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Old August 4th, 2003, 08:35 AM   #31
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Fluffy Genre movies

Other fantastic fluffy genre movies (Action, Horror, Sci-Fi):

Robocop
Alien
Aliens
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Terminator
Dawn of the Dead
The Thing (John Carpenter's)
Road Warrior

Yikes, I can tell I grew up in the '80's. But each the the above films created the particular rules of their universe and then stuck to those rules. The main character had a clear-cut goal and pursued it. We, the audience, understood what was at stake and realized just how tough it was going to be for the main character to achieve that goal. In other words, we forgot we were just watching a movie and really started to worry about how things were going to turn out. We got nervous, tense, excited, exhiliarated. Good fluffy genre movies do this. Bad fluffy genre movies just end up noisy and give you a headache (and piss you off because you kissed 8 bucks goodbye).

Ultimately, genre is supposed to make you feel, and this can't be done with FX and explosions alone. Whether we're the "American Idol"-watching masses or someone a little more sophisticated, we respond to a good story, well-told.

I think the real reason to fight for better written genre is because so-called "Joe Six-pack" can still dig well-written genre like "Robocop" and "Die Hard", but a more sophisticated audience is not going to dig "Armageddon" or "Ecks vs. Sever"

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Old August 4th, 2003, 08:48 AM   #32
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I would like to add that audiences also totally lapped up Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, Bad Boys I and also II. All huge box office successes. But we all I think agree here that audiences taking it all in doesn't make it a good movie. It just makes it a financially successful movie. But if 2 million people go see a movie and tell 2 million other people to go see it because they enjoyed it, then didn't that movie do its job?

A telltale sign of box office crap is when you have a $40mil opening and then a sharp dropoff to nothing. You can believe people told their friends it sucked. But what of Pearl Harbor? Say what you will about it, but it held on for quite some time and made quite a lot of return visitors. Like Titanic (I know it's not a Bay film). I didn't think either was all that great, but then, I'm not the target audience! Are these movies just guilty pleasures for women? Who knows. But they did well, long term.

I'm not a big fan of Bay's movies, but can somebody please tell me what makes them so like the devil? Other than fast cuts, because I personally think that is completely speculative and up to taste. I thought the fast cuts in the action sequences in Bad Boys II made for very well executed, intense action. The swooping back and forth in the voodoo bad guys lair was visually and 'cinematographically' enjoyable. I'm a still photographer by hobby, and I enjoy well framed films, and I personally think the framing in all of his films have been very good. I put that on the cinematographer and the DP, but Bay obviously has something to do with it.

The stories are formula. But so is almost every single movie that comes out of studio, and many that come out of art houses. That doesn't automatically make it bad!

Are we just bashing him because he's a studio flunkie? What, other than personal taste, makes these movies so bad?

(And in case anyone's wondering, these action movies aren't really my bag and I'm not trying to defend them. I'd much rather watch films like Next Stop Wonderland, or Smoke, etc.)

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Old August 4th, 2003, 10:26 AM   #33
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Quote -Are we just bashing him because he's a studio flunkie? What, other than personal taste, makes these movies so bad?

Personally, I think all of his movies are overly cheesy in their drama. Now, I know he doesn't write the scripts, but he sure seems to latch onto those scripts which offer mindbending action, yet no character development.

Pearl Harbor might have been a great movie if it was historically accurate and didn't involve a sappy love triangle with Ben Affleck in the middle. Actors have noted that he spends one or two takes on important dramatic scenes, while spending 90% of the day on an action sequence. Obviously action sequences take more time to set up, but it's clear that he doesn't give enough time to character developement and doesn't focus on making sure the audience identifies with any of the characters.

You're right in the fact that if a movie makes a wonderful profit, it has done it's job for the studio. Heck, the recent crop of Star Wars movies have made tons of cash. But again, that's based more on good marketing than good film. These types of films will most likely be forgotton 10 years from now, whereas other great action films with great scripts and acting like Die Hard and Terminator 2, Pirates of the Carribean, Seven Samurai, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Lord of the Rings etc.. will be talked about until the end of time. That I think is the difference.
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Old August 4th, 2003, 11:23 AM   #34
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To Imran Zaidi:

I can tell you are an "aesthetic relatavist"--it's all subjective. I believe the same thing. And yet there is still some sort of hunch that "The Road Warrior" is superior to "Armageddon", or "Die Hard" is better than "Bad Boys", even though all these movies made tons of money.

I think the logical argument I've been trying to put forward in my previous posts is that if "Joe Six Pack" can enjoy good fluff and bad fluff equally, shouldn't we still aspire to have more good fluff, so that we intelligent moviegoers can have a little fun, too?

A good genre movie can entertain "the masses" as well as more sophisticated audiences, and I'm not cynical enough or beaten down enough (yet) to just say "OK, bring on the crap."

You said that action movies really weren't your bag, but they ARE my bag, and maybe that's why I care. This leads into why I think Michael Bay is the devil.

Since his films (with their lack of compelling story or characters, incoherent editing style, Coke commercial visuals, and overall irrelevance to anything) are bad, but because they make money, Hollywood decides to churn even more of this crap out because they know it will turn a profit. To them, it's not about entertainment or art, it's purely about making money.

And I'm saying you can do both. Make a good movie that is also profitable.

And I believe a genre movie with a better story will perform better at the box office. That's why those Pixar films make so much damn money. Not just because a parent feels obligated to take their kids to see them, but because those Pixar guys know how to make good movies. Adults love them too. Men, women, boys, girls, highbrow, lowbrow, they all respond to well-written stories.

So let's aim high. Let's demand better movies. Don't be content with crap. Sure, it's never going to go away, but we don't have to like it.
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Old August 4th, 2003, 09:55 PM   #35
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You always bash

what you want most....these two guys would change places with Michael Bay in a New York minute. But it's always fun to satirize the big kahunas. Michael Bay makes what he likes, and gets the money to do so, everybody in Hollywood would love that.

Not that I would pay to see a MB movie, but plenty of peeps do and thats the bottom line.

Michael Bay, by the way, is the illegitimate son of John Frankeheimer. Perhaps didn't catch all the talent, but supposedly did get the "endowment".
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Old August 4th, 2003, 10:41 PM   #36
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Supposedly John Frankenheimer denies that Michael Bay is his son. They did a DNA test and it wasn't positive. Bay said that DNA testing at the time wasn't accurate enough.
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Old August 4th, 2003, 11:31 PM   #37
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Todd, that's fair enough. I see your point. And interesting thing about the 'aesthetic relativist'; I've never really put a term behind that sort of thing, but I guess I am one of those.

To celebrate this newfound introspection, I just went and saw a sneak preview of SWAT. I'd love to see what others in this thread will have to say about this one.

I personally was really surprised by how good it was. Or, that is, I was aesthetically pleased by its relative good quality... or something. ;)

Seriously though, I thought it was a very enjoyable film. Still predictable, but the acting was excellent, the story concept is great, and it kept me enthralled the whole way through. BUT, it's no Die Hard. (Yes, I absolutely loved and still love Die Hard I).
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Old August 5th, 2003, 12:15 AM   #38
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Imran, I have no argument at all against formula. As I said previously, I can admire even genres I don't really prefer. Genres = formula. Die Hard is a classic formula movie. There are hundreds of westerns that follow tried and true rules and structures. All genres have formulas. A movie that follows a formula to the letter is usually a decent movie *for that genre*. But truly great films transcend the formula and offer something extra, like a great story, like a great high concept, like memorable characters. They have to offer something that is MEMORABLE.

And this is really the key for me. I GET BORED. When I see a film do something that I've seen a hundred times before, I think to myself: I could just pull one of my old favourites off my shelf and watch that instead of watching another movie do the exact same thing with different actors.

Formula is a starting point. What makes PITCH BLACK more interesting that any number of ALIENS copies? It has an interesting high concept. An escaped prisoner and murderer must lead a band of survivors to safety. The structure of the movie is pure formula. What makes it work is the new spin on the concept and a charismatic star who makes the character believable. Other than that, it's just another movie where humans run from multiple aliens.

I saw the trailer for BAD BOYS II and I yawned. It looked BORING. Sure, it looked like it had lots of shooty shooty, explosions and car chases. And Will Smith and that other guy are good for a laugh. But it didn't look any different than BEVERLY HILLS COP did or THE LAST BOY SCOUT or any other renegade cop movie before that. BIG YAWN.

When I was entertainment editor of a university paper for two years I saw at least a film a week. So you could say that I was the dream consumer for Hollywood. I saw films for free. Dream job? No. It may have started out that way but week after week of watching the same movies being pumped out with the essentially the same plots and the same cookie cutter characters? BORING.

Maybe I am cursed with a memory for every film I've seen before. Maybe if I could forget from week to week I could embrace every counterfeit film that is released this Friday. But I remember almost all of them and my mind desires NEW TASTES. I admit it; I am creative. I like watching films to feed my creativity. But do not make the mistake of thinking I am not a ravenous consumer who wants to eat product.

This is why I go abroad to feed my tastes. I watch foreign films, I watch independent films, I watch HBO productions, I watch the stuff that comes out on DVINfo. I desire new things. People who are in prison are being punished because they cannot go outside the walls to see NEW THINGS. They have to eat whatever is served in the cafeteria. Prisoners riot and kill each other because their stomachs and their minds are not free to find NEW THINGS.

Abroad, there is a much varied cuisine. And a lot of it IS formula genre productions. Liked the blood and guts of GLADIATOR? You can get more of it from Korea, it's called MUSA (THE WARRIOR). Like the fighting action of THE MATRIX? You can get that again from Korea (VOLCANO HIGH). Like your gritty urban crime genre? Get something totally new from Brazil: CITY OF GOD. Sports movie? SHAOLIN SOCCER. All formula films. Also damn good spins on the genre.

I'm going on with this rant next message.
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Old August 5th, 2003, 12:54 AM   #39
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My main complaints against crappy genre movies fall into these categories (and this is not just a rant against Michael Bay; just those types of films he, Simon West, Bruckheimer, Emmerich seem to like to make).

1) Lack of logic. (Stupidity in the story or in the characters). I can squint and pretend that I'm with the movie because of its setup (its universe and rules), but when the story doesn't doesn't seem to follow any rules or goes against what it had already set up, it's just saying: "who cares. Let's just throw some explosions on the screen and eventually you'll have had your money's worth." Characters acting stupider than real human beings. I get angry when I see people on the screen suddenly act stupider than the average twelve year old.

Here's a movie example of something that makes no sense. The end of CON AIR. The hero Nicholas Cage and the main villain (Malkovich) have been fighting on top of a fire engine up and down the Las Vegas drag strip. Fair. How does Malkovich die? Um somehow the fire engine crashes, Malkovich slides under a pile driver that just happens to appear out of nowhere and the pile driver drops on him. HUH???? What is the logic of that? Why not just have him walk down the street and from nowhere a safe drops on his head? Note: this is example of movie illogic. I am not expecting Cage to win a chess match with the villain, I just expect there to be some sort of rules that the movie pays attention to. Otherwise, literally anything could happen.

2) Coherency. I cannot follow what is going on the screen. I am not that old. I grew up with music videos. But music videos are there to catch your attention and work with the beat. Movies are not music videos. Movies are stories. If I cannot tell what is going on the screen because THERE IS A CUT EVERY SECOND then the movie is not doing its job. It is just giving the impression that there is something happening through cut on movement. I suspect, these cuts are there precisely because the actual action is really crappy. Coherency is the same as logic but for the story.

3) Lack of newness. I covered this in my previous post. Give me something new or bore me. Something I didn't mention is stereotypical characters or over-reliance on conventions. Worst moment in INDEPENDENCE DAY, when the dog Buster is almost incinerated in the tunnel ('now we know the aliens are really bad when they put a golden retriever in danger'). Villains who lack any kind of style or motivation. This even goes further in jingoism. In THE PATRIOT, when Mel Gibson's character picks up the American flag and begins assaulting the British with it you could hear the groans up in Vancouver. It may have played well in Peoria.

4) Lack of motivation. The hero is the hero because he is good. The villain is bad because he is bad. The hero wins because he is better. The villain is defeated because evil cannot be better than good. Blah.

5) No risk - no conflict - no thrill. The good examples: DIE HARD: John McLane is a cop with a pistol against ex-commando criminals. INDIANA JONES: Indy is an archaeologist with a bullwhip and a revolver; that's it.

I don't understand Tom Clancy movies (and their ilk) where it's the U.S. against a tinpot POS country. Where is the challenge? Where is the risk? The president presses a button and the superpower snuffs some brown people. What is the risk? Why does the audience stay to the end of the movie if the outcome doesn't at least seem to be in doubt?

Take a look at the good and bad in the MATRIX and the MATRIX RELOADED. In the first movie, Neo doesn't know what powers he has. He and the other humans risk death at the hands of the agents who can seemingly do everything. In RELOADED, Neo is Superman. The agents cannot touch him. No risk, no conflict. Zero thrill.

6) Bigger, not better. Sequels fall into this trap a lot. They take the same concept and just add more. They don't do anything new with the idea; they just change the characters (or not) and spend a bigger budget. No progression. SAME OLD CRAP. Counter-examples: XMEN and X2: XMEN UNLIMITED, THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING and THE TWO TOWERS. Sequels have the ability to build on something, to develop the characters. Only telelvision really has the power to do more. Developing the story further DID NOT HURT THESE MOVIES.
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Old August 5th, 2003, 03:07 AM   #40
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Keith,

"The Patriot" was directed by Roland Emmerich, a German, and starred an Australian. Food for thought, eh?

The thing about your third complaint is that modern cynicism is just that...modern. In the "nationalist" wars of old, the flag played a vital role...and the flag bearer marched/ran right into the thick of it along with the other soldiers...and I'm sure they batted a few bayonets out of the way with it and thumped a few heads since they weren't exactly suicidal. I don't think that scene is really a far stretch from reality...in the past, that is.

Also, you have to take into context the story...this is a "US" film about the "American" revolution. I think it's funny...if a non-American film has scenes where their own national flag is prominent...it's usually considered historically pertinent. But show a US flag...and eyes roll. Sure...some filmmakers go overboard with flagwaving...but I don't think that's limited to just American filmmakers.

Having lived overseas for a long while and having traveled quite a bit, I can say I've seen far more Canadian and Australian flags than US flags. They're everywhere...clothing, backpacks, sporting goods, etc. But not once have I rolled my eyes and said..."Ugh...Canadians."

Before you start thinking I'm a zealot...there ARE examples that make me, as an American, groan. In Independence Day, when one of the British soldiers says something along the lines of "Thank God, it's the Americans finally!"... now THAT made my eyes roll.
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Old August 5th, 2003, 07:59 AM   #41
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Great specific examples, everyone.

As far as the Tom Clancy thing, without going into a poli-sci discussion, he's just sorta representing what goes on in real life in the gov't. The fact of the matter is, with the US so ridiculously armed and powerful, pretty much every nation would be the proverbial tinpot by comparison. There really is no match for the US armed forces these days; it's all relatively of low risk. (Please, please, please, I'm not trying to start a political debate. I'm just talking about Clancy and his preferred topics, and how it relates to reality).
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Old August 5th, 2003, 08:28 AM   #42
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Imran:

Cool.


Keith:

Once again you've nailed it. I'm thinking the horse is now dead on this issue, however.


BTW, are there cool shorts, etc. to watch on this site? I just linked to this forum because the the thread bears my movie's title. I'm always open to watching what other people are doing with DV.


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Old August 5th, 2003, 08:46 AM   #43
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Todd,

Check the "DV for the Masses" forum. You'll find some threads mentioning member's online films there.
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Old August 5th, 2003, 12:38 PM   #44
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John, my main problem with that scene in THE PATRIOT was that it felt incredibly phony. Here was a film where the makers claimed they were putting a lot of effort into historicity and then they have the Gibson character pull out the flag like it was a lightsabre. It was like a video game where the hero picks up a magical yummy and instantly everyone's morale increased +10. PHONY. I realize in history there were many examples of symbolism turning the tide but the way it was done in this case destroyed any realism the film had built up. It felt only one step removed from the rebels banging together a Revolutionary war battle truck a la A-Team.

It was also a blatant ripoff of a similar scene in REVOLUTION with Al Pacino. Except in that scene Pacino only picks up the flag to joust with out of desperation.

I am aware that Emmerich is not American. Tony and Ridley Scott are British. Kubrick was American living in England. Same with Terry Gilliam. It doesn't mean anything to me.
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Old August 5th, 2003, 12:52 PM   #45
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BTW, are there cool shorts, etc. to watch on this site? I just linked to this forum because the the thread bears my movie's title. I'm always open to watching what other people are doing with DV.
Yup, follow John's advice and head over to the Masses forum. (Shameless plug, couldn't resist!)

This is a great thread, I wish the major studios would take notice.
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