Hayley and I love seeing movies. Be it in the theater, on DVD or on Lifetime, we love us some quality film. As such, we often engage in dialog with our friends about movies and we frequently get criticized for our taste. Many people feel that we don’t appreciate good movies and when we critique a film, it’s almost as if we’ve offended the actual filmmaker with how strongly people feel and the criticism they throw back our way.
Because of those reactions, I would like to share our criteria for what makes a quality movie for feedback from the most credible and unbiased source I can imagine: the blogosphere. We haven’t actually taken the time to write this down before, and I’m sure Hayley will disagree with some points, but this should provide a high level view of our stance on movies.
When it comes to the content of a film we are looking for a quality story, quality dialog and believability. We’re willing to fudge a bit on believability (as in Stranger Than Fiction), but Hayley especially wants things explained. In terms of negative content, bad language doesn’t particularly bother us, but graphic violence and nudity/sex do.
How well did the actor’s do? Were they believable? While this criteria can certainly break a film, it doesn’t push a film to the must-see category for us (as in Last King of Scotland).
We don’t place as high a value on artistry as some movie-goers do. We can appreciate the beautiful cinematography of a film without having to endorse and love it (as in Road to Perdition). Also, soundtracks are often critical to the success of a film but a solid soundtrack does not a good movie make (as in Garden State – I’m fully prepared for the blasting I may receive in the comments for that judgment).
By far the largest piece of what makes a movie a success or failure for us is how we feel after the credits roll. I’ve tried to break down this criteria into three groups, but I’m not sure if these are completely comprehensive:
- Encouraged – Do we feel like we’re better for seeing this movie? Do we feel happy about the way things turned out?
- Inspired – Did the movie inspire us to do something? Did it make us feel more alive? Are we going to take the message of the movie and do something with it?
- Entertained – Did we have an enjoyable movie going experience? Was the movie enjoyable if not particularly meaningful?
Here’s a quick case study for how we apply the above criteria:
Road to Perdition
Content: The story was fine if not particularly memorable. The violence was graphic. The dialog was poor, but on par with what you’d expect from a graphic novel.
Performance: Tom Hanks did a great job, per usual. Jude Law was disgusting and gave Hayley nightmares, so he did his job well. The kid was pretty annoying.
Artistic Value: This was a visually stunning film. Every shot was well-planned and looked like it was straight out of a graphic novel.
Outcome: When the movie was over, we didn’t feel encouraged, inspired or entertained. In fact, we felt depressed, disgusted and worse than we felt entering the theater.
Conclusion: This film serves as our litmus tests for the worst movie we have ever seen. In fact, our criteria was birthed after seeing this film as we were determined to not go see a movie just because it was beautiful and critically acclaimed.
So what do you think? What criteria do you use to critique a movie?