One of the things I was sort of trying to get at in a roundabout way in that other thread is that by having different sorts of focuses or compelling interests one can find a lot more movies that seen interesting and can be put on a “to watch list” and one can often better appreciate those films within that interest area as there is a different basis of comparison or different things within the films that capture your attention.
A couple of examples. One might be an auteurist who is interested in a particular director. To them, each film isn’t simply a single text but connected to the larger body of work, so watching any one of them informs the whole and will be interesting by default because of that. That, of course, is pretty standard in its most basic form where people simply use their knowledge of one director seeming to make good movies to choose others by the same guy, but to hold the body of work in mind and make cross film comparisons and “read” them as a unified whole is something different.
I tend not to do that as much, though I do obviously use directors as some guide, instead I tend to watch films in other sorts of groups. Nothing as thorough as a dyed in the wool Sarrisian might do seeking the entire body of films, but things like watching groups of Russian fantasy films or popular Polish movies, or a bunch of westerns not by the biggest name directors or groups of musicals and so on. My interest is in seeing what is similar to some comparative group and what they might hold in common with each other within their own group. The groupings are chosen haphazardly based on whatever is striking my fancy at the moment, and the individual films then suggest themselves based on the parameters of the group interest. watching in that way makes every film seem much more interesting as it isn’t merely there to amuse for a moment but to speak to something larger, and it also broadens my horizons providing a sort of larger film vocabulary as it moves the limits beyond the usual names. I’m sure you would ask if the films good in themselves and I would say, yes, in part because they often are so different what is current or even “normal” for the general historical view with its limited selection of “greats”, and also because the person who is watching, me, is appreciating them from a different perspective than I might without a driving interest. The interest helps “make” the movies good in a sense.
There is also the interest that can be gained by watching films from the standpoint of their formal qualities, a sort of bordwellian approach. That, without the jargon, is sort of how a lot of directors seem to watch movies, taking pleasure in the way they are made at least as much as what they “say”. Part of this is the realization that reasons artists make the things they do is often to explore some formal ideas more than it is to “say” anything profound in terms of some take away concise message. Even when there is more interest is in the “content” of the film, directors are often as much interested in how they are shaping that content, what different ways of showing it might do or “mean” than they are any specific “aboutness” itself. All of which is why focusing more on the formal elements can provide more interest in a wider variety of movies and allow you to see some movies in an entirely different light. (For example, watching the beginning of To’s Breaking News with an interest in formal qualities is a very different experience than watching it as relating plot and action alone.)
Edit: I think I meant to put this in a different thread, but i guess it really doesn’t matter too much given the crossthread questions being asked.
“I’m not going to defend theater hopping because I rarely do it. But I don’t understand your position. Haven’t you ever heard the phrase, “that’s a rental” or “I’ll wait for it to be on TV”?”
To clarify, I said that, but made the point that in that ‘waiting’ and alternative presentation to theatrical exhibition is an understanding that somewhere the movie is paid for. In other words, there’s a difference between hopping into a movie for free and not paying the studio OR the theatre for it (popcorn paying the bills aside, why should the theatre spend the ~$100 per exhibition to a theatre full of nonpaying patrons?) and waiting to get the movie later for cheaper. Options contain but are not limited to
-rental ($.05 Netflix to $4 new release Hastings): not $10, so more reasonable.
-Borrowing DVD from a friend (theoretically your friend thought it was worth $20, and paid for it)
-Televised exhibition (the television station paid for it with advertising, so the money you saved is paid for with the inconvenience of advertising)
-Second run (One wanted to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo theatrically, but didn’t find it worth $10. So one waited four months and went to a ‘dollar theatre’ that showed it after it’s primary run for $2).
or so on, regardless the point being that the infrastructure is supported by somebody paying and your economic decision on the matter to wait for a cheaper means of seeing it (‘go without’) rather than steal (be a selfish prick). Also as concerns the idea of ‘the market’, this can inform studios in its own way. “Hmmm, nobody went to see this movie in theatres but it did great in rentals. Obviously people didn’t value it at $10 but thought $2 was okay.” Scott Pilgrim vs. the World informs the studios not to make indie geek fanboy movies because the assholes download everything.
Anyway, Santino and Greg are right — following your personal topical interests is going to give you better returns than expecting ‘greatness’ from some general set of movies, be they Hollywood studio productions or canonical lists or whathaveyou.
“My interest is in seeing what is similar to some comparative group and what they might hold in common with each other within their own group.”
This is my preference as well. Whether the grouping is generic, like “neo-noir”, or cultural, like Bollywood if I approach each movie in reference to the previous films seen in the group, I feel I get more out of each movie.
On the other hand, if I am paying attention to formal narrative technique, I feel it distracts from simply appreciating the story itself. So I try to wait for a second viewing to analyze a film. While I am not really an auteurist, it is true that some directors, like Katherine Bigelow reward a closer look at the interplay between text, structure and image.
Similarly, I also feel that too much research of a movie before seeing it can sap some of the surprise necessary to properly enjoy it. I used to buy five film rags a month, and scour for news of upcoming stuff. This meant that I would see stuff that I might not have, like “The Snapper”, but had to wait forever for other stuff to hit video, like “The Hollow Reed” and “Fun”. I learned how to predict pretty acurately what a movie was going to be like, not just in story, but in style and tone. Good for my ego, not so much for the movie.
Which is why I was so pleased to watch “Freeway” and “The Last Seduction” during their odd three-late-night-Showtime runs before they went to the Castro. No word ahead of time whatsoever. I just stumbled into them on TV, ahead of the hype. Then they came to my theater.
Learning Hong Kong cinema, I was initially limited to the local repertory theater’s Thursday double bill. This meant that I was consistently surprised, which was nice, but also that I was able to see stuff beyond Jackie Chan stunt flix and John Woo blood operas, such as Chow Yun Fat in romantic comedies and Michelle Yeoh in Ann Hui’s wonderful drama “Ah Kam” (“The Stuntwoman”).
Now the Internet makes stuff like this easier; when I got into Bollywood last year, (we have a very active Little Bombay in Berkeley) I was able to find a movie a night for two months with only a few missteps, just by paying attention to the actors that I liked and looking up other films by them. I think that within 5 movies I had covered the majority of their A list. As for Hindi directors, the only one I know of and like is Farah Khan.
Then also another part of the fun is regrouping movies… comparing Hollywood, Bollywood and HK films of similar genres, looking the commonalities and differences in the signs/tropes/whatever. Lots of cultures make stew with beef, stock onions and potatoes. It is everything else in the stew that makes it regional or special, and which is why genre continues to dominate. People claim that they want to see new stuff, but they really just want a little new wrapped around a solid foundation of the familiar.
I hope that this post is more coherent than my last. I have not been on a forum for a long time, and this thread has covered a lot of ground.
Yeah, this is a really great thread!
Anyway, I think there are a lot of good suggestions here, Jazz. I think the idea that Santino suggested of identifying what overarching themes or techniques make you like a movie is helpful, too. There’s a thread on here somewhere called I will watch anything that has _____ and it’d probably be good to come up with some things to fill that blank, and then you can read reviews and try to figure out if a certain movie will have it. For example, I will watch anything that has weird editing, cool colors, people yelling (especially in public), a lot of sex, or horror. Of course this isn’t going to be a foolproof method (and there are a ton more things that make me like movies, and some of those things can work against the film (especially movies with a lot of sex, but I’m always drawn to them anyway…)), but overall I think it works pretty well.
I recently saw Whores’ Glory in the theater because I knew it would have a lot of sex and because the title design and poster were pretty colorful. I also read a comment on Mubi about how cool the colors were and how stately the cinematography was (stately cinematography and documentaries posing as fictions or vice-versa are a couple other things that I like about movies). So I went to see it and thought it was really good.
I always prefer not to read reviews cause I also like to know as little as possible going into a movie, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and read some reviews (or even full plot synopses) before you can know if you’ll like a movie or not. Also, the walls here on Mubi are a pretty good reference, too. There usually aren’t spoilers there, and people give a general description of the movie’s “aboutness” and how it accomplished that. I also go through my Mubi friends’ ratings (sidenote: Polaris – your ratings are usually pretty accurate predictors of what I’ll think of a movie!).
I’m really interested to see if any of these suggestions work for you, cause I feel pretty bad for you that you can’t find any good movies to watch! I think you’re Mubi’s toughest critic!!
I should have said “many people claim”. I did not wish to include anyone here, merely critics and punters who can’t see a movie for what it is, rather than for what they think it should be.
I was wondering if actors aren’t being elided in the discussion of the production pipeline and imaginative paucity. Big names can get little movies made that have weighty themes. Or appear in kid’s movies for a lark, like Don Cheadle in “Hotel for Dogs”.
Clooney manages to make entertaining movies that stick with one for a while after viewing. If Brangelina wanted to make quality fare, it would get made.
Or maybe we’re just in a phase of spectacle movies that will fade, taking all this Mighty Marvel Mayhem with it.
As you make these lists, try to look for patterns that might emerge. What are some commonalities between the films you list? What about this specific film moved you?
I’ve actually done this. For example, I really like the storylines that involve sacrificing one’s self for a principle (e.g., Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Serpico, The Insider, etc.). There’s a bunch of other qualities that I like.
_For me, there are essentially two kinds of films that respond most strongly to: films that I love because they’re similar to the kinds of films that I want to make (Rachel Getting Married, Blue Valentine, A Woman Under the Influence) and films that are so brilliant that I could never imagine how they were ever made (The White Ribbon, Zodiac, Drive). _
But is this easy to determine before seeing a film? Well, determining the first type of film may be relatively easy, but knowing if you’ll really like the film or not is another question, right? I suspect that the big difference between us (same with Nathan and me) is that the films that aren’t really good or enjoyable aren’t that bad; you don’t really feel letdown or empty. See, that’s what I feel—even for films that aren’t terrible. It’s becoming harder and harder for me to get excited about a film. Films that I would rate as 70 in the past, I’m starting to rate in the 60s, etc.
Another thing that you can do, and I’ve said this before, is to study film.
OK. (I am taking this particular recommendation seriously, as several of you have mentioned this.)
For instance, if he is an auteur and you like his strong sense of style, it’s a safe bet that style will be in his next film. But if he’s Sidney Lumet and you like him because he makes good cop dramas in New York, I would be hesitant to go see The Wiz. You know what I mean?
I do—and I think I do the same thing. The big problem is that I like Hollywood films—when they’re done well and they’re rarely done well (or at least to my liking). DiB has mentioned not supporting films you don’t like, but if I like a good action film, but a good action film appears once for every ten films, what am I to do? It’s a crapshoot. (I didn’t think The Italian Job or 300 would be very good, but I lucked out.)
“But is this easy to determine before seeing a film?”
No, I guess it’s not. And I should say breaking films into these two categories is not as simple as that for me. There are some films that I like that don’t fall into either camp but I still enjoy. But I was talking broadly and about films I really respond positively too (not just movies I like but movies I love). And no, I don’t usually feel let down or empty after watching a film. But maybe that’s because I see enough films that I love that it doesn’t bother me as much when I see a film that I don’t love. I mean, I get the sense that you feel malnourised (or undernourished) when it comes to great cinema and that’s contributing to your feelings of emptiness. But I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, I’ve felt for some time now that we are in a sort of renaissance for cinema and there are some incredible films being made right now.
“If I like a good action film, but a good action film appears once for every ten films, what am I to do?”
I won’t disagree with you hear. I think it’s hard to find a good action film today. But can’t you say that about any genre? There’s not a ton of great films in any particular genre these days but collectively, there’s a shitload of great movies – one might be a melodrama, one might be an action film, one might be a comedy, one might be a bleak foreign film, etc. Has there ever been a “great time for action films”? If you think about the 1980s, which was probably the heyday for certain kinds of action films, there was a ton of crap. For every Die Hard there were ten Cobra’s.
But maybe that’s because I see enough films that I love that it doesn’t bother me as much when I see a film that I don’t love. I mean, I get the sense that you feel malnourised (or undernourished) when it comes to great cinema and that’s contributing to your feelings of emptiness. But I don’t feel that way at all
And that’s where the disconnect is, I think.
Btw, I have a feeling there is more great cinema out there—as I have still yet to see many well-respected films. However, with regard to Hollywood-style films that I find really enjoyable, I don’t know if there’s much more films out there that will blow me away. Maybe a lot of Hollywood films that really entertain me will appear in the future, but I can only wait and deal with the slow trickle of good-to-great entertainment.
But can’t you say that about any genre?
Yeah, I don’t know if I would say this about films that fall in the “arthouse” category.
Has there ever been a “great time for action films”? If you think about the 1980s, which was probably the heyday for certain kinds of action films, there was a ton of crap. For every Die Hard there were ten Cobra’s.
Yeah. (I saw these films in the theater, too.) The late to early 90s seemed pretty good: James Cameron had a good run with Terminator, Aliens and Abyss (the latter, more of thriller, perhaps). You had Die Hard. I don’t know if we want to count Top Gun or even something like Midnight Run (which I really liked). Generally, though, I would say the pickins’ are slim. (This is probably true for rom-coms, horror, thrillers, sci-fi, etc.)
I think we’re probably just in a phase right now where studios aren’t devoting a lot of energy towards a certain style of action that you’re opining for. It seems like comic book movies are now the big tentpole blockbusters that studios are making, as opposed to fifteen or twenty years ago, when it was action/sci-fi (Independence Day, etc.).
I don’t know, it’s all cyclical. Mission: Impossible was a breakout hit last winter and then you have Luc Besson’s company, which seems to churn out a couple throwback actioners every year. If these films do well, more will be made (see Taken 2).
The different examples of finding pleasure from films (e.g., watching films by the same director, groupings or focusing on the formal qualities) can be effective. I’ve used the first approach and I do take pleasure from the approach. However, as I mentioned to Matt, these suggestions make me a little sad as they suggest that I have to look beyond the totality of the film—almost as if the film’s by themselves will never be really satisfying. I have to see them in a context—e.g., of a filmmaker, of genre or themes or to just appreciate the filmmaking and formal details. If those are the only options left for me, I’d be a little sad.
Yeah, it was coherent. You and Greg sound like you’re both on the same page. I don’t disagree with what either of you are saying—I think those approaches can be interesting and rewarding.
Which is why I was so pleased to watch “Freeway” and “The Last Seduction” during their odd three-late-night-Showtime runs before they went to the Castro. No word ahead of time whatsoever. I just stumbled into them on TV, ahead of the hype.
That’s my ideal for seeing a film. I love when it happens, but it’s rare.
As I mentioned before Jazz, your current idea of a “totality” may not be the only way of looking. I’m wondering if you’re clinging too tightly to a notion you want to keep and having that itself be the cause of some of your problems.
“Totality” isn’t the only way to look at or appreciate a film—but, for me, it’s the primary way. It’s puts the individual film first—above context to other films by the same director, themes, genres or even the parts of the film in isolation to the film’s whole. Your recommendations suggest that enjoyment/satisfaction must be found through other means; and I was hoping there was another way the films, as a whole/totality, could be enjoyable. Does that make sense?
“these suggestions make me a little sad as they suggest that I have to look beyond the totality of the film—almost as if the film’s by themselves will never be really satisfying. I have to see them in a context—e.g., of a filmmaker, of genre or themes or to just appreciate the filmmaking and formal details. If those are the only options left for me, I’d be a little sad.”
Well . . . thing is, you’re seeing them within SOME sort of context regardless, and I tend to think there might be something to Greg’s suggestion (and you and I have touched on a similar possibility before) that may your current context (or I suppose we might call it the paradigm with which you’re watching films) might be an inhibitor rather than a facilitator of enjoyment. Ultimately this is up to you to determine, but do you suppose that you’re your internal sense of what you actually enjoy might be to some extent conflicting with a still partially external sense of what you “should” enjoy?
But we can put the film—it’s effect as a whole—before the context or the parts.
Ultimately this is up to you to determine, but do you suppose that you’re your internal sense of what you actually enjoy might be to some extent conflicting with a still partially external sense of what you “should” enjoy?
I’m not closed to that possibility, but I’m not sure how to determine if this is happening or not.
In terms of personal enjoyment, a lot of what I enjoy falls into the “shouldn’t enjoy” department (e.g., action films—even good ones like Die Hard).
In terms of enjoyment in a more intersubjective sense, I don’t know think my approach generally excludes “shoulds.”
“But we can put the film—it’s effect as a whole—before the context or the parts.”
But what Greg is suggesting, I think, is that it’s possible for the manner in which one conceives “totality” to actually impact the perceived “totality” of a given film or films. Think of it like an iceberg. If one approaches it with certain assumptions, one might see the “totality” of the iceberg as only the portion visable above the surface of the water . . .
“Think of it like an iceberg. If one approaches it with certain assumptions,”
you guys should be critics or work for film studios. ;-)
So totality would include the contexts like the oeuvre of a filmmaker; genre; thematic groupings? (Would totality include focusing on filmmaking and formal qualities—that would seem contradictory?) Basically, this is a semantic adjustment, so I don’t know if this meaningfully changes my disappointment.
When people see the film, the enjoy the film for itself—not in relation to some other films, themes, etc. Nor do they normally place specific components of the film (the camera work or formal qualities) above the film itself. Now, the may not dig deeply into what the film is about and what it’s trying to do—but they’re still putting the film ahead of parts or ahead of its relationship to other films. I like experiencing and enjoying films on this level. From the time I was a child, I enjoyed (or not) films in this way. As I got older, I appreciated films in the same way—only I tried to understand them in a deeper way, while also not letting my own personal preferences, tastes, interests, etc. cloud or interfere with this understanding. When a film works on this level, it’s pretty exciting.
Enjoying an individual film for the way it adds another facet to a filmmaker (which is what’s happening with my viewing of Johnnie To’s films, ahem). I enjoy watching films on that level, but if this is the only way I’ll really enjoy films, that would be disappointing. It’s almost clinical or academic (still, I kind of enjoy this approach on some level).
“When people see the film, the enjoy the film for itself—not in relation to some other films”
Wrong—it is placed in relation to other films that these “people” have seen.
Hypothetical Person A has seen nothing but Hollywood action films, then sees The Color of Pomegranates = Totality A
Hypothetical Person B has seen nothing but French romantic comedies, then see The Color of Pomegranates = Totality B
Hypothetical Person C has seen nothing but, I dunno, Stan Brakhage films, then see The Color of Pomegranates = Totality C
You don’t agree that these three peoples would arrive at different experiences of “the totality of the film”?
“I appreciated films in the same way—only I tried to understand them in a deeper way”
Yeah, see, there already, there’s a tension there between the desire to appreciate “in the same way” and understand “in a deeper way.”
Yeah, but not in the way that I think you and Greg mean, though. Or am I wrong? Our understanding of an individual film will be informed by the films we’ve seen up to that point, but what Greg suggests is something altogether different, imo. My sense is that the individual film becomes much less important with the approaches Greg mentions—what supplants the individual films are things like the oeuvre, the genre, or thematic grouping. The individual films is to the grouping as the parts of a film are to the film as a whole.
First of all, the example is rather extreme. I think the film experience of most people are much more varied than that. Because of that, I don’t think the totalities would be as different as you may think (assuming that people are trying to understand the film as a whole and not allowing personal preferences, tastes, etc. interfere their judgment and experience of the film) Do you disagree with that?
Jazz consider watching Get the Gringo, a very good actioner/drama getting shady release cause Hollywood does hate adults….named Mel Gibson
Gibson is in that? I really disliked the last thriller/action film he did, but I like him in other action films. Thanks for the recommendation.
I loved Edge of Darkness but this is very close to Payback, comic bloody action with great set pieces and narration
Edge of Darkness. That’s the one I didn’t like. But Payback surprised me, in a good way. (Did you see the Director’s Cut? I’m curious about that.)
no only seen theatrical cut (think Directors Cut is shorter!)
Gringo might have caught on if it got a decent release.
“what supplants the individual films are things like the oeuvre, the genre, or thematic grouping. The individual films is to the grouping as the parts of a film are to the film as a whole.”
These are things that are still actually of the films, though.
I think you are confusing the idea of being aware of the film as a totality with ONLY being aware of a totality. Awareness of totality doesn’t preclude an awareness of particular aspects of the film.
Sure, but it’s a matter of emphasis, right? One can focus more on the individual film as as whole or focus more on the way the film fits into a larger context.
I’m confused. (Maybe I shouldn’t have used the word, “totality,” as it probably has a more specialized meaning that I’m not familiar with.)
Which is probably a good sign for you, right? (Personally, I would have liked to the character to have been more aloof towards the woman—downplaying the romantic angle.)
I looked it up on imdb. Given the premise—especially the little kid being thrown into the mix (in a prison film?!)—I would have stayed away from this.
“Gringo might have caught on if it got a decent release”
yeah but why didn’t it get a decent release Den? Because you boy Gibson is DONE!!! :-)
I want to see it though.
Hey Jazz – just a thought – how often do you rewatch films? I often seem to have a more or less tepid response to a lot of films that later become favorites. I know I felt that way about Cleo From 5 to 7, Night of the Hunter, and Blow Out to name a few…