Archive for May, 2014

I’ve decided that I will dedicate some time to discuss my thoughts (which may come across as confused ramblings) on certain aspects of film.

For the first part I thought it could be interesting to look at why we watch films and what makes a good film. This is going to be an overview, as at a later date I want to look at individual genres of film. (remember that all of these views are just my own opinion so feel free to disagree and post comments about your thoughts on the subject.)

So. Why do we, as viewers watch films?

I personally watch a film to get something out of it and for me this only happens if I get some kind of entertainment out of it. That’s not to say that you have to enjoy the film but that it has to draw you in and stir some sort of emotion inside you. It could be happiness, sadness, anger, love, it could be anything. It’s why when one person says a film is amazing, you’ll always have someone who disagrees. everything is subjective, especially when it comes to the arts and film is one of the prime examples of this.

How many times have you been to the cinema with someone, only to find you both have very different opinions on the film at the end? I’m not saying all the time, but as everyone sees everything differently it’s only natural. It’s why reading reviews can never give you a 100% answer to whether or not you will enjoy a film. They can give you a good indication and if you follow a certain writer you can kind of understand their taste after a while. But even then they may throw a curve ball and like something out of their comfort zone. This is something I’ve tried to do over the years. Personally I will watch any film, no matter what I expect to get from it. You never know…. You may enjoy it. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not trying to get people to stop reading reviews because I do think that it is always interesting to hear another person’s opinion of a film (It’s why I especially like reading reviews for films that I’ve already seen).

We all have our favourites, which all vary, even if it is only a very small variation. There are certain films that are considered masterpieces; Citizen Kane, Shawshank Redemption, The Godfather etc….. But that doesn’t mean that they are films that people watch every single day (some might but I expect most don’t). I can see these films for the great bits of art they are but I generally won’t go out of my way to see them over and over. for example I’ve only ever seen’ Citizen Kane’ twice (I love it but what I get out of it isn’t the kind of entertainment that i want all of the time.) On the opposite end of the spectrum I’ve seen the film ‘Hackers’ hundreds of times. I wouldn’t say it was a better film but it’s a film that i can simply enjoy for what it is.

Some films such as documentaries are slightly different as they are (generally) showing fact. As such it isn’t the director’s imagination we are seeing (although we are seeing their interpretation of what they are filming) but what is there. The enjoyment factor for some documentaries rely on how the stories are told (like fiction). A good example is something like ‘Bowling for Columbine’. It focuses on a hard subject but tells it in such a way that the audience get a form of enjoyment out of it making them pay more attention. By presenting the subject in this way the film is opened up to a much larger audience, an audience who may subconsciously be against the subject matter but for the presentation.

You could say that this means that a film is only as good as its audience. This is Kind of true, If your audience hates it then what’s the point? It is when the whole question of ‘Is it made to be enjoyed’ or ‘is it made to make money’? All films are made to make money, It’s the way the film industry keeps going.  Without income, as with any industry, it would collapse. But is that to say that all films are made to just make money?

NO!

Some films are made out of love and for an audience to experience a story they may not have seen before. We as viewers are traditionally meant to place ourselves in to the characters shoes. We are Jack or Rose when watching Titanic, Dutch in Predator, Danny or Sandy in Grease. If we are to fully enjoy a film we have to be able to relate in some way to what the Characters are feeling. This is why films featuring the subject of ‘love’ are so popular. Most people can relate in one way or another to love (be it love for a partner, love for a friend or even love for a family member.) It doesn’t have to be a romantic form of love but just that feeling of ‘love’ (I’m not going to spend hours trying to define Love as it is the most confusing of all emotion). The fact we can all relate, means that it is far easier to manipulate that feeling through film. If you can get that feeling involved you can trick a person into enjoying a film more than they might otherwise enjoy it. This ‘tricking’ is not a bad thing, it’s what all forms of media does. You can manipulate all emotions. (Love just seems to be the easiest.)

You could argue that people go to the cinema and watch films to purposely have their emotion manipulated as it is a safe place to have it done. It’s why people watch ‘scary’ films. People as a whole don’t like being scared, but you do get a form of adrenaline and a feeling you don’t get anywhere else. experiencing the same feeling in a safe environment allows us to get the feeling without the risk. But this only works if the film can draw you into itself and make you forget that you are in a safe place.

I guess you could say a ‘good’ film is one that makes you feel what it wants you to feel. But you can’t because what you feel will be different from what others feel.

An example of this from my own experience is ‘The Deer Hunter’ directed by Michael Cimino. I can accept that it is an amazingly well made film. The acting is amazing, the script is great, the direction is brilliant, yet I don’t think it’s a great film in my own mind.  I want to like it much more than I do but I find it difficult. My problem is the fact that I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. I hadn’t experienced anything they had been through and in turn found it hard to relate to them and the film. (not that I can always relate to all characters in film. that would be silly.) I can accept and see why people love the film, but for me it just doesn’t do it. I’ve watched the film, probably around 5 times in my life, but I jut don’t get much from it. ( I have decided to leave this segment in even though i no longer truly agree with it. I have since watched ‘The Deer Hunter’ agaian and truly believe it to be a masterpiece of filmmaking – even if it does have a pointlessly long wedding sequence)

I can watch a film like ‘Karate Kid’ which his nowhere near as epic in scope or as stunningly made, and enjoy it far more because I find it easier to relate to some of the things that ‘Daniel’ is going through. Things such as trying to be accepted when your young and striving to be all you can. I can endlessly watch that film and never get bored, I will always get a rush of adrenaline at the end when he rises up onto one foot to take that final kick.

A successful film will make you forget you are watching a film. Time no longer matters, neither does your growing hunger or need for the toilet. You are drawn into the world presented to you on the screen and you are there with the characters. You are standing beside Arnie as he wields the minigun in ‘Terminator 2’, You are riding side by side with Brad Pitt about to rob a train in ‘The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford’. As soon as you start looking at your watch wondering how much more of the film there is. It’s failed…

ultimately you can never label a film as ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Well at least in the general sense. It can be good or bad for you but not necessarily for someone else. There are a few films i truly despise as pieces of art but I know people who love them. so it all comes down to what you want from a film and whether or not you get it.

I realise I have rambled on in a big pointless circle but I hope you get something out of it. It’s been in my mind for a while and this is only touching the surface….. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts and whether or not you found this to be an entirely pointless exercise in writing. (although we could then argue that with everything being subjective, so is this piece of text)

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I’ll start by saying it’s been a while since I’ve last written a review so here goes:

Godzilla

Before we get into the review I will warn they may be possible spoilers throughout:

So where do I begin?

Well I guess an introduction to Godzilla isn’t really needed as he really is such a cultural icon, which makes it hard to find a suitable opening. Anyway we’ll give it a go.

Now having 27  films in the Japanese series, and 4 American pictures (even if one of them is just the original Godzilla film with an American actor slipped in) Godzilla is one of the longest running film franchises around. This newest incarnation is helmed by the great Gareth Edwards of ‘Monsters’ fame. Where ‘Monsters’ was a low budget almost indie film made with pretty much no crew, 2 actors, a camera and a load of CGI done on a home computer, this is a much larger beast (like the creatures in the film). This film has hundreds of cast and crew and effects that rival pretty much all films on the market today, plus a budget of over 20 times what ‘monsters’ had. I wondered if the money would go straight to Edwards’ head like numerous directors nowadays but I was gladly surprised.

The film is hands down one of the most enjoyable times I’ve had at the cinema in a long while especially after the travesty that was ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2′. For me almost everything about it worked, not that there aren’t a few issues which I will get to in due time, but let me just say I really liked this film.

For me one of the things that really worked and in a way didn’t work were the characters in the story. Much like Edwards’ earlier film ‘Monsters’ (sorry to keep mentioning it but it does feel like Edwards has taken a lot from his previous effort and implemented aspects into this film) he focuses very much on the relationships of the characters involved and does really make you care about some of them. The broken relationship between Bryan Cranston’s ‘Joe’ and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s ‘Ford’ is brilliant and they really do feel like father and son. the same can be said for Joe and his Wife. Everything kinda gels with the characters. But they also feel kind of pointless. we get these relationships and we get these characters but they ultimately mean nothing. the character of ‘Ford’ simply exists as a plot device to take us where the monsters are going. he doesn’t really learn or accomplish anything in the film. the only real character that does is ‘Joe’ but even then it kind of feels pointless. the fact they are pointless doesn’t necessarily mean that the characters aren’t the main focus of the film either because you could argue they are but they feel like something is missing.

The other issue I have with the ‘pointless’ characters is Elizabeth Olsen’s ‘Elle’. she is simply inserted, again as a plot device to try and bring ‘Ford’ home to her. without her there would be little reason for ‘Ford’ to keep moving with the monsters, but at the same time she is completely wasted. She is kind of necessary to the story but at the same time is not.

You may notice that I keep on mentioning ‘Monsters’ in plural and that is because this film has more than one monster. This is one of the films biggest assets as it truly harks back to the Godzilla films of old. In this film Godzilla IS NOT the bad guy and I love that fact. The monster on monster fights are handled really well even if you cleverly see very little of all but the final battle. The CGI is very impressive and for the most part blends seamlessly with the real environments and actors. In a way it feels very much like the other large creature film ‘Pacific Rim’ which also featured amazing effects and sound and an equally large number of pointless characters.

In a way the film ‘Pacific Rim’ has lessened the impact of ‘Godzilla’ due to it’s similarly large monsters and epic battles (you could argue it was the best non-Godzilla, Godzilla film in recent memory). that’s not to say this isn’t amazing when the action really ramps up. The final battle really is amazing and really feels like the Godzilla’s of old (minus the man in rubber  suit dramatics).

there are a few other odd negatives such as a military compound that no-one seems to have noticed has a giant hole in the side of it, the sheer collateral damage the fighting monsters do that seems to go unnoticed, the fact that the creature is far larger then it’s ‘cocoon/egg’.  there are probably a few more but they were not important. In fact none of the negatives I mention really detract from this film.

When all is said and done this is kind of what you’d expect from a large budgeted Godzilla film. Its loud, big and has awesome action. but in a way has far less action then you may expect. In its 2 hour runtime less than half is action, but when they come some of the set-pieces are breathtakingly awesome (like the amazing Halo jump features in the trailer).

So as you may have guessed I really like this film (although I may have focused on more negatives then positives weirdly). It’s rekindled my love of Godzilla and has spurred me on to watch all of the old ones again ( including the Roland Emmerich 1998 film that I also really enjoy. It’s fun and delivers on what it sets out to do) and possibly the animated series that was also produced.

All in all I’d highly recommend watching this film if you like this kind of cinema (most of you reading this have probably already seen the film or are planning to see it so you know who you are) I’d give it a strong 8/10.

 

godzilla image property of warner brothers and is used in fair use.