12.18.2009

Lessons in Film Viewing Pt. I

I embarked on this quest to watch 750 films this year because I knew there were an enormous number of films out there which as a film student, I should have seen, both documentaries and fiction, and I had a lot of ground to recover.  I've always been more of a book reader than movie watcher (and suspect I will fix that inadequacy because I've now flipped to the other extreme this year).  This wasn't  a problem until I realized I wanted to make films of my own and there were issues of structure which existed but were much more difficult to comprehend without more movie-watching. 

I originally focused on docs, but as docs are becoming increasingly cinematic, on the advice of my professors, and also partly just out of curiosity for seeing so many of these movies my classmates and thousands of other people had been talking about for years  I knew I wanted to and COULD watch 2 movies a day.  Except... that number wasn't pretty enough so I decided on 750 just to make it nice and round but still doable.  When I arrived at UF, I quickly realized my classmates had seen hundreds more movies than I had.  Some of them had probably seen more movies in a year than I'd seen in my lifetime.  My mother didn't encourage watching movies.  I don't blame her.  I love how I grew up.  And I just got used to not watching movies.  So anyway, the point of this exercise was to not only watch more movies, but to learn.  Most of you have at one point probably asked yourself what I really learned from all this so I decided to share.  This will take at least 4 posts to complete.  Here is part one.

1) As cliche as it sounds, I really like a lot more indie movies than I would've expected because they're so often less predictable.  There are absolutely some great big budget films but far too often people waste money on films without a decent non-predictable script.  That said, there are indie movie clich├ęs that are horrible to watch.  Being indie doesn't automatically make a film good.
2) Structure is every bit as important as my professors say.  I'm sure they'd be overjoyed to read that one!  If a film is loosely organized, it's more difficult to watch because you can't figure out who the characters are, what they're doing & their motivation for doing it.  And then what is the point?
3) I already knew movies, like books, were SO subjective but it's definitely become even more apparent.  I am better at discerning which types of movies Rashan will like.  I think Stace is near impossible to figure out mostly because she doesn't really like movies.  I can't understand for the life of me why people want to angrily argue me down about a film I don't like and they love.  We can talk about it but if you want to get really upset about it (and this really applies to anything) let's not bother.  In the end, guess what, it's just a movie.  Yep, I said it.
4) Comedies and docs should not be more than 90 minutes.  I'm sure exceptions to the rule exist but in general it is ridiculous to expect someone to want to participate in that type of film for long than an hour and a half.  I'm kind of scared that when I watch "When Harry Met Sally" again for the first time in a year that I'll think it's too long.  As a matter of fact, I'm almost positive I will.
5) I like the font for closed captioning better than subtitles.  Odd thing to learn.
6) If you can allow biopics and films taken from books poetic license, it makes watching them much more enjoyable.  You can't hold them precisely to history or the book its based upon.  Look at it almost as its own entity.
7) Biopics bring out the historian/documentarian in me.  I then want to learn more and more about the subject's actual lives and how true to reality the film is.
8) I don't like 2 hour movies.  It's less about my attention span and more about the fact that 2-hour films ordinarily need to be edited with a heavier hand.  And over 2 hours?  Sigh.  Why?  2.5 hours?  I get pissed.  And avoid.  Lol.  I can and have watched and enjoyed 2+ hour movies.  But in general movies around the 2-hour mark are belaboring the point.
9) It wouldn't hurt me to have thought of movies more like an experience than a chore.  That's much more difficult when you have this pressure of needing to watch more and more movies.  I still enjoyed a lot of movies this year!
10) I'm much more critical of documentaries than feature films.  This is obviously directly related to my desire to be a documentary filmmaker.  I want to learn something from every single doc I watch and re-inforce the lessons I've already learned.  And I absolutely do.  Sometimes more from the bad ones than the good ones.
11) I can now recognize the ability of people other than the actors and directors in films and that excites me. :)  Lol.
12) I'm incredibly annoyed by reviews that can't be honest about a serious or controversial topic.  Wait.  You're going to pretend that film wasn't fraught with fatal flaws because you generally like the topic?  You should be even more irritated.  I am.  That said, it's sometimes hard for me to give a negative review to something about black struggles.  I STILL DO IT.

5 comments:

Schmutzie said...

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Ginae said...

wow..who knew there was so much to say about movies..gone and school me girl....i did learn a lot.

if a movie is less than 2 hours and i went to the theatre to see it, i feel like i was jipped out my money for some reason, even if it was not a good movie..go figure..

on the flip side even if i'm at home watching a movie and didn't have to pay if it's a great movie and only last 1 hour and a 1/2, I still feel like i got jipped again!

yeah i'm strange like that...

Ladynay said...

First time I ever seen the word Biopic.

"5) I like the font for closed captioning better than subtitles. Odd thing to learn." I never pay attention to the fonts of either. Now I got to just because!

So basically movies that about about 90 minutes long that leave you with the feeling that it should have been longer means it didn't have proper structure? I ask because I've seen a few movies that will end and my first reaction would be "that's it" or asking what happened with such and such

Jameil said...

schmutzie... somehow i think this is spam...

ginae... lol. good! you know a lot of older movies do come in at that 2 hour mark & maybe for that same reason. there are a lot of people who want to get a good 2 hours in the theater. if it's a good movie, doesn't matter but if not? i'm REALLY pissed it was more than 90 mins.

lady... do it! you'll totally notice the difference in fonts! yes! it's all about structure! if you leave with more questions than answers in a dissatisfying way, that movie needed to be edited. either to be rearranged, to have stuff cut or to tighten the script before you even get to the editing stage. some questions are okay but to be like, "that's it??" BAD.

Rashan Jamal said...

1. I like indie, but then again, they start to follow the same formulas, even if the characters are quirky.

3. Yeah, you aren't going to change my opinion of a movie, so no need to argue.

4. I think 1:45 is the cut off for me, unless its by a well established director. Then I'll give it more leeway.

5. I like subtitles better b/c i use the cc on tv shows. I like to switch it up.

6. I have a hard time doing that, so it usually takes me a while to actually watch. Ray and Notorious were two I was avoiding and I 4 starred both of them.

8. I think you are too rigid on the length issue, but I'm not going to argue it with you. It seems like the length prejudices your opinion of the movie.

12. I do not have that problem at all.