What I Like in Movies
a list of traits that I find in movies that I like.
Here are some of them:
Plot over character. Movie
fans fall into two categories: those who like movies about characters
and those who like movies with a good story. I tend to be the
latter. I'm more interested in a compelling plot than movies that
are largely about individuals. For example, Forrest Gump is about the events in
his life, not an emotional journey.
Actually is a good example of this, but even some of the Star Wars movies were good at
jumping between, say, Cloud City and Dagobah) or Amilie (i.e., the photobooth
mystery, the traveling gnome, etc.). Done properly, the process
of dividing the audience's focus acts as a shell game that keeps them
from guessing where the story is going.
shifts. You think you're watching one movie, but it turns
out the premise isn't what you thought it was (e.g., Sixth Sense, Fight Club, the first Matrix
movie, The Crying Game etc.). The second time you watch
the movie, you're going to see a completely different film.
That's a pretty good bargain! (More about paradigm shifts here.)
there to be a lot of little details crammed into a film almost
like the screenwriter just wanted to squeeze in a few extra
thoughts. These aren't necessarily essential to the picture, but
they flesh it out considerably (e.g., the lists of likes in Amilie or the bits of dialogue in Pulp Fiction about the Royale with
cheese). The more imagination delivered per minute, the fresher
the film seems, largely from the simple and inevitable juxtaposition of
ideas that result from putting things together in the same medium.
more intense. There's no waiting for the audience to get
the joke; the movie plows right ahead. See, for example, the
original Ace Ventura
movie. I couldn't breathe the first time I saw it (again, this is
a case where I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly
surprised). There wasn't that insulting pause for laughter that
is present in so many of Mel Brooks' later films. And this works
in action films as well. "Faster, More intense" was George Lucas'
direction throughout the filming of the first Star Wars. The resulting
urgency transformed an ostensible kids movie into something magical
that sold even the most jaded adults on the story.
soundtrack. John Williams, Danny Elfman, etc. Nuff
said. Also, guys like Trent Reznor and Quintin Tarantino produce
some great compilations that make you wonder where they find this
stuff. A soundtrack is like a second screenplay, and it needs to
include all the other elements listed on this page in order to
compliment the material it aims to support.
becomes more epic when the story goes through several
chapters. The original Star
Wars movies always seemed to have three distinct "acts" that
each had their own rising actions and resolution. Fight Club always felt to me like
three separate movies with little in common with one another (I.
support groups, II. fight clubs, III. Project Mayhem). The
opposite of this trait is a film that tries to stretch a one-act story
too thin and it feels like it has to pass the time in spots where the
filmmakers have simply run out of material.
Dr., Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Adaptation, Pulp Fiction, and,
of course, Memento all detour
from revealing things in chronological order. This gets at the
concept of paradigm shifts I mentioned above. You think you get
what's going on, then there's a revelation from a flashback that sort
of makes you go, hey, wait a minute... Like when you realize that
Vincent Vega could have walked away from it all with Jules but instead
chose to wait for Bruce Willis to return to his apartment. Bad
Those are some things that I've realized work for me. Quality is
quality though. Sometimes movies try the above and don't get it
right. Sometimes a well-made movie just isn't all that
original. Sometimes you have a traditionally-made movie like
Brokeback Mountain and it's
just a great movie without any gimmicks
(Ok, Anne Hathaway topless was a pleasant surprise). However, on
average I've found that I like movies with the above traits more than