I have a question relating to your very apt characterization of the "eat your vegetables" movie. Extending the metaphor, when you read scripts
in your professional capacity, are you most looking for a "five course
meal" movie- something with delicious apps, fresh salad, interesting
soup, bright, seasonal vegetables and a champion's share of meat,
overlaid with an astonishing wine and finished with an inspired desert,
or in all honesty, when you are on the job, is it just booze, meat, and
desert you want?
Great. Now I'm hungry.
It depends. With who I'm reading for now, booze and meat probably dominates, but I'd have no problem bringing them a fantastically-prepared steak.
The "five-course-meal" you speak of, that is to say, a script that is exemplarly in every field - structure, characters, concept, pacing, tone, theme, subject matter - is extremely rare in nature. There's a certain snobbery in writing that I never enjoy puncturing, namely that it's impossible for something mainstream to be "better" than something "important."
Let's say you write a script about how horrible a South African dictator is, and the script is one downer after another. We're shown this warlord kidnapping children from their homes, forcing them to be child soldiers and sex slaves and repeatedly abusing them. If all your script does is show us atrocity after atrocity, with no real through-line, it's a bad script. (And yes, I've read at least one like this.) It's meaningless if you feel this movie must be made to raise awareness of an issue important to you. I don't care if it IS based on a real dictator - if there's no story and no structure to make it palpable, it's a bad script.
A fair amount of "eat your vegetables" scripts come out like this - a lecture on a social issue. "Here, take this because it's good for you," it says. If that's the story you want to tell, then make a documentary or a PSA. If you're writing a feature film, there'd better be a story there - and you'd better know how to make it accessible and appealing.
My idea of a five-course meal might be something like Terminator 2. It is quite simply one of the best action movies ever made, and also a "Great Movie," period. It's got it all:
- strong core concept.
- vivid, compelling characters.
- strong character arcs for several of lead characters (John, Sarah, and the T-800) as well as at least one of the supporting characters (Miles Dyson.)
- intense pace and momentum, due in no small part to the relentless pursuit of the T-1000, which brings me too...
- A formidable antagonist.
Terminator 2? Five-course meal. Pulp Fiction? Five-course meal. Raiders of the Lost Ark? Five-course meal.
So, yeah, if that fits your definition of a Five-Course Meal, then of course I want that. But if you bring me something like Taken or a Fast Five, I'll probably jump on that too, because there's money in those.
But it's pretty hard to convince me to make a meal of something preachy like Green Zone. Given the choice between vegetables and booze, I'd pick booze.
Hopefully that post wasn't too thick with the metaphors.