View Full Version : What gets you in a film?
04 April 2005, 09:02 PM
I was reading the "required viewings" thread when it dawned upon me that a lot of people think a movie gets to everybody the same way. The more I look into it, the more I'm stunned at how different people's perception's are.
I've had a hard time understanding how people could think the Dune series are good. It was such a torture for me (I couldn't stand more than 15 minutes and I tried). The fact is some people go for the story, some for the characters, some for the mood, etc.
So my question is: What gets you in a film and makes you think:This is a great movie? Do you think everyone's the same way? I'm really curious...
04 April 2005, 02:35 AM
For me, a good movie has to challenge me in at least 1 way.
May it be deep storyline, significant cinematography, a felt piece of acting. I find over the top and extremely subtle equally pleasant.
What else...I think a lot of ones perceptions about movies come from why he goes to the movies.
I am rarely interested in solely forgetting my worries for two hours.
?Do I stand alone on this one:for one thing, "action" is usually the part of a film I fnd the most boring. , the outcome is always just too predictable.
Unless they really got me attached to the hero and there's an aura about the movie so you feel something bad may actually happen.
This is just a grab bag of thoughts...you guys add to it.
04 April 2005, 11:28 AM
?Do I stand alone on this one:for one thing, "action" is usually the part of a film I fnd the most boring.
Haha! No, you've got at least one more supporter here. And I never actually saw what was so great about Dune either, but the biggest riddle for me is the Godfather. I usually like Coppola's work, and absolutely love Apocalypse Now, but the Godfather bores me out of my skull in less than 15 minutes...
Anyway, other than that, this is the kind of question I could go on about for hours... but I'll try to be brief.
First thing - a sense of mystery. Not the silly Sherlock Holmes kind of mystery, but a distinct feeling that there's a lot more thought behind the script than they actually try to show, the presentation of clues to something that never gets revealed. Examples would be Tarkovkij's "Stalker" and to a certain extent "Solaris" - movies that most people seem to find mind-numbingly boring because everything is obfuscated and there are no apparent attempts to actually explain anything. But that quality is just what makes me very happy!
Second thing - visual impact. I don't mean "kewl FX" but rather delicate compositional solutions, beautiful lighting, highly artistic set designs... An extreme example would be "The Cell" which by all means is not a very good movie as such, but some of the designs are incredible enough to give you goose bumps.
Third thing - actors that are not "acting". There's a subtle difference between acting and acting :D This is really hard to explain, but lets try some examples... Look at Edward Norton in "American History X" - his character is entirely unaware of the fact that it's part of a movie, the character just happens to be present, natural and honest... same thing with Brad Pitt in "Se7en" (which a lot of people thought was bad acting, but I tend to think it was brilliant because he gave the impression of an actor acting as if he was not acting)... this doesn't make sense I know :D
Well, combine all three things and you've got a great movie.
04 April 2005, 11:59 AM
Yup i think it'd be similar things for me...
empathy with the main character/s is very important
a film you can watch which has some depth to it-ie one you can watch over again and notice different things about it... something which has had a lot of thought gone into it,even in subtle things
a film which you can really be immersed in and just forget about everything else
action is definitely secondary (tho i have been known to watch movies for the special effects!;)
my fav film at the mo is Lost in Translation which doesn't have much happen in it and no real resolution but i think it's really interesting becuase it's not so much about trying to convey a story as capture a mood which i think it does really effectively, and again i think it's got the whole acting but not looking like acting thing going on....
I thought the plot for Kill Bill was pretty lame but the editing, choreography for the action sequences and the sets and composition were amazing and almost made up for it....
This is probably a bit contraversial but i think i have yet to see an effects film where as much effort is put into the script/plot/empathy with characters as the action.... anyone like to prove me wrong?!
(Lord of the Rings is possibly the only thing that comes close but even there, there are so many characters that it is hard to empathise with them and there were moments when i found myself looking at my watch...)
04 April 2005, 04:30 PM
JamesMK: I absolutely agree with you. I think it's the first thing I should have mentionned:
Feeling that a movie lives before and after the reels. That we are catching a glimpse of the characters at a crucial moment of their life and not that someone created that crucial moment and set some people into it.
I often comes back to the old "what the spectator imagines is always a 1000 times scarier than the actual scare".
The attention to sound is also something that can get me out of a film. When I feel that the director is only trying to grossly tell me what I already know i.e.The John Williamsish soundtrack, that can kill it for me.
04 April 2005, 06:03 PM
"what the spectator imagines is always a 1000 times scarier than the actual scare".
That's indeed very true. In fact, this is the reason why CG can be quite a menace to an otherwise potentially good movie - the means to visualise just about anything when it would have been better not to show anything at all.
The original Alien is perhaps the greatest example of scary stuff that's almost impossible to see... and that's why it still works, more than 20 years later.
Or take "The Sphere" - I thought it was quite intriguing up until the point where they actually tell us what's going on. After that point, it is just not interesting anymore. And "Contact" - same problem.
Maybe the point is that producers tend to underestimate the intelligence of the audience. Or maybe they have reason to do so, I don't know :D
04 April 2005, 07:00 PM
I really have to be in a mood to watch any of the Dune, when I was a kid i could watch it all the time, now my criteria has changed.
For me to be considered a good movie it must have several things
1. Engaging story, doesnt necessary have to be believeable but it helps, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was like that, the characters kept you in it when they were busy flying around the screen.
2. Good Characters, all the story in the world cant help if your characters dont fit, or arent believable. During the big emotional parts of the story and they do a tight shot of their face and they dotn have the emotion in their eyes that the scene depicts, its like watching an after school special. Jaquin Phoenix in gladiator had the look when Maximus turned that first time in the colseum, you could see that he was truly affraid.
3. Good struggle, In war movies this is essential, and relies on the first two very heavily. Tears of the Sun, BLack Hawk Down, Band Of Brothers, and We Were Soldiers, are good prine examples for this. As you watch these movies you start of by clearly konwing who the good guys are and knowing they are gonna kick some a**. At some point though things go seriously wrong and you find your self no longer wanting them to win, you just wnat them to sruvive.
Effecs are always a plus so long as the movie doesnt rely to heavily on it, the First Matrix was brilliant and only used bullet time when necessary, in the last two it was in almost every scene. Boring, more effects than story will tank a movie faster than negative reviews.
Thats my thoughts on the subject
04 April 2005, 08:13 PM
Maybe the point is that producers tend to underestimate the intelligence of the audience.
Not only producers, but directors do that as well. You become absorbed sometimes by a movie with fast action (they're always trying to make the action faster than you can think), but as soon as the action goes, there's nothing left. The fact is if the audience doesn't get involved in making the story, i.e. putting some of his own background in it, he goes home just a little more tired.
Hitchcock is very respected in good part because he thought his audience was intelligent.
I think the Stalker is a great mystery because you never actually know what the source of the mystery is. You can't grasp it. And that's exactly what a mystery is. Same thing with Mullholland Drive. There is no source to the mystery. It goes in and out of you, hangs on anything you put into the film. You can almost wear it.
I think that for a film to be good, you must have space enough to walk in it.
04 April 2005, 11:02 AM
What gets me into a film is the athmosphere at first. My favourite film from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, for instance, is the city of the lost children. Nobody agree with me about that, but I don't care. The athmosphere given by the excelent lighting by Darius Kondji, the amazing sets and the intense score by Badalamenti just draw me into it at the first second. That's also why I like Mamoru Oshii, David Lynch, Terry Gilliam and such. They've got the same quality in common: their strong athmosphere. They are all influencing me when I'm making a film.
I also like philosophy in films, but that's more rare these days.
04 April 2005, 10:34 PM
It's hard to describe the stuff that movies are made of. Even harder to pinpoint just why a movie get's too you.
I for one have to be emotionally touched. Can be subtle (Contact, Big Fish), can be strong(Aliens). Can be a great piece of SFX (Bladerunner), or a very romantic love story(Titanic, Moulin Rouge). Can be somone dying (EP6-ROTJ, Braveheart), or the meeting of old friends (Killing Fields) I need goosebumps. Corny as hell, but I don't care. Movies make us laugh and cry and I like them for that.
Take Se7en for instance. Not your typicial action movie. And not something to swallow that easy. I kind of wobbles along, with a few strong and bone chilling moments. But the climax multiplies that by a 1000. It gave my such a chill. I could hardly breath and my heart skipped a few beats. At that exact moment you completely understand the journey the movie has taken to that exact moment and why.
The 6th Sense, The Others. Same chill. But it only happened once, for obvious reasons.
You can also do it the other way around. Saving Private Ryan's 20 minute opening is burned in my brain forever. You don't even know the characters your watching, but you're there with them from the start. And only later on in the movie do you get to know them better, and after what they've been through, you are almost a part of them. And the end battle tops it off. I remember getting out of the theatre like I'd run a marathon. It's weird that how watching so much violence is almost satisfying.
Perhaps is the adrenaline, goosebumps, tears, laughter and faster heartbeat that makes us addicted. And addiction sometimes feeds the creative mind, but I guess it also makes us want more and more. And movies can leave us disappointed when they lack the proper amount of 'drugs'. But that's exactly why some of us like some movies better than others. It all depends on what your drug is, and how much you need to get off.
I sure hope to experience some more moments like I did on Se7en and Saving Private Ryan.
04 April 2005, 09:39 PM
Character Development, without it the movie will suck, regardless of the story.
04 April 2005, 12:47 AM
9 year old girl versus emperor of the universe: "i don't take orders from you, old man" LOL
04 April 2005, 06:51 AM
The audience must be betrayed dozens of times, expecting vile things, and then allowed only one out, to submit to an information barrage which convinces/persuades them to refer to the movie as "the art film."
Since it is the same thing for the viewer to think a film is an art film as for it to actually be one.
Obviously tripe, but you gotta get some ditance on these things, people!
"Finding Nemo" has stuff like the seagulls shouting "Mine" which provides a tool for altering one's bahavior.
"Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" is a musical, a comedy, a film-within-a-film.
"Being John Malkovich" is rigorously based on the golden rule and a scale of metaphysicality I like.
Relevant and useful -- maybe none. I'm partial to Jesus movies, and the most recent I suppose is parts of "Huckabees" though the balance does something subtle by going too transcendental too early that loses everyone. "West Wing" has a kind of "Glass Menagerie" political drama mechanic except Kirk Douglass is invisible -- or the narrator of Kilimanjaro is the dog (Roger Olson).
05 May 2005, 08:36 PM
What, I think, is the most important thing, is what's called suspension of disbelief... You must not be aware that you are watching a movie, it must feel like reality or else, I don't get hooked... and that's the director's job... Believable character and dialogue, believable character reaction to what's going on, and so on. That's also the reason why movies that NEED FX, must have good FX... if not, our eye sees the mistake cause our eye sees real thing all day long.. .it's hard to fool an eye.
Espacially, it must be a good story (deh!). When you don't have ideas to make movies, don't make any.
05 May 2005, 08:52 PM
The most important thing, for me, is what's called suspension of disbelief. You must not be aware of the "movie", it must feel like reality. We live in reality and when something don't feels real, you can imediatly see it and then, there's no more disbelief. Characters need to be convincing in their attitude, speech, reaction to what's going on...
Ex.: In Alien VS Predator (I liked the film because i'm a great fan of alien and predator... but if it wasn't for that...), the alien queen lifts thousands and thousands of tons of glacier ice to reach the surface and then, she's not able to destroy a wooden beam with her tail... destruction of disbelief. You can think of many other examples....
And about special FX... they must be decent and believeable to a minimum... We'll always see the difference between CG and reality, our eye sees reality all the time, it can't be easilly fooled. Like in LOTR, we see the FX but it's ok, it can't really be better than that. I know that trolls don't exists but when you watch LOTR, you can believe it's real. But if the FX are too bad, it destroys disbelief.
It's the director's job: create the illusion of reality trought the screen.
i think it depends totally on the movie... there have been great films with very little story and character development, and great films that relied very heavily on plot and characters. a movie is a culmination of so many things. i think it depends on what the directer decides to focus on. if the director decides to make the plot the main focal point of the movie, but the plot sucks, then the movie is gonna suck too. however, if the director focuses on the characters, cinematography, etc... and the plot sucks, the movie might still be ok, or even good.
05 May 2005, 04:21 AM
I don't think anyone's mentioned HEART. HEART is very subjective indeed but yet, very palpable when it's there in big doses. I think all of the Pixar films have heart and that's what makes them instant classics. Old Disney films have them.. and even recent films like Amelie and Triplettes of Belville.
So what makes a movie have heart?
I think it's a combination of a film successfully creating empathy for its characters and successfully hitting emotional beats that resonate. It doesn't necessarily have to tug the heartstrings.. but it certainly doesn't hurt. Any film that leaves a lump in your throat is a good indication that it's successfully crept into your well-guarded emotional firewall and is working its cinematic magic on you. That's what many of us go to the movies hoping for.. but rarely do we get.
Some films sneak into our hearts thru the romantic comedy route (When Harry Met Sally), while others do it thru action and violence (Saving Private Ryan), and others do it thru humor and empathy for characters (Toy Story). A lot of filmmakers strive to achieve some semblance of heart in their films but alas, it's not easily codified and never guaranteed. That's why great filmmakers can still make dogs (Oliver Stone) and why filmmaking is still such a mystery. It's still as much Art as it is Science... and that's why we will forever be seduced by it. Thank God!
06 June 2005, 12:22 AM
The movie I enjoy most is the one most naturally exceptional. It's not the Idea/story/actors/special effects. Jean Genie mentioned Stalker, and I somewhat agree. Mirror is another good example, where you just watch with awe and wonder what's the secret(specially in the point of view of another filmmaker). In this case, the director is like a magician, with his secret hidden from the viewer. His work cannot be replicated. not with a bigger crew, not with better softwares, and specially not with a bigger budget.
So, for me the best films are the ones where the remarkable aspect of the film is difficult/impossible for the viewer to understand.
06 June 2005, 03:45 AM
The audience must be betrayed dozens of times, expecting vile things, and then allowed only one out, to submit to an information barrage which convinces/persuades them to refer to the movie as "the art film.".
I agree wholeheartedly with jbo. I don't think its vital for a movie to have heart, or suspense, plot, character, mood, etc for it to be watchable, enjoyable or memorable. And I think we can all agree its most certainly not cg. (Quickest way to distance a viewer, I'm beginning to suspect.)
Its an interesting question because the more you think about it the more elusive it is to pin down an answer. And its so darn subjective. (Is that still fashionable?)
Personally, all I ask of the creative teams behind the movies I watch is to do something in their field that makes me sit up and take notice. It may be a stunningly brutal movie that I never want to watch again (Requiem, anything by Lars von Trier), or a sugar sweet dollop of Hollywood candy (Down to You).
It doesn't even need to be good filmmaking - being a cultural touchstone is sometimes enough to warrant a viewing, even if the result does leave you sometimes onderwhelmed (Star Wars, Deep Throat).
But in a nutshell, for me, excelling in any particular area makes a film a standout. Nothing more. I don't ask for excellence across the board (just look at Schindlers List - I won't be watching that again anytime soon).
Oh dear, did I just post a rant?
06 June 2005, 03:49 AM
It's still as much Art as it is Science
It's probably more business than art and science, but thats to be expected when tens of millions of dollars are exchanging hands.
06 June 2005, 03:49 AM
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