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Perfect Films - Do they Exist?


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#1 of 56 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted July 27 2010 - 12:08 PM

Earlier today, a link to a blog by Roger Ebert was posted on the HTF and discussed in several other threads.  It seems like as good a topic as any for film enthusiasts.


Link to Ebert's article @ http://blogs.suntime...rfect_film.html


From the blog...  "Can a film be great without question?"  The blog entry primarily discusses film criticism, but I think the question of what makes a film great (to you) could be interesting.  Discussion is encouraged, not just lists of titles with no explanations.  Also, as Ebert's blog alludes - are there any universally great titles and is that even possible?


Thanks for reading.


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#2 of 56 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted July 28 2010 - 06:00 AM

Interesting thread Walter. The first film that came to mind when thinking of great or "perfect" films was Francis Coppola's The Godfather. I can't think of a single fault in The Godfather, acting, photography, music, editing, direction, screenplay = perfect, IMO.

Lawrence of Arabia is generally considered the greatest epic. But on a personal level I'd pick William Wyler's Ben-Hur.

Or how about "great" in their respective genres. In science fiction cinema I'd pick - 2001 - A Space Odyssey (Hard sci-fi), Blade Runner (dystopian) and Star Wars (1977-1983) (space opera).

The perfect superhero movie? Superman the Movie? Spider-Man 2? The Dark Knight?

Like everything else it all comes down to personal taste and preference, you can't be scientific about it. Well you can, make a list of everyone's choice of great or perfect films and tot up the results, and hey presto... the greatest film. It might be Vertigo, Citizen Kane, Avatar? /img/vbsmilies/htf/smiley_wink.gif


Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


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#3 of 56 ONLINE   Dave B Ferris

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Posted July 28 2010 - 06:44 AM

The first film that came to mind for me is Jean-Pierre Melville's 'Le Samourai'.

I think many critics (whose writings introduced me to the film) have used the phrase 'perfect' or 'near-perfect', and we know John Woo feels the same way, as he has never been shy about acknowledging while discussing his own film, 'The Killer'.


I think one of the reasons 'Le Samourai' is perfect, or near-perfect, is the way in which the film can be watched virtually without dialog.  In fact, as many critics have pointed out, there is very little dialog in the film.  The famous chase sequence in the Metro is dialog-free.



#4 of 56 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted July 28 2010 - 06:46 AM

Perfect films exist in the minds of every screenwriter and director right up until the first compromise. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smiley_wink.gif


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#5 of 56 OFFLINE   Jack Briggs

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Posted July 28 2010 - 06:50 AM

Walter, yes, I do believe there are films that can be considered "universally" great -- my favorite film from Stanley Kubrick comes to mind, as does Orson Welles's rather profound cinematic statement, Citizen Kane, not to mention a number of others. Whatever language it was filmed in should be irrelavant, so those who feel so inclined should also mention Seven Samurai.


As with any other medium, film supports works that run the gamut of greatness to the opposite (he said, with a nod to, oh, The Room or Plan 9 From Outer Space). (That parenthetical supports "Sturgeon's Law" -- proposed by the great science-fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon -- "90 percent of science fiction is crud, but, then, 90 percent of everything is crud.)



#6 of 56 OFFLINE   Sam Posten

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Posted July 28 2010 - 06:58 AM

Originally Posted by Steve Christou 

Interesting thread Walter. The first film that came to mind when thinking of great or "perfect" films was Francis Coppola's The Godfather. I can't think of a single fault in The Godfather, acting, photography, music, editing, direction, screenplay = perfect, IMO.


I can.  The ending.  It stops just when the story gets going!  =)


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#7 of 56 OFFLINE   Chuck Mayer

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Posted July 28 2010 - 07:09 AM

Many of my favorite films are quite imperfect.  As the saying goes, "we like people for their virtues and we love them for their flaws."


Films that I consider nearly perfect (skewed to the more recent, though not quite recent - no sacred cows here), as based on how many changes would be required to improve the experience in any way (less changes are better):


The Princess Bride

Conan the Barbarian

The Insider


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#8 of 56 ONLINE   Mike Frezon

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Posted July 28 2010 - 07:57 AM

How can something subjective be perfect?


And, based on the predicate that man can't create anything "perfect", I'd say no.


But, nowhere does Ebert use the word "perfection" except in his URL  While I love the way he approached this subject (as I love the way he approaches most subjects) he really tries to have his cake and eat it to on this one.  He veers from "the myth of the perfect film" to a film "great without question."  His real subject seems to be broached at the top of paragraph 2:  "one film that everyone reading this entry might think is unquestionably great."


I doubt that's possible...only because of the subjectivity and that human nature is always going to produce a contrarian.  /img/vbsmilies/htf/wink.gif

My favorite line from Ebert's essay--the one that really spoke to me--is his definition of "usefulness" in terms of movie reviews:  "It doesn't matter if I agree with him.  He helps me see things."  So true.


I also think some of his comments apply nicely to discussions on controversial topics here on the HTF (format wars, anyone?):  "There's a human tendency to resent anyone who disagrees with our pleasures.  The less mature interpret that as a personal attack on themselves."


Walter asks in the OP "what makes a film great to you?"


For me it's a number of different things but to take Justice Stewart's definition of pornography:  "I know it when I see it."  Films speak to me for a number of different reasons and the great ones do it by bringing together a true high-level team effort of writing, directing, acting, casting and all the elements which go into movie-making.


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#9 of 56 OFFLINE   Parker Clack

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Posted July 28 2010 - 09:44 AM

I really can't name a "perfect" film. I can say that if I am totally lost in the movie and see nothing else around me outside of the picture frame while the movie is being displayed then in my mind it is a close to perfection as it can get.


Movies that I got lost in:


2001

Lawrence of Arabia

Rear Window

The Right Stuff

Chariots of Fire

12 Monkeys

Ben Hur

The Music Man

Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Silverado


I can say with these that there wasn't a single time I looked down at my watch, looked over at my friends or family or looked around the auditorium while the film was playing.


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#10 of 56 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted July 28 2010 - 11:04 AM

As Mike pointed out, Ebert only uses the phrase perfect in the URL and then goes on to discuss universally acknowledged works and criticism of film criticism.


I think the question of universally acknowledged films may come down to the question of audience.


I don't know if any film can be universally accepted by a broad audience given the subjective nature of film viewing and the broad, disparate tastes of the general populace.  On the other hand, Jack argues for the 'classics' such as 2001: A Space Odyssey and Citizen Kane.  I would have to qualify that statement by limiting the audience to the more specific group of film enthusiasts.


Case in point, there is a trainwreck (at least to me) of a thread on the Amazon forums asking for opinions regarding the most Overrated films of all time with the usual postings of Titanic, Forrest Gump, etc. and even The Godfather.  While I can't take these opinions seriously, I wonder how many of them are simply trolls; it does illustrate that film viewing means different things to different folks.  Some view it as mere entertainment and others are more heavily invested.


I believe the question of perfection lies with the viewer and is perhaps meaningless in other contexts.  BTW, I like your list Parker.  For myself, here are few films that I think are perfect for me.  They never miss a note, there are no false steps, and every moment of the film works...


A Christmas Story - This film sets and establishes a tone in the opening moments and never deviates or loses its way.  It evokes nostalgia for a lost time in America and has become a seasonal classic.


I know it isn't Christmas, but I feel compelled to offer up another holiday film...


It's A Wonderful Life - At an earlier time in my life this was easily my favorite film and it still ranks fairly high on my all-time favorites.  In addition to being endlessly entertaining its question of the worth of a human life lends it a timeless quality, for me anyway.


The General - I suppose one could argue that less complex films have less hurdles on their way to perfection; but I would argue that the level of effort in this film is pretty substantial.  Top it off with some beautiful cinematography and you have a great movie experience.   I try to watch this every few years and it works every time.


There are others I could go on about, like that one from Mr. Kubrick, but that is enough for now.  I have any number of films that I love and admire but there are probably only a handful where every aspect of the film works for me.



The other question that I discussed with Steve C, yesterday was how much does a film's ambition factor into your enjoyment.  Is a well crafted film of minor ambition better, or more enjoyable than a film that aspires to greatness but perhaps misses by a bit?  I honestly don't know which I prefer but a film's ambition will cover a host of sins, from my perspective.

In other words, is perfection overrated?  Since there are so many films that I enjoy that aren't perfect, then perhaps - yes.


- Walter.


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#11 of 56 OFFLINE   RickER

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Posted July 28 2010 - 11:46 AM

Good idea for a thread...


My "perfect" movie would have to be Blade Runner.

Its my favorite movie, of all time. While the story is far from perfect, i think the visual style of the movie is perfect.

So perfect, it gets ripped off all the time. From Ghost in the Shell (anime) to Max Headroom, Dark City to The Fifth Element, all have a "look" that reminds me of Blade Runner.

I know the Blade Runner look, isnt original to THAT movie, and it owes a lot ( as do other films) to Metropolis. But to me its the first movie to get it right.


My wife doesnt like Blade Runner, or much Sci-Fi at all. As a matter of fact, i do not know a single woman that would put 2001, Blade Runner, or even The Right Stuff in a top 10. or do i know the wrong kind of women?


Other movies, in no order, that would round out my list of perfect:


Rear Window

North By Northwest

Alien

The Lord of the Rings

Silent Running (dunno why i love this movie so)

Star Wars

Memento

Die Hard

Goldfinger



#12 of 56 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted July 28 2010 - 12:18 PM


 or do i know the wrong kind of women?


I don't think its you. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif


Good point, Rick - some films just nail a particular attribute and that can be enough.  Oddly while I agree that the overall storyline of Blade Runner isn't particularly great, it does have some memorable dialog - so it isn't that the writing is bad; so much as perhaps the visuals overshadow the narrative?


"More human than human"

"If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes"

"It's too bad she won't live.  But then again, who does?"


and so on...


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#13 of 56 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted July 29 2010 - 04:12 AM



Originally Posted by RickER 



My wife doesnt like Blade Runner, or much Sci-Fi at all. As a matter of fact, i do not know a single woman that would put 2001, Blade Runner, or even The Right Stuff in a top 10. or do i know the wrong kind of women?



My Sandra hates sci-fi, she caught me watching 2001 A Space Odyssey once, glared at me and said "Are you watching Thunderbirds?". I think I just stared at her speechless as she walked out the room. /img/vbsmilies/htf/crazy.gif


Near to perfect horror movie? I'd pick The Exorcist, the original 1973 version. Sandra loves horror, she would pick The Shining, we've watched it enough times over the years. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif


Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


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#14 of 56 OFFLINE   Ken_McAlinden

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Posted July 29 2010 - 05:13 AM

Does she consider sci-fi horror a grey area.  Perhaps "Alien" could bridge the gap./img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif

Originally Posted by Steve Christou 




My Sandra hates sci-fi, she caught me watching 2001 A Space Odyssey once, glared at me and said "Are you watching Thunderbirds?". I think I just stared at her speechless as she walked out the room. /img/vbsmilies/htf/crazy.gif


Near to perfect horror movie? I'd pick The Exorcist, the original 1973 version. Sandra loves horror, she would pick The Shining, we've watched it enough times over the years. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif




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#15 of 56 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted July 29 2010 - 05:42 AM



Originally Posted by Ken_McAlinden 

Does she consider sci-fi horror a grey area.  Perhaps "Alien" could bridge the gap./img/vbsmilies/htf/smile.gif


 


She won't watch any of the Alien films but she did like Signs, well Mel Gibson was in it and it was by the director of The Sixth Sense, otherwise she wouldn't have watched it. I remember some scenes really scared her.


The quintessential Bond movie? hmmm Goldfinger? OHMSS? From Russia With Love? It's not Moonraker. I'll go with the one with the most famous quote "You expect me to talk?", "No Mr. Bond. I expect you to die."


Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


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#16 of 56 OFFLINE   Walter Kittel

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Posted July 29 2010 - 06:04 AM

"Are you watching Thunderbirds?"  *snicker*


Goldfinger is my favorite as well.  I think it features the definitive credit sequence for Bond films with the title song being my favorite in the series.  I've always had this theory about Bond films that they tend to rise and fall with the quality of the villains and the one two combination of Auric Goldfinger and Oddjob really elevates this film.  And how can you not like a Bond film that features a femme fatale named Pussy Galore?  Goldfinger is a little before my time and I've always wondered what the response was to the film in the media and culture at large.


I stumbled onto another thread here on the HTF, where Goldfinger was being excoriated.  I shook my head and quickly exited the thread.  (To each their own, etc., etc.)


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#17 of 56 OFFLINE   Steve Christou

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Posted July 29 2010 - 06:17 AM

I saw that thread too Walter, shocking, positively shocking.


"Pussy Galore" even the porn industry couldn't top it, Ian Fleming was a genius. /img/vbsmilies/htf/smiley_wink.gif


Dave hören... auf, wille stoppen sie Dave... stoppen sie Dave... Mein gehirn geht... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin gefühl es... Ich bin ängstlich Dave... Guter Nachmittag. Ich bin ein HAL 9000 computer. Ich wurde funktionsfähig am HAL-Betrieb in Urbana, Illinois auf January 12 1992.


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#18 of 56 OFFLINE   Pete-D

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Posted July 29 2010 - 02:15 PM

Trying to gauge a "perfect film" by isolating every one of its parts is kind of a pointless endeavor.

It's like listening to a symphony and instead of singling out one instrument or something when it's the whole that matters. Or it's like looking at a beautiful woman and critiquing the her elbows or something, lol.

To me films reach perfection when they "flow" ... "flow" goes beyond just a good or great movie. A "flowing" movie is something that just moves from scene to scene perfectly that you become so engrossed that you lose track of time.


#19 of 56 OFFLINE   mike caronia

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Posted July 29 2010 - 03:52 PM

Y'all must have never seen 'Caddyshack'.



#20 of 56 OFFLINE   Douglas Monce

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Posted July 29 2010 - 04:56 PM

I don't believe that there is such a thing as a perfect film, but for me the film that comes closest to being a perfect film is Chinatown.


Doug


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