Movie Grades and/or Reviews (MAK)

Adam - C
The Cove - A-
The Perfect Getaway - C-
Seeing Cold Souls tonight - grade to come

I intend to begin this thread as a place we can honestly speak about the films out there today. Last year I saw 72 films in the movie theaters. With the birth of my daughter in February, I assume the number I see this year will be much lower this year. This is a great place for writers to discuss films, especially screenwriters, so let’s not hold back. What are your thoughts? What have you seen lately?

So, uh, what did you THINK about these movies? You’ve provided less than one word on each – simply one letter!

EDITED TO ADD: Sorry, that came out way snarkier than was intended.

I know. Just wanted to get it going. Going to give real feedback on them once I have a chance to sit and write. FYI - Cold Souls - C- … but what I did like is it tried to tell a really good story. I’m really fed up with with the studio fare. I was also disappointed at all the independent divisions that shuttered this year. Cold Souls had it’s problems but the effort was there.

I think it’s really hard to assign letter grades to movies.
I never cared for rating systems of any kind.
Because there are so many variables to consider.
Genre, budget, producer, director, writer, actors, etc.
Of the movies you list, two are indie drama/romance
One is a documentary, one a made-for-tv drama.
These are not mass-audience films, and all are low budget.
So the aims are not comparable to major releases.
Anyway, I do rate the movies I see via Netflix.
And I’m fairly generous, but I’m selecting what I view.
Most commonly, I give out 4-3 stars If I enjoyed it.
5 stars is rare, and 1 star even more so.

Fair enough to me. Except the letter grade give you three levels ie; b-, b, b+ which makes it a little more exact. That said, I could care less about that as well.

Good article in the Sunday New York Times today by A.O. Scott regarding the big studio films.

My feeling is right with his. Why not release the Hurt Locker on three thousand screens instead of releases it like some speciality film. It’s not. It was probably the best action movie of the year so far. I’ve discussed this a bit with Mark Cuban who owns many theaters. He said they have to put the Batman’s of the world in the theater to make money. I don’t know how people sit through it. I am bored after 10 minutes. I literally can’t take it.

Of the movies I saw this past week I’d say The Cove is by far the most important to see. It is also likely to be nominated for a best documentary not that I care about awards. Like everything else they have been watered down to mean nothing. But it’s an important film to see. There is no need to review it other than that.

I think a discussion of films with writers could be a great learning experience since many of us are writing them as we speak. Druid, what type of writing do you do?

Don’t even get me started on limited releases. I really, really want to see Moon, a low-budget sf movie directed by Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son) and starring Sam Rockwell, with the voice of Kevin Spacey as a robot and influenced by 2001 and various other late 70s sf movies. In fact, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve been quite so excited by the premise and look of a film. It’s that rarest of things - a British sf movie made on a low budget that has got nothing but rave reviews. All the major papers and websites have covered it - and yet it is being shown on about 10 screens around the country. To see it, I’m going to have to drive for an hour and a half to view it in a cinema that is putting it on four weeks after its official release. (And yet the wretched Transformers 2 lasted about two months at my local cinema.) Even if I were still living in London, there are only about two cinemas in the entirety of our capital showing it. People are always complaining about the decline of the British film industry, and how our brightest talent disappears to Hollywood, but is it any wonder when an acclaimed British film with good press coverage can’t even get a country-wide release here?

I read a lot of negative reviews of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” but bought it anyway and found I liked it immensely. I didn’t know this story by FS Fitzgerald, the premise sounded gimmicky (a life lived backward), and Brad Pitt seems to me an actor of limited range or depth. But the direction (David Fincher) and editing were brilliant. The film created a strong sense of place, through a mix of sets, real locations, lighting, and probably computer graphics. The writing was tight and clean (I always turn on sub-titles), the minor characters well-cast, and the pacing effective. To me it came across as a time-travel story, a genre I’ve always loved, but also a meditation on what it means to age, since the story is about the reverse process. Growing younger is no picnic, either, since after a brief blaze of glory, Benjamin becomes an infant as helpless as his ancient self. No surprise, Cate Blanchette was outstanding in her too-brief role as a seductress. Yes, it was romantic and sentimental, but what the hell, so am I. :blush:

WOT!! :open_mouth:

Vic, your long layoff has clearly rusted the memory banks.
Or you have me confused with an older self. :mrgreen:

pffrrrt!! romantic and sentimental, my arse!!

Oh, all right. Now, seen any good movies lately? Or still on a tight chain? :unamused:

I get much of my inspiration from going to movies. Take out my Iphone and jot notes to myself all the time.

keith - i hear ya. we have to trek long and far to continue to see these films or they will go away. i can’t wait to see moon too. also, you should email mark cuban and let him know you want to see Landmark Theaters built in your area. I’m telling you it’s the best movie going experience and worth every penny. Although there are exceptional theaters in my area they show most of the crap! so i drive 45 minutes away to support the theater that shows the good stuff.

Wow, I admire the dexterity involved to do that!
May I gently suggest that BOOKs are a writer’s primary inspiration, films secondary?
That comment will probably launch a fight between Ancients and Moderns.
(see Swift, Jonathan, one of those dead-tree writers).

Except Mr Mak writes screen plays. There was a bit of a page count hostility earlier if I remember correctly in which Mr Mak was a participant. :wink:

That said, I don’t write much (other than posts to L&L forums apparently) but I do find that movies do provide some moments of “Ah-Ha!” on occasion. Recently it was Elizabeth, the Golden Age. While I felt the movie (which is old, I know) was thin, there were some interesting points to it. Not really applicable, but then most of what I say isn’t really applicable.

I agree. Both inspire me. But films are a quick fix, and since screenwriting is my passion, there is something about reading the script and seeing the film that inspires. If I wrote novels I’m sure novels would be first and films secondary. But honestly, it’s pretty damn close.

I recently watched a DVD of The Hunting Party, a Richard Gere film about the hunt for Karadzic in Bosnia. Critics disliked it when it was released saying it was “tonally” inconsistent, mixing humour and tragedy (but couldn’t the same be said of Hamlet?). Yet, although the film is ultimately unsuccessful, it gets many things right (the dripping forests, local hostility, journalistic obsession, anchorman arrogance, CIA perfidy etc.etc.) And Gere is pretty good, especially when the camera makes him look ugly, as is Terence Howard.

But I could never never grade it on a single measure.

On druid’s other point, I recently read The Cellist of Sarajevo, a good piece of writing on a related subject to The Hunting Party. But was it more or less inspirational? Don’t know. Chalk and cheese.


I honestly think films can only be graded on a single measure. Once you start breaking down what worked, what you didn’t like, but that scene was incredible, yet that ending was horrible you, in my opinion, are then critiquing as if it were a skit. Film are a whole. They work as one or they don’t. If a car looked great, the finest leather seats, spectacular lines, yet the engine who no more powerful than a bicycle, it’s a dud. As for the Hunting Party, I had wanted to see it but missed it. The reviews I read were actually positive. The Hamlet reference is good. The truth is, you write a screenplay, novel etc. that moves someone or sticks with the read/viewer, it works. Doesn’t matter what parts went into the whole. If it’s powerful it’s a winner.

Your grammatical slip there points to a flaw in your approach. As I noted earlier, films are a hugely collaborative effort. Just look at the credits at the end of any flick. Even a turkey takes hundreds to dress and roast it. So it’s only appropriate to take it apart, look at all the elements, and discern which parts work and don’t.

One actor in a small role may be better than the lead. The lighting could be superior to the editing. My approach to viewing films is to look for some element, even though tiny, that teaches me something about the craft. Your approach would seem to value only the super perfect and completely satisfying experiences. In art, I don’t think they exist.

One reason I like Roger Ebert as a critic is that he’s pragmatic and eclectic. His primary question is: within its given limits, does the film work? But he doesn’t dismiss a film because it fails to reach his preconceived ideas of perfection. And I think that does justice to the hugely demanding work of trying to create art. (Hope I’ve not misunderstood your critical praxis there, mak. But films are not whole. They are many tiny pieces, creating the illusion of continuity.)


I get your point, but I don’t know that to many non-critics (normal folks vs. specialist) would intrinsically agree with you. We, the un-movie-educated, may see the same things with lighting, but rarely make the discrimination at this level. We say “Something was wrong there and I don’t like it”. If the problem is particularly egregious we might go so far as to say “Damon was not good here because he looked the same as he did in Bourne, like a robot.” This would then taint the whole movie in our conversations. Something like

Keep in mind I AM one of the un-movie-educated so I plead your indulgence with my myopic view and analysis of movies.

Mak on the other hand is NOT an un-movie-educated person. I am not sure that there is a rationale for a single point evaluation in his case UNLESS he is providing suggestions to the idiots like me. I think the craft and art of movie making would deserve the type of segmented analysis that you suggest. Not that I am qualified to do, or even really understand that analysis, but it seems to me that you are right.

But what do I know?

jaysen, I think we are in agreement, but you’re laying more emphasis on the viewer reaction, and that’s appropriate. How viewers/readers respond is a huge mystery. They can see both more and less in a work than its creator, I’ve found that many times.

Artists, and in the case of plays/films, I include the entire crew, are making educated guesses about audience reaction all along. Some nights, a joke gets a huge laugh, other nights, it bombs. Why? A matter of chemistry, maybe, and the nature of that audience. Students in classes are quite similar.

Of one principle I’m convinced: never play down to an audience. They may be unsophisticated and inarticulate, but they comprehend far more than they may express. I’ve recently watched a series of plays at a quite amazing repertory theatre in Wisconsin. The audience consists of academics, retirees, business folk, trades people, and farmers. The bill of fare is Shakespeare, Shaw, Pinter, and Ionesco. They hang on every word.