Some Films are Bad, mmkay?

To accurately critique films one needs to be able to identify errors and mistakes made by filmmakers. Errors are the intentionally chosen—but visually jarring—visuals or sounds, which can be blamed on: producers, directors, cinematographers, and editors. Mistakes are unintended visuals that ‘slipped through’ the editing process.

In the multi-billion-dollar Hollywood-studio industry, mistakes and errors are unforgivable. When a big-budget movie contains obvious flaws, the dozens or even hundreds of people responsible (who were very well paid) should be punished. The only punishment available in our—the audience’s—toolbox is to ban the director’s movies from our pocketbook. Just don’t pay that director anymore.

I disagree with the stand that independent filmmakers, painted with the brush "artist," should be held to a lower standard, concerning their mistakes, but to a higher standard, concerning their errors, than studio filmmakers. Ban independent directors who make mistakes and errors equally with their higher paid Hollywood-craftsmen brethren.

Mistakes can be covered in one broad stroke. The most common mistake is film equipment in frame. Pinned or taped microphones (or batteries) visible under actors clothing; contact lenses in Cleopatra’s eyes; shadows of equipment or crew in scene; these filmmaker mistakes are the equivalent of a writer not proof-reading his work and sending it to his editor who doesn’t proof-read the work and sends it to a publisher, who doesn’t proof-read it before printing. To create a flawed movie—and not correct it’s mistakes—is sufficient reason to never pay to watch a film made by this director in the future.

I don't give a rat fuck that it was too expensive to re-shoot or too late because of the schedule. The director should have hired a better assistant director who should have been a better scheduler. This is not negotiable: Create bad work, don't get paid.

The movie, The Legend of Bagger Vance is rife with boom microphones at the top of the screen, which can only be attributed to: Robert Redford, the director. He may be a successful actor (I enjoyed his performance in Three Days of the Condor, for which I credit that director, Sydney Pollack). Some people admire Redford’s Sundance persona. But, face it. He's a poor director. I say: don’t pay him. Don’t rent The Horse Whisperer, if you haven’t wasted two hours with it yet and don’t pay to go see Aloft, which is due to be released the summer of 2005.

Errors are less general and, accordingly, can be listed.

SNAPRULE #1: Never do something different only once.

In The Upside of Anger, directed by Mike Binder, there is only one scene utilizing special effects. This strong, five-second scene jolts the remainder of the two-hour movie with its lone uniqueness. Although the main character sees things in ‘her minds eye’ three times—the head of a man she despises ‘explodes’, her dancing daughter ‘becomes’ the lead in a ballet, and her four children ‘instantly grow’ from children to adults—only one scene utilizes any special effects (blood spatter from the explosion and falling body parts). It becomes, like a gorilla in the bathroom, a focal point detrimental to the whole by it’s presence.

SNAPRULE #2: Plot continuity should never be lost.

This is not to imply that everything needs to be explained; some of the best stories ‘leave the audience hanging’. In The Upside of Anger, however, the main character is adamant with one of her daughters about where she is permitted to attend college. Fast-forward a few seasons. The daughter is in a hospital in another state and the main character must drive a long way to visit. Why? Did the daughter win a battle that ended on the cutting room floor? Was she attending the college she wanted? The audience should not have to wonder; one line of dialogue would have snipped this hanging plot thread.

Mike Binder has also directed poorly in the past: Blankman. After his errors in Upside of Anger, he should not get any of your future hard-earned money when he releases his next film Man About Town (and not just because it stars Ben Affleck, but because he’s an extremely unskilled director).

SNAPRULE #3: Never show the same scene twice.

In Swordfish, badly directed by Dominic Sena, the ‘money shot’ is re-shown in a flashback. Many thousands of bullet-shots and explosions in the street, the bank, and the surrounding vehicles are impressive. The second time around it’s, “Hey, did you guys see what it looks like to spend nine million dollars for seventy-two seconds worth of film? Let me show you again how great I am, just in case you missed how great I am.”

Dominic Sena repeats his ‘money shot’ in other movies: Gone in Sixty Seconds, and his film Kalifornia may only be good because of Brad Pitt’s abilities and not because of anything Sena accomplished as a director. Ban your families attendance at his upcoming films: A Normal Life, later this year, and Dreadnaught, next year.

In Ong Back: The Thai Warrior, one’s first instinct may be to forgive the director, Prachya Pinkaew, for repeatedly showing three different camera angles of every fantastic stunt, because he’s ‘working from a different palate’. That instinct would be fucking wrong. This mish-mash of camera angles roughly throws the viewer out of the story. Avoid paying to see next years release of Tom Yum Goong because that is the only way to tell Prachya Pinkaew and directors following him to cease this heavy-handed childish shit.

SNAPRULE #4: Never have your cake and eat it, too.

A clichĂ©, which is misunderstood and consequently misused by almost everyone (probably, you included). It’s only correct interpretation: don’t be redundant. Either of the sentences: ‘I’ll have some cake’ or ‘I’ll eat some cake’ will suffice; never, ‘I’ll have some cake to eat.’

Directors should treat their audience as extremely intelligent. Capable of interpreting and understanding vague hints and subtle expressions, audiences don’t need pieces of film exposition blatantly thrown in their face and they never need anything shown to them more than once.

Not to besmirch the acting of Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, but Bill Condon directed Kinsey with no regard for his audience’s intelligence. Repetitiously telling the audience the same, shallow, information about the main character—he’s a nerdy, once sexually repressed, stereotypical man of the 1940’s—with no real substance exposed and almost nothing revealed of his groundbreaking sexual research. This terrible director treated Alfred Kinsey in much the same way, as the prudish, puritanical, snobs of the 40’s and 50’s. Bill Condon is releasing Dreamgirls next year. Avoid it: Spread the word.

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