Everyone who knows me a little, knows that I’m a huge movie buff. One of the things I’ve been trying to figure out for years now, is what makes a good movie, without involving personal opinion. Because you can absolutely love a bad movie (like anything Michael Bay) or hate a really good movie. Die Hard for example, while I definitely don’t hate it, isn’t all that great either, I think.
To determine if something is good or not, you need something objective. Look at the editing, the use of music, the writing, the photography and this whole wide array of other things. And this isn’t necessarily something you have to be a director or writer for. You don’t have to be a chef to recognize a bad meal either. So you did that analysis, and then what? You give it a score? But what does a 7.2/10 mean? IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes can, without a doubt, tell you something but it won’t guarantee you will like or dislike the movie. Western movies for example usually have lower scores on IMDB, so if you like those kind of movies, it won’t tell you anything, while series usually have higher ratings while there can be a huge difference of quality between and even within seasons. And how do you weigh those individuals aspects of a movie in that one score? You might have a movie with some reeeaaally good writing but absolutely atrocious everything else. Should that movie get a high score solely on the script? Or how about a technically superb flick but with an absolutely horrible plot? When you know that, it comes down to what you think is more important. That’s where Rotten Tomatoes does it a bit better, with the short consensus usually describing what’s good or bad about the movie which you can compare to your own preferences. If you want your dumb action, go for Michael Bay. You want some weird charm, watch Wes Anderson. You want to see the shadow of genius being reined in by studio producers? Any recent Tim Burton movie.
Personally, I love my comedies, a good music score and a sense of style. Movies where you can immediately go ‘ah, that’s that director’s movie’. People like Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino. And I do value a good plot over technical prowess, which is the main reason I’m not a huge fan of Avatar. An absolutely gorgeous movie, but the plot boils down to Ferngully 2: Dances with Pocahontas. It would be really difficult for me to choose my absolute favourite movie of all time if there wasn’t one which always makes me have frisson for days and makes me cry like a little baby. The meeting with the King of the Dead, when Pippin starts to sing “The Edge of Night”, Theoden’s speech, the charge of the Rohirrim, everyone kneeling before the Hobbits in Minas Tirith, Frodo’s goodbye at the Grey Havens, … There’s a darn good reason why Return of the King got 11 Oscars. So there you have it. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” is my number one movie.
There is no clear answer to the question ‘what makes a good movie’. And maybe it doesn’t matter. You like what you like. But there’s no doubt that some movies are better than others, regardless of personal taste. Like with many things, a good way to find out may be to talk about it with other people, who have other opinions. Why do they like the movie that you don’t? Where lays the difference exactly? If almost everyone agrees on a certain aspect, it’s probably true, like how Heath Ledger was the best part of “The Dark Knight” or that the second and fourth Harry Potter are the worst in the series, that Jim Carrey was absolutely great in “The Truman Show” despite his reputation as a goof, that sequels usually are worse (Toy Story 3 being a notable exception) and that “Beauty and the Beast” is the best Disney movie ever. Ok, maybe that one is a bit more debatable, but it’s picking one gem from a whole pile of them and I prefer my sapphires over rubies.
Dialogue is a great thing, because if you never talk to someone who differs from your views, you will never really learn a thing about yourself. If only you can do it with respect towards the other’s opinion, unlike many when talking about politics.
One day, I hope can make a blog post that doesn’t mention politics anywhere. A man can dream.
This blog was brought to you by: Howard Shore – Themes for Rohan