Talking About Film 101: 2 Statement Types to Avoid

This is the second installment in my “slightly condescending but still kind” series Talking About Film 101

The second lesson in effectively talking about film is to avoid the “blanket quality statement” and the “un-supported opinion statement.” Here are examples:

1. Blanket Quality Statement: “That’s a dumb movie.”

2. Un-Supported Opinion Statement: “I didn’t like that movie.”

While everyone is, indeed, entitled to their own opinions, it is best to avoid these types of statements, even if they were positive. Why? Because it gets the discussion nowhere, and requires very little thinking to say in the first place. Our emotions and reactions are generally easy to process, but coming up with reasons why is far more complicated, and can reveal aspects of the film that can generate truly valuable discussion.

So, what would be more useful? First of all, be very hesitant to condemn a whole movie to being “dumb.” This refers back to Lesson 1. Second, use a different sentence structure. Try “I did/didn’t appreciate [particular aspect of the film] because of [reason]. An example of this would be [example].”

Let’s practice!

Mr. Q: “Did you see the newest Star Trek movie? Star Trek:Into Darkness?”

Miss R: “Yes, I did!

Mr. Q: “What did you think of it?”

Miss R: “For the most part I enjoyed it, but I had some issues with it.”

Mr. Q: “That’s interesting. What problems did you see?”

Miss R: “Well, first of all I felt like there was a lack of female presence. Uhura and Carol did very little to contribute to the story. Also, Carol was very objectified. You know the seen where she is changing and Kirk turns around to see her? As far as plot goes, there wasn’t a reason for that, so I felt that the only reason for the scene was to show off her body. But, I love J.J. Abrams’s camera movement!”

Mr. Q: “Wow, those are interesting points! But, I didn’t like J.J. Abrams’s camera movement… it felt a little hyperactive and made me feel a bit sick. I wanted to be able to concentrate more on the great design and visual effects!”

Miss R: “Yeah, weren’t the visuals stunning! What a fun film.”

Now, wasn’t that better than saying “I liked it!” or “That was dumb!”? So, if you find yourself having a purely emotional reaction when watching a film, try to find the reason why.

In fact, try right now? When watching a film, what makes you so happy? What makes you annoyed? Do you have examples from recent films?

Talking About Film 101: The 1 Good Thing Rule

This is the first installment in my “slightly condescending but still kind” series Talking About Film 101

Because film is so widely available, and so many people consume it so constantly, everyone thinks they are experts in it. Take a seat and let me tell you something very important: this is NOT the case. Most people, despite having seen many, many movies in their lifetimes, know very little not only about the true terms, mechanics, and history of filmmaking, but also have very little clue as to how to discuss film well.

For today’s lesson, let’s talk about the most basic and essential rule. I call it “The 1 Good Thing Rule.”

This rule comes into play whenever you are watching a movie, but especially one you may not be enjoying. Never, ever dismiss a movie on the first go. Filmmakers put ridiculous amounts of work and sweat into their films– and I am not just referring to the director and producer. There are hundreds and hundreds of underlings, many of whom are not even credited in the film, who have put their life’s blood into making this movie in a way they think will please you. That being said, it is not your responsibility to love the film– but try to find something you appreciate. And, by doing this, it’s likely you find other things to appreciate, as well as other things to discuss.

It’s like complimenting somebody you don’t like! Instead of saying “You’re a great person!” you can say “Your shoes are cute!”

Let’s Practice!

Mr. Q: “Didn’t you love Pitch Perfect? Was it not a film to be admired?”

Ms. R: “I thought Fat Amy had some very quotable lines! Like “mmm… better not.” That line is great to quote in everyday conversation.”

Mr. Q: “Yeah! I wonder why Fat Amy’s humor was so sticky…”

Ms. R: “That’s an interesting question. Let’s discuss it!”

There! That was great! Not only have you properly appreciated the filmmakers, but you’ve started a great conversation with a friend who might have not continued the conversation if you had dismissed a movie they enjoyed.

So, do you agree with me? Or is it ok to hate a film? What some of your “one good things” from movies that you didn’t particularly enjoy?

Is this the end of film as we know it?

The Issue

The film world was sitting in an uncomfortable spot after film legends Steven Spielberg and George Lucas practically predicted doomsday for film as we know it. While speaking at an event at USC, the two men were less than optimistic about the fate of theaters and blockbuster films. Spielberg summed it up by saying,

“There’s eventually going to be a big meltdown…. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen of these mega-budgeted movies go crashing into the ground and that’s going to change the paradigm again (Variety.com).”

Lucas and Spielberg went on to discuss the future of film as an industry that targets audiences fragmented to the extreme, only willing to see very specific niche films. The blockbuster, which Spielberg himself practically invented with Jaws, can no longer thrive, according to these directors, in a world where audiences can get exactly what they want through the internet.

Not only that, but with decreased theater attendance and heightened theater ticket prices, Spielberg and Lucas predict a very different movie-going experience, which Lucas describes as follows:

“You’re going to end up with fewer theaters, bigger theaters with a lot of nice things. Going to the movies will cost 50 bucks or 100 or 150 bucks, like what Broadway costs today, or a football game. It’ll be an expensive thing. … [The movies] will sit in the theaters for a year, like a Broadway show does. That will be called the ‘movie’ business (Variety.com).”

With those issues in mind, it will be hard for filmmakers to get their audiences to see films the way most films are intended to be seen: on the big screen.

The Data

While film is most definitely changing with the advance of online streaming (Netflix and Hulu), YouTube, and other digital technology… it’s most likely not under as direct a threat as these directors think. In THIS post from blog You Can Observe a Lot Just By Watching, Mark Davidson gives a plain English interpretation of a MPAA study that show the changes to film are not as dramatic and impending as predicted by Spielberg and Lucas. While theater attendance has decreased in some small percentages, more movies are making it to theaters and more movies are being produced overall. Blockbuster fails will always exist, but have not yet stopped studios.

The Concern

While Spielberg and Lucas’s visions of the future film industry are probably not accurate, it still raises valid and pressing questions that we as audiences and filmmakers should be considering.

First, does it matter that audiences view movies in theaters? I argue that yes, it does. Film when viewed in a theatrical setting with a group of other people is a very different experience than film viewed on a laptop screen in your bedroom. In theaters, it becomes more communal and interactive. Also, most films were created with the idea that audiences would be seeing them on a big screen, and so laptop and home viewing would likely diminish the viewing experience.

Second, why are audiences so fragmented? I prefer to believe in audiences and their capability of choosing movies, so I might blame this one on the industry. It has become rare for films to include the ingredients that would attract a universal audience and create a blockbuster effect. In my opinion, true blockbusters will attract family audiences, will have a good amount of redemption and learning, will be beautiful to look at, and will focus on story, character development, and imagination as opposed to easy the easy way out: effects, over-done violence, crude humor, and sex. There is a reason why Pixar and Disney and Marvel remain so successful. Those people who enjoy them simply need to have a louder voice.

Conclusion

Film is not ending, and theaters will go one. But with all of the changes, audiences have a more powerful voice. Do you want to keep movies in theaters? Do you want films aimed at more specific audiences, or would you like more universal blockbusters? Or is this really the end of film as we know it?

Leave your comments below; I’d love to hear what you think.