Monday, September 27, 2010

Grading On A Curve, Pt. 1

If you haven't figured it out yet, I watch a lot of movies. I've always loved film, since I was a little kid. I mostly watch genre films, but I do take in the occasional mainstream flick ( I saw Up In The Air the other night, for example). Even amongst genre films, there's a wide variety to be found. For example, I did enjoy the two Iron Man movies, and I think the latest two Batman films are pretty damn good, genre or not. Still, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the independent film/ low budget movie, be it a labor of love or the quick exploitation flick.

A while back, I was discussing a movie ( don't remember which one) with a friend, and she , at one point in the conversation, said,"Is it a low-budget movie?", using the same tones one might use when looking at the bottom of their shoe after stepping in something. I'm telling you, just like I told her, low-budget isn't neccessarily a sign of low value.

Consider the average Hollywood takes millions to make one, once it's all said and done. A big expense is getting a big-name 'Star' to be in your flick. All those digital effects , locations, and everything else add up to a hefty price tag. So, why do most Hollywood movies suck? Well, a lot of these so-called 'Stars' can't act their way out of a paper bag. Maybe it's because I've seen a lot of 'effects ' movies, but most of the CGI I see in movies looks fake to me...maybe I just have too good of an eye for that sort of thing. The money sure as hell isn't being spent on scripts , that's for sure. Need a movie? Let's just do a movie version of an old TV show! Better yet, let's remake a great film from the 70s, or from a different country, but leave out everything that made it special in the first place! As always, there are exceptions, but for the most part, this is Hollywood.

Now, take into consideration the guy who lives somewhere that's not Hollywood, (say, the Midwest) who is shooting his movie on weekends, putting everything he has(which, admittedly, isn't much, at least financially speaking) into his work. OK, maybe the make-up and digital effects aren't the greatest. Maybe the actors aren't name actors, or possibly aren't all that good at acting. But maybe the story is clever, or has some thing unique to it . Maybe a few of the actors are doing a good job. Maybe this little homegrown film has something a bit different that you'll find entertaining, that you won't find at the big cineplexes.

When I decide how much I like a film (or if I even like it at all), there's a few factors that go into it. I do grade on a curve...I cut a lot more slack for the independent filmmaker, the 'Little Guy', if you will. Why? Think about it. How many big-budget Hollywood films have you seen that cost millions of dollars to make, and still sucked? Now, think about the low-budget guy, whose entire production costs don't equal the cost for craft services on the aforementioned Hollywood flick. I can be a bit forgiving if his zombie make-ups aren't top-notch, or if a few actors in his ensemble aren't ready for Shakespeare. But the movie that cost a gazillion dollars? Those fuckers have no excuse, in my book. They could hire better writers, have better effects, and get better actors.

Ultimately, whatever the budget, genre, etc, the main criteria I judge a film on is , did it entertain me? Did I get caught up in it, for whatever reason? To me, whether it's a film, a book, or even a song, if I can get pulled in to the point where I forget everything else while I'm watching/reading/listening to it, then that to me is the mark of a good piece of entertainment. If it also makes me think, or teaches me something, even better. But mostly, did it involve me? Did it make me feel something?

What criteria do you judge a flim by? Do you only see certain types of films? Do you only see the big-name flicks, or do you take a chance on something unheard of, just to check it out? I'm curious.


Charles Gramlich said...

I actually don't watch a lot of movies so when I do I usually see what is on PPV, which generally means Hollywood. I find most of them pretty lame, which probably makes me even less likely to watch the next movie out. I used to watch more independents back when Blockbuster was a couple of blocks away and I often did find little gems. Eyes of Fire comes to mind. You're very right, a good story doesn't require millions of bucks. But the small films, even when well done, can't compete with Hollywood on the millions spent on ads and distribution. So folks like me who are too lazy to really go looking don't find 'em. But then, that's why we have your blog for? :)

Heff said...

I've been meaning to get out and see "Machete", but I'll probably end up sitting on my ass 'til it hits DishNetwork.

Scott said...


How true! I do try.


'Machete' was awesome! Check it out when you can.