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No More PG-13

16 Nov

robin hood - russell crowe02

Everyone and everything feels the effects of a failing economy, and the art industry is no exception.The music and fine arts suffer almost as much as the poor during these difficult, persistent recessions. But no industry suffers as much as the movie industry. Leisure activities are among the first eliminated when the economy predicates that civilians save money more fervently. The increase in ticket prices despite the state of the economy and less original movie ideas are causing Americans to stay home. The rise of illegal downloading and the decline of culture in America has also created an enormous deficit between the amount of movies put out and the quality of those movies. In harsh economic times, movies are stripped of their most important components to save money and to appeal to the largest crowd possible. The result is the PG-13 movie. The genius idea behind this is to put enough adult content in a movie – violence and sexual situations – for adults to want to see it, but leave out enough – nudity, rampant swearing – so that kids can see it. The product is a sanguine, flaccid under-developed waste of an hour and a half. In 82 years, only 7 PG-13 movies have won the Academy Award for Best Picture, because most of these movies suffer from forced, subversive editing and poor character development. PG-13 movies are a waste of film, resources, talent, time, and energy.

When studio money is short, instead of the constant editing and re-shooting that movies normally receive which ultimately reproduces a better product, they are either haphazardly pushed out at the cost of art and the consumer or grotesquely trimmed to meet regulation standards so that the most possible paying customers can watch the film. Scenes that are not well characterized by the actors are removed from the movie altogether instead of being re-shot, sometimes despite their importance to the continuity of the story. Lines are re-written to meet the limitation of curse words set by the movie’s proposed rating. Though seemingly harmless, these decisions directly affect the cohesion and drama of a film. A movie that shows great intellect and that was founded in complex ideals gets lost in the poorly articulated discourse. The movie fails because the message is lost.

PG-13 movies also flounder for other more technical reasons. They can rarely deliver great characters due to time constraints meant to please the average movie-goer. The average movie takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes; just long enough to convey a message, but short enough to keep the attention of most audiences. The average Oscar winning film lasts 2 hours and 20 minutes. In order for the audience to connect with the characters, proper development over the course of the movie is necessary. Better directors show a person’s character through distinct circumstances in a movie. The best directors give audiences glimpses of each person’s makeup through various situations that reveal themselves slowly throughout scenes of the film. Time is essential to skillfully display complex character; PG-13 movies do not allow for that development.

pg-13

Though it sounds cliche, movies at their best are art imitating life. In a good movie, you forget that you are in a theater and just relate to the characters and the moment. What’s the difference between Gladiator and Robin Hood (2010)? Both had the same lead, Russell Crowe, and they hired good supporting casts. There were great, distinct characters in both movies. They both took place in a similar time period, so prejudice for or against movie settings was not a factor. The difference was the darkness and violence of Gladiator. The grit necessary to evoke emotion can not exist in most PG-13 movies. They are toothless renderings of real moments. When Crowe realized the fate of his family in Gladiator, the audience felt the raw emotion, the crippling pain, that he did. When he fought mercilessly against other gladiators, the audience felt his rage. Robin Hood could not produce those moments because it was bound by the rating system. The cinematography suffered because of the director’s pandering to a larger audience and limiting bloodshed. Medieval era fights were gruesome and gory, but that type of vile carnage was not relayed onto the big screen. Subsequently, the crowd could not connect with the film. The R-rating is necessary. What would Crying Game be with out the revelation to the audience at a little over an hour in the film? What would Pulp Fiction be without the swearing, drugs, and violence? Those movies would be dull, lifeless attempts at cinema. They would be PG-13, and they would be horrible.

The PG-13 rating was invented as a way to keep children away from subject matter that they are not emotionally ready to handle, but it is being used as a tool to make big pictures available to an audience that they were not created to accommodate. This practice manipulates avid movie-goers, it is irresponsible to children, and disgraceful to the work of talented film makers. No one benefits from PG-13 movies except the studios. And, that type of greed is killing art and cinema. People have stopped going to the movies, because studios have stopped producing movies worth spending hard-earned dollars to watch. And, if those studios continue to release watered down PG-13 versions of potentially great movies, then ultimately big studios desire to capitalize on underwhelming work will be their own undoing.

Pick a New Director!

4 Nov

remake - feature

Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960) – In general, you do not mess with the classics. Kubrick’s Spartacus, with Kirk Douglas as the movie’s namesake, is the quintessential film of ancient Rome. Kubrick is a great storyteller and Douglas is brooding, stoic, and somehow still emoting. Peter Jackson possesses the skill of writing, the artistic detailing, and the type of vision that would do the preceding film justice. He has choreographed beautiful fight scenes in previous movies like The Lord of the Rings and has a firm grasp medieval times which should translate well to Spartacus. He could modernize the action of the movie, give it the spectacular scenery of his other movies, and install a visual grit and darkness that matches the original while not sacrificing the authenticity of the film.

Constantine (Francis Laurence, 2005) – Constantine was an entertaining movie lead by big stars. Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Tilda Swinton, and Djimon Hounsou all play significant roles in this screenplay adapted from a comic book. The movie is dark, but suffers from bad comic book dialogue. Guillermo Del Toro has adapted Hell Boy, another comic book, into a regaling, lucrative movie series. Del Toro excels with dark material and makes intriguing, genuine, visually stunning movies when given humble scripts. His dialogue always matches mood and he never kills mood with ill-timed jokes.

Blindness (Fernando Meirelles, 2008) – Blindness had the appropriate amount of darkness to deliver a chilling look into the psyche of people when all convention breaks down. It had a strong protagonist and an evil antagonist. The acting was stellar in the movie, however the movie never climaxed. Meirelles built tension extraordinarily well in the movie, but the crescendo never reached the heights that it could have because there were tiny holes in the logic of the people involved in the conflict. Darren Aronofsky would be the perfect director to take this movie to a fitting crescendo. His work in movies like Pi, The Wrestler, and even Requiem for a Dream show that he has the depth of content and story building to finish this movie in a way that belies the original premise.

I, Robot (Alex Proyas, 2004) – Steven Spielberg could take a movie that was overrun with awkward computer generated images and turn it into a breath-taking display of cinematic images. His eye for detail in action and landscapes would deliver a realism to an abstract, futuristic idea. And, Spielberg’s gift of vivid storytelling would provide clarity in the storyline and build tension throughout the plot. There was a great premise behind the movie I, Robot. The idea that being too dependent on the advancement of technology can ultimately ruin mankind is an applicable moral in day to day life, not just the movies. But, the original film fell short of driving home the point because the movie was not believable visually.

Robin Hood (Ridley Scott, 2010) – The plot was there. The actors were talented. But somehow, this movie had no teeth. This movie was advertised to be the second coming of Gladiator. It had the same lead and was set in a similar age where people used swords and bows and arrows as their main weapons. On paper, it should have been a blockbuster. Instead it was a disaster. The producers pushed for a PG-13 rating, which handicapped the director. Instead of well-choreographed, gory fights, there were underwhelming conflicts lacking the amount of grit to make the scenes credible throughout the film. Jean-Jacques Annaud, the director of The Name of the Rose, is adept at building a complex story without showing too much gore. His characters and costumes are consistent to the era in which the movie is set,, and he portrays the darkness and desperation of medieval times accurately to historical references. Annaud’s movies always have purposeful dialogue and thus well defined characters, which Robin Hood did not have.

Alexander (Oliver Stone, 2004) – Oliver Stone missed in a few places with his vision of Alexander. He picked a protagonist that could not carry the weight of the movie (Colin Farrell), his dialogue was awkward at times, the costumes did not look authentic, and there was a discontinuity between the cast. Stone’s vision of the general Alexander was a passionate man who happened to lead one of the greatest armies ever assembled. He attempted to show the other side of Alexander too, a lover, a son, and most importantly a king. What he put on the screen was a weakling that cried insistently at every juncture of the movie for any reason. Because his Alexander was so weak as a character, Alexander’s mother and father looked like caricatures rather than characters that connected with the audience. They seemed phony because of bad makeup and wardrobe, and over-acting to compensate for Alexander’s shortcomings. Brian DePalma makes compelling protagonists. From Carrie to Scarface, his leading person always causes a reaction in the audience. DePalma also has a gift for slowly revealing plot throughout the movie which fits such a long movie well. He is adept at both visual gore and implied violence which has a bigger impact on the viewer. DePalma could succeed where Oliver Stone failed with Alexander.

Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010) – Martin Scorsese always has great character development in his movies which is a sign that he uses dialogue well. However, he rushed the pace of the movie, and gave several obvious hints through dreams and character flaws that eventually spoiled the conclusion of the movie. In addition to this, instead of a deliberate unfurling of the plot, he just regurgitates it onto the screen in a monologue at the end of the film. Telling the audience what happened in a movie instead of revealing it, devalues the build-up of emotion that has progressed through the time in the theater. Alejandro Amenabar, the director of The Others, has an almost plodding delivery of plot. But, the reward of his methodical, calculated directing, is concise characterizations and overwhelming tension build up. He takes the necessary time to engage the viewer with his plot and lets them draw their own conclusions rather than shoving it at them at the close of the movie.

Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002) – The two movies that preceded Red Dragon were excellent films. Though Clarice Starling changed from Jodie Foster to Julianne Moore, and the director changed from Johnathon Demme to Ridley Scott from the first movie to the second, the level of acting by the cast and the storytelling of directors remained high. The plot and conflict of Red Dragon, however, got lost in the flashbacks of Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s childhood. It was a muddled mess that tried to explain how Hannibal Lecter became the person that he was. Cameron Crowe specializes in expressing the interactions between characters in various situations, and he told an entire story as a dream in Vanilla Sky. He could hypothetically direct this movie to be as abstract as Vanilla Sky or easier to follow like Jerry Maguire with darker content.

The Golden Child (Micheal Ritchie, 1986) – Guillermo Del Toro is the only director to appear twice on this list. The Golden Child was just dark enough to be believable and just light enough to appeal to most people. However, most great movies do not appeal to the younger audiences, and Del Toro is capable of making this movie even darker and more fantastical. He excels with fairytale movies and has a credibility that has been unmatched since Star Wars. Where the original Golden Child is almost unwatchable near the end of the movie because of bad special effects, the revised version could be incomparable with the right effects. The only problem would be finding a star who was as captivating as Eddie Murphy in the starring role.

Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004) – The premise of the movie Troy was dynamic. The movie had good actors, an enormous amount of action, and an intriguing, and familiar story. But, it also had a confused plot, too many storylines, and poorly choreographed fight scenes. The plot of Troy was unclear, because there were too many side stories. Ultimately, the biggest star and the most engaging one, Brad Pitt, ended up being an intentional and ill-conceived tangent from the real plot of the film. The movie showed Achilles (Pitt’s character) to be the protagonist, but the story was really about conflict between Menelaus and Paris over the beautiful Helen. Muddled into this mess is Agamemnon’s desire to rule Troy and the conflict between Hector and Achilles. Ang Lee, the director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is perfect for this movie. His fight scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are some of the most aesthetically beautiful scenes in cinematic history. His movies are poignant, but still entertaining.

Hopefully, the studios can take these suggestions, cut through the necessary red-tape, and get some of these concepts into production. There or so many great ideas for movies that never come to fruition for a plethora of reasons. But, movies are form of expression and artistry that will never be matched in the entertainment field and any idea to better the industry should be considered.

How to Make a Good Movie

16 Oct

steven spielberg

1. The movie has to reach at least two hours - Two hours is the minimum amount of time that any movie needs to fully outline a good story, fully develop complex characters, define a conflict, and resolve it. Though the average movie-goer prefers a movie time around 90 minutes, two hours is necessary for a movie to be better than just entertaining.

2. Have good storyline - The story line is what compels viewers to keep watching the movie. It keeps them engaged in the plot of the movie which makes the necessary two hours fly by. People expect a poignant story to be told whether they consciously know it or not.

3. Introduce a clear, charismatic protagonist early in the film - The hero of the film is one of the most important figures that the movie has. The hero has to be engaging and genuine. This person has to be someone that can connect with the audience on many different levels. They have to be a emotionally complex, but well-defined in the context of the movie. The hero has to be believable. Man or woman, the hero has to be able to carry the film.

4. Have a defined antagonist that is introduced early in the film - The antagonist or villain of any movie is the most important character. And, in order for him to be truly effective, he has to be shown early in the film. The villain can be a simple, static character as long as he is vile and ruthless. However, the best villains are as complex or more complex than their protagonist.

4. Slow revelation of the villain - The most entertaining movies introduce the villains early in the movie, but do show his foul intentions until later in the movie. The more unsuspecting his character is early in the movie, the more profound his impact is on the story.

5. There has to separate smaller stories that are relevant to the main story line - The best films have smaller roles that directly affect the overall efficacy of the movie. This means that the better movies are also full of compelling and well-defined smaller characters. They personal conflicts that force them to mature through the course of the movie and they ultimately help or hurt the cause of the two main characters, the hero and the villain.

6. Villain must be willing to do anything - The ability of the antagonist to cause chaos at any cost directly affects his effectiveness in a movie. A great villain has to be willing to do anything to add tension to the story. The more insane and sadistic the villain, the better it is for the movie.

7. Slow progression towards conflict between protagonist and antagonist - The best conflicts are ones that simmer to a boil. If the conflict is revealed to soon or too late, then the audience loses interest. When a movie is entirely too predictable, the movie is boring, and when there is no tension building then a movie is not worth watching.

8. Conflict - The conflict has to exceed the expectations of the audience. The protagonist and antagonist should find themselves in the midst of conflict or the villain should arrange it unbeknownst to the hero. This is the high point of the movie and should be absolutely enthralling. Whether the villain or the hero wins the conflict, the entire movie rests on the director’s ability to convey this contention between the protagonist and antagonist.

9. Resolution of the conflict - All loose ends have to be tied up in the last ten to twenty minutes of the movie. Each separate story has to reach an end before the movie ends. All the characters have to be addressed in respect to the future.

Things That I Learned at the Movies

8 Oct

movies

the matrix - cypher02

1. “Ignorance is bliss.” The Matrix - Joe Pantoliano (Cypher)

In The Matrix, Cypher and multiple other crew members of his ship, were awakened from an induced state of sleep to find out that the world that they were living in was a lie, and that the real world was a much more unpleasant and dangerous place. He longs for the time when he didn’t know the truth. Sometimes the truth is infinitely more painful, than living in a fantasy. Ignorance is bliss.

 

2. “Sometimes when you win, you really lose. Sometimes when you lose, you really win. Sometimes when you win, you really tie. And, sometimes when you tie, you really win or lose.” White Men Can’t Jump – Rosie Perez (Gloria Clemente)

Gloria was trying to get her boyfriend to see that every action that you take affects someone or something else. Some results are obvious and intended, but occasionally they have negative, unintended affects too. Her boyfriend had lost substantial amounts of money playing basketball, despite being great at it. He finally came through on his promise to win money in the game, but found her gone when he came home. He won the game, but lost his girl. You can yell at your boss in staff meetings, sleep with his wife on his desk, and pee on the carpet in his office, but you probably will not keep your job. So, unless you are waiting on a hefty inheritance, you should thoroughly think through the repercussions of your behavior before you do anything. Sometimes, your first instinct is not the best one.

which brings me to my next point…

3. “Always listen to the woman.” White Men Can’t Jump – Wesley Snipes (Sidney Deane)

Gloria told her boyfriend countless times that she wanted him to listen to her. She was patient and careful with his many missteps, but he did not understand what she said until it was too late. In general, men and women think and behave differently. Men behave more impulsively and are much less likely to plan an action. Women are more intuitive and have great insight into situations. They are more likely to have a plan before they do anything. Because of this, men should always listen to the woman.

4. “Here’s the deal, I’m the best there is. Plain and simple. I wake up in the morning and I piss excellence.” Talledhega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby – Will Ferrell (Ricky Bobby)

If you don’t believe in yourself, no one will. Plain and simple. Everyday that you are here, you should be ready to take on the world because you believe in you.

crouching tiger, hidden dragon

5. “Sharpness is a state of mind.” Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Chow Yun-Fat (Li Mu Bai)

Any battle that you fight, whether physical or mental, starts with you. You have to be mentally prepared for the obstacles that will stand in your way, instead of counting on outside sources to help you succeed. Li Mu Bai was teaching his young, martial arts pupil that her weapon should be an extension of her own voracity in combat, not the source of it. Similarly, any success that you have will come from your attention to detail and persistence towards a goal and not from anywhere else.

the matrix - morpheus

6. “You have to let it all go, Neo. Fear, doubt, and disbelief. Free your mind.” The Matrix – Lawrence Fishburne (Morpheus)

The only thing that can stop you from accomplishing everything that you have dreamed of, is you. Once you believe that something is possible, it becomes possible. Fear stunts our ability to succeed in our professional and personal lives.

the matrix - oracle

7. “We can never see past the choices we don’t understand.” The Matrix – Gloria Foster (the Oracle)

This statement ties into following your most base instincts and into metacognition. The Oracle is telling Neo, that his decision has already been made, but that he will not know how to proceed until he understands why his decision was made. In essence, she was saying to trust your intuition, but to understand why your choice was made before you act on it.

fight club03

8. “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.” Fight Club – Edward Norton (nameless narrator)

Life is short. Wasting your time in a fruitless job, talking to people that you abhor, and waiting for some miracle to happen is foolish.

9. Never watch a chick flick with your girlfriend.

This isn’t a quote, but it is the truth. If you enjoy the movie more than she does, you will never live it down. She will ostracize you publicly and emasculate you whenever possible. And she should. On a completely unrelated subject, see The Notebook. It’s awesome!*

braveheart

10. “Every man dies, not every man truly lives.” Braveheart – Mel Gibson (William Wallace)

Do the things that will make you happy. Try to vacation, raise a family, party away a decade. You are only here for a little while, make good use of your time.

batman - alfred

11. “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.” The Dark Knight – Michael Caine (Alfred Pennyworth)

You need to know who you’re dealing with at all times. There are people that are not happy unless they see you suffer. There are people that only in function well in chaos. Recognize them quickly and keep them at the appropriate distance. They show up in all facets of your life, like work and in romantic relationships. Always seek to understand who you are talking to first, because a person’s desire fuels their actions.

scarface

12. In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women. Scarface – Al Pacino (Tony Montana)

Get your priorities in order. Before you start chasing the opposite sex, find a way to make some money and make a name for yourself. If you work hard to be the best at what you do, you will succeed. Once you are paid and respected, the women will come.

 

*The awesomeness of this movie is completely dependent on your own personal awesomeness and not on the personal preferences of the author.
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*Bonus quote – You can put a cat in the oven, but that don’t make it a biscuit. White Men Can’t Jump – Wesley Snipes (Sidney Deane)
What you get out of a situation depends on what was put in it.