Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Well, I feel like I'm in college writing about this. But I feel like it is necessary. Aristotle wrote The Poetics, in an effort to explain what makes a story, performance etc. worthy and full of quality. Then Shakespeare and his buddies said screw it and did what they wanted. Devices that both of them created are still used today. I am not going to be giving a book report, hopefully, but try and look at how it is applicable today. 

Aristotle suggested that a tragedy consists of six component parts, which are listed here in order from most important to least important: plot, character, thought, diction, melody, and spectacle. He also wrote about comedy as being a different beast. Right now Apatow has helped blur the line again between drama and comedy, things aren't as strict and no one really cares about adhering to proper rules and formats. Picasso, Dali, and Monet also helped along with Vonnegut, Heller, and Dick, Jazz, Rock and Roll, and Hip Hop. No one cares anymore, nor should they about what is right and wrong. Its more about what is good or bad. Or, sad to say what will or will not make money. Thats a whole other thing.

Anyway, Aristotle gave us these things to judge poetry (theatre) by. Lets translate them to film.

Plot - I feel like this is obvious. But that means, a unified beginning middle and end, that is easily understandable and cohesive. Memento does this in reverse and Tarantino does this by separating everything and bringing it together, Richie as well but Kaballah seems to have ruined him. Anyway the point is its, interesting and people can understand it.

Character - He talks about how we should see heros that are better than us, go through some serious shit in order to make us feel pity. They have to be better than us in order for us to care. Then we have anti heroes get popular and everyday peons become main characters. What is important to remember is that they should be relatable, no matter how good or how evil something about them should be appealing to us. We have to care otherwise we wont watch it. Everyone in the world has something relatable about them, a three dimensional character should as well.

Thought - Themes, motifs, what do we walk away from with. He speaks about it being mimetic, which to me translates to suspension of disbelief. Believing that something is true or actually happening. Its hard to learn something from a story we don't believe, a story without consequence.

Diction - Do you understand it?

Melody - This is tricky. He was talking about the rhythm and rhyme scheme of actually poetry. Lets turn it into dialogue and add musical score and editing. Mamet, McDonough, and Sorkin will take care of dialogue. We already spoke about Zimmer, Elfman and Williams to a small degree. Lets add Shore and Howard to the list. But I do want to bring up this new style of score that happened in The Dark Knight, Inception, cop shows, lost, that ambient music which Jason Segal Parodied in Sarah Marshall. Music video editing and Kubrick are on two ends of the spectrum and both awesome. But should be used sparingly. This shaky handheld stuff that ruined the last Bourne movie but made Battlestar awesome is also important. Sound editing is harder to detect because it is subtler and less in your face but those Foley guys deserve a lot of credit.

Spectacle - SFX. Easy. Do we believe them, do they add to and serve the piece as a whole, are they good, etc.? Also composition of the shots. If you hit pause would it be interesting?

I hate rating movies on Netflix. Five stars is too limiting. Can I rate a half star please. Can I have the option to rate 0. I understand why they do it the way they do, but to refine it a little bit I propose a full 100% rating system. I like specifics. Sometimes I watch a movie that is almost perfect 95% rather than 4 or 5 stars. or a crappy movie that I liked a certain performance or only the soundtrack and I want a 10% rating. I mean a 20% difference. Subtle gradations are better sometimes. 

Plot %
Story 10
Screenplay 10
Acting 15
The characters themselves 5
Did it make me think about my life? 5
Did it help me escape and bring me into another world? 5
Did I understand it? Did I buy it?  5 ( but i feel like if you get a 0 here it trumps everything else )
Dialogue 5
Score 5
Sound 5
Editing 5
Practical effects 5
Cinematography 5
Direction as a whole 10

Now I say lets add an extra ten percent. The special jenesequa that separates a great movie from an instant classic. Love.

Did I like the movie? + 10%

Guess what, I didn't much care for Citizen Kane. Its the best movie of all time right? But I don't like it. Am I glad I saw it, yes. Will I see it again? Probably in 10 years. I watch Jurassic Park like twice a year. Ghostbusters has a huge following. Do you remember all those people that saw Titanic? Who sits down and and thinks to themselves, "Golly you know what I am in the mood to watch? Titanic!" The cool people pop in The Princess Bride.  How many people actually saw The Hurt Locker? Avatar was a cultural event. People watch Two and a Half Men, and Arrested Development got cancelled. 

There are plenty of bad movies that people like and plenty of good movies that no one likes. Part of that I guess is marketing.

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