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Woes of organizing movies

There is no fully satisfactory way to organize a film collection. No system ever works without compromises, exceptions, workarounds, and/or annoying logic gaps.

Alphabetical? Sure, it makes sense in theory, but drawbacks quickly become apparent when you think about it. Does it really make sense to put Batman Begins and The Dark Knight far away from one another on the shelf? Surely they belong together. What about foreign films? Take The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, for instance. That’s its translated English title, and the name I mostly know it as. In its original French, it’s called Le scaphandre et le papillon, which could be said to be its real name. On the Swedish DVD case I have, it’s titled Fjärilen i glaskupan. So do I put it under D, S, or F?

In the past, I’ve toyed with the idea of organizing my collection according to my numerical ratings. The films I love would be showcased up front and center on my shelves, with unfavored films hidden away down at floor-level. This is another idea that sounds good organization-wise, as I tend to instinctively remember what scores I’ve given to various films. Unfortunately, this too has the undesirable side effect of splitting up franchises. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is for my money among the very best action films ever made. While I do think that Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines gets way more hate than it deserves, it’s certainly not on the same level as T2. But they still ought to stand side by side in my collection. Box sets further complicates the system. I can’t split up the Alien Quadrilogy box even if I wanted to.

Chronological order? Nah. What with me mostly having films from this side of the millenium border, it’s not all that useful. Besides, do I go with US, international, or Swedish release dates? Plus, you still have the franchise-splitting problem.

The system I’ve used for the past few years is based on genres. My shelf space is divided into sections that are assigned different types of film: Action, comedy, dramedy/black comedy, drama, romance, horror, thriller, documentary. Everything has its spot. The benefits of this system are plentifold. Franchises can be kept together – for the most part. I can say “Hmm, I’m in an action mood today” and go to the action section to pick out something suitable. I can micromanage to my liking within the subsets as well, such as bunching together musicals in the comedy section, J-horror in the horror section, Jason Statham in the action section, and so on.

Even this is not perfect, though. The aforementioned Alien Quadrilogy rears its xenomorph head again, for instance, with Alien arguably being horror while Aliens is more action-y. Where do I put my Coens set consisting of Blood Simple (thriller), The Big Lebowski (comedy) and Barton Fink (what the hell is Barton Fink anyway?) Exceptions also have to be made due to my sorting tendencies. I want to keep Kevin Smith‘s View Askew films together, for instance, but while Chasing Amy is more of a dramedy or off-beat romantic comedy, Clerks II is more straight-up comedy in my mind.

Plus, you have the often troublesome task of determining genres of individual films. Is Ghostbusters primarily an action movie or a comedy? Is Let the Right One In horror, thriller, or romance? Is Man on the Moon a comedy or a dramedy, or simply a drama that’s funny by proxy due to the subject matter? What genre is Rashomon? What genre is Inglourious Basterds?

Oragnizing is tricky indeed. Maybe John Cusack in High Fidelity has the right idea:

How do you organize your movie collection?

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18 Comments

Posted by on 15 November, 2012 in Discussions, Misc.

 

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Disliking actors

It’s safe to say that actors get more attention than any other position involved with making a movie. People like Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Julia Roberts, Tom Cruise and so on are mega-celebrities, household names and constantly in the public eye. Those of us who are more into film than the average movie-goer can rattle off the names of this director or that screenwriter, but most people tend to focus on the actors. The Descendants isn’t “the new Alexander Payne film.” It’s “the new George Clooney film.” This line of thinking often seeps back to critics and bloggers in a way. I can only speak for myself (though I see this in the writings of many people), but I know I certainly spend some time in my reviews talking about the actors. He was great, she was awesome, this guy did the best work of his career, etcetera. Even a brief cameo can be worth mentioning. But when was the last time I talked about, say, the sound mix of a movie? I don’t think I ever have, which seems unfair. The sound of a movie is always present, affecting me from beginning to end. And yet I’ll still be more inclined to mention the performance of an actor with 15 minutes of total screentime. I don’t have any real reason for this, other than the fact that it’s an established way of thinking that I rarely reflect over.

Since the actors is what many people care the most about when they see a film, they get a lot of passionate support. Everyone has their favorites, whether they’re Ryan Gosling, Robert De Niro, Catherine Deneuve, Tilda Swinton, Humphrey Bogart or what have you. The ones that make you want to see everything they’ve ever been in, or whose mention in the opening credits always puts a smile on your face.

"No no no no no no no!"

But then there’s the other side of the coin: the actors you hate. They keep popping up in movies you see, and you’re never impressed by them. You find them distracting, boring, annoying, overbearing. You wonder how they keep getting work and why people would pay to see them. Whether they’re leading stars or supporting players, you wish they would just retire. Some oft-mentioned targets for derision nowadays seem to be Megan Fox, Michael Cera and Shia LaBeouf. Others have more unusual dislikes. For instance, a real life friend of mine thinks Peter O’Toole is pretty much the worst thing in the world. To each their own.

I try to maintain a positive attitude as much as I can when it comes to film. That’s not to say that I won’t point out stuff I don’t like, but I do try to focus on the good things. This goes for acting too, especially since acting is a two-man job. A great performance is the result of a collaboration between the actor and the director. The director needs to convey just what it is they want from the actor. Some director-actor pairings just don’t function, because the people work in ways that don’t gel. Time constraints during shooting can mean that there’s just not enough time to get that one really great take. There can be many factors at play, and a lackluster performance can not always be blamed solely on the actor. Actors are among the many tools a director uses to craft a film. Is the hammer to blame when a nail bends? Some actors can shine in anything. Others need the right project and motivation. That doesn’t mean that the latter group is bad at what they do.

All I need from an actor to convince me that they have talent is one good performance. No matter how many hum-drum rom-coms Kate Hudson stars in, I’ll always have Almost Famous to remind me of how good she can be. Adam Sandler can be in as many unfunny films as he likes, because Punch-Drunk Love still tells me he has real chops. And while I went a long time thinking that Keira Knightley was pretty much useless, that changed once I got around to seeing Atonement. Another example: Keanu Reeves. Often described as wooden and life-less, but what if he had stuck to comedies a la Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, a film many seem to like him in? He’d be much more loved today, I reckon. On a side-note, I thought he was pretty good in Thumbsucker too.

Anna Faris. Not one of my favorites.

As such, there are few actors I find unbearable. Few, but they’re there. Two examples stand particularly tall – or low. One is Orlando Bloom, who is just boring as all hell. Boring in Lord of the Rings, boring in Pirates of the Caribbean, boring in Troy, boring boring boring. The other is Anna Faris, a particularly annoying example as she happens to be in my favorite film Lost in Translation. Her effort there isn’t terrible, but then it boils down to nothing but a caricature of Cameron Diaz (would it be unfair to label her entire career as that?) with maybe 5 minutes of total screen-time. She tends to stick to comedies, despite the fact that she’s never funny or charming. Even when she ventures out of that comfort zone to try out different stuff, the results aren’t pretty. Evidence A: her turn in quirky horror film May, where she plays a seductress with a tone so disconnected from the rest of the movie. Highly jarring, and a blight on what is otherwise a very fine film.

That said, I’d be happy to be proven wrong about both Bloom and Faris. If you know of any great performances they’ve turned in somewhere, please let me know.

What actor(s) do you dislike?

 
16 Comments

Posted by on 22 March, 2012 in Discussions

 

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Which films of the 2000s will be remembered?

Which films of the last eleven years or so are the ones people will still talk about 20-30 years from now? I don’t just mean hardcore film buffs, because hardcore film buffs will take any excuse to talk about any movie. No, I mean the public at large. Which movies will be remembered and pop up in conversations even in the 2030s? Which films will be referenced? Which films will be the ones people know of even when they haven’t seen them?

This question is trickier than what it might seem at first glance. Any of us can rattle of a bunch of great films that have received critical approval and made good money at the box office. But consider movies of the 70s and 80s. How many are still talked about or remembered today? Not just by you and your circle of friends and acquintances, but the films that you could mention the title of to any random person on the street and they’d be able to tell you something about them. It’s probably not that many. I can think of a few. Jaws. Star Wars. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Karate Kid. Carrie. The Godfather. Back to the Future. The Terminator. The Exorcist. Nightmare on Elm Street. Rocky, though more the sequels than the original, probably. These are movies that have in one way or another entered the public consciousness.

Everyone knows what this is.

This question occurred to me during the last awards season, when I was looking up nominees for the acting Oscars through the years. What struck me was that while the name of the actors and actresses were familiar, the films they were nominated for didn’t ring any bells. And this wasn’t movies from ancient times or anything; just looking through the Best Actress nominations of the 1990s was enough to leave me confused. The End of the Affair? One True Thing? Afterglow? Marvin’s Room? Lorenzo’s Oil? What were all these films I’ve never heard of? In their respective years, there must have been lots of talk about and critical acclaim for them. But they haven’t stuck in people’s minds to any real degree. This caused me to realize that a similar fate would befall lots of the movies everyone was buzzing about at the time. As great as they are, who’s going to remember Winter’s Bone, 127 Hours or The Fighter 20 years from now?

So the question I ask is this: What films from 2000 to today do you think people at large will still mention or know of 25 years from now?

To me, the most obvious pick would be The Lord of the Rings. A massive undertaking that gave use three epic movies that will live on for a long time in people’s memories. Being based on well-known novels doesn’t hurt either as the films are far removed from them and doesn’t fall under their shadow. Compare this to Harry Potter. The films will live on, yes, but they arrived so close to the books that they won’t be standing on their own. The fact that the films haven’t had universal acclaim hurts their chances too.

But scoring big at the box office always helps. If the film made tons of money, it means lots of people went to see it. Avatar won’t be soon forgotten. It bested Titanic‘s money record (even if that’s likely to be toppled again as inflation continues) and also brought on the latest trend of 3D movies. We’re still feeling the effect that movie has had on the cinematic landscape. The Dark Knight is another big success story, though I think the love for it will morph into more of general adoration for Christopher Nolan‘s Batman trilogy as a whole once The Dark Knight Rises arrives. And probably Pirates of the Caribbean too, largely thanks to Johnny Depp‘s memorable Captain Jack Sparrow. Characters like that don’t come around too often.

Pixar’s animated films will of course all be remembered. The kids who see them today will keep them with them and probably show them to their own kids in the future. Which ones will be the stand-outs? Hard to say, but I think Finding Nemo and Toy Story 3 will be the big ones. Will any animated films from other studios stick with us? I can’t see any that really will. Maybe How to Train Your Dragon or Kung Fu Panda, but even those seem iffy. How many non-Disney animated films from the 70s and 80s do people talk about today?

Comedies can have an easier time then other genres. As long as they manage one or two gags that become really memetic, they can be set for eternity. More than any other from this past decade, Borat will probably live on for a long time. Everyone was quoting it for a long time, it’s an unforgettable character and the film’s semi-documentary approach also helps to make it stand out. The films Judd Apatow has been involved in have dominated mainstream comedy during the brunt of the past years, and of these, I see Superbad being the one to stand the test of time. If mostly for McLovin.

Love it or hate it, the Saw franchise will live on too. A high concentration of movies (seven in as many years) that kicked off the whole “torture porn” genre, and yet they still have managed to remain uneclipsed and even unequalled by any of its followers in terms of mass appeal. And just because there wasn’t a new movie this year doesn’t mean there won’t be any attempted revivals somewhere down the line. Teens of the 00s will hold on to Saw the way teens of years past did to Friday the 13th and other slasher films.

What about Best Picture winners at the Oscars? They all enter the history books, but there’s no guarantee that they’ll be remembered for anything other than their victories. Mention some of the 80s winners like Ordinary People or Out of Africa to someone today and you might well be met with a blank stare. Of the winners during the aughts, it’s slim pickings. Gladiator seems the most likely one since it was such a big box office hit and spawned a short-lived resurgence of historical epics (Alexander, Troy et all). Apart from that and the aforementioned Return of the King, none of the others seem like they will really stick. Maybe The Departed? One non-winning nominee definitely will, though: Brokeback Mountain. People will always remember “that gay cowboy movie”.

Now it’s your turn. Which films from the 2000s (so far) do you think will be remembered?

 
11 Comments

Posted by on 28 November, 2011 in Discussions

 

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