks for the fun reminder!

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  2. Not a movie I would normally pick out, but you convinced me. Sounds funny.

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  3. Yes - "Plot does matter." Don't remember the movie that was a tagline for, but it was in response to the recent Godzilla movie's tagline of "Size does matter."

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  4. I am always trying to learn new things - from movies, or books, or TV shows. Great post!

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  5. I loved this movie too! SO funny. That dry bizarrity you can't help but laugh at. (hey I think I just made up a new word there.)
    Anyway, I can't NOT learn from movies now. Every one I watch I end up dissecting the storyline and how they pulled it off.

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  6. I haven't seen this. Sounds so funny! I'm adding it to my Netflix queue. Thanks!

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  7. This is not a movie I would choose to see, but after this, I just might change my mind. Thanks, Julie.
    karen

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  8. This sounds hilarious!
    I always have my WIP in mind when watching movies. Over the last three weeks we've rented: The King's Speech, Summer in Genoa, and Black Swan. I've been thinking about how writers can create such depth from simple premises.

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  9. Sounds like a really good movie! I learn things all the time from movies. Some good and some bad, but it doesn't really matter. Because the important thing is I get to watch movies. Right?? :D

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  10. Nah, I can't watch anything with Will Farrell in it after "Anchorman." I just really really hate him.

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  11. Added to my TBW list. Y'know, to study the story structure and pacing and dialogue and. . . okay, it just sounds funny. But also those other things!
    - Sophia.

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  12. That was a movie I wouldn't consider watching. Movies like Hangover don't really work for me. Does this movie is kind like Hangover, gender wise?

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  13. I loved this movie!! It was so silly! I also felt like it was well-written silliness. I think a lot of movies (outside of comedy and within) focus on special-effects to wow the audience instead of script. Anyways. It still continues to make me laugh!! It also provides some really astonishing stats when the credits roll. ;)

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  14. This was a fun show. I was shocked and amazed at how they got into the role of being the guys that saved the day. (You know the part where the other guys were no longer around.)

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  15. sounds like a great movie! I can't really identify specific movies I've used but the idea of doing a character telling a story within the story to reveal history, a flashback scene, and some of the techniques to choreograph a scene are definitely borrowed from film. I take back my earlier statement about specific movies Lol. If you've never seen it watch the Secret of Roan Inish (which sounds like the exact opposite of the other guys.) The movie is just plain beautiful and uses a myth and (if I remember right) flash backs. Plus cute little kids and Irish countryside. Great post :)

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  16. I saw a Hindi movie few years back, it was a thriller. It was so fast paced, with one after another surprise twists that it made us the viewers breathless just keeping pace with all the action.

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  17. I've learned a lot of how not to tell a story from bad movies. LOL! There are a few great ones that made me sit up and think, "wow, yeah, that's how you tell a story!" The Notebook is one of the first to come to mind.

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  18. I did watch this movie and loved the twist of Will Farrell's character having a shady past. And the humor between the two. I love watching movies to learn how to strengthen structure b/c they have to have it or it doesn't do well where as books have a bit more flexibility.

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  19. I have to see this one. I love Will Ferrell. Is this a new movie or is it out on dvd? ... I'll google it. :)

    Amy

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  20. This movie cracked me up. I love watching movies that show examples of fast-crack one-liners because I love humor and witty dialogue in books as well as movies.

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  21. I haven't seen this movie, but you just convinced me to give it a try. :) Sounds way fun!

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  22. I was laughing hysterically with this movie also. My husband and I were just floored at how funny and unusual it was. I loved the TLC jokes. Great example, Julie.
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

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  23. I didn’t like this movie… I thought I would. I really like all the character in it, I thought it was weak, and had a ton of pointless scenes. I would give it a grade of D+...

    I learned what not to do from this movie.

    Sure I have learned a lot from great movies, as I have from great books. I’ll just name a few movies that shaped the way I write.

    Brave heart
    Forrest Gump
    The Wizard of Oz
    The Ten Commandments
    Armageddon
    Blade
    Stand By Me

    Just to name a few.

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  24. Oh I so want to watch that! Full of my favourite actors. Funny I've got a post coming up with Will Ferrel in too :)

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  25. SHOT DEREK JETER? That's like a hanging offense in my book.

    Great movie with great storytelling, Inception. I figured it out pretty early, but my husband was shocked! I loved watching him figure it out.

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  26. Using Monday Monday for a chase scene is hysterical! May just have to watch this one :)

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  27. Funny, a friend of mine just suggested this movie to me also. Guess I better check it out.

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  28. I wondered whether I might like that film, Julie. If I can find some time to check it out, I will.
    Have a great week!

    -Jimmy

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  29. I think I'll like this movie.

    I pay attention to characterization and plot in a movie. I draw parallels to writing.

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  30. oh, man, I want to see this movie. Both MW and WF are HILARIOUS!!! :D LOL... I laugh thinking about them doing what you describe.

    As for being inspired by movies, the first thing I thought of was Howard's End. But the reason doesn't fit w/your post~ good stuff! <3

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  31. I just <3 great dialogue in movies!
    Hmm, inspiration from movies lately? Do series count? LOL, I mean, I've been watching way too many series now that I'm having a hard time trying to remember the last movie I saw, ha!

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  32. Thanks to your great post, I'm adding this movie to my Netflix que. : ) I usually watch movies with one eye on story telling techniques in the hope that I can learn something. I especially love movies with at least one quirky character.

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  33. That didn't seem like my kind of movie until you described it. Now I'm curious about the surprise ending!

    I find myself analyzing the plot of everything I watch now. I almost can't leave my writer self behind.

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  34. The whole beginning left me guessing. I never saw some stuff coming. So being vague to avoid spoilers. :P Great movie AND post!

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  35. Wow...I saw that movie but I didn't get all that out of it. Now I want to watch it again.

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  36. I've been debating whether or not to see this movie. But you've convinced me. Adding it to my Netflix queue right now. I like Mark Wahlberg, and I love stories that turn the stereotypes on their heads. Sounds like fun!

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  37. The Other Guys had a lot of great lines--and I loved how Will Ferrell was so jerky to Eva Mendes. Too funny!

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  38. Hi Julie. We can certainly learn a lot from movies and you've pointed out some good points from this one. I haven't seen it but I get the drift. Will Ferrell is always good value.

    Denise<3

    Join the Romantic Friday Writers group. First challenge - Dire Moment.

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  39. I love just about anything with Mark Wahlberg in it. :)

    I can't think of any specific examples, but I do think I learn a lot of storytelling by watching movies. And it's a great excuse to watch movies!

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  40. You've sold me on this movie. It sounds like a lot of fun! Movies always remind me how important plot is - if you have a great story, people will watch (or read)!

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  41. I do all the time... I just can't think of one now!
    I have a really bad habit of disecting movie storylines and then continuing writing the story after the story in my head.

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  42. I wanted to come by and wish you a very happy mother's day. I hope it's the best yet.....☺

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