Thursday, January 20, 2011

What I Look for in a Movie: A Mini Manifesto

There is so much diversity in the film industry these days. Each genre has its own set of fans, and each fan expects different things from a movie and gets different things out of them. This allows for divergent ideas on why to sit through a movie, why to say you "liked" it. With this in mind, I thought I'd kick off my blog with this little ditty before diving into any reviews, to give readers an idea of what to expect from me.

For me, movies begin and end with their point. A movie needs to say something relevant and meaningful to me in order for me to really care about it. If a movie exists only as mindless enter-tainment, and doesn't make me think about anything, then I don't really care about it. It doesn't have to say anything exceedingly deep, original or unique; just enough for me to keep chewing on it once the credits have rolled.

There are several ways in which films get their point across. I prefer films that do so in more subtle ways. Films that bludgeon the viewer over the head with their point, show me little skill in storytelling. It is far more difficult and requires more skill to keep the point in tune with the story being told and relate it to the characters involved. The catch-22 is to not make your point so oblique and vague that the audience has to guess at it or make up their own. It's a spectrum, and every film needs to find where in the spectrum it should fall.

The themes in a film need to be emphasized by the technical aspects of film. Lighting, editing, photography, sound, et al are integral parts of the moviegoing experience. Without them the audience might as well be watching a book. These technicals do not have to, and should not, be so grand that they overpower the story; they should only be noticeable enough to be significant in moving the film along. To really get the theme of a movie across in only the way a movie can, these technical aspects cannot be ignored.

If a film fails in a majority of these criteria, is it barely worth watching, if at all. The more criteria where it succeeds, however, the more interesting and worthwhile it becomes. If a film fails in only one or two of these categories, it can be considered a significant achievement in filmmaking. But it's those rare film that come along only ever so often that exceed in every category and simply blows the viewer away. If you've ever cared about a film in a more than superficial way, I guarantee this has happened to you at least once.

I'd like to conclude this rant by reminding everyone that this is only a guideline, and I reserve the right to contradict it at any time. Film is not a science but an art form, and the same with film criticism. There are emotional connections made to each movie that make the experience of witnessing and judging a film unique to each person who sees it. It is possible to like a movie for one reason and dislike another for the same reason. To try to make logic out of this is absurd, and denies the emotional, artistic and abstract qualities of films that make them so powerful.

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