What I Like in Movies
I made 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.

Multiple storylines.  Love 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.

Paradigm 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.)

Density.  I like 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.

Faster, 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.

Compelling 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.

Episodic.  A film 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.

Non-linear storytelling.  Mulholland 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 idea.

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 "equivalent" fare.

Copyright 2012 Alexplorer.
Back to the index