Amazon contest, Netflix rec

First, thanks to those of you who have downloaded my INUGAMI and LEGENDS OF THE MENEHUNE script entries in the Amazon Studio contest… which is now offering two $20,000 prizes for best screenplay in their first competition. I’m not gonna rehash the arguments for/against participating in this weird experiment, but would still appreciate more downloads if you have the time. I’m currently on page two of their “most popular” list, which has nothing to do with quality or reviews really. However, if I have to game the system to get noticed by the pro judges who are reading scripts for Amazon, so be it!

Here’s the link for INUGAMI and separate page for LEGENDS OF THE MENEHUNE. You don’t have to read or review them, although it would be helpful to me if you gave them high ratings after downloading the scripts. I’ll return the favor if you like.

Moving on, one of the nice things about Netflix’s instant movies via streaming (we use our Nintendo Wii system) is you can catch up on TV series you may have missed the first time around. My wife and I have become hooked on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, which is based on a non-fiction book about a small Texas town where life revolves around high school football.

Although the book and subsequent movie adaptation both were praised by critics, I didn’t put the TV series on my “must see” list because I didn’t think my wife would care that much about a show that focuses on teenagers in some redneck Texas town. She actually likes watching college football (University of Washington, where she went, and University of Hawaii, our adopted team) and is pretty knowledgeable about the sport. But we don’t have kids, and neither of us care about the trials and tribulations of gawky adolescents. Boy, was I wrong — FNL is perhaps the best, smartest, most realistic television series I’ve ever seen. It really is about the American Dream, and is a microcosm of what’s good– and bad — about our country.

To begin with, all the main characters are fully fleshed out, which means they keep revealing layers of themselves that challenge your early perceptions of who they are: the All American quaterback and his princess cheerleader girlfriend, the bad boy best friend, the awkward back-up player thrust into the limelight, the brash smooth-talking running back, the coach/his wife/bright, cute as heck daughter… before the first episode ended, my wife had already decided she wanted to watch the second episode… then the third and fourth on the same night! At the end of each hour-long show, she would shake her head and said, “Damn. They always leave off at a place where I want to see what happens next!”

It’s true. The pacing and mix of serious drama with humorous moments is just about perfect. And the reason FNL is so addicting is something we writers can learn from. They (the FNL writers) show us what is most important to each character — then they take it away from them. Without revealing spoilers, the takeaway idea is that for each of us there is something that means the world to us, and when that one big thing is threatened or taken from us, you’re going to have an intense emotional reaction. When we watch characters being confronted with that type of situation, I think we instinctively feel for them. We want to know if they will get back what they’ve lost or how they will deal with the loss.

What’s especially impressive about FNL is that the high school kids seem, well… real. Not precocious or snarky or pretentious. In fact, they sometimes come across as being more mature than the adults. Yet the grown-ups are sympathetic figures as well, who have their reasons for why they behave the way they do — and they seem to know it. The characters are self-aware without seeming contrived for effect or plot purposes. When I downloaded episode one and saw there were over 20 more to go for season one alone, I thought, uh-oh. But there have been so few good new movies for us to watch on Netflix, we now look forward to watching the complete series.

Even if you’re not a big football fan, check it out. Start at the very beginning though, because having seen the last season, I now have an even greater appreciation for what the series creators and writers did in setting up story lines from the get-go. Be warned: it will break your heart… and leave you wanting more after each show ends.

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