The "thing" about modern films

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Christoffer

Puritan Board Sophomore
When I was growing up you could tell if a movie was great just by watching it. For example: Aliens, Terminator 2, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. I remember leaving the theatre after being blown away. It was easy to recognize the "thing" that made these movies great.

Nowadays, I need professional people to tell me if a movie is good. For example, I rented "The Hurt Locker" a couple of days ago. It has recieved 9 Oscar nominations or something. The cover was full of positive reviews from finnish newspapers.

I watched it, and sure there were some interesting scenes. But what was the "thing" about the movie? There wasn't so much spectacular action. Neither was there much tension. Nor was there much sad stuff.

What is it that I have I missed?

The same things is true of Quentin Tarantinos movies. I don't get them at all. Why are they great?

Does anyone else feel that movies are not what they used to be?

Is there some postmodern influence in moviemaking nowadays, that expects you to "see" (in some unexplainable way) the "thing"?
 

Matthew1034

Puritan Board Freshman
in my opinion, the "thing" about Tarantino's films is the way he presents the story. Scenes are revealed at certain times and then fully explained at a later point. This generates a lot of interest in the story and character development, and by the end of the movie your theories are answered in an unexpected fashion.
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
I actually thought The Hurt Locker was spectacular - easily one of the best movies I've seen in a few years. And I saw it before the hype.

I think these things are often more about personal taste than any sort of sweeping postmodernism. In fact, as far as the Oscars go, if you look at what won, I would say that postmodernism wasn't so much on the menu this year.
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
Didn't I also hear somewhere that some behind-the-scenes politicking actually lay behind the rise and rise of the Hurt Locker and the fall and fall of Avatar?? Or is that just what they always say about oscar winners?
I haven't seen either film, so I can't judge their relative (or absolute) merit.
The question of standards for judging films by is often tricky though. I try to judge them like I try to judge everything, by putting them alongside the Bible. Not many can hold up.... but if you apply "artistic" standards it's still a puzzler.
For eg, Citizen Kane is a bit of a joke in this house, because it so often used to be called the greatest film of all time, but the family reckoned if you hadn't heard that, you would never know!
feel free to rename me JennyP (for philistine)
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
Re: The Hurt Locker. I thought it was an unlikely pick for best picture, because it wasn't an anti-war film. I also though Avatar was an unlikely pick though, because it was just...so...unoriginal.
 

Wayne

Tempus faciendi, Domine.
My own assessment of the so-called critics: as a generality, the more they laud a movie, the more likely that movie is to be unbiblical, ungodly, anti-Christian.

Chalk me up as another among the illiterati.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
People love Tarantino films because the violence if over the top. I mean like on ridiculous levels. My wife and I went to see Iglourious Basterds when it first came out and the movie was pretty good, except it had some violent scenes that I actually had to turn away from. As disturbing as it may sound, those types of scenes are what other people love.

As for this year's films, I think it was a down year all-around. While I have yet to see The Hurt Locker, all the other films on the best picture list this last year were just so-so films for me. I have seen District 9, Precious, Up, Up in the Air, The Blindside, and Inglourious Basterds. The only other film that I would probably watch off the list is the Hurt Locker and I'm not even too excited about it.

If you want to see a quality film, go back two years and watch the 2007 Best Picture Winner No Country for Old Men.

---------- Post added at 08:31 AM ---------- Previous post was at 08:27 AM ----------

My own assessment of the so-called critics: as a generality, the more they laud a movie, the more likely that movie is to be unbiblical, ungodly, anti-Christian.

Chalk me up as another among the illiterati.

This is actually not true. Critics love Pixar films and The Blindside was a blatantly Christian film and critics loved it. The Blindside and UP were both best picture nominees this year. Just a few years back The Lord of the Rings films received nominations/awards out the wazoo and were regarded by critics as some of the best movies to come out in a long time.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Christoffer said:
I watched it, and sure there were some interesting scenes. But what was the "thing" about the movie? There wasn't so much spectacular action. Neither was there much tension. Nor was there much sad stuff.

Some of it will depend on what you are looking for and how well you understand and read cinematic language. Films say things to me that they wouldn't to someone who hasn't made a point of studying filmmaking techniques and devices--it's like reading literature.

Many times, it isn't the story that makes a film great: can anyone really say that the plot of Casablanca is all that great? Yet the way it is told and the way the actors portray their characters is incredibly compelling cinematically.

Very often I can't point to a single "thing" that made a film good because there wasn't just one, but a group of elements that came together to produce a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.
 

JennyG

Puritan Board Graduate
Re: The Hurt Locker. I thought it was an unlikely pick for best picture, because it wasn't an anti-war film. I also though Avatar was an unlikely pick though, because it was just...so...unoriginal.
One of my kids told me the other day she and a friend got hold of an old video of "Fern Gully" and watched it for fun, the way students do - on the box someone had written "I saw this movie in the cinema last week, only they were calling it 'Avatar' "
That will only make sense if you actually remember "Fern Gully" of course
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Wayne said:
My own assessment of the so-called critics: as a generality, the more they laud a movie, the more likely that movie is to be unbiblical, ungodly, anti-Christian.

Chalk me up as another among the illiterati.

Try Roger Ebert or the American Film Institute for some (generally) more wholesome recommendations.
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
Andrew, have you seen Up? I think you'd really like it. It is technically a children's film, but I think there's a lot in there for adults too.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
Andrew, have you seen Up? I think you'd really like it. It is technically a children's film, but I think there's a lot in there for adults too.

Yes, I thought it was very good, so perhaps I underrated it in my previous comments, but I still don't know if it was "Best Picture" worthy. It was easily the best one I saw out the other nominees. I'll rank them in order. (Remember I still haven't seen Avatar, Hurt Locker, An Education, or A Serious Man)
1. Up
2. Precious
3. District 9
4. The Blindside
5. Inglourious Basterds
6. Up in the Air (this one was really overrated. It was boring and slow-moving. A better movie about relationships that recently came out is "Everybody's Fine")
 

Blue Tick

Puritan Board Graduate
When I was growing up you could tell if a movie was great just by watching it. For example: Aliens, Terminator 2, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. I remember leaving the theatre after being blown away. It was easy to recognize the "thing" that made these movies great.

Nowadays, I need professional people to tell me if a movie is good. For example, I rented "The Hurt Locker" a couple of days ago. It has recieved 9 Oscar nominations or something. The cover was full of positive reviews from finnish newspapers.

I watched it, and sure there were some interesting scenes. But what was the "thing" about the movie? There wasn't so much spectacular action. Neither was there much tension. Nor was there much sad stuff.

What is it that I have I missed?

The same things is true of Quentin Tarantinos movies. I don't get them at all. Why are they great?

Does anyone else feel that movies are not what they used to be?

Is there some postmodern influence in moviemaking nowadays, that expects you to "see" (in some unexplainable way) the "thing"?

I think it's age and maturity. When we're younger movies appear to be magical and mystical. As we get older spiritually and mentally it's easier to see through the "make believe" world of movies.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
People love Tarantino films because the violence if over the top. I mean like on ridiculous levels.

I don't think that's accurate at all. People love Tarantino films because he's such a brilliant and unique story-teller. You are right about there being a lot of violence, but that's not why QT is such a respected film-maker. His films are loved for the character development, directing style, dialog, and homage to cinema history.
 

JumpingUpandDown

Puritan Board Freshman
ditto Tripel,
QT is one of the best film-makers out there and I think Pulp Fiction was his best, it's a movie I could watch over and over, though I won't ever watch it again as I can't watch the filth it's littered with.

M. Night Shyamalan is also a brilliant film-maker and he's won several awards, sans filth.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
People love Tarantino films because the violence if over the top. I mean like on ridiculous levels.

I don't think that's accurate at all. People love Tarantino films because he's such a brilliant and unique story-teller. You are right about there being a lot of violence, but that's not why QT is such a respected film-maker. His films are loved for the character development, directing style, dialog, and homage to cinema history.

Well then will have to agree to disagree. Perhaps this is not why you enjoy his films, but I maintain he would not be nearly as popular if not for his penchant for over-the-top violence and gore. Name me one of his movies that don't have it. Excessive violence is his trademark and Tarantino himself agrees with me. Here are some quotes from an article about him:

The writer and director said "violence is so good" because it is the most enjoyable form of entertainment, adding that what he wants to see at the cinema is a man "bleeding like a stuck pig".
“If a guy gets shot in the stomach and he's bleeding like a stuck pig then that's what I want to see — not a man with a stomach ache and a little red dot on his belly.”

The director said that violence was the best form of cinema entertainment. “In general cinema, that's the biggest attraction. I'm a big fan of action and violence in cinema,” he said.

Quentin Tarantino: violence is the best way to control an audience
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
The certain "something" that makes a movie great is a storyline about a godly quality we all ache for, whether or not we recognize it as godly and regardless of whether the movie makes it overtly godly. Examples would be justice, friendship, love, forgiveness, victory over evil, etc. Any of these themes make a moive at least somewhat "redemptive." Put them together with expert storytelling (character development, pacing, suspense, subtlety, good acting) and you have a great movie.

Such movies always have popular appeal, because we all inwardly yearn for what is redemptive. So why do non-Christian critics often prefer movies that shun these conventions? My theory is they see so many movies they get bored and cynical. They begin to recognize that all these Christ-less yet "redemptive" movies, though they begin to stir the heart, are ultimately not enough. And since these critics don't know Christ, who is enough, they finally conclude that cynicism is more real and somehow deeper.
 

greenbaggins

Administrator
Staff member
I think a point needs to be made vis-a-vis Neil Postman's book Amusing Ourselves to Death. Movies used to be dialogue-driven. Now they are visuals-driven. I think movies have suffered as a result. Great visuals are not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone loves to be wowed by such things. But for me, without the dialogue (and, I might add, the music), the film communicates nothing. One might profitably compare the Wonderworks Narnia films with the modern "Narnia" films. The Wonderworks films had quite a few limitations (I hated the stupid animations, the lackluster sword-fighting, the ridiculous Aslan, and the over-acted Lucy). However, the dialogue was infinitely superior to the dumbed-down tripe of the modern movies. Also, Enya does not fit Narnia nearly as well as the more classical music of the Wonderworks films. A film that does not have intelligent dialogue will not hold one's attention for more than one viewing. If one could only have the visuals of the new movie with the dialogue and music of the old movies! Then one might have a Narnia worth remembering. I guess this is one reason I liked West Wing so much: the dialogue was very full, even machine-gun-like. Hated the politics, but the show was excellent.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
As far as the OP post goes, I didn't see "The Hurt Locker" until after the academy awards because it didn't look interesting. I said well if it won all these awards it must be something to it. I was happily surprised by it though. I was in the Air Force for 4 years so I can kind of relate, even though I never went to war. I think the story was an unpolitical look at what war can do to some people so in a sense it is psychologicaly driven. Also I loved how sort of cheaply it looked kind of documentary looking. It lended real well to the realism of the movie. But that is just my opinion. My favorate movie of all time is "Casablanca" though so no modern film in my opinion can top that.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
People love Tarantino films because the violence if over the top. I mean like on ridiculous levels.

I don't think that's accurate at all. People love Tarantino films because he's such a brilliant and unique story-teller. You are right about there being a lot of violence, but that's not why QT is such a respected film-maker. His films are loved for the character development, directing style, dialog, and homage to cinema history.

Well then will have to agree to disagree. Perhaps this is not why you enjoy his films, but I maintain he would not be nearly as popular if not for his penchant for over-the-top violence and gore. Name me one of his movies that don't have it. Excessive violence is his trademark and Tarantino himself agrees with me.

Andrew, I'm not denying that violence is a trademark of his, though Deathproof had minimal violence and Jackie Brown was fairly tame in that regard. Some of his movies ARE indeed very violent , but the violence is not what makes him so popular. There is a HOST of film-makers who use over-the-top violence, and it is no guarantee of popularity. I wasn't looking to start up a debate with you about this, only to point out that Tarantino's film success is due to much more than blood and gore.
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
Movies used to be dialogue-driven. Now they are visuals-driven.

A film that does not have intelligent dialogue will not hold one's attention for more than one viewing.

And exactly why again is The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly considered a classic? The fact is that the language of cinema is inherently visual. Citizen Kane is a great film not because of its screenplay (though it is a good one) or even because of the acting, but because of the way it is filmed. Every scene is put together in a very deliberate way--everything has a purpose.

And what about silent films, like Intolerance, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or Modern Times? Film is and has always been a very visual medium.
 

Tripel

Puritan Board Senior
When I was growing up you could tell if a movie was great just by watching it. For example: Aliens, Terminator 2, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. I remember leaving the theatre after being blown away. It was easy to recognize the "thing" that made these movies great.

Nowadays, I need professional people to tell me if a movie is good. For example, I rented "The Hurt Locker" a couple of days ago. It has recieved 9 Oscar nominations or something. The cover was full of positive reviews from finnish newspapers.

I watched it, and sure there were some interesting scenes. But what was the "thing" about the movie?

I don't think the "thing" you are looking for is any more absent or hidden than it has always been. The movies you mentioned above from previous decades were not big award winners, at least not by the Oscars. The kind of movies winning back then were Annie Hall, Terms of Endearment, Dances with Wolves, and The Last Emporer.
There's a huge difference between award winners and box office winners. The kind of movies you recall having the "thing" are box office winners. We still have plenty of those: Avatar, The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, The Departed, etc.
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
As far as the OP post goes, I didn't see "The Hurt Locker" until after the academy awards because it didn't look interesting. I said well if it won all these awards it must be something to it. I was happily surprised by it though. I was in the Air Force for 4 years so I can kind of relate, even though I never went to war. I think the story was an unpolitical look at what war can do to some people so in a sense it is psychologicaly driven. Also I loved how sort of cheaply it looked kind of documentary looking. It lended real well to the realism of the movie. But that is just my opinion. My favorate movie of all time is "Casablanca" though so no modern film in my opinion can top that.

That's exactly what I liked about the film as well. I'm not a veteran, but it seemed to square with my relatives' experiences of war.
 

Andres

Puritan Board Doctor
When I was growing up you could tell if a movie was great just by watching it. For example: Aliens, Terminator 2, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. I remember leaving the theatre after being blown away. It was easy to recognize the "thing" that made these movies great.

Nowadays, I need professional people to tell me if a movie is good. For example, I rented "The Hurt Locker" a couple of days ago. It has recieved 9 Oscar nominations or something. The cover was full of positive reviews from finnish newspapers.

I watched it, and sure there were some interesting scenes. But what was the "thing" about the movie?

I don't think the "thing" you are looking for is any more absent or hidden than it has always been. The movies you mentioned above from previous decades were not big award winners, at least not by the Oscars. The kind of movies winning back then were Annie Hall, Terms of Endearment, Dances with Wolves, and The Last Emporer.
There's a huge difference between award winners and box office winners. The kind of movies you recall having the "thing" are box office winners. We still have plenty of those: Avatar, The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, The Departed, etc.

Actually those films you listed were huge award winners.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
What is it that I have I missed?

Why are they great?

The simple solution might be that they aren't. That critics like something; that it wins awards; that it does well or poorly at the box office; that it doesn't win awards; that critics don't like something. None of these are infallible indications of greatness. A film that tells a moving story well has an advantage, but many movies like that still fall flat.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
As far as the OP post goes, I didn't see "The Hurt Locker" until after the academy awards because it didn't look interesting. I said well if it won all these awards it must be something to it. I was happily surprised by it though. I was in the Air Force for 4 years so I can kind of relate, even though I never went to war. I think the story was an unpolitical look at what war can do to some people so in a sense it is psychologicaly driven. Also I loved how sort of cheaply it looked kind of documentary looking. It lended real well to the realism of the movie. But that is just my opinion. My favorate movie of all time is "Casablanca" though so no modern film in my opinion can top that.

That's exactly what I liked about the film as well. I'm not a veteran, but it seemed to square with my relatives' experiences of war.
Yeah Montanablue, I thought it was an incredable movie. I met this guy who is married to an old friend of mine about 2 years ago. He came back from Iraq and he was all nervious and jumpy. Once he found out that I was in the service he kept wanting to talk to me about everything like I was the only one there who would get it, even though I was never in war. I felt very sorry for him and I tried to carry on the conversation for his sake as long as I could.
 

Galatians220

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is noble, whatever is of good report... think on these things. - Philippians 4:8.

I have been watching and evaluating movies for over 50 years, at least since I saw the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" in a second-run showing at a Saturday matinee. (Should NOT have seen that movie at age 8!) I'll bow out of this discussion after this post because I don't (generationally) belong here.

If a person leaves out every movie or most movies made before 1990, one is going to have a skewed idea of good, cinematic story-telling. I myself draw a movie demarcation line of "pre-1960" for cultural purposes and "pre-1938" for dress and subject-line purposes. (The Hays production code went into effect in 1938; prior to that, there was little censorship or control of costumes and of story outcomes. Subtle and not-so-subtle counterculture entered the movies big-time in the early 1960s.)

Being a lifelong movie buff, I've probably seen just about every four-star movie that's been made since the 1920s and tons of crummy ones, too. At this point, though, I find that I can no longer watch *great* movies that give a pass to adultery, romanticize violence, denigrate marriage, base themselves on special effects artistry (yawn), are otherwise anti- or abiblical, etc., etc. So many "good" and not-so-good movies do just that. There are very few movies in the subject 90-year span that get a clean bill of health in those areas. Not watching movies much at all anymore, I've gotten a lot of my time back, since I used to watch these things multiple times... Philippians 4:8 and much more in the Bible have claimed "the first and all succeeding rows" of my private movie theater, and I've no desire to unseat anything.

BTW, my nomination for worst "good" movie of all time is "M" (1931), starring Peter Lorre. Creepy, creepy film...

There. Okay, carry on! :)

Margaret
 

Christoffer

Puritan Board Sophomore
There's a huge difference between award winners and box office winners. The kind of movies you recall having the "thing" are box office winners. We still have plenty of those: Avatar, The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, The Departed, etc.

Good point. Though I seem to recall that the movies I mentioned were award winners too. Even so, there probably were movies around at that time that I wouldn't have "gotten" even thought they were awarded
 
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