Sunday, June 29, 2008

The movie logline quiz (part 1)

To my knowledge, there are three times in the life cycle of any movie where someone is pressed to describe it in 1-2 sentences:

1. The pitch. In the beginning, the writer sells the idea of the movie to the producer or studio exec. Depending on the patience of the listener, the writer may have the liberty to provide a longer synopsis or even a storyboard, but in the end it comes down to the quick summary of the premise, which can often reference other movies. "It's Die Hard on a bus!" (Speed) might work. "It's Die Hard in an office building!" (Die Hard) probably won't.

2. The tagline. Once the movie is made and ready to market, this is the sentence that appears in the trailer and poster. Take Alien: "In space, no one can hear you scream." Bam! You already know the setting and the genre(s). In an interesting twist, it seems as though the most creative taglines go to popcorn movies, while the bland taglines are reserved for the otherwise literate film fare.

3. The logline. Long after the movie is made and has had its theatrical run, it will appear on television, and someone (usually the person who fills in the TV grids in newspapers or cable guides) has to write a sentence that sums up the movie. For example: "Two divorce mediators spend a wild weekend partying with a politician and his eccentric family." That's a fairly straightforward description of Wedding Crashers.

As you can tell from the title of this post, I want to have a little fun with the third item on this list, the logline. What if the logline were true but entirely misleading? What if it were completely vague, focused on the wrong character, or missing the tone or point of the movie it describes? Can you still identify the movie? I wish I could say I invented this concept, but I didn't. Here are a couple of famous examples.

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets, then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again."
--
The Wizard of Oz (from Richard Polito of the Marin Independent Journal, according to Wikipedia)

"A boy and his sled are separated. Problems ensue."
--
Citizen Kane (from Movieline's list of the 100 Best Movies Ever Made)

Clearly, this is a job for Brevity, and I've already written about 30 of these. Here is my first installment; identify the movie (or for the last one, the TWO movies) in the comments. Skip the comments if you want to remain unspoiled and solve them yourself.

1. With the help of two friends, a hypochondriac converts his sick day into a vacation and a growth experience.
Solved by: Catherine

2. An even-tempered man refuses to leave a room until he can get a gruff colleague to do away with his past biases.
Solved by: Catherine

3. With hospitals refusing to perform his elective surgery, a troubled man forces others into his template so that he may fashion himself a new appearance.
Solved by: Quinn the Brain

4. A killer proves a man of his word when a thief reneges on his end of a deal. There is collateral damage.
Solved by: Ceresina

5. Misbehaving teenagers fulfill the unreasonable demands of an educator using a fraction of the requested manpower.
Solved by: Quinn the Brain

6. An accomplished son finds the object of his father’s obsession but learns its value is confined to a small radius.
Solved by: Jeremy

7. An intra-family vehicle swap has disastrous consequences for each side.
Solved by: Jeremy

8. During the Great Depression, a single parent takes on an uphill legal battle, puts forth the best possible case, and loses.
Solved by: Catherine

9. A local law enforcement officer works fiercely and outside the lines to save a visiting world leader from being killed by an unknown assassin in broad daylight.
Solved by: Jeremy

10. In a card game, a man wins himself a form of transportation. He soon finds adventure, and love with a woman who is otherwise attached. The affair is soon dead in the water.
(Two movies)
Movie #1 solved by: Catherine
Movie #2 solved by: Jeremy

For more fun with loglines, try the Random Logline Generator. And look for future installments here. (They get weirder.)

26 comments:

Catherine said...

Lemme see now...

1. Feris Bueller's Day Off
2. 12 Angry Men
8. To Kill a Mockingbird
10. One is Titanic, the other I haven't figured out yet.

This is fun!

Quinn said...

3. Silence of the Lambs?
5. Breakfast Club

Neel Mehta said...

Welcome, Catherine! Can't guarantee that I'll post enough to keep you around, but please check back every now and then. (I can guarantee 2 more installments of this quiz because the loglines have already been written.)

All answers are correct so far. Credit will be given in the post.

Jeremy said...

6. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Quinn said...

9. Men in Black

Quinn said...

And I'm putting my own up at my site.

Neel Mehta said...

Jeremy is correct about #6. Quinn, while your guess for #9 is wrong, you are wise in figuring out that the movie is not as serious as the logline.

Quinn said...

then shall I wager a guess and say "Zoolander?"

Neel Mehta said...

Another interesting guess. I do use Zoolander for a logline in a future quiz (and apparently I make it sound like Iron Man).

Hint for the other movie in logline #10: while not as big as Titanic -- what film is? -- this movie was a huge hit in its own right. They just happen to share of couple of plot elements, so I capitalized.

I've debated whether logline #4 needs the second sentence. But I think adding "There is collateral damage" helps this one stand out.

Oh, and I expect logline #7 to be the last one to be solved. Not because it's that hard, but because it enjoys a lower level of fame than the rest. But if you've seen the movie -- and many people our age have -- you'll know it.

Quinn said...

I'm starting to envision "Pulp Fiction" with #4. Collateral damage indeed.

Neel Mehta said...

Pulp Fiction is a decent answer for #4 -- I can sorta see how Ving Rhames might be a "killer" and Bruce Willis a "thief." But it's not what I had in mind. The movie I'm describing is much more of a two-player game, with a clear killer and a clear thief, with a third person as collateral damage just because.

Jeremy said...

I'm going to go ahead and guess that #7 is Freaky Friday. After all...a vehicle doesn't have to be a mode of transportation.

Neel Mehta said...

Belated welcome, Jeremy. Forgot to mention it the first time.

Freaky Friday is an interesting interpretation of #7, but in this case I actually am talking about automobiles. But you're right to think about a comedy, and one NOT rated R.

The movie I'm thinking of came before Freaky Friday (or after the original Freaky Friday).

Mainline Mom said...

This is fun, but I suck at it. Well, actually I did get a bunch of them, but not the unsolved ones.

Jeremy said...

9. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!

(Is it wrong that I was giving this thought, let alone came up with the answer, while I was away from my computer on the other side of town?)

Neel Mehta said...

You are correct, Jeremy, and no, there's nothing wrong with giving these loglines a lingering thought. In fact, it makes this puzzle creator feel good.

Still unsolved are #4, #7, and the second movie of #10. More hints:

#4: The movie is unusual in that the killer "proves a man of his word" by going out of his way to cause that collateral damage.

#7: Of the film's three young stars, one is still fairly successful in the business, and the other two have a reality TV show.

#10: One could make the argument that the "form of transportation" in the second movie is actually more iconic than the Titanic.

Jeremy said...

That "the other two have A reality show" part makes it sound like #7 is License To Drive, but that would require that Heather Graham's career be characterized as "fairly successful." (Not in the last nine years, anyway.)

Neel Mehta said...

#7 is correct, and ouch.

ceresina said...

Is 4 No Country for Old Men?

Neel Mehta said...

Yes, it is. And welcome, Ceresina.

This just leaves the second movie described by #10. I know it's difficult at this point to read it and not think of Titanic.

Recapping the hints:

- While not as big a hit as Titanic, it was a huge hit in its own right.

- One could make the argument that the "form of transportation" in the second movie is actually more iconic than the Titanic.

And I'll add a third:

- The card game is poker, one of the focuses of this movie.

Jeremy said...

10. Ummmm...Casino Royale (2006)?

Neel Mehta said...

Yep. Logline #10 describes both Titanic and Casino Royale.

Thanks for playing, everybody. I'll post loglines #11-20 next Monday, and loglines #21-30 the Monday after that.

Neel Mehta said...

For ease of reading, here are the loglines and movies put together:

1. With the help of two friends, a hypochondriac converts his sick day into a vacation and a growth experience.
Ferris Bueller's Day Off

2. An even-tempered man refuses to leave a room until he can get a gruff colleague to do away with his past biases.
12 Angry Men

3. With hospitals refusing to perform his elective surgery, a troubled man forces others into his template so that he may fashion himself a new appearance.
The Silence of the Lambs

4. A killer proves a man of his word when a thief reneges on his end of a deal. There is collateral damage.
No Country for Old Men

5. Misbehaving teenagers fulfill the unreasonable demands of an educator using a fraction of the requested manpower.
The Breakfast Club

6. An accomplished son finds the object of his father’s obsession but learns its value is confined to a small radius.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

7. An intra-family vehicle swap has disastrous consequences for each side.
License to Drive

8. During the Great Depression, a single parent takes on an uphill legal battle, puts forth the best possible case, and loses.
To Kill a Mockingbird

9. A local law enforcement officer works fiercely and outside the lines to save a visiting world leader from being killed by an unknown assassin in broad daylight.
The Naked Gun

10. In a card game, a man wins himself a form of transportation. He soon finds adventure, and love with a woman who is otherwise attached. The affair is soon dead in the water.
(Two movies)
Titanic
Casino Royale

Marcus Sonsteby said...

These were fun to read. Thanks for sharing.

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