Tuesday, January 25, 2011

What Makes A Good Movie...To You?

I had an interesting conversation with a good friend of mine today after the Oscar nominations were announced. He and I share a taste for quite a few movies, not the least of which is a borderline-unhealthy obsession with Michael Mann's Heat.

However, we part ways on quite a few films. The Social Network is one such picture. Like millions of other people today, we debated the merits of today's nominees, the curious and the ridiculous oversights (How was Daft Punk not tabbed for its Tron: Legacy soundtrack?)

Anyway, my friend liked TSN, but it seems the relentless hype surrounding the film and its Oscar possibilities - which has been discussed since before it was even released - has kind of soured him on the movie. I really liked TSN too, but I don't think it's the best film of the year, either. Animal Kingdom is my choice for top film of 2010, FWIW.

As we debated the merits of David Fincher's movie, we did what we normally do and take a detour down another argumentative path. Somehow we wound up arguing over whether Jerry Maguire is overrated. My friend thinks so; he said TSN is the most overrated picture since JM, a statement I found utterly preposterous. Then he crossed the line by saying Almost Famous isn't all its cracked up to be, either.

That drove me nuts, because that happens to be one of my most prized films, an all-time Top 10 for me. I've written about my love for Almost Famous before; to these eyes, it's the best coming-of-age picture ever. William Miller is a teen avatar for every Geek out there who became immersed in their passion.

When I asked my buddy why he didn't think the movie was all that I felt it was, he said it was good, but not earth-shattering. For him, a great movie needs amazing performances, outstanding editing and/or cinematography to rise above the level of just solid entertainment. A good story isn't enough for him.

I found this an interesting answer. One, because to me, a compelling story told effectively is often enough to elevate a movie from good to great. But also because it made me wonder what specific criteria we all have for determining a 'great' film.

Is it the story?

Is it the cinematography?

Is it the acting?

Is it the ambition and scope of the picture?

Do any of the above carry more weight than another? Or is it a combination that help us make up our mind about a movie?

For me, it begins and ends with the story. If I'm not invested in the journey, then the film has failed. Then again, if I do get invested, then that means the actors have done their job too, and no doubt, the director.

How do you decide what's a great movie? I'd like to know...

BTW, I thought The Town was jobbed by the Academy out of a Best Picture slot. That will start another argument with my buddy.

Because he couldn't stand that movie.

(follow me on twitter, why don't you?)

No comments: