Hopefully this doesn’t come as a big surprise to many.
I like to go see the movies that seem to be Oscar-worthy. Quality over quantity, waste of time/money/both - whatever you wanna call it: I like good movies. I think the majority of movies that make it to the big screen are shit: shit that somehow is supposed to and often does (sadly) make money.
What makes a movie good? In my mind (and Aristotle’s, Robert McKee’s, Syd Field’s):
- Plot is the most important element.
That means the writing is damn good. You can’t make a good movie from bad writing, says McKee (and you can still make a bad one from good writing). If you want more on plot, read his book “Story” - AKA the Bible of screenwriters.
- Characters, acting is solid.
We’ve all seen it: good acting vs. bad. Those roles where you lose the actor for the character (Heath Ledger’s Joker, Dustin Hoffman’s Rainman, Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper’s Silver Linings, Matt McConnaughey in Buyer’s and True Detective, Marlon Brando’s Godfather, Daniel Day Lewis’s everything - to name a few).
Lay up on the CGI, show us you know how to use a camera, and do some cool shit that adds to the story and doesn’t take away from it. Sometimes it’s just showing us a new angle on the room, like a good photographer does from the corner of a run-down apartment. Draw emotion from still life; and know how to capture it when it’s going 95 on the freeway.
- Be original
There are only a few sequels and prequels that really pulled it off: Empire, Toy Story, Godfather (2!), Crusade, and - that’s about it. Do something new.
- The indescribable
Art is more a feeling than a science. Ask any artist. Ask them the “why” of whatever they are doing: if they are really hitting something, some mystery, they will be more wordless than wordy. There’s a beauty that becomes a wisdom that “knows it doesn’t know”; there’s a catharsis that comes when you just “did good,” and find the audience and yourself with your jaw open at the end, chills down your spine, and the like.
Rather than the whole “throw poop at a canvas and call it art” argument. We know what we are doing, but we don’t.
Don’t expect anyone but the artists to understand that.
You just gotta feel it. And sometimes some will and others won’t. “You can’t please everyone…” - (Lincoln) Art is that objective and subjective thing that philosophers like to debate until Kingdom come.
Make me feel something I ain’t never felt! (That’s what she said.)
- Tell the truth.
Don’t shy away. Don’t hold back. Set us free, make us uncomfortable, hit our heartstrings and pull - hard! Address the difficult things in life no one wants to see.
On that note…
My pick is Spotlight. I saw it as an advanced showing thanks to my buddy Glenn Allen. I saw the Chancellor for the Diocese in the rows further back. I grew up in the Church, still am Catholic to some degree (that’s where I found my “somethin/One else”), was a seminarian for seven years.
The best and worst people I ever met were priests. The most judgmental people I ever met were church people - why I go late and leave early when I do go to Mass.
This movie doesn’t just tell the tale of liberation, it’s just fucking well made. Keaton and Ruffalo, McAdams kick ass. The writing is superb, the pace, the impact, the ending. As Mark Twain says, there’s one right way to tell a story: they did that one.
It’s one of those “leave the theater without speaking” movies. Like Amercian Sniper.
Another reason why it should really win: because it's about exposing a bunch of fucking chi-mos!
Why it might not win? Because it's about exposing a bunch of fucking chi-mos.
Why religious are the worst kind ("The corruption of the best is the worst." - Cicero): because they (used to be) so easily trusted.
Let Me Bitch A Little
Revenant was good for Leo’s I’m-gonna-die-trying-to-get-this-goddam-piece-of-medal; and he’ll get it. But the CGI bear, wolves, and buffalo? I got really emotional over the portrayal of the injustice towards the Native Americans, and some of the cinematography was to die for.
But not better than…
It just seemed a little “eh.”
I have Redbox’s Straight Outta Compton in my DVD player to watch tonight. I’ll post about it if it tops Spotlight. Yeah.
The Big Short was amazing; so was Jobs. Just not better than.
I didn’t watch the others. Sue me.