Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Making of a Good Movie

As yourself this;  What makes for a good movie?  What separates a truly good movie from the also-runs?  Is it plot?  Car chases? Action galore?  Photography?  Great actors?  A great director?


I'm going (raising my hand meekly in front of a ruler-armed matriarchal dominatrix) for a great plot.  The story telling. . . in both the said and unsaid, makes the best of stories.

Yes, Veronica dear;  the silences one can encounter in a movie can be as loud, and as needed, as the verbiage or the beautiful imagery.

Take for instance the Alan Ladd movie, The Blue Dahlia.  Filmed in 1946 and starring Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix and Howard da Silvia, it is one brilliant cinematic masterpiece of hardboiled noir.  And guess who wrote the script . . . the noir master himself; Raymond Chandler. (I won't bother you with a detailed description of the movie.  But trust me . . . you'll like it.)

What makes the movie so delicious is both the pacing, the photography and the quality of the writing displayed.  There's nothing flashy about the movie.  There's no explosions.  No recklessly insane (and unbelievable) car chases.  No incredible escapes from imminent danger.  But there is a story.  There is palpable emotion.  There is a genuine mystery.

There is imagination.

Maybe that's it.  It's not so much story telling as it is imagination.  Figure out a way to run some high voltage through one's imagination and you have a hit.  You have that proverbial 'captive audience.'

Let me me give you a couple of examples.

Here is the sci-fi movie, Elysium.  Came out this year (2013).  About an Earth that is bereft of any resources now solely occupied by the poor and downtrodden while the super rich reside in paradise on an orbiting space colony large enough for everyone planet side to see with the naked eyes day or night.

A simple story, really.  Told so many times it should be boring.  But the pacing, the visuals, the story itself, gripes you and doesn't let go.

Above everything else . . . it's the imagination that captures you  and doesn't let go.  Here perhaps it is the visuals that tell more of the story and the words do.  (I'm thinking of the shots of the modern day slums of Mexico City used to portray Earth in the 22nd Century). 

People.  People everywhere living in squalor.  Absolutely stunning to behold.

Another current movie (2013) it's directed by the South African, Neill Blompkamp (the same guy who wrote and directed District 9), the movie has Matt Damon and Jodie Foster in it.  It's a wonderful movie that should be seen by everyone.

My third example of imaginative story telling is this one.  2Guns.

Not a big movie.  Not a blockbuster.  It won't see the super crowds a lot of other movies will see this year.  But the story telling is superb.  Superb in a different way if compared to the one just mentioned.

This one relies not so much on imagery as it does in a complex plot.  You have to pay attention, especially with the opening sequence, to understand what's going on.  There are twists and turns and double-crosses and treachery galore.    Who can you trust?  Who is the bad guy?  Or is everyone the bad guy?  Just the stuff to jack up a noir fan from the get-go.

Back to that ole' frying pan again:  Imagination.

Capture the imagination and you capture the audience.  And to capture the audience means to tell a great story.  In whatever mode you choose to use.

But there is an addendum to this expose I should throw in.  And it's this.  Could the three pictures above be as good as they are IF the original actors were replaced with someone else?  Would the chemistry, the chutzpah, the believability be as real?

Good question, Maynard.  Maybe that's for another blog, eh?

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