Christopher’s biological explanation for the 120-minute “rule” on film lengths is humorous and in accord with Jack Warners’s famous quote that was mentioned at the very beginning of this thread (more than 3 years ago): “If I have to pee, the picture stinks.”
But for those who haven’t gone back and reviewed ALL the posts on this l-o-n-g topic, here’s something I posted “back in the day”:
As Deep Throat says in ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, “Follow the money!”
Running times of films are not entirely determined by the organic and aesthetic needs of the story and characters. Films over 2 hours in length are usually cut so that more screenings can be offered each day in the theaters. That “revenue stream” often has more of an impact on film lengths than the director’s vision, hence the need for SOME director’s cuts. (I initiated a thread on Director’s Cuts some time ago, and listed the “excess” time of some of those DCs.)
In general, though, I agree with the premise that most popular movies (and even many auteur films) could stand to be cut by 10-20 minutes.
Flight could have been cut by about 40 minutes.
It would have made a very tight 95 min drama
but the love interest character is unconvincing in past and motivation
and tho John Goodman’s character is an interesting addition, it adds little of value
the religious scenes are not well handled and there are just too many scenes of Denzel staring longingly at drink.
There are two situations that I think cause films to be too long:
1) Inexperienced directors who will not cut a script that’s handed to them by a major studio.
2) Directors who write their own scripts and think their own work is so important that it cannot be filmed in less than 2.5 hours.
Undeniably there are great films with running times between 2 and 3 hours, but this is true despite their length! So many directors today think length = substance and force audiences to sit through many poor expository scenes, false endings, etc.
You will find that many directors who were film critics before becoming directors are far more sensitive to this issue.
80 minutes and under is perfect. But most films are too long by about 100 minutes
the new Die Hard runs 95mins
this is a half hour shorter than the average Die Hard, sounds promising
A feature film under 100-90 minutes is a bad deal considering ticket prices.
Many people I know complained about Jonah Hex 81 minutes RT. Maybe in the case of that movie a short RT may have been a blessing….
I think it’s wrong to say long running times are automatically bad. Most film ideas are simple enough that there’s no reason to go longer than 90 minutes. 80-90 minutes is probably the period where your attention span will cease to want to be focused on the movie, so it’s often a smart decision to finish in exactly that amount of time.
But there are several good reasons to go below that amount of time.
1) Source material can’t be trimmed without losing important themes. For instance, I feel Sophie’s Choice was trimmed too much. And I’m glad Lord of the Rings wasn’t trimmed down any more (Though Hobbit should have been trimmed down more). And can you imagine trimming The Godfather? Lawrence of Arabia?
2) Directors like Tarr who focus on slow panning sequences. Sometimes length of shots is crucial for a movie coming off a particular way. Most films like to keep the scenes moving at about the same speed your brain feels like moving, so it keeps seeing interesting new things to keep it stimulated. Other films want to let our mind relax into a scene, and that makes you perceive the film in an entirely different way.
I want to make a movie that’s about 70 minutes long but I inherently feel like it won’t be a “real movie” if it isn’t at least 80. I might put a 10 minute static shot of some trees in the wind in the middle.
45 minutes is a good amateur format. Moyen métrage.
I think the overlength problem occurs primarily with auteurs. Given complete control over the finished product, they tend to indulge in every last concept or fantasy they come up with – even if it is completely unnecessary.
A good example might be Django Unchained, though I think if Sally Menke were still with us she could have easily remedied that problem.
Those are puffed-up auteurs. Cimino. Good ones are good.
Reservoir Dogs, 99 minsPulp Fiction 154 minsJackie Brown, 154 minsKill Bill, Vol. 1, 111 minsKill Bill , Vol. 2, 136 minsDeath Proof. 114 minsInglorious Basterds, 154 minsDjango Unchained, 166 mins
^I don’t think I like the way this is going.
Mainstream movies being what they are today they should lasts about four minutes. We’ll call them “Trailers”.
I agree with Chris, Django was pretty bloated.
Steven Soderbergh’s Bubble is only 73 minutes, and it’s really good.
Also Sokurov’s Mother and Son is 79 mins and doesn’t feel a minute too short.
Also, I agree there is a recent trend in movies, especially commercial ones, to be closer to or beyond the 2 hour mark. Jack Reacher was 2h10m, and it felt ridiculously overlong. Same goes for Olympus Has Fallen (2h of excruciatingly long bad CGI action sequences).