Steven, I think you’re on target with this analysis. It is especially apt for that time during the late 80s and throughout the 90s when the spec script market was booming, the effect like the California Gold Rush. There were literally ads from screenwriting websites promoting books, seminars, DVDs saying things like, “Learn the secrets to selling a million dollar spec script!”
At best what one can do in analyzing scripts or movies — and when discerning patterns or common narrative dynamics — is to suggest we can use them in our own story-crafting process, but to state that this is some sort of proven screenplay paradigm which guarantees anything is bull shit.
Besides, as I’ve been arguing, this way of thinking runs entirely counter to the organic nature of Story and the role characters play in the story-crafting process, and us, as writers, embracing the freedom these characters have to go anywhere and do anything, regardless of so-called paradigms.
Thanks for your analysis. The shift from descriptive to prescriptive sounds awfully legit. It’s a slippery slope.