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Max Field

Anyone Else Find It Hard To Enjoy New Films?

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Just to clarify, I don't find new features technically bad or any worse than before.. It's just having personally written and produced so many things I feel too hip to the tricks that screenwriters/directors will use. I saw Joker and thought it was great, I saw Uncut Gems and thought it was great, but I didn't really feel consistently entertained by either of them. So often I would see scenes implanted and would just think "Okay yeah I know what trick they're doing here, let's wrap it up".

For example in Uncut Gems there was a scene where the door buzzer was jammed which hesitated a big gem stone being returned and literally all I was thinking was what the screenwriter was thinking when they wrote that scene: "Yeah see the audience thought it'd be an easy return but NOPE we'll just put this problem in to raise the tension even higher!"   ...I almost called it "artificial drama" but literally all drama on the screen is artificial..

Does anyone else have this problem? What's a way for overcoming it?

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4 hours ago, Max Field said:

Does anyone else have this problem? What's a way for overcoming it?

Better screenwriting.

What you're talking about, I think, is the fact that it's all becoming very very predictable. Read any screenwriting book and it will tell you how to write scripts like this. It's not that hard. You could almost write a computer program to randomly generate plot points to happen on certain pages, and even have it generate beats for scenes. You can hear this stuff coming because you've seen that scene before, you've seen that act before, you've seen that movie before. For instance, if you have any plot involving a MacGuffin, it's incredibly common. 

I don't think anyone who's involved in writing these things is ignorant of this, it's just - if you're a Hollywood screenwriter making a healthy six-figure income doing this stuff, who's going to rock the boat? You'll just get replaced anyway.

P

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It's not necessarily the screenwriter's fault. Scripts are not just written, they are developed, sometimes by teams of producers. Even if a writer successfully avoids clichés, there's no guarantee that some helpful development executive won't make sure they put some in.

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Sometimes a viewer enjoys a predictable situation, they aren't always looking for the unexpected -- look at "Singin' In The Rain", Gene Kelly meets Debbie Reynolds and she doesn't get along with him, is annoyed by him, etc. We all know how this will end up but it is still enjoyable to watch the journey.

You could say in every bank robbery heist film when "things don't go according to plan" is a predictable development, it would be less expected for the plan to go without a hitch but then, where would the tension come from?  With genre films in particular, the audiences expect certain things to happen, the trick it to make it fresh without subverting the enjoyment of seeing some things play out as anticipated.

 

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The film industry achieved its zenith in the mid-late 1970s.  It's been all downhill since then.

The advent of CG has had the most impact on ruining the film industry.

R,

 

 

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3 hours ago, Phil Rhodes said:

You could almost write a computer program to randomly generate plot points to happen on certain pages, and even have it generate beats for scenes.

Phil, you're a computer genius, can you get to work on this right away please?

R,

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Watching movies became really difficult shortly after I read Save the Cat by Blake Snyder and I immediately began to notice how things unfold exactly the same way in every film based on the run time.  It's like clockwork.  Everyone should read Save The Cat.  If for no other reason than to know what is expected to happen in their script on page 5, 12, 25, 55, 85 etc.   

Yes you can mix up this formula but the agents, producers and readers that will vet your script are going to fault it if it doesn't comply with these expectations.   Currently reading "Bulletproof" Writing Scripts That Don't Get Shot Down  By David Diamond and David Weisman.   It speaks to a lot of this.  The tug of war between originality and writing something that people can recognize as a movie cause it feels familiar.   If you write the perfect script, you'll end up with Collateral Beauty.  A  trainwreck of predictability.

 

Edited by Michael LaVoie

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57 minutes ago, Richard Boddington said:

Phil, you're a computer genius, can you get to work on this right away please?

R,

Sure. Let's get the first round of funding underway.

(Honestly, has nobody done this?)

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I remember a story about Kurosawa and his writing partners working on a script about the greatest swordsmen in Japanese history -- after putting it all together, Kurosawa looked at it and said "a movie can't be nothing more than a string of climaxes" and threw it out. They sat down and then wrote "Seven Samurai", which had one master swordsman character based on their research for the previous script.

Today, I think a lot of big-budget action movies literally are what Kurosawa warned against, a string of climaxes.

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I feel like unpredictability will eventually take over in the mainstream.. but it'll be about 20 years from now. People under 30 tend to get the most excited over films that have wild things happen out of nowhere, the non-sequitur is becoming increasingly popular thanks to shows like Eric Andre.

Like a bank robbing movie, should everything go as planned? Would probably be boring, but it's what you stuff into the going wrong that keeps people wanting to see more. Having the boss shoot one of the characters in the face for barely any reason with no warning in a film that isn't advertised as horror is what makes a film go viral now. 30 minutes in some background robber with no development shoots the boss in the face and everyone just goes with it. The unexpected is the essence of amusement.

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48 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Sure. Let's get the first round of funding underway.

(Honestly, has nobody done this?)

Funding? Can't you work on deferral?

R,

 

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16 minutes ago, Max Field said:

I feel like unpredictability will eventually take over in the mainstream.. but it'll be about 20 years from now. People under 30 tend to get the most excited over films that have wild things happen out of nowhere, the non-sequitur is becoming increasingly popular thanks to shows like Eric Andre.

Like a bank robbing movie, should everything go as planned? Would probably be boring, but it's what you stuff into the going wrong that keeps people wanting to see more. Having the boss shoot one of the characters in the face for barely any reason with no warning in a film that isn't advertised as horror is what makes a film go viral now. 30 minutes in some background robber with no development shoots the boss in the face and everyone just goes with it. The unexpected is the essence of amusement.

So is the problem predictability or unpredictability???  Seems like randomness isn't really a solution to storytelling.

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1 hour ago, David Mullen ASC said:

So is the problem predictability or unpredictability???  Seems like randomness isn't really a solution to storytelling.

Literally the only films that entertain me anymore break most conventional screenwriting rules. And they aren't weird art films. The Visit, Crank 2, The Guest, Freddy Got Fingered: pictures like this are gaining sizable followings with the 16-30 crowd years after release.

Watch Tim & Eric Awesome Show or The Eric Andre Show, these are big hits utilizing a more extreme form of visual prose.

Edited by Max Field
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The issue with now compared to previous years is that it’s harder to be a pioneer. To be a pioneer you are not loved, nor celebrated until it’s a success. Most people who want to be a celebrated director, cinematographer, actor etc... don’t want to take that risk. If you were to suggest something outlandish nobody would fund it and critics would kill it.

Money and opinion may be the two most harmful parts of modern day art. If Van Gogh new his paintings were going to be priceless and bring him eternal fame would of he painted them differently? Not show his bad sides, yaknow hide the fact he cut off his ear. But no he was completely open and expressed himself as at no point would he ever of thought anybody else would see his work (considering the fact he only sold one painting throughout his entire life).

I had a thought if you got a director, actors, DP everyone. To shoot a film and release it in 50 to 100 years when they are all dead or forgotten would they shoot it differently? Especially nowadays film making is more confined. We are so vane and need to fill our egos with awards we wouldn’t dare cross the line. Also because we are so conditioned in society we wouldn’t even know the where the line is to cross. We believe outlandishness crosses the line. If one shoots a film with endless carnage and nudity more than anyone else has before that’ll make them stand out. However if anything that’s just feeding today’s society. 

I do still believe there are still great films being made. Call me ‘arty and pompous’ but I did enjoy La La land, Birdman, Sicario and many other films released throughout the recent years. Honey Boy, 1917 and I did enjoy Parasite, all great films and all relatively new. 1917 for more of its technical achievements however still gripping. I also truly enjoyed the Joker, it played on my mind. When do we find it acceptable to kill people?

It’s always easier to be a critic. 
“A man is a critic when he cannot be an artist, in the same way that a man becomes an informer when he cannot be a soldier”

Just a rambling of my thoughts.

Edited by Gabriel Devereux

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13 hours ago, David Mullen ASC said:

So is the problem predictability or unpredictability???  Seems like randomness isn't really a solution to storytelling.

I feel like the best movies are unpredictable, but inevitable at the same time.  I recently watched the 1990 Abel Ferrara movie, "King of New York" the other day and it had a scene so unpredictable, but so absolutely inevitable that I literally jumped out of my seat when it happened.  It took me a couple days of thinking about it to figure out how the filmmakers set me up so well.  If any of you haven't seen it, Netflix DVD's has a really clean and sharp blu-ray.

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This issue is partly that the model for a 'good' film is now more widely understood than it was 50 years ago so more people use it when making films.

Partly that people understand film better (especially ppl on cinematography.com, and especially as we age) and so see the tricks.

Partly that 'film' is now an old medium and most of the fresh snow has been broken. People have been making 2hr, single story, complete arc narrative fiction for a hundred years now.

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20 hours ago, Richard Boddington said:

Phil, you're a computer genius, can you get to work on this right away please?

R,

Automated screenwriting software has been out for years - check out this review:

 

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OP. No don't have that problem. But I get distracted in other ways similar to what you mentioned.

One film I watched about drugs in Mexico had lots of tilt / shift miniaturization effects going on. The first and second time was neat, but after a dozen or more times got distracting.  Another film had constant camera shutter sound effects as a way to transition. I use that myself... 3 or 4 times OK, but not 50+ times.

Records Collecting Dust II looked to me to be where the person wanted to try every and all special effects they could between each scene. It was unwatchable. I like art, but Records... was just interviews and the craziness messed up the interviews.

Lots of films like that get me crazy. I don't like the superhuman unrealistic films that have gone mainstream over the last 15 years or so. 

I watched a nice silent film last night in 2 strip Technicolor called The Love Charm. Another nice silent film I was Upstream

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upstream_(film)

The films don't have to be silent. I like films like High Noon, They Shoot Horses Don't They,  La Strada, etc. In short I like the old classics. 

Modern?  I liked The Shape of Water, Delicatessen and 1917 as examples. I don't mind CGI as long as it is realistic.

Overcome overthinking OP?

A good film draws you in and you are mesmerized in the moment. You can think later how great it was...for the rest of your life. That is the magic of film!

Edited by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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I find the opposite to be true - the more I learn about filmmaking, the more I enjoy movies. If a movie has a good story and good characters, I enjoy that, while also enjoying the actual craft on display - the cinematography, special effects, costumes, and production design.

If we're just talking about plot mechanics, the "Save the Cat" plot points can be overdone. But it seems like I see less of that these days. Maybe I'm just accidentally picking non-"Save the Cat" movies? Anyway, even if a movie uses standard plot points, for me the journey is where the fun is, not necessarily the destination.

 

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I can certainly get something out of most movies, simply because most mainstream stuff is now so stunningly well-produced. I think the whole conversation here is really about terrible off-the-peg scriptwriting, though. It's not that I find it hard to ignore, it's just unfortunate that it happens so very, very often.

P

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As you learn more about filmmaking, it's easier to spot the flaws and understand the processes behind it. If you've read "hero's journey" its hard not to see it at work in many films.

As you learn more and become more sophisticated it's harder to be impressed, but I also find when you are impressed it's even more joyful because you appreciate how clever/surprising it is. 

I had a similar experience working at a drama school. When I first started I didn't really understand that much about theatre acting etc.. and was usually impressed by the more "dramatic" shouty performances while the tutors rolled their eyes. 2 years of sitting in on classes, watching 1000's of performances, my tastes improved and now I find it very difficult to watch poor acting - but younger me would have been fine. 

It's a slippery slope and not without its problems, I now only like drinking the more expensive single malts that I can't afford. 

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My favorite kind of movie is what I call a "three-timer".  It's a movie I have to see in theaters three times, which is really difficult these days since I'm a "three-timer" of children. 

I watch the movie once and it fires on all cylinders. I'm immediately grabbed in the first five minutes and I've committed to the fact that whatever happens after that, they've got my attention.  Then the performances are more than just good, they're appealing to my taste.  I love the way the actors move in the frame... the way they talk... their mannerisms...  I love the lighting, blocking and compositions.  which also works in perfect convection with the editing.  Then the script, the performances, the music, the sound, editing and the cinematography climax into a perfectly unpredictable, but inevitable ending that leaves me exhaling with relief.

SO, that happens, then I have to go back a second time to attempt to figure out how the filmmakers pulled off such an accomplishment.  I watch it closely, shot by shot, analyzing everything technical about the piece... editing... lighting.... performance choices... specific writing moments that stood out...  

Then I take a couple days thinking about it and go back to see it again.  This time, I get the best experience.  I get to enjoy the emotion the film gives me combined with an understanding of the craft from what I've observed in the past couple screenings.  I love the feeling I get from that.  It's rare, but that's a three-timer for me and I freaking love it.

 

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I get it. It's the mindset of someone that has peered behind the curtain.

Knowing the tricks of how it's done made me feel like I couldn't enjoy films for a while, too.

When I started out in the mid to late 80's, I was a makeup FX creatures artist. Every time I saw the film I had worked on, or any film for that matter, I couldn't get past knowing how it was done. It all felt like watching a random home video. I could picture the rig used to puppeteer the creature. The sculpture sitting in the shop, the paint process, the lighting set up, etc. It took me a while to get past it. I had to train myself to forget all of it, stop analyzing, push aside any memories from set and just watch it for entertainment. 

 

 

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Kirby Ferguson made an excellent documentary called Everything is a Remix. Everyone should see it. LINK

At the 6:09 mark, Ferguson discusses how Hollywood keeps reinventing itself. Big budget films have almost always been based on prior material (books, plays, real people, other movies, etc). He even points out that "original" films are just a remix of different films put together. Star Wars, for instance, is Kurosawa meets Joseph Campbell's Monomyth meets WWII films meets Classic Westerns meets Flash Gordon (the iconic scrolling titles were done by Flash Gordon first) and so on.

In my opinion, when you start to break down original films into their simple parts, you start to see their inspiration. Inception, considered by many the most recently original film, is Nightmare on Elm Street or The Cell in the heist film genre. Does this mean the film is unoriginal? Of course not, this film is still unique by creating something new after combining different elements of its influences along with the artist's flair.

As cinematographers, understanding how this creative process works will make us better collaborators with our directors. If we see the familiar stories in our projects we shoot, then we can take what works, improve upon what failed, and add something new in the cinematography of the film.

I believe we're wrong to think something is truly original and at the same time foolish to think we can't make something new...or at least slightly new. 🙂

---

As for enjoying movies, I look forward to seeing its influences and subtle nods when I watch new movies. Like a magician who watches another magician, I can't wait to be fooled.

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I agree with AJ Young. I think creative people can get carried away sometimes with the idea of originality, but I think originality is generally overrated. Not that it's bad - it's truly great when something new, something original is made that works very well as entertainment (or as anything, really). But I've always felt that you have the best chance of coming up with something original by just being relaxed about the whole thing and concentrating on what you love doing. If you end up making something that's quite original, wow, that's an extra good thing.

But most things aren't orginal, when you think about it. We get up in the morning and if it's a great morning the sun is shining, birds are singing, it's wonderful but none of it is original. But that endlessly repeatable morning is still an incredible miracle that we should be thankful for. To be chasing originality too much is, to me, to be oppressed by an unrealistic expectation. In art, such a motivation to always seek to be original and different can result in a forced weirdness (at least, so it seems to me, often) - like artists coming up with works that are actually pretty disgusting - like visual art that's physically made of, um, something unpleasant (like various notorious artworks that have come to public notice over the years, a notable one involving an image of Christ that was just pointlessly disgusting).

The best bet, anyway, with originality is just don't care for it. If you're pretty good at what you do, it will make its presence known in some way in your work. As mentioned above, George Lucas simply retold a tale that's been told around campfires down through the ages, then on stage, then in novels, then in films, etc. He personally was fired up with enthusiasm for his story and because he's naturally a creative person with a lot of energy his films couldn't help but have an original stamp to them.

I really enjoy some of the latest films being made, as much as I enjoyed the latest movies as a teenager and younger person. I think seeing cinema-release movies in an actual cinema helps a lot. I've always liked films that told stories about people - their struggles and triumphs, stories that made you leave the cinema feeling good or feeling thoughtful about some of the mysteries of life. Films that try to work on the vanity of the viewer, which as I see it a lot of comic book action movies do, that seem to want to make us think we could be a super hero - these films I don't enjoy. We aren't superheros. The original Superman The Movie (1978) was good because it told the story of someone who really was a superhero. But generally we need more movies about common, garden variety people and their incredible stories. Life is an incredible story when you think about it. Film should tap into that.

Edited by Jon O'Brien

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