What is the essence of a successful movie?

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Stephen_L, Oct 27, 2003.

  1. Stephen_L

    Stephen_L Supporting Actor

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    I'm not talking box office or awards. Reading how people worship certain films while disliking others and seeing how often those opinions differ from my own, I did a thought experiment. What is the bare minimum a film must possess for you to like it? Is it story, performance, plot, character, surprise, fun?

    Thinking about it I realized that any film I like must have a character(s) I care about. Many of my favorite films are little more than time spent with interesting people. (I guess this is a combination of good writing and performance) Plot, story, suspense, cinematography, and visuals are all great but ultimately unnecessary. Some examples of 'two hours spent with interesting people'

    Tender Mercies
    A Trip to Bountiful
    Tin Men
    Say Anything

    Many folks I mention these films to, find them 'dull' and 'slow'. Clearly they look for something else in film. What element of a film MUST be there for the film to be a success with you?
     
  2. Derek S

    Derek S Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree, a character is a big thing for me...my wife always asks me about a movie "what is it about?" and i know the movie is good when i have a tough time telling her what it is about...like Rushmore...or, and i have a flame suit on, Forrest Gump. i love that movie, i know it is very far fetched and all that but the charater is just a great character. kind of what all humans could be if they tried a tad harder...

    i have never been to aware of pacing, i hear people talk about this all the time. i guess i am just unaware of it...maybe i am a "bad" movie watcher?

    the plot is kind of important if say the movie is indiana jones....or T3. then i want it to make a little sense...at least keep me interested for 2 hours...which they both did.

    some of my fav characters

    Forrest Gump
    Max Fischer
    Barry Eagan
    Leonard Shelby
    Don Logan
    Tyler Durden
    the whole Tennebaum family
     
  3. Jack Shappa

    Jack Shappa Second Unit

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    Boobies.

    - Cryo
     
  4. Seth--L

    Seth--L Screenwriter

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    WHAT? He's purposely a one dimensional character that will follow any orders without question, completely blindly. He's the kind of citizen that Hitler loved. The film has all these famous civil rights moments where all he does is observe because he is definitely not the kind of person that would rightfully question authority and protest something like segregation. He just goes with the flow, and the country changes because of people that had the courage not to do what they were told and weren't afraid to challenge the status-quo.

    So basically all humans would be better people if they just went with the flow more often and never asked questions?
     
  5. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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  6. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    Forrest Gump is somebody to see the world THROUGH. He's one-dimensional, sure. But he's also a charcter through which we can see events we are already familiar with in new and interesting ways. And he experinces so much damn stuff it's not even funny. That's entertaining. We are getting new perspectives. And although he's not a complex character, he is a well-drawn one. We can identify with him for various reasons (we know someone like him, we are like him, we were like him as kids, or simply because he's well drawn).

    But as far as the single element in a film that's most important, it's character, by a country mile. Story is not very important. Lost in Translation has hardly any story whatsoever (they meet and become friends), but the greatness in that film is spending time with extremely cool characters. Not to mention having an awesome atmosphere. Of course, technical aspects are exremely important, too. Film is a visual medium and should be visually creative. You can't make a great, dynamic film and have it all be static shots and shitty music. That simply won't fly. You need sweet cinematography and writing and directing. Another very important element is editing. Editing is the only element of film that's not derived from another art form. (Writing is from books, acting is from theatre, etc etc). Editing is something purely cinematic. That's why I love Scorsese's movies. He takes the time to have not only cool everything else, but cool editing. Oliver Stone's stuff was awesome too, up until '96 or so. But if I had to boil it all down to one element of film, it would definitely be character development, without a doubt.

    Interesting thread. Let's keep it going!
     
  7. Scott Calvert

    Scott Calvert Supporting Actor

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    Howard Hawks said the formula for a good movie was simply as follows:

    Three great scenes, and no bad ones.
     
  8. Charles Coates

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    Look...if you like the movie, then its successful. Thats all it takes!
     
  9. Jeff Engel

    Jeff Engel Stunt Coordinator

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    I agree with Charles; each movie that I like, I like on different merits. In one movie it might be the story that drew me in, the next the scenery, the next the plot..interesting characters, witty dialogue, 'moving music'. For me it takes only one good reason to like a movie. And as long as I am entertained I like the movie. I'm pretty easy to pleae when it comes to movie time.

    The ones I dislike have no redeeming qualities...ie Freddie Got Fingered and the like. Grrr, 2hours I'll never get back.
     
  10. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    Why is it we are so obsessed with quantifying the organic and intangible? Must we deconstruct an everchanging synthesis by vivisecting the texts our hearts most closely adhere to? To single out one element and quantify the porportions of all the other elements in relation to that one is too far in the rigours of academic pompousity for me.

    Film, literature, music etc all encapsulate aspects of Story. And you can't really quantify why it is I place a capital on that word either; Story is Story, it's part of the mythmaking capability (and the primal desire to make them) of mankind. Story is something that is bigger than any one community of humans, and when a teller manages to tap into it we find that it reflects us. Sometimes it is intimate and personal, something only those few people that belong to a narrow and like-minded community will appreciate, other times it is reflective of something deeper--more visceral--that transcends the barriers we have erected to keep humans separated from one another. Is this to say that the intimate story is somehow lesser than the grand story? No, it's not; but we should also remember and respect that some people belong to communities whose values are diametrical to ours, yet are still completely valid.

    There are a lot of elements that make up Story that others have mentioned: mileau, character, idea, event, cinematography, dialogue, direction, editing, acting, pacing, philosophy, plot etc. But these are tools the teller uses to craft his story; they are the means to an end, not the end in and of themselves. We all adhere to different elements for different reasons, all of which are equally valid, but we can often find that a film which has nothing we would normally value or admire to transcend our normal biases yet still speaks to us on an unexpected level.

    The essence of a successful movie is a movie that taps into the vast primal pool of collective Story just enough to reach one person and connect to them, speak to them, thrill them, entertain them, or any of many other possibilities.

    You can click the link in my sig to see movies that have been incredibly successful at reaching me.

    Adam
     
  11. Stephen_L

    Stephen_L Supporting Actor

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    Nathan, the film "Lost in Translastion" was the movie that stimulated this line of thought. I really loved it, drove into the city a couple extra times just to see it again. Yet I was hesitant to recommend it to my coworkers. "Lost" has very little plot or story; it is little more than two interesting people meeting each other. It is a simple story of friendship and reasseassing your life that moved me greatly, but I was sure most of my friends would not 'get it' and would find it slow.

    All the comments about the importance of story, etc. are true but I've discovered that no matter how splendid the story, dazzling the visuals and music, or meaningful the themes, if there isn't one character I really care about on screen then the film doesn't work for me.

    Seth, I disagree strongly with your negative response to Forrest Gump. He is simple minded, but he is a man who clings to some simple (and admirable) ideals. Though he states his philosophy in trite aphorisms, he lives their ideals. Be committed to the folks you love. It doesn't matter what your talents are, just what you do with them. Never be quick to take offense. Treat everyone with respect. And never let anyone abuse the people you love.
     
  12. Dick

    Dick Producer
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    Yeah, opinions about movies are 99% subjective. When it comes to actors and their performances, musical scores, etc. there is rarely going to be agreement, because we have all been brought up exposed to different things, and have different values. So all these hundreds of "greatest" lists that magazines and t.v. entertainment programs love to develop in order to sell copies/time are largely bullshit. When have you ever agreed with even half of what is on those lists? As said earlier in this thread, if YOU consider a movie "great," then it's great, and no one else's opinion means diddly... not even Ebert's.
     
  13. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    I'm aware that movie opinions are subjective. Everything is. What's being discussed is what we, as individuals, think makes films great, simply for the sake of curiosity and perhaps to find different ways to approach film as art. As you said, Dick, we all have different opinions because we have different life experiences. But when I look at other people's top 10 lists or best-of-the-year lists, particularly that of film reviewers and HTF members, they are very similar. There must be something that many people find to make a film great, since they often choose the same films. Take Lord of the Rings, for instance. Everybody likes it, for different superficial reasons. The question is, is there some underlying reason that people unconsciously have for believing movies are great?

    As important as story is, it most definitely isn't essential in most art forms, least of all film. It isn't terribly neccessary in books (who reads Don Delillo for plot?), but films like Lost in Translation and the Royal Tenenbaums completely debunk the story theory. The question that drives those films is not "what's going to happen?" It's "oh these characters are fascinating. Let's spend more time with them!" I still think character development is the driving element in film.
     
  14. Stevan Lay

    Stevan Lay Second Unit

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    I know this may sound silly but the true mark that a movie has become successful is when The Simpsons does a parody of it in one of their episodes. [​IMG]
     
  15. Dome Vongvises

    Dome Vongvises Lead Actor

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    I think Steven Lay is onto something. [​IMG]
     
  16. Kenneth English

    Kenneth English Second Unit

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    The #1 most important requirement for any great movie is interesting characters. They don't even have to be sympathetic or likeable as long as they're people I want to know more about. Give me characters who are sufficiently three dimensional and I'll watch them have dinner and be entertained (see My Dinner With Andre). All other considerations -- plot, music, photography, etc -- are secondary (and often unnecessary).

    Oh yeah, and also

     
  17. Clay-F

    Clay-F Stunt Coordinator

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    If I like it, then it is successful....

    I liked Equilibrium, but many would not consider it successful.

    I define success in movies as entertainment.

    If I was entertained then its a success!
     
  18. Nathan V

    Nathan V Supporting Actor

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    I think the discussion was more along the lines of films, not movies. Hell, Crossroads is entertaining because its so friggin horrible.
     
  19. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    You're missing my point about story. You're attaching story to linear, focused narrative and plot, and I'm referring to story in a grander scheme. Lost in Translation is full of story, the story is about the development of the friendship and growth of these two people. It's a wonderful, enchanting and touching story about character.
     
  20. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer
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    I think a movie or film -however you want to designate it- has to be entertaining first. If the movie's subject matter is not presented in a way that captures the audience's attention then it has failed on a fundamental level. I disagree with the idea that a film that has interesting characters can dispense with plot, music, and photography.

    Even silent movies used musical accompaniment, because there was a realization that music -even unsychronized- heightens mood. Photography is fundamental to a good movie. The filmmaker can make the photography look amateurish and it can still be good photography. The maker understands the rules -and how to bend them- of good photographic composition. A film/movie that has truly amateurish photography loses a lot of impact.
     

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