Tuesday, September 8, 2009

What makes a movie good?

There are some people who will swear on a stack of bibles or bet their house, or whatever, on the fact that someone's opinion is the truth. If that person says something is so, then it is so. This is an issue of credibility and authority and what the believer really means is that they agree with the other person. They share an opinion but their agreement does not make the thing on which they concur, fact.

I want to focus my attention, and I could have picked anything, on movies. Recently I had the opportunity to watch a number of movies over a relatively short period of time. Ordinarily I can squeeze in one movie a week, maybe two if I can survive the sleepys which hit me around 10pm each night. Over the past seven weeks I've probably watched around 30 films. There were a few good ones, four out of five on my ratings scale, but most were pretty average and some were just bad. According to me.

A question arose in my thinking: what makes a good movie? Are there any objective criteria by which you can measure the value of a film? Surely, it's all a matter of opinion. Whichever way you look at it, whatever measure you use, in the end it's still entirely subjective.

Is the acting convincing? Is the script realistic? Is it clever? Is the plot interesting?Is it believable? Is the cinematography of a high standard? The sound? The music? The special effects? The idea, the concept? Does it work at different levels? Does it have both style and substance? Opinions. That's all.

What makes a film good? It's a personal thing. If you like it, it's good. If you don't, it sucks. If you like a movie you can talk about any of those things in the previous paragraph as reasons why you think the film is good but in reality it is some enigmatic combination of components which strikes a chord with you. It makes you feel something. There has to be some sort of emotional connection to the film, especially with the characters.

If you feel something as a result of watching the film, then it doesn't really matter what other people think. Not alleged movie experts nor your friends. You like it because it moved you in some way; scared you, inspired you, disturbed you, saddened you or made you laugh. Empathy with the characters is the ultimate criteria. Not the Academy awards, not the IMDB rankings, not the mega bucks it made, or didn't make, at the box office, nor how many of your friends like it.

You like it because you like it. You have an opinion. It's not fact. Ben Hur is my favourite movie. It won a cabinet full of Oscars including best picture but that doesn't mean it's a good film. Millions of people have seen it but they doesn't make it good. Even if ninety percent of them liked it, it's still only their opinion. The saying 'it's bigger than Ben Hur' entered our collective lexicon to say how awesome and amazing something is but that doesn't mean Ben Hur is a good film.

Apart from the scale of Ben Hur, the history and the terrific saga of the lead character played by Charlton Heston, I love this film because of the way it portrays Jesus Christ. Now if you're not into Jesus like I am, then that probably means nothing to you and that is my point.

Discussing movies is fun, and so is reading reviews and lists but let's remember that we aren't dealing with facts, no matter how many people may otherwise assert.

What's your favourite kind of movie?
Romantic Comedy
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