What makes a movie great?

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Is it Halloween or is Frightnight?

                 Since its Halloween, I thought we could discuss appropriate movies for the night. Upon researching the opinion of others, I’m shocked forthright by several top ten lists of Best Halloween Movies. Some advice, please bring some crackers because they’re all nothing less than cheesy. I mean, I did expect John Carpenter’s original Halloween to be in the running. But putting Creepshow and Friday the 13th in there is simply pathetic.
                I guess it all depends on what you’re going for, quick scares or quality acting pertaining to the actual day. I won’t go into the feeble scare aspect; you know who you are. Let simply touch upon what I’d consider adeptly relevant; the kind of movie where the plot holds a steady tangible course and the characters are relatable.
                At the top of my list (and what I plan to watch again this very night) is of course, Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow. Not only is Johnny Depp’s performance as Ichabod Crane superb, the movie takes us on an expedition between science and supernatural. It depicts the very spirit of Halloween to a point that even a skeptic of paranormal begins to reassess.
                Even the 1993 Hocus Pocus brings more to the sacrificial table in terms of seasonal quality. The inclusion of its characters humor only adds to the overall realism of its content. It delivers the traditional conjuring of witches on all hallow eve, though they are comically baffled by a modern world. It would be similar to the Addams Family.
                The last one I’ll mention here is 1988’s Lady in White, about a young boy that keeps seeing the ghost of a murdered girl, among many things. I guarantee it will keep at the edge of your seat. My wife goes through a roller coaster of emotions when she watches it, from tears to screams. It centers around Halloween, and the best part, no crackers are needed.

                There are so many decent movies more linked to this day; many are perhaps intended for kids, yet fitting for the entire family. By the way, the best Halloween movie for kids (and many adults) is no doubt It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Charles Shultz touched upon every kid memory of Halloween!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Great..and Powerful

In the wake of so many similar films, I’d like to give advice on what I feel makes a movie worth watching. Foremost, it should be fascinating; even if it’s a horror. Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. version of The Thing was a remarkable prequel that experimented with the notions of human trust and isolation.  Just as an actress refrains from nudity unless it is relevant to the storyline, so should blood and gore be limited. Secondly, the film should be enlightening. Why devote your precious time to something that isn’t going to change you. I know people with thousands of dvds in which only one of them is worth watching. My collection can be held in one hand. Movies like The Count of Monte Cristo  or The Time Machine  sensuality has so many moralities that they alter you.  A good film should impulsively change the viewer.
Recently, I again viewed the prequel Oz: The Great and Powerful. This is a film that has not received the acclaim it probably should have, perhaps because older fans were expecting more of Dorothy and younger fans wanted more magic. The fact is, there are many reasons Dorothy (and her Ruby Slippers) cannot be included in the films. Yes, I said films. There will be more coming, all taking place long before any Dorothy arrival. They will center on development of Oz and the three witches, which I find fascinating.
I’m not necessarily stating it was a great movie. However, people just don’t appreciate the small aspects of quality. Admittedly I did not care for James Franco as the Oz or for the comical relief of the Monkey. But these were more than compensated for by the presence of China Girl, who tied directly into concept of inanimate objects in need of something. Still, the small aspects I speak of are in the subtle lines. When the wicked Theodora puts her hand out and the Quadling’s broom floats to her, she says: “It was a broom that you wanted, wasn't it, Wizard?”

Not only was that great acting, but that single line (even though there were others) solidified the entire movie for me. You can’t hold it against someone for giving you what you actually wanted.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

What's the Idea?


It’s the idea and not the director that makes the movie. Has anyone notice the apparent decline in the works of Steven Spielberg.  It’s difficult to determine the success of the director by movie gross, simply because values change or the years. I would rather judge the accomplishment by recognition of the movie. According to sources like www.imdb.com Spielberg has won the AFI awards for best picture for the last three years. But as the Hollywood often states, it’s the Oscars that matter. In that category, he hasn't had a win since Saving Private Ryan in 1998. In a 20/20 interview he admitted that his movies were a continuous expression of his childhood ordeals. I think that he has great expression. But perhaps, he should develop a fresh concept to express.

Attesting to the apparent lack of originality is the lengthy list of remakes now in development, which includes everything from Annie to Weird Science.  In the exploratory of their details we tend to find that they are justified by the inclusion of an established director. But it’s no surprise when the Oscar for Best Originality goes to a relatively unknown director. The bottom line is that remakes are dependent upon one factor, fan nostalgia.

I’ll concede that like most things, creativity is highly opinionated. I’ll also admit that I finish with some movies and realize “what was I thinking?” But it’s usually because I was over crediting the talents abilities. First and foremost should be the plot. Is this an idea that still tethers on reality (which even sci-fi can do) yet takes us to a place we've never been; even within. This is a concept that the new movie Gravity promises, but I’m sure will eventually fail at. The best I see coming up would be Divergent.