Hal, Is This a Blog?

Timecode: 22:45 – 23:24

EXT. THE BRIG – DAY

Another red-brick building. A few M.P.Is stand out front as the cars pull up. As soon as they come to a stop, all the doors swing open and various uniformed and non-uniformed officers hop out and move to the unmarked sedan where they escort DAWSON and DOWNEY, in handcuffs, out of the car.

HAROLD DAWSON’s a handsome, young, black corporal. Intense, controlled, and utterly professional.

LOUDEN DOWNEY’s a 19-year-old kid off an Iowa farm. He’s happiest when someone is telling him exactly what to do¹. DAWSON’s his hero.

The two prisoners stand still for a moment. They might as we’ll be in Oz.

DOWNEY
Hal, is this Washington, D.C.?

Hal, is this Washington D.C.

This week’s short scene seemed like the perfect opportunity to a) highlight a bit of Sorkin’s sensational screenplay (which you see above), b) discuss the high comedy that is Downey’s wide-eyed-ness (which we’ll get to momentarily), and c) take stock of the bigger picture with the first installment of our AFGM Power Rankings² (which you’ll find below). But let’s start with the lovably guileless Louden…

His line in this scene is my pick for the most unintentionally hilarious moment of the movie. While there are certainly naive and unsophisticated people in the world³, there’s something about his delivery of the line that is so broad, it bleeds into caricature. In fact, if this were a different movie, say one directed by the Zucker or Wayans brothers, you could see this turning into a full-on gag if the scene continued:

“Hal, is this prison?”

“Hal, is this a toothbrush?”

“Hal, is this my dick?”

You get the picture.

I think my favorite part about the line, though, is the subtext that I’m (more than likely) projecting upon young Lowden. I like to imagine that the question stems not from naivete but disappointment. He gets out of the car expecting to see The White House, The Capitol Building, and the Lincoln, Jefferson, and Washington Memorials all at once. After all, this is supposed to be Washington D.C.! Postcard fucking central. It should look something like this:turn around louden mockup

But nooooo! All poor little Louden gets are a couple of nondescript brick buildings and a dinky metal staircase. I mean, what a gyp!

(Quick side-note: given Downey’s Iowa roots and his inquisitive nature, I also can’t help but think of this famous “Where am I?” moment from movie history:

But hey, at least Shoeless Joe had an excuse for being so dense: I mean, ghosts aren’t exactly known for their crack geography skills. End of quick side-note.)

*

AFGM Power Rankings 1.0

Listed in ascending order from least powerful to most powerful (at this point in the movie):

136) Downey
“Hal, is this last place?”

135) Santiago
Only his fine penmanship (in that letter he wrote) saved him from the cellar.

118) Sherby
If he kept his eyes open, his chances of ranking higher would increase by a factor of ten.

97) Spradling
Was smoked like a dime bag of oregano.

75) Dawson
Definitely outranks Downey (both militarily and in these power rankings), but he’s shown more acumen with duct tape than he has with the English language thus far.

61) Markinson
We just saw him scolded like a small child. I mean, you half-expected the scene to end with him licking Jessep’s boots like he was his dominatrix.

60) Kendrick
Similarly dressed-down in the previous scene, but at least he’s getting a free lunch at the “O” Club out of it.

44) Weinberg
Has no responsibilities here whatsoever.

27) Capt. Whitaker
Pretty sure that dude next to him with his eyes closed is fantasizing about him in a manner that would push the limits of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.Requested by division

* Top 5 *

Drumroll, please…

5) Kaffee
He’s pacing himself.

4) Galloway
Had Kaffee all kinds of turned around by the end of their first meeting.

3) Capt. West
‘Dat mustache, tho.

t-1) Jessep
Took a few innings before they finally brought him out of the bullpen, but he came in throwing absolute gas.

t-1) Tom
Obvi.

-MPM

¹This sentence provides a classic example of why how-to screenwriting books are (mostly) rubbish. They’ll often tell you that you should never include something in the scene description that we (as the audience) can’t see or hear. But when done artfully (and sparingly) – particularly when describing a character for the first time – it can do wonders to help the reader understand what you’re going for. And at the end of the day, that is the whole point of a screenplay.
²Trademark pending.
³And quite of a few of them are probably Midwestern teenagers.
I had no idea until writing this that it’s “What a gyp!” and not “What a gip!” #stilllearning
Military slang for Officer’s Club.

One thought on “Hal, Is This a Blog?

  1. Pingback: That’s The Code | Michael Patrick Maloney

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