So-Called “Great Films”

When you think of a “great” film or a “classic,” what comes to mind? For me, I think of Gone With the Wind, Wizard of Oz, Casablanca, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, The Mummy, Frankenstein, etc. It’s funny that I consider these films to be great or classic… since I’ve never seen any of them (yes, even Wizard of Oz). Yet these films are so deeply ingrained into society as great that even I know they’re great. What makes these films so great, though? The 2013 Oscar winners and nominees list also boasts a few films that may one day be revered as classics, such as:  Life of Pi, Django Unchained, Lincoln, Les Miserables, Flight, etc. What makes them great? Why do certain movies win Oscars and live forever, while some are immediately thrown into the wind? Furthermore, who gets to decide that certain films are great? It can’t be based simply on box office performance. The film industry is an enigma. I personally believe that all films (with a few exceptions……) should be or have the potential to be great. I’ll give any film a chance, which is why I have a neverending list of favorite movies. This is a rather short journal entry because I suppose my real purpose for is that I am on a quest for your opinions on what makes a great movie and what prevents other movies from becoming great. It’s a burning question for me and I’m so focused on finding an answer that I’ve become very preoccupied with this subject. What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “So-Called “Great Films”

  1. Does the fact that they’ve become so ingrained in society at least give them some credence as being “Classic”?

    I think before you pose this question – you should explore these movies yourself. Your question is one that deals more with the psyche and will never have a perfect answer. If there was a perfect answer then someone would equate it with an equation which they try to do. I’d equate it with a magic trick. If you are watching the magic trick and can easily see the strings then they are a terrible magician. You should be fascinated and be pulled in – Even if you know the tricks – the person should be such a great Magician that they make you feel like you’ve never seen these tricks before. Commonly film makers who are heavily criticized by “Critics” or forgotten easily are the ones where the strings are obvious and it doesn’t have the charisma to draw a overall audience in. Micheal Bay is one who is most often put in this category today.

    The other day one of my friends popped in “Armageddon” which I hadn’t watched since it came out back in the 90’s. While I was watching it – i kept going “Mr. Bay expects me to go ‘aww’ right here”. It’s relevant as far as being the top grossing movie of that year and an example of when Disaster Films were becoming big but I wouldn’t use it as an example of great film making nor do I commonly see people refer to it as their favorite film if they are an avid film watcher.

    In understanding the Oscars – you must be a member of the Academy to vote. The Academy is basically the top people in the film making business(Actors, Producers, Directors, so on) and they nominate and vote among themselves as to who is putting out the best product. Think of something your great at, whether its playing an instrument, a sport, so on. Usually you can spot people who are better at it(or putting out a better product) than you. No matter how good you get, You’ll have the respect to be able to say “Wow, I wish I could do that”. That’s how certain films are chosen. If it was only based on Box Office then Avengers would have won Best Film and certainly not Argo and a year earlier Harry Potter would have won and not The Artist. Neither Argo nor The Artist would have won Best Film due to neither one being the top 10 grossing of the year, instead it was the industry saying “This is a film shows exceptional talent in every area and you need to see it. Trust us, we do this for a living and they drove us crazy.” Others grow into the collective unconscious and simply stick with us. Fight Club is the best example of one of these in our lifetimes.

    Does every film have potential to be great? yes and no. Yes, in that luck occasionally happens or just the right circumstances present themselves. No, in that someone who isn’t good at their job can keep doing their thing as long as they have an audience. Most film critics, fanatics and industry members don’t get pleasure out of Michael Bay as stated above. People who I encounter who do like his material are people who may decide to watch one or two films a year and Transformers seems to be that one film they decided to watch(or they limit themselves down to the genre of action films). He can pull an audience to theaters that doesn’t usually come to theaters(and at large amounts) and pull in the bacon. And usually he’s one who is reliable about turning in the product on time. If you don’t already know, Studios plan in way advance of when they are going to release a film. Films are currently being schedule for 2015 and 2016 while 2013 isn’t even over yet. Star Wars Episode VII just announced it will be released December 18 2015. This means that any studio that doesn’t want to compete with audiences in theaters against Star Wars Episode VII better refrain from using that date and no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ the product is it needs to be released that date(if it was a less important series and the product was in desperate need of editing to make it watchable then they may bump it to January at the last minute). Not all films are planned so far into the future though. When The Hunger Games sequel was announced after the enormous success of the first one they found that the slot they wanted to use was two weeks from today. The Director of the first one Gary Ross quickly declined directing Catching Fire because he felt the date was too soon. Doesn’t mean Catching Fire won’t be good – but it means that they have little to no room for errors and that most of those people that you see on the “Credits” had plenty of sleep less nights that could have been avoided with a little more time. Back to the main point: Michael Bay is able to navigate this and stay within budget.
    Now a little coverage on why “No” to whether every film has potential to be great. Some films quite simple don’t have the talent or budget to accomplish what they set out to make. Some films aren’t even aiming at something that anyone is going to enjoy: its a product for the sake of getting a product to the marketplace. For some it’s merely a job, a goal that needs to be accomplished to reach the deadline. Some people are nurses because they enjoy taking care of people, some are nurses because they get a paycheck: which one of these do you want nursing you? Every time you pick to use 1-3 hours of your time watching a film, that’s 1-3 hours you will never get it back.

    Just a little warning before you adventure off watching classics. I found this not too long ago which analysed how young adults today react to the original Halloween. http://movies.yahoo.com/blogs/movie-talk/halloween-still-scary-35-years-later-172850535.html A lot of the students don’t find it horrific but they respect it and have an understanding of why its a classic. That’s one benefit you have from being in a class that studies films in a chronological order. You can get an idea of when certain aesthetics begin and judge whether they deserve their classic/great status or whether they are overrated. Either arrange the classics/greats in chronological order or keep a basic mind frame of what was going on at the time. You’ll find ones you’ll love, others you’ll respect and others that simply don’t work for you.

  2. I don’t know really. I heard about how great “Gone With the Wind” was all my life and so one day I sat down and watched it. I hated it absolutely hated it. Then the next week I was at home and it came on TV Grandpa was excited to see it and I just didn’t get it. He said that it was a big deal because it was in color and it was the first color film there was. I don’t know it it was the first or just the first he knew about but still the story line sucks. The story seemed to be irrelevant to him though. It was in color. Never mind the billions of color movies that had come out in the mean time. My point is they win awards and fame because of something the people of the era find great.

  3. I don’t really know where the term “classic” comes from exactly. There are so many so-called “classic” movies, books, etc. I myself have read/watched many of these classics and I usually don’t see why everyone loves them. But maybe that’s not what a classic is – love. Maybe it’s more of a recognition of the message/art/etc. Maybe it’s okay to hate classics as long as we see that there is some skill and art in them. When people look at paintings like the Mona Lisa, some people see a masterpiece while others see a constipated-looking woman. Does that mean it’s not a classic, or that it didn’t take a master to make?

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