Saturday, September 25, 2010

MASTERPIECE -- what makes a great movie [part 1]

In this first of a three series blog entry, I will cover the makings of a cinematic masterpiece. Now I want to just point out that I am clearly not a Steven Spielberg and that I lack the qualifications in order to expertly plan out what a great movie should be. But I have watched more movies than almost anyone you know. I am basing this off what I see in my favorite movies (which I all consider to be masterpieces)  and what I would like to see if I were directing, writing, producing, and acting in a movie myself. So hopefully you will share my views and artistic expression in respect to the greatest man-made invention of our time, movies. Crew is ready? Actors are ready? Good. Because it's "lights, camera, action!" Here are the top three things I look for when I sit down with my pack of Bunch-A-Crunch and watch a flick.

1. A Compelling Story

  • It is truth universally acknowledged that a great movie needs to have a great story. Why do we watch movies? To get lost in the world the movie creates and to sympathize with the characters, comparing what they go through to our own individual lives. And to be entertained of course, almost forgot that! If we can't fully believe what is going on, or can not at least in some degree, relate with the events of the story, all is naught for the movie makers and the audience members. A convincing, engaging, and a truthful plot line is key for a movie's ultimate success. 

  • Now the story need not to be too realistic for an audience to feel connected to it. Take the blockbuster trilogy The Lord of the Rings, which has been mentioned as the the greatest movie trilogy of our time, as an example. All three films are set in a place called Middle-Earth filled with mirth and magic and is inhabited by outlandish creatures such as elves, orcs, hobbits, and wizards. The setting may have been fictional, but the trials and tribulations each character had to go through and the emotions felt and shared through each dramatic event really spoke volumes to each individual audience member. When Frodo, the least likely creature imaginable, volunteered to uphold the task of destroying the one ring, he had so many chances to give up and turn back, but he kept in going, finding hope where hope seemed desolate. A message many of us can appreciate. The emotional aspect and the morality of LOTR made it an almost perfect movie experience. Not to mention the amazingly epic war scenes (see Helm's Deep / Pelenor Fields) and stunning, over the top special-effects. Speaking of special FX...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


  • Movies are magic. Or at least the closest thing we have to it. With the power of the camera, we are able to be transported to worlds far beyond our imagination. We may make believe, at least just for the time we are in the cozy, dark theatre, that toys can talk to each other. That a galaxy far, far away is not too far if you own a Jedi X-Wing Starfighter equipped with hyperspeed. Or that our whole lives might be just a computer simulation run by machines of the future as Keanu Reeves uses kung-fu to thwart evil men who wear office suits to ensure the survival of the human race. All right, I might have went a little too far there but the point I am making is: anything is possible in the realm of cinema.

[Neo kicking some major a** in The Matrix Reloaded]

  • Fantasy is a great tool to entice the audience to immerse itself into the world a movie maker is trying to create, but an even more powerful tool is the use of reality. A bit of action here and a pinch of fiction there is fine and make for great eye-candy but if the audience can not relate to what message the movie is trying to send to them, then the movie is entirely for lost. Movies that use simple, everyday life to connect with people and make them think that they are not alone, that reach out to the heart and move an audience emotionally (not necessarily make them cry; the emotion could even make an audience member feel uneasy or even slightly disturbed) are truly what make a masterpiece of a movie. A simple, light-hearted conversation between the best of friends can be much more effective than gunfire and explosions. The trick is to find the right balance of both a great story and some amazingly stunning visuals.

[Great, emotional scene from The Basketball Diaries. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a teenage basketball prodigy turned heroin addict]

  • Just in case you didn't know yet, this blog will be about my thoughts and opinions about what makes a great movie, which direction the movie industry is going, and just about all aspects of cinema you can think of. So please continue reading my blog entries and join me in appreciating, studying, and utterly enjoying the awesomeness that is movie-making!