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Saturday, January 02, 2010

My Cinema Manifesto

I just want to put into one essay a lot of ideas and observations that I have about movies. It always amazes me just how few good movies are made in any given year. I realize that everyone has different tastes. The world is certainly a much better place because so few people have tastes like mine. With this said I find it hard to believe that anyone likes Sandra Bullock. Even her parents and other relatives must hate her movies.

I would like to begin by saying that although I pick on Hollywood movies a lot I don’t think that they in any way have a monopoly on shitty movies. There are dozens and dozens of bad independent and foreign movies made every year. I pick on Hollywood because they have the monetary resources to make the best movies yet they often fall back on the most tired clichés and gimmicks in the movies they produce when they should be constantly breaking new trails and upholding the highest standards in quality. I don’t believe that people want to see lousy movies and if by chance a really lousy movie makes a ton of money it’s only because the producers spent a ton of money to market their shitty movie. People will basically see what they are told to see. I could doctor up a security video from a convenience store with good music and editing and get a bunch of people to pay to see it if I had a big enough budget to market my film. To say that people like lousy movies is a self-fulfilling prophecy made possible by good marketing.

Movie trailers are made in order to convince or trick people into shelling out the cash for the tickets to actually see the movie in a theater. Making a good trailer is an art in itself but in general the quality of the trailer reflects the quality of the movie. If there is more than one explosion in the trailer of a movie then it will almost assuredly be a piece of shit. If you have no idea what the movie is about after watching the trailer then you probably won’t after seeing the entire movie.

As far as I am concerned, as soon as the lights are dimmed in the theater until they come back on at the end the director should entertain the audience. This means that the opening and closing credits should be worth watching. You have a very fixed amount of time in feature movies with most clocking in at about 90 minutes. This means that you don’t have time for 10 minutes of boring credits. Every frame of the movie should advance the story in some way. The closing credits aren’t as important as the opening credits simple because you can walk out without watching them. If I were making a movie I would want to hold people in their seats until the very end and you aren’t going to do this if you just have a bunch of names up on the screen. I usually find that boring opening credits signal that the movie is also going to suck.

One of the most unoriginal gimmicks in film making is when they use a song to convey to you with the lyrics exactly how you are supposed to feel in that particular moment. Music should be used as a compliment, not to corroborate a bad story. Musical clichés are also annoying as hell. For example, say there is a scene at a fancy black-tie party. About nine out of ten times the music will be Mozart’s A Little Night Music because this is the cliché for classical music. Just try a little harder to be original is all that I am asking.

If the great television in the past few years—mostly compliments of HBO—has shown us anything it’s that there are a lot of really good actors out there that we have never seen before. I always thought the acting was superb in shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Entourage, and The Shield, to name just a few. So why does Hollywood act as if there are only about 15 people qualified to star in movies? We have actors that made one mildly successful film in their youth and then we are saddled with them for the rest of their lives, like we owe them some sort of pension plan in the movies. They are harder to fire than a federal employee. I say we implement the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” rule for actors. They get three movies and then they have to go do something else for a living for at least five years. This will give us time to forget about them which will make them more believable in their next role.

There is nothing worse than hearing movie dialogue that sounds like it was lifted directly from another movie. This is just lazy writing. How many dumbass dialogue clichés have you heard over and over again like broken records? I can’t even count how many times I have heard the line “Fire in the hole!” screamed in a war movie. Even if soldiers actually say this in combat—and I doubt they do—I just don’t ever want to hear it again in a movie. I wrote a whole comedy essay about buddy cop clichés I could probably extend it to book length. The problem is that most writers in the movie industry do little besides watch movies. Even if cops do say all of the dorky lines you hear in cop movies it’s probably because they are just parroting the films they see. As a writer a lot of times you should be inventing your own lingo.

Think of the Anthony Burgess novel A Clockwork Orange. He invented practically an entire language because he didn’t want to use the slang of his day for fear that it would very quickly sound outdated. Instead, he created a new language that still sounds cool and fresh today almost 50 years after publication. We have actually incorporated a lot of the dialogue from this novel in our speech. A lot of film dialogue is just taken from other movies. It’s like a tick that is so fat that it doesn’t realize that it has its fangs sunk into its own ass.