10 Qualities of Great Film: Part 1

Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem.

I hope everyone’s having an amazing new year. I hope you had a great 2014 – mine was difficult but kinda beautiful in an unexpected way.

Looking back on my year, I’ve surfaced a few regrets (haven’t we all?) I’ve been choosing projects that I think people want to see rather than stuff that’ll light me on fire. Yes, thinking about the consumer is important. That said, scripts are like relationships – you really need to feel true love for it to work in the long-term. And that means looking for something substantial past that first flush of romance. It helps to get intentional, I think, with what you want out of life and what kind of family you’d like to have.

Yes, I’m very much still in the ‘beating metaphors to death’ business.

Replace the word ‘family’ with career and you have a good philosophy of screenwriting.

So here I am refining my previous ad-hoc rather ill-conceived list of qualities of great film

Another thing I’d rather not do this year – write useless blog posts. I know when what I’m putting out isn’t particularly useful. I’m going to try and eliminate that. It wastes both my time and yours.

Don’t you just hate when you receive emails from people who are trying to sell you things? I want to receive emails because someone loves me and is thinking of me. It sorta makes me sad.

I love you guys, so consider this the first of God willing many presents.

  1. People being awesome.
  2. People being emotionally horrific.

My example for both of the above is Frances Ha.

This movie was excruciating to watch. Mainly because I’ve been there. No, not ‘poor’, but depending on the kindness of others and not getting it. Getting instead an odd sort of cruelty, an everyday but excruciating sort of torture, that you can’t really put your finger, that no one will go to jail for, but you know is a crime.

And who was awesome in all of this? Frances was awesome. Despite her pain and humiliation, she still danced down the street to ’80s music. She still held onto what made her unique.

And [SPOILER ALERT] – much like me, one day, she just got it. She figured what she had to do to survive. It takes a while, this adulthood crap, but it ain’t so bad once you get there.

I love movies that document that everyday inhumanity and everyday awesomeness. They are very often very uncomfortable to watch. But I love them.

3. Joy

4. Despair

This is not just about the everyday or the ‘micro’. Sometimes this can be about the macro – something larger scale that encompasses a town, village, a city, a country – politics, etc. A case in point being Billy Elliot.

Billy Elliot danced with joy, exasperation, frustration, guilt. He danced whatever he was feeling. And his family felt angry and sad because of the political situation and the loss of his mother.

Both joy and despair occurred in equal amounts in this movie. 

There’s a lot about the human condition that seems dichotomous to me. To know joy, you have to journey through despair. To experience and truly appreciate comfort, you must know pain. To love, you must know what loneliness, hatred and non-acceptance is.

Which leads me to the next thing I love:

5. Cyborg movies.

I don’t mean movies about cyborgs.

Courtesy Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Courtesy Victor Habbick at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I mean movies that inhabit the cracks between categories, that defy easy categorization – something I know Hollywood loves, but I frankly do not. Is it a comedy or a drama? Is it about one man or about the world? Is it about a family or America?

Examples – Obvious Child.

Comedy? Drama? It certainly wasn’t always funny.

Michael Clayton.

Thriller? Drama? Is it about Michael Clayton or is it about the world that created Michael Clayton?

Watch this space because I’m going to keep talking.

Next up: Structure. Weirdness used to explore the quotidian. Honesty/authenticity.

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3 thoughts on “10 Qualities of Great Film: Part 1

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