What Do You Like; And Why?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Lew Crippen, Sep 30, 2002.

  1. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Where are your film strengths (and weaknesses)?
    ·Era (silent, 30s,…, current)
    ·Genre (Horror, western, …, musicals)
    ·Production (acting, cinematography, …, directing)
    Having had some predictable (and surprising) comments made on some of my choices and observations, and reacting myself, to the choice made by others, has made me realize that no matter how outstanding I think a movie, and no matter the case that can be made as to the movie’s merits there will be a large number of forum members who consider it to be of little or no value. Conversely, no matter how bad, I think a movie (and regardless of the number of specific reasons as to why the movie is indeed bad), it will have a large, passionate base of support.
    Following some of the discussion in a couple of the tournaments recently made me think about what I liked and why. And why I considered myself even remotely qualified to have an opinion. And this in turn, makes me curious as to what the rest of you consider the areas where you feel qualified to have opinions on particular films.
    So, what kinds of movies do you feel reasonably comfortable with having a valid, critical opinion? Over what time periods? And perhaps, in some technical or artistic areas such as cinematography or set design?
    Realizing that we are all products of our backgrounds, we tend to critique movies through our experience, which includes our education, when we grew up, when we developed an interest in movies and a plethora of other criteria.
    For example, I grew up, mostly in the 50s, and have gone to the movies for as long as I can remember. Therefore I have seen a great many films of the 40s and 50s. As I was in college in the early 60s, my knowledge of foreign and non-mainstream films is strongest in the late 50s and 60s. I spent a great deal of time in the 90s in South America, Australia and various other places in Asia/Pacific with not as much time to actually go to movies as I would have liked. I also lived in many places where a good many offerings were fairly heavily censored (if shown at all). Therefore my knowledge of mainstream films of the 90s is far more limited than almost any other forum member. I strongly prefer films that engage me both emotionally and intellectually. While I may enjoy (and thoroughly enjoy) films that I consider (only) action packed (or just sentimental—to get away from just action-oriented movies), I will pick a film for its intellectual content over its production values most of the time.
    I have never taken the first film class, so all I know technically is from reading and observation. This would also be true in artistic areas such as music and screenwriting. I’m not a musician, so my real ability to judge scores is based on my on my musical likes and dislikes that have been formed over many years of listening to music, with a heavy preference for classical, jazz, blues and a lot of C&W. So too with writing. Other than a few comparative lit classes, my ability to judge writing is limited to my reading preference’s over many years. Because of this, I am much more tolerant of poor writing in science fiction (which is one of my reading guilty pleasures) than I am in war movies, where (for literature) I hold writers to a much higher standard.
    Finally, all things being equal I hold more talented artists to a higher standard that their journeyman brothers. This might be unfair, but just as I expected Troy Aikman to craft a winning drive and put another win in Cowboys’ column (whereas if the backup QB manages to not lose the game, I’m happy), I expect far more from a Spielberg than from a Ron Howard (don’t start, it’s just an example).
    I pose the question, as I read with a great deal of interest those opinions differing from my own. It helps greatly to expand my base of knowledge and reference point.
    Sorry for the length of the post, but I got started and couldn’t stop. [​IMG]
     
  2. Patrick McCart

    Patrick McCart Lead Actor

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    I'm open to any genre...but the only genre I really don't like much is the western.

    However...if it's silent, chances are I'll want to see it or already have. Silent comedy is THE best form of funny, IMO.
     
  3. Rob Tomlin

    Rob Tomlin Producer

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    I do enjoy paying particular attention to cinematography while watching a movie. Part of this comes from the fact that photography is one of my hobbies. I shoot both 35mm and Large Format (4X5), mostly black and white. I do my own developing as well. So, I am familiar with the importance of properly framing a scene, as well as short and long focus, etc.
    I notice great cinematography in movies that others probably would never consider having "good cinematography". An example would be Unbreakable. Virtually every scene in that movie is perfectly, and creatively, composed! (this also goes for virtually every movie Stanley Kubrick has made).
    I am just now becoming more familiar with foreign films, and have discovered some fantastic movies, including The Seventh Seal, The 400 Blows, Diabolique, Red Beard, and others. Always trying to expand my knowledge of film! [​IMG]
     
  4. Andrew_Sch

    Andrew_Sch Cinematographer

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    I'm woefully short on foreign language and silent films. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen a single silent movie.:b[​IMG] . I'm pretty diverse in American cinema though, I try to embrace all genres except chick-flicks, and I've seen 47 of the AFI Top 100, not too shabby for a mere 16 years, only two or so with a DVD player.
     
  5. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    I studied Film for a few years at Temple University, and it gave me just enough knowledge to know that I was in love with the entire medium. If being a freelance writer has taught me anything, it's that I should never rule ANY movie out. Movies I felt sort of 'unfit' to review often turned into (what I consider) some of my best work. Going off the beaten path helps to stretch the brain muscles a bit.
    My weaknesses are easy to catalog; though I have no aversion to the classics, I find my tastes run toward 'modern' (say 1971 - present) films. My knowledge of Foreign Film is kinda weak. (Probably more extensive than Joe Moviegoer, but sorely lacking when compared to the more open-minded movie animals.)
    What do I consider my strengths? Well, I know when a movie is sincere and I know when a movie is lazy spoon-fed crap. (At least by my definition, which I honestly believe is an objective and informed definition.) I'm kind of an expert on modern horror movies...a little. I'm a huge fan of dialogue; pure, sweet, funny, dry, passionate, angry, sarcastic, clever dialogue. I love kinetic, fast-paced action scenes - and if they're presented in a way that makes my toes tap, then I can forgive a whole LOT of other flaws. (Cases in point: Charlie's Angels, Armageddon)
    I have an odd passion for the work of character actors. There's just something very comfortable about seeing a Cary Elwes or a David Morse or a Bill Paxton in the background of any given movie.
    I love pregnant pauses, clever banter, sweeping flourishes of skillful cinematography, perfectly timed music cues, actors who display a palpable chemistry together, nasty gore, subtle symbolism, arcane in-jokes, and villains who turn good.
    I love spoofs, spy flicks, mob tales, period pieces, adventurous musicals, elaborate action scenes, twist endings, red herrings, sincere tearjerkers, wistful baseball finales, sidekicks, henchmen, space battles, love scenes, and trilogies.
    I dig directors on a comeback, actors on a hot streak, writers with balls, studios with vision, and audiences with patience.
    The truth is that I learn more with every new movie I see and every new commentary track I listen to. Plus I'm seeing Punch Drunk Love in about 8 hours, so I'm in a good mood...hence the rambling. [​IMG]
     
  6. Andy Olivera

    Andy Olivera Screenwriter

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    Era:
    Strength: 1980-Current
    Weakness: Silent-1960
    Genre:
    Strength: Horror, Thriller, Action
    Weakness: Musical, Western, Classic
    Production: Direction, Cinematography, Production Design (IOW, it's all about the visuals)
    I started out in Junior High, taking a college course on American Film History. Of course, I've always loved film, but this is where I began to understand it.
    In that class I saw the only Silent Era I ever plan on seeing. Quite simply, they bored the hell out of me; plus they all seemed to be 2+ hours in length. The music was always horrible and never seemed to compliment the action. I think that's what really destroyed my enjoyment. The framerate was either inconsistent or too fast and they all looked like crap. It's one of two genres that I have absolutely no interest in experiencing further.
    I haven't seen many pre-70s films and I'm very selective in choosing those I do see. I'm less selective in 70s cinema, but still don't see many. On the other side of the coin, I tend to see films from the 80s onward pretty much at random. Keep in mind, I don't rent or go to the cinema, so the only films I see now are those that I buy.
    Now, genres are my primary handicap. In any era, I steer toward horror and suspense. I think I prefer such films largely due to subject matter and the more interesting psychology that often comes with it. It's probably just me, but I find nothing more dull than "normal" or "typical" characters in everyday situations. Hence, my general dislike for comedies(the romantic variety in particular).
    Another draw toward the horror genre is the violence. I've said it before, but I'm fascinated by violence; both the psychology of it and the act itself. The only thing that I find more interesting is the psychology of fear, which often goes hand in hand with violence, anyway.
    My love of sci-fi isn't all the different from horror. The two genres can often be one and the same(fear, the unknown). Sci-fi also carries with it the potential for visuals that no other genre allows(visualization of the unknown or the unreal).
    Dramas are a mixed bag for me, and most classics fall into this category. I also find that the older the film, the less interesting it will be, in terms of drama.
    And my one most reviled film genre: musical. I'll never understand how this genre came to exist, let alone how it thrived for so long. Boring, tedious, and pointless are the best words I can use to describe what I've seen of the genre. The fact that they can't be taken seriously isn't the problem. God knows I've no problem with films that are to simply be enjoyed, but not for one moment can musicals be believed. Don't get me wrong, I love music and know its value as a storytelling device. A film with no dialogue - simply visuals, music, and a story to tell - is a great idea. However, having characters singing and dancing in order to tell the story is beyond ridiculous.
    I need tense situations, be it of the mindless action, the dramatic, or the comedic variety. Horror, thriller, and action movies are based on tense situations; in other genres, such situations are like an added bonus.
    Finally, the production. Every element of film revolves around the visuals, and that's precisely where I focus the vast majority of my attention. In a dialogue- or character-driven film, is the director using images to assist in telling the story, or is he relying solely on the dialogue? In a plot- or idea-driven film, is the director creating a character out of the images, or is he relying solely on the action? Those are the questions that seperate a good director from a great director.
    Production design is important, but it all comes down to the director and cinematographer. You can have an absolutely beautiful set, but if the director shoots it from the wrong angle, or the cinematographer lights it incorrectly it won't make a damn bit of difference.
    That, ladies and gentlemen, is my perspective on film. I hope that gives you some insight into my opinions(as if anyone pays attention to me, anyway), because it took me almost two hours to write it...
     
  7. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    First let me apologize that this is going to be what, but not why, cause I just don't have time to explain it right now. [​IMG]
    Era: I'm pretty well spread out, with a pretty good knowledge from 1915 to 1999 or so. From 2000 on, my son has kept me from going to the movies much, so I'm behind on some of the latest films.
    Genre Strengths: Comedy, Mystery, Musicals, Science Fiction, Children
    Genre Weaknesses: Horror (gore), Drama, Anime,
    Other strengths: Hitchcock, Wilder
     
  8. Jan H

    Jan H Cinematographer

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    I'm pretty knowledgeable about Kubrick and Woody Allen, and have become enamored with Billy Wilder films over the last couple of years. I'm not partial to any particular genre or type of film, but after looking over my DVD collection (300+), there are loads of war movies, westerns, and big costume dramas like Merchant/Ivory films and their ilk. It seems like I have a ton of movies that were adapted from literature and the stage. I guess that makes sense since I'm an English and Drama teacher.
     
  9. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    My thanks for the replies. They are all very interesting. I knew for example, that in any situation, I am likely to take views opposite to Scott, even though when he states why he voted a certain way or held a certain view, his reasoning made complete sense.
    Rob’s love of photography explains a lot in his preferences (especially the exquisitely filmed LoA). As does Jan’s profession.
    I was fascinated reading Andy’s opus. Not for the content with which I agreed, but considering that with which I disagreed. For example, I love both the silent era and musicals (go figure [​IMG]). Having read Andy’s views, I would not try to persuade him that he was wrong and I was right. It’s just a difference in perspective.
    On the other hand, I might well try to get Andrew to watch The General or Battleship Potempkin. Of course Patrick would have already recommended Buster Keaton to Andrew, so I would probably just be in agreement.
    I could never figure out why I tend to agree with George in certain areas, but thought that he was so wrong in others—but now its clear—if you are not a fan of ‘drama’, then those I like will not likely appeal to him, no matter the discussion as to the merits of the film. Which does not mean that I’d not make the argument.
    My thanks again. Very interesting.
     
  10. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

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    Well I've always had a weakness for Science Fiction movies, good or bad, at last count I had over 300 SF films on tape/DVD. And I have more SF books than any other genre in my collection.

    Other favorite movie genres include Horror(pre-1980), Westerns, War films and animation particularly Japanese.

    European Cinema is my least favorite genre, my foreign film collection is made up almost entirely of HK fantasy/action and Japanimation.
     
  11. SteveGon

    SteveGon Executive Producer

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    I'll keep this short:
    Weaknesses: musicals and silents. Don't care for the former all that much and I'm working on the latter. [​IMG]
    Other than that, I'm fairly familiar with all genres, from all time periods. I'll watch anything as long as it's good!
     
  12. george kaplan

    george kaplan Executive Producer

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    Which is of course a big genre. Also I called it a weakness, which means I'm ignorant, more than it means I don't like some of it. To be more specific, I don't like 'soap operas' or other overly melodramatic films, and all other things being equal, really sad films don't usually get me interested in a second viewing.

    On the other hand, just to be clear, there are a lot of dramas I do like, although, perhaps some of these fit into other genres as well. For example:

    M
    The Ten Commandments
    The Bell's of St. Marys
    Stalag 17
    To Have & Have Not
    Lifeboat
    Rain Man
    Breakfast at Tiffany's
    Cool Hand Luke
    City of Angels
    The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
    Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
    The Firm
    Braveheart
    The Green Mile
    Key Largo
    All the President's Men
    The Graduate
    An Affair to Remember
    12 Angry Men
    Seven Days in May
    Casablanca
    An Officer & a Gentleman
    The Godfather
    Anatomy of a Murder
    Forrest Gump
    Rocky
    What Dreams May Come
    Rocky 2
    The Manchurian Candidate
    Roots
    Cast Away
    The Godfather, Part 2
    The Godfather, Part 3
    The Shop Around the Corner
    Citizen Kane
    The Breakfast Club
    A Few Good Men
    Wargames
    Open City
    Scrooge
    It's a Wonderful Life

    I own all of these, but still drama makes up a very small part of my collection.
     
  13. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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  14. Scott Weinberg

    Scott Weinberg Lead Actor

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    [​IMG]
     
  15. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    Actually when I reconsider what I wrote, I probably have the same views as you, Scott (because I really like and respect and usually share your analysis). I just come to a different conclusion.

    And the reason (I believe) that I come to a different conclusion, is largely due to the fact that my background is different than yours.

    Does this make sense? It does to me when I write, but I’m not sure that its clear to the reader.
     
  16. Louis C

    Louis C Supporting Actor

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    I am probably what you'd call the opposite of a 'movie snob' (with apologies to Rain). I understand the medium quite well, but my aim is first and foremost to ENJOY what I am watching. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate a disturbing or 'thought-provoking' movie, but it has to have some compelling entertainment value. "Fight Club" and "American Beauty" were well crafted, although both tended to veer away from basic requirements for 'entertainment'. Good acting and cinematography can make up for it to a point, but even all the great acting in "Pulp Fiction" and great cinematography in "A Perfect Storm" couldn't bring me to like those movies.

    I tend to like mainstream movies ("The Godfather," "Raiders of the Lost Ark," "The Terminator," "The Matrix," "Groundhog Day" "Back to the Future" etc.) but also quite a number of B movies most people in HTF would turn up their noses at ("The Delta Force," "Passenger 57," "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," "Airplane!")and a few off the beaten path films such as "Cinema Paradiso," "Three Kings" "Eye of the Needle," "The Other Side of Midnight" (anyone remember THAT one?), and "Somewhere in Time." Some I am still waiting to appear on DVD.

    Anyone remember "Midnight Run"? Now that was an entertaining movie. Funny, inventive, and great characters - AND a good plot. "Three Kings", although more serious, also had these critical elements.

    I'm not a big western fan but I do enjoy all the Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns and an occasional John Wayne pic, and the Dirty Harry series (which are really modern time westerns).

    I like most movie forms, but don't care much for silent films or musicals (sorry, "Moulin Rouge" is not on my buy list). I do like movies with a great music track though. "Shrek" has one of the best music tracks of any movie I've seen in many years.
     

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