Thursday, June 25, 2015

Top Five Characteristics of Great Movies

Art means different things to different people.  Great art can be interpreted variously.  As a medium, films are significant to people for different reasons.  I love film, but maybe for different reasons than you do.  These are the characteristics that make up great film, in my outlook:

Entertainment—A movie must keep one’s attention, the best movies are riveting.  A poor movie is usually indicated by one wondering how long we have to go until the movie is done.

The reason I rate Finding Nemo or Spinal Tap so highly is not because they have any deep message, but because they are entertainment machines, no matter how often one watches them.  On the other hand, Umberto D. is arguably a great film, but pretty dull.

You cried at this scene: Admit it.
Emotion—It captures the emotions, whether that emotion is anger, romance, laughter, depression.  A poor movie leaves you feeling nothing, identifying with no character or situation.
A movie can be very successful in placing one in the midst of a situation that one finds unacceptable—such as my reaction to Seven Samurai, or some people’s reaction to Grave of the Fireflies.  However, even if we dislike the situation, we have recognize the movies as great because they succeeded in stirring us emotionally. 

Some movies might be very entertaining, but not be emotionally intense, such as The Princess Bride.  This usually will limit the work’s greatness.  But not the Princess Bride.  It's just that great.

What IS he doing to that piano?
Mystery—There is something hidden in the movie that must be dug for.  The best movies have multiple meanings, one on the surface and one not as easy to see.  A poor movie is one in which the point and ending is seen before the movie is halfway over.

A sense of mystery can go too far, if it fails in other ways, such as Eraserhead.  That film is so mysterious it doesn’t convey emotion and it’s entertainment value is limited.  It is a great movie to analyze, though.  But most critics would consider a movie shallow simply because there is nothing to think about, such as the majority of romantic comedies. 

Hey, ballet SAYS something.  I had no idea.
Communication—It accurately communicates the theme it intends for the audience to receive.  This doesn’t mean that the audience shouldn’t have to work for it, but the audience shouldn’t leave completely confused. 

This is the reason why Synecdoche, New York is so controversial among critics.  Some critics didn’t see it communicating anything, only being one huge mess of a mystery.  Others, such as myself, think that it communicated well, but left much for multiple viewings to discover.

Technically sound—The movie is put together well enough that the moviemaking isn’t noticed beyond some innovations.  If the acting, story or camera is too noticeable, then it is working against the above characteristics.  Moviemaking is about storytelling, not the other way around.

The extreme stylists, such as Peter Greeenaway, I think, make an error in having their style be louder than what they are trying to express.  While others, such as Tarintino in his best films, can use style to draw one in and to communicate.

 It is in this area that critics can sometimes be unhelpful.  If they focus so much on the technical aspects, such as a particular performance, then the viewer focuses on the technical ability, rather than what the actor wants the viewer to focus on. 

What aspects of film make them great in your opinion?

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