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As filmmakers we are often inspired by what we enjoy. For some of us that could be taken even further; we make films because we were moved by a certain movie, or a certain genre. So naturally, we draw upon our own cinematic experiences in our work.
But what's the difference between a movie you like, versus a movie that's good?
This is not a simple discussion, and there should be some healthy disagreement. But I think it is relevant to discuss because we often, sometimes unconsciously, draw on what we like. And sometimes what we like is not always what is good. For the purpose of this discussion, let us define "good" as effective to a reasonable potential.
Let me give you an example. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved movies where somebody got to swing a sword. I waited in line to see John Milius' interpretation of R.E. Howard's Conan. I remember sneaking out of the house to go see Boorman's Excalibur. I giggled like a schoolboy (maybe because I was one) watching Beastmaster. I LOVED those movies. But were they good? Maybe, in the sense that they did their job: they provided entertainment. Boorman's Excalibur has some memorable performances. The Poledouris score for Conan is still among my all time favorites, and Tanya Roberts did look pretty amazing in her skimpy Beastmaster outfit...at least to the 16 year-old version of me. But are they good enough to draw on to further my own craft? No, not really.
I'll give you another example. One of my all time favorite films is Highlander. Not the series, not the sequels, not the cereal. The original film. Excellent concept, fun action sequences, classic villian, some cool dialogue and Sean Connery as a bonus. My wife Veronica and I love this movie so much that we used one of the tunes from the soundtrack for our wedding song.
But it's not a very good movie. It has good editing, and the overall story is both solid and interesting. But the script is, well, weak. I mean we spend this whole movie watching immortals fight for the ultimate "prize" and what does it wind up being? Well, I don't really know. We hear Christopher Lambert saying things like "I see everything, I know everything"...but what does that actually mean? It sounds a little tedious and annoying if you ask me. Roxanne Hart seems like a better prize than that, and he already had her. And why do the immortals fight anyway? Why don't they form a secret club and rule the world? So, flawed motivation is paid off with a nebulous and very non-cinematic climax. Yawn.
The acting is uneven. Connery and Clancy Brown chew the scenery in a fun way. But Lambert is an odd choice for the lead. No real charisma and while it may be because of the language barrier, his acting is less than good. The supporting roles are okay, but hardly interesting.
I want to be clear that I still really like this movie. The same way that I like Judas Priest and The Scorpions. Not because it is groundbreaking, not because it is great art (hell, I'm not sure it's even good...or art.), but because something about it resonates with me. It is probably the 12 year old version of me, but that's okay. A lot of the things we are drawn to and exposed to,, especially in our formative years, stick with us like that. It might defy logic, or your current, more refined tastes. But so what. We like what we like.
But recognizing what is good (as defined above) is another thing all together.
You can like bad movies. But that doesn't mean those are the ones you should learn from.
Good one Jim. BUT what is deemed what is good and what is not comes down to each person frame of the perception.
I loved Highlander, the opposite of "chick flick" clanging sword, pithy comebacks, and of course Connery. but i was under a hundred at the time. now that I'm over a hundred, my tastes to my idea of what is good is foreign films kurosawa, kitana, the girl with the dragon tattoo blah blah. and my Idea of what's not pirates of the carribean, any remake from foreign originals and of course mulitple remakes. I'm not saying we here in the states can't make a good movie just seeing how lazy it is to remake for the sake for cash.
I'm a sci-fi/ classic horror junky, my favorite being The Outlimits (63-65) was it good? for that time period, yes. for today, maybe not. even the newer ones are awful, but there are thoses who prefer thoses better.
I know I'm jumping onto this thread waaaaaaay too late, but....
I feel you can learn just as much from bad movies, perhaps even more, than from great films.
Here's the 'why' part of the arguement. The vast majority of working filmmakers will never have more than a few hundred thousand to under ten million to work with...and those are the lucky ones. So when you spend endless hours watching everything from 'Highlander' to 'Time Cop' to every last movie in that '50 movies for 20 dollars' boxed set you picked up, you learn what works, and what does not, in a low budget film. You can see what made the winners [Carnival of Souls, Lets Scare Jessica to Death, Night of the Living Dead] and see what very much failed [Birdemic, The Room, Robot Monster, Plan 9 from outer space]. It gives you a chance to see what is possible in your budget range, and pick up on what turned other films into laughing stock.
Good point. That's the great thing about the world we live in. We are surrounded by so many resources to learn our chosen craft. It's all out there for us to use, and we need t be open to learning lessons from any and every potential opportunity.
Thanks for pointing that out.
The paradox is: that we have the ability to like something for some reason, even if it is not good, and so I think then Heisenberg might agrue that the sheer act of liking it, then makes it good... no matter how bad it really is... right?
On the other hand, we have the ability to dislike something for some reason, no matter how good it really is...
I think you can learn something from nearly any movie. Godard stated that he would sometimes spend 15 hours in a theater watching everything from slapstick comedies to horror, and I'm sure he learned a little something from everything. Whether you're watching a Shaw Bros. Kung Fu movie, a low budget 80s slasher flick, an Ingmar Bergman chamber drama, getting your eyes raped by 2 and a half hours of Michael Bay transformers, or the latest 'best worst movie' to hit the midnight circuit, you will learn something about filmmaking. You'll learn something about pacing, writing, framing, editing, FX, acting.... either 'how to' or 'how not to', you'll pick something up. This is why I think the greatest failing of many film makers is not watching enough movies. I'm usually cramming about 10 movies a week into my film poisoned brain...and I still find myself taking notes and discovering new things....
....now back to Udo Kier in the Andy Warhol produced 'Blood For Dracula.'......Why? Because I'm a winner.
I love Rob Schneider movies, but hated Forest Gump, Pan's Labyrinth and many other Academy Award winners. So I guess the former is "what I like", and later is "what is good"
Erich Toll, writer/directorChampion Communications, a Denver video production company