“Is This A Good Movie?”
A Common Question for the Movie Geek
By Paul Knoop
With movies being as embedded as they are in our current day society, the question “is this a good movie?” always seems to come up in everyday conversation.
Ever since I started to study the subject of film, this question has been popping up even more often.
Friends or family will come to you asking if ”insert title here” is a good movie and whether or not they should go out to see it. The answer to these questions is a lot more complicated than it seems though. For instance, a few factors to keep in mind when answering this question are:
– What genre does said person like?
– Is said person patient enough to let a story develop or does he want a lot of action/exposure?
– Will he be watching this with friends/his lover, or maybe his dad?
Especially the first two seem to be crucial for most people to decide on whether or not they like a film. The internet caters to the crowds, with websites like IMDB offering everyone a chance to rate the film they just saw, the popular database has since developed into a go-to resort for people to make up their mind on whether or not they will watch a flick.
On the other side of the spectrum, the art of film critiquing has also taken online, with websites such as Rotten Tomatoes offering a nice overview of the review scores given for a movie. Another plus on their website is that they also state the scores given by the public. Do those two scores match? Well, often they don’t. And that’s the most interesting part of the question, what makes a movie, a good movie?
Having learned a lot on the art of film-making there are a lot of factors to keep in mind, what’s the quality of the script? Is there enough character development? Did the movie make me feel anything? Is it respectful of the subject it’s showing and covering? All those parts make up for a final grade or opinion, the problem is, not everyone has the same list you have, and neither one is the definite truth on the quality of a movie.
I have watched ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’ about 25 times and I still love it, but is it a good movie? no. Or maybe yes? However, it made me feel something, and that’s important. (and should be your first internal guide as to whether you say a movie is good or not).Which leads into the second question, what’s the purpose of watching a movie?
In this day and age people watch a movie first and foremost to be entertained.
This differs from having it make you feel something, since seeing 25 cars explode doesn’t make me feel shit, yet I will be thoroughly entertained (sometimes). So having established that being entertained and having felt something while watching it are different, which factor is more important for you?
Discussions arise from this exact point.
IMDB is very much geared towards the entertainment side of watching movies, their website is built on it and the users submitting their grades are (proven) a whopping 90% casual movie go’ers.
Meaning that of every 10 grades given on IMDB, about 9 of them are given by people who watch 1 movie or less per month and value entertainment over anything else as measured by IMDB in their yearly report. This still doesn’t mean a lot, since ‘being entertained’ is also a very broad definition, but for the sake of keeping this article somewhat focused, let’s kindly leave it at that.
On the other side there’s the guys and girls who’d rather read a review from someone who is proven in the field of movies. These people, generally speaking, are looking at a movie from a slightly different perspective, perhaps seeing if the movie is good when measured in its genre, or if the performances are exceptional.
Think of Roger Ebert or Peter Travers or Pauline Kael to name a few of the bigger names in the reviewing industry. Still, those are all independent voices and can’t be seen as the be all, end all discussion on whether or not a movie is good. Roger Ebert tore E.T. a new one, yet it still stands today as a modern classic. But here’s the kicker: a movie is good if it executes all their components correctly.
Think of acting, lighting, direction, story, plot, etc. Those components, of course, can be individually judged on their own merits, but if they are all good, yes: the movie (at least technically) is a good movie. Whether or not it makes you feel something, that is independent of the person watching it. I have people come up to me and say that “The Godfather” sucked ass, there wasn’t a whole lot happening, people talked too much, the movie is too old. Blah Blah Blah…
All are valid opinions, as is every opinion, however, that doesn’t mean that they are right. As Ebert has wrote in his memoir: ”You’ve got to develop your taste when watching movies, if you dislike a genre or period in which a movie was made, that’s indicative of you and it shows you haven’t developed, or don’t want to develop, that taste any further.”
Regardless, everyone will still, till the end of time, comment on films and thank god, it’s what keeps them around for a very long time. So, you’ve spent the better part of 5 minutes reading this article and what has it taught you: Zero.
Paul Knoop is a Regular Contributor to Vic’s Movie Den
You can check out his very cool movie reviews and insightful essays HERE
Thanks Paul! I am forever grateful for your brilliant contributions.