Saturday, January 21, 2012


Most writers I know are fans of the movies. And I think all of us writers learn a lot from the way movies are written. Modern popular novels are often praised with the term “cinematic,” because of their scene construction and narrative arc, the way their plots are self-propelling, and their realistic yet clever dialogue.

In recent weeks I’ve seen two beautiful movies that are “cinematic” in these ways, and that also happen to celebrate the power and pleasure of motion pictures. They both pay great homage to the early days of the movie business, though they focus on different times and places.

These two 2011 movies are “The Artist” and “Hugo.” I won’t describe them or critique them, because better reviewers than I have already raved in print. But if you haven’t seen these two gems, I strongly urge you to do so, especially if you’re a writer. If one of these two doesn’t win Best Picture, I’ll be sorely disappointed, and it’s a shame they can’t give away two Oscars this year, because they each deserve one.

As I am so wrapped up in film at the moment, I’m going to give you a few 55-word stories about the flicks.

Roll em!

Welcome to Kansas
Whatever Judy was on blew her mind away. She tripped higher and higher, her head spinning, her brain a rainbow.
When she finally came down, she found herself in a cornfield. The world was black and white.
“I’ve a feeling we’re not in Hollywood anymore, Toto,” she sighed. “Wonder what they fed me this time?”

From Here to Eternity
“Looks bad, Frank,” Saint Peter said. “Booze, broads, brawls...”
Frank shrugged. “I did it my way.”
“You belong downstairs with the hookers and gangsters.”
Frank smiled.
“But the Boss likes your singing,” Pete continued. “Put on this white robe. From now on you’re singing in the choir.”
“Like hell!” Frank thundered.
Pete smiled back. “Bingo.”

The Misfits
“Arthur, will you take this woman…”
Are you kidding? This calendar girl? Those world-famous bazooms? Move over Jack Kennedy, Frank Sinatra, Joe Dimaggio…
“I will.”
“Marilyn, will you take this man…”
Well duh. This guy wrote “Death of a Whatchamacallit,” right? We’re talking serious brains here.
“I will.”
“Then I pronounce you…”

Where They Get Summer Movies
The contest rules were broadcast all over the infinite universe. In galaxies everywhere, an infinite number of monkeys sat down to an infinite number of typewriters and began writing. They eventually wrote the world’s shortest stories of all time.
But they missed the deadline.
So they sold their stories to Hollywood instead.


  1. Interesting post, John. I love movies - almost as much as I love books.

    1. Same here, Pat. And congratulations on your book contract!

  2. Ok, so here's one for my favorite movie 'The Hunger' starring Catherine Deneuve, David Bowie, and Susan Sarandon.

    "It's great being a vampire. We get to live forever."
    "Sort of."
    "Wait, why am I getting old really fast?"
    "That's the part I didn't tell you about. In the end, it doesn't turn out so great."
    "Uh oh."
    "Also, you don't ever die. You just stay horrifically old forever."
    "That's really too bad."

    William Doonan

    1. I haven't seen The Hunger, Bill, but as of now, and thanks to you, I am thirsty and intrigued.

  3. John, I'm having a pretty hard time getting your picture of Frank Sinatra in a choir robe out of my head. ;-)

    Love the 55 word shorts. I'll have to give some thought to doing some of my own soon. Not sure I can do it; I never could do short stories because I always want to know what happened next, but I'll try. ;-)

    1. Give 55-Fiction a whirl, BEth. I know you'll enjoy it. It's habit-forming.

  4. I can't do that, but do want to recommend both Red Tails and
    Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Both really good movies.
    Even though Hanks and Bullock are in the second movie, it's mainly about a young boy trying to deal with his grief after losing his father on 9/11, but it's so much more.

    1. thanks for the recommendations, Marilyn.

  5. I'm enjoying your 55-word stories, John. Thanks for the movie recommendations. I've heard good things about 'Hugo.'

  6. Hugo is great, John. See it in 3D if you have a choice. But if you really want a thrill, see "The ARtist," which is stunning.

  7. John, Thanks for making me smile.

  8. When I finally pick up The Artist and Hugo on DVD I will look at them with the writer's eye. Movie going is so much more complicated these days- or is it me? Your 55 word pieces seem to be a great way to stimulate the brain!

  9. Great 55 word stories, John -- you have a gift! I love movies, too--but seldom go to the movies--but do see them later on TV. When double features went, and shopping mall multiplexes arrived, became a watch at home fan. I digress--hard for me to even complete a 55 word comment! Great post...


  10. Okay, John, here's my 55-word contribution to best film of the year (with "The Artist" a close second). I saw "Midnight in Paris" twice:

    At the Ritz:

    He: I've gotta catch a cab to yesterday.
    She: What are you, nuts?
    He: Give us a kiss. (Runs) Bye...
    She: I'm telling my Daddy. you jerk!

    At Gertrude's:

    Hemingway: Sure, I'll look at your book, kid. (Eyes Picasso's new model) That doll's for me. Touch her and I'll burn this manuscript.

    I'm in Florida until tomorrow; this is the only "creative" writing I've done all week. Fun!