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HOLMES I'm not comfortable standing here. My feet are killing me. WATSON Why don't you sit down? Holmes sits down.

Makes the point nicely, but the characterisation needs a bit of work.

I watched Murder by Decree again the other day. Characterization was excellent, I thought, as was much else about it. I loved the "you squashed my pea" scene as much this time as I did the first time.

However... it is INCREDIBLY talky. The final scene in which Christopher Plummer as Holmes goes on and on... well it goes on and on and on.

Incidentally, I was in Toronto this past weekend, and I saw Plummer waiting for a flight. He's beginning to show his age, having a little difficulty walking, but he's very imposing - and much taller and more broad-shouldered than I realized. By all accounts his King Lear was magnificent.

"I tried being reasonable. I didn't like it."
- Clint Eastwood
I watched Murder by Decree again the other day.

For my money, it's the finest Holmes and Watson film yet made. Purists quibble about Plummer's overt emotionalism in the asylum scene (which I think is a stunning sequence, and not at all inconsistent with the character as written by Doyle) and a few other things besides, but no other movie gets closer, in my opinion.
I loved the "you squashed my pea" scene as much this time as I did the first time.

Yes, that's a wonderful moment and speaks volumes about the friendship.
However... it is INCREDIBLY talky. The final scene in which Christopher Plummer as Holmes goes on and on... well it goes on and on and on.

I adore that scene. It breaks every rule in the book, but I adore it. And it demonstrates that a single line can pack as much wallop as a whole film full of explosions, car chases and romance:
PRIME MINISTER (affronted): You have my word!
HOLMES (icily): I should prefer some more reliable authority.

That's devastating.
I saw Plummer waiting for a flight. He's beginning to show his age, having a little difficulty walking, but he's very imposing - and much taller and more broad-shouldered than I realized. By all accounts his King Lear was magnificent.

I can imagine. I've never seen Plummer on stage, and dearly wish that I had.
I wonder if the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey jnr/Jude Law flick will knock Murder by Decree from my number one slot? I don't want to pre-judge it, but somehow I doubt it.
Bert
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"MC"
INT. 221B BAKER STREET - DAY Holmes stands by the window. Watson lies on the sofa.

There's another aspect that hasn't been discussed. Namely, PRESCRIPTIVE and DESCRIPTIVE use.
I'll use an example.
I'm directing the play "Elementary, My Dear Dweezil" by MC. I have placed Holmes by the window, and Watson on the couch. Enter MC, stage left.

MC: "No, no, we can't have Watson lying on the sofa dressed like that. He's got his boots on. He'd never do such a thing."

Me: "But if he sits on the sofa, we can't get Holmes's ash in his ear. And we don't have time for him to remove his boots."

MC: "Put him in slippers."
Me: "We could do that... uh, what if he sits, then bends down to fasten a bootlace, then turns his head as Holmes approaches, and that's when the ash gets in his ear?"
The phone RINGS. It is the PRODUCER.
Producer: (filter) "What is that *** Holmes doing right now?"

Me: "He's on stage, standing by the window."
Producer: "Tell him to get my office by five." (Slams phone down).

(SNIP)
It seems to me that "-s" and "is -ing" can be used pretty much interchangeably, but if I'm DESCRIBING the action or scene to a third party (as I did to the producer on the telephone in this example) I'd use "Holmes is standing by the window." It sounds more natural than "Holmes stands by the window."
However, if I'm in director mode and making recommendations as to what should happen, i.e. PRESCRIBING, the direct mode is more appropriate: "Holmes stands by the window" which is the answer to "Where does Holmes stand?"
These differences are very slight, and really, I think one should go by gut feel for the language rather than by rule.
Possibly, at the heart of the language choice is a difference of opinion as to what a script really *is*. Is it a blueprint for a movie, in which case it is PRESCRIPTIVE this is how you should make the movie? Or does it describe what the reader should see, in which case it is DESCRIPTIVE this is what the movie should look like?
These differences are quite subtle, and probably not so important when it comes to scripts. In engineering specifications they are very important: "Make ten passes with the vibrating roller" versus "Compact to 98% density" or whatever.

Martin B
"MC"
INT. 221B BAKER STREET - DAY Holmes stands by the ... more common construction in the recently-sold scripts I've been reading.

It works just as well, but it doesn't mean the same thing. As for what you've been reading, well so what? I'll bet it's chock full of "lays" when it should be "lies" too - doesn't make it right.

I've read maybe twenty scripts recently and they've all been fairly literate. Most are written in quite plain language, although a few strive too hard for effect (what I previously called "scripticisms," but I now prefer the term "testosteronisms" because they are trying too hard to be macho).
The question is important because we should conform to current practice in our scripts. Something which might be grammatically correct but which comes across as pedantic might be off-putting to a reader, and we don't want that.
The '-ing' form means continuing action e.g. "sitting." The '-s' form can mean continuing action or discrete action, depending on context. So "He sits" can mean, "He performs the action of sitting down," or it can mean, "He is seated and remains so."
The two forms are used interchangeably, with the direct '-s' form preferred. The '-ing' form, if used to excess, becomes jarring. Here is one example from an indifferent (IMO) script THE ROOMMATE:

INT. FRAT HOUSE
Music is blasting in one room while your typical college band is playing in the main room. They’re not very good but they don’t know it. Sara notices the DRUMMER in particular who looks spastic but also like a cute goof.
She attempts a sip of her drink, but it keeps spilling on her dress as she gets bumped into. She’s getting annoyed when out of nowhere, a hand comes in and yanks her out of the crowd and onto the dance floor.
Grammatically, there's nothing wrong with this, but most scripts would use "Music blasts in one room while your typical college band plays in the main room." (Actually, most scripts would attempt a much more lively description of a frat party, but hey, this one sold.)

I've previously cited THE VISITOR for bland prose. It uses both forms interchangeably in this brief montage:
INT. NYU BANQUET HALL - LATER
Walter eats dinner in a large, well appointed banquet room. Walter listens as a CHATTY MAN talks.
INT. WALTER’S APARTMENT BUILDING - LATER
Walter is walking up the stairs carrying a briefcase. He passes a MIDDLE-AGED MAN who is walking down the stairs with a SMALL DOG on a leash.
From THE HANGOVER (great script), an "-s" and two "-ing"s.

INT. BRIDAL SUITE DAY
A simple, classic wedding dress hangs on a closet door in this sun-drenched bridal suite. Sitting at the makeup table, surrounded by her bridesmaids, is the beautiful bride, TRACY TURNER, 20’s. She’s busy doing her makeup.
'-ing' seems to be more common in older scripts. A typical example (including the seldom-seen passive voice) from THE BIRDS:

CLOSE SHOT - MELANIE
Looking about her frantically. She turns her face up again to see the descending gulls. She is driven to take refuge in the phone booth.
If written today it might say, "Melanie looks about frantically... the gulls drive her into the phone booth."
My recommendation would be to use the '-ing' form sparingly in a script, and not more than once in the same paragraph.

Martin B
The '-ing' form means continuing action e.g. "sitting." The '-s' form can mean continuing action or discrete action, depending on ... can mean, "He is seated and remains so." The two forms are used interchangeably, with the direct '-s' form preferred.

Preferred by you. Not by me. Because I don't think they are interchangeable.

"I tried being reasonable. I didn't like it."
- Clint Eastwood
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And what the devil is a gerund?

I actually kind of know that one. It's a verb turned into a noun by adding "ing."
Kind of like, "Portrait sittings, $20 a session."
But if you follow Webster's first definition, it becomes about as clear as mud:
"A kind of verbal noun, having only the four oblique cases of the singular number, and governing cases like a participle."

(I guess is I knew anything about grammar that might make sense.)

Webster's second definition is clearer, for me anyhow:

"In Modern English, the -ing form of a verb, when functioning as a noun; as, running is good for the heart."
(Definitions from dict.org which, among others, uses the 1913 Webster's Dictionary.)
I don't mind gerunds too much they seem kind of natural. It's when a verb is forcibly turned into a noun without any changes that really bothers me... as in "It was a good read." That has the same effect on me as someone scraping a chalkboard with their fingernails.

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"
I posted a little snippet on Done Deal where I ... that I should use the active voice and write "sits."

This is NOT what the "active voice" means. It just isn't. Jesus. What crap they must teach in classrooms. Time for remedial English.

My fault. He didn't write "active voice" he wrote "active verb." I don't know if there is a difference, but I just wanted to be clear.

But Purdue University seems to agree...
http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g actpass.html

Me, my last grammar lesson was taught in 4th grade from then on it was always reading or literature or speech, or something other than grammar taught in our "English" classes.

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"
This is NOT what the "active voice" means. It just isn't. Jesus. What crap they must teach in classrooms. Time for remedial English.

http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-voice.htm

Thanks. I've bookmarked it.

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
I was talking to my brother about this and it ... standing by the desk. He sits in (into) the chair."

I must have said exactly this at least 5 times in the last 24 hours! I still don't understand why it's regarded as contentious or disputable.

It's just a matter my being slow in the uptake. You can actually see my 5 watt light bulb glowing slightly now. (That is, you could, if you were here and your eyes were sensitive enough.)

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"