To view the assignments and answers that involve these movies, click below:

Ch 2 – Plot

Ch 3 – Characters

Ch 7 – Subplots

Ch 8 – Plot II

Ch 9 – Tone and Theme

Ch 11 – The Business


Assignment Answers

Test your responses to assignments in the book

Throughout Writing Movies, the reader is given various assignments, some of which pertain to a movie of your choosing. If you would like to test your responses to these assignments against our answers, use one or more of the following movies:

 A History of Violence (2005)
Written by Josh Olson (based on the graphic novel A History of Violence by John Wagner and Vince Locke)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Starring Viggo Mortenson, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, and William Hurt

A History of Violence would seem to be a classic thriller if you just heard the plot described. But when you see the movie, it becomes much more of a drama; the relationships and the interior journey of the protagonist always feel more front-seat than the thriller elements. Note the movie’s complete refusal to glamorize the violence. Actually, the movie makes the best of both worlds, drawing suspense both from the menacing story and the psychological questions about the protagonist. Provocative and nail-biting.

My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
Written by Ronald Bass
Directed by P. J. Hogan
Starring Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Cameron Diaz, and Rupert Everett

My Best Friend’s Wedding is a romantic comedy with an atypical protagonist. Though she is delightful to watch and it’s clearly a role tailored for a major movie star, she does some truly awful things in the name in the love. Awful enough so it’s a little strange to find yourself rooting for her. But you do. And she redeems herself very well in the end. It’s a risky move, but it pays off by making this a movie that stands apart from so many other predictable romantic comedies. Plenty of laughs with a few tears sprinkled in.

The Ring (2002)
Written by Ehren Kruger (based on the novel Ringu by Koji Suzuki and the screenplay Ringu by Hiroshi Takahashi)
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson, David Dorfman, and Brian Cox

The Ring is a horror movie that lingers. Some horror movies give a fun thrill, rather like the haunted house at a carnival, and some horror movies get under your skin in a way that doesn’t easily disappear. The Ring falls into the latter category, a horror flick that truly disturbs. Many say the original Japanese version is even scarier, but the American version works quite well at making you think twice about ever watching a videotape again. If you’re not a fan of creepy, keep away.

Igby Goes Down (2002)
Written and directed by Burr Steers
Starring Kieran Culkin, Susan Sarandon, Jeff Goldblum, Ryan Phillipe, Amanda Peet, and Claire Danes

Igby Goes Down is a comedy/drama coming of age film, and its teenage angst amid the privileged class owes more than a little debt to Catcher in the Rye. It’s very much an indie-style film (despite the participation of some big-name actors). It has all the classic indie ingredients: a character-driven story, deeply flawed characters, low-budget, plenty of edge, a black humor that would alienate many mainstream viewers. Take, for example, the scene where young Igby has a pleasant conversation with a former teacher while he delivers her illegal drugs. Not for everyone.

Adaptation (2002)
Written by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman (somewhat adapted from the nonfiction book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean)
Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, and Chris Cooper

Adaptation is a truly off-the-wall comedy. Not only does this film flout many of the rules of conventional movie storytelling (for example, voice over and flashbacks galore), but it’s about a screenwriter who has contempt for such rules. The movie’s refusal to follow the norms mirrors the screenwriter’s similar refusal. To make things stranger, the protagonist is Charlie Kaufman, the real-life person who wrote the script. His brother, however, is a fictional creation, a fact that didn’t prevent the brother from sharing writing credit for the movie. Weird.

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