So...WHAT are movies supposed to be?

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My position isn't that movies should be evaluated as art primarily. I am happy to concede that most of what movies do is not even on the level of art let alone great art, and most of my movie enjoyment doesn't even depend upon whether the movie is delivering art to me at all. I'm only saying that movies can contain art -- in the director or in the script writer or in the actors or in any combination of those -- and that the art that is contained is not entirely mired with or dependent upon the other ways we measure the film's success. It's one thing to say that the art is partially mired with and/or dependent upon these non-artistic factors; it's another thing to say that it is necessarily so. So at the end of the day, my position is not as ambitious as you seem to think it is. I'm just trying to humbly carve out a little niche for art for art's sake within the sprawling, fabulously industrious world of Cinema.

And secondly, there was the tangential point that I believe an artist can be an artist defined as producing art, and the art he produces being good or great, without any fame, or with only a little bit of fame. I don't define art as dependent on fame. The art critic Robert Hughes in his series "Shock of the New" discussed one artist who was nearly homeless and lived at the Y for a while and produced a complex artwork made of intricately carved pieces all alone in his room and never received any notoriety, other than after his death when Hughes discovered it. Hughes considered it great art in and of itself, without any external measure like fame, or gallery showings, or money, or whatever. If one is going to accept a category called "art" then it stands to reason it would have its own criteria for definition without being dependent on externals. Your position seems to lead to the absurdity that the song a nobody writes by himself for which he never gets recognized and the tape is only accidentally discovered 50 years later, cannot possibly be a great artistic song because of those extraneous circumstances. Sure it could. It might be tragic and sad and pathetic, but that is irrelevant to whether it's possible for such a person to create a great song.

Similarly with music, most of the music I enjoy and cultivate is not great art. I can recognize that Beethoven or Mozart reflect great art, but I much prefer to listen to Santana or Sly and the Family Stone because I enjoy them more. But I'm not going to use that in some kind of argument against my conviction that Beethoven and Mozart produced great art.



The Force is Favreau
My position isn't that movies should be evaluated as art primarily. I am happy to concede that most of what movies do is not even on the level of art let alone great art, and most of my movie enjoyment doesn't even depend upon whether the movie is delivering art to me at all.
You have a pretty high bar for art, but OK.
I'm only saying that movies can contain art
We're not in disagreement here. I think films are, generally speaking, "art."
It's one thing to say that the art is partially mired with and/or dependent upon these non-artistic factors; it's another thing to say that it is necessarily so.
And I think that it is necessarily so in the case of movie-making. Great art in the past has depended on patrons, commissions, tastes, etc., so it is no great tragedy to note that the film industry is an industry. We can still get art from that industry.
So at the end of the day, my position is not as ambitious as you seem to think it is.
I am happy to be corrected as to what your position actually is.
I'm just trying to humbly carve out a little niche for art for art's sake within the sprawling, fabulously industrious world of Cinema.
And I am just trying to ground our ambitious discussion in objective standards. "Art for art's sake" to my ears sounds like, "I'll do as I damned well please!" That is, it sounds like a repudiation of anything but a free-wheeling subjectivism which makes the question of quality moot.

I know that you're gesturing at something more, of real depths in the mystical mists of aesthetics, something which is real, but which resists generalization and reduction. Even so, I am uncomfortable with the subjectivism implied at the surface and also with the hidden depths (i.e., your take) which resist generalizations. Neither one immediately suggests accountability or quality control. And this is why I tend to want bookends for our discussion. And this is why I think pleasure and profit are not terrible grounding considerations.

The closest we get to what you want is the art film or the student film. There are certainly movies that get made that are not intended to make a lot of money. Then again, even an art film is going to need financing and the student film is made partly in the hopes of someday making it to the big leagues (to make "real money"). Even so, there are some films that are made in terms that I think you would feel are more "pure" than others. And I am fine with that.

Profitability is more of a "typicality" consideration. What we think of as a "movie," in the main, is something that is supposed to make money. At the very least, they're not supposed to lose money. And if they lose money, then this is only strategically allowable in pursuit of profit (e.g., Oscar-bait which gives the studio visibility to sell more tickets next year).

What has less wiggle-room is the idea of a movie being made for an audience. A movie is supposed to be pleasing to its audience. I am not, contrary to Crumbs rather wild accusations, supposing that this means everyone, or most everyone, or that the audience must include me. However, it must be some audience and it must be an audience worthy of the name "audience" A film that fails to please is not doing what a movie is supposed to do. We can argue about the parameters of the audience, but films serve audiences.

So, I stand by my two standards. We can have art. We can have great art. We can have art films. However, we should also be grounded.
And secondly, there was the tangential point that I believe an artist can be an artist defined as producing art, and the art he produces being good or great, without any fame, or with only a little bit of fame.
Sure, there are plenty of starving artists out there. Indeed, there are a lot of bad artists too. I count them all.
I don't define art as dependent on fame.
OK
The art critic Robert Hughes in his series "Shock of the New" discussed one artist who was nearly homeless and lived at the Y for a while and produced a complex artwork made of intricately carved pieces all alone in his room and never received any notoriety, other than after his death when Hughes discovered it. Hughes considered it great art in and of itself, without any external measure like fame, or gallery showings, or money, or whatever.
To play a role in the culture-game we call art, we must have an artistic intention, an artifact/work, a framing/inauguration of it as an artwork, and a reception of it as such. In this case, our unknown artist was elevated by an art critic who pointed at the this person and this work, claimed it as art publicly (on BBC), and made a dent on you and others with it's reception as art. In effect, "Shock of the New" was its gallery showing.
If one is going to accept a category called "art" then it stands to reason it would have its own criteria for definition without being dependent on externals.
And this leads us back to the question of whether "movies" (the sort of movies we talk about on a movie forum) are purely "art" or if they are partially art (or in some cases not art at all, as you seem to allow). What a movie is "supposed to do: and what an artwork is supposed to do are two different questions on this reading.
Your position seems to lead to the absurdity that the song a nobody writes by himself for which he never gets recognized and the tape is only accidentally discovered 50 years later, cannot possibly be a great artistic song because of those extraneous circumstances.
Again, your example involves an artistic intention, an artifact, a public framing/inauguration (the discovery), and reception as such after the framing. Artworks are public, not private.
It might be tragic and sad and pathetic, but that is irrelevant to whether it's possible for such a person to create a great song.
If we asked, "What is a song supposed to be," we would not answer that it is "supposed" to be something on a lost cassette tape which no human other than it's maker ever hears. Rather, we would say that a song should be pleasing to those who hear it. And to the extent that that song is a commercial product, it should make a buck or two.

There is a difference between what a song "can be" and what it is supposed to be (aspirationally). Here we are not just talking about what a song or a film "is," but what it is supposed to be.



Professional horse shoe straightener
I'm rummaging through tonight's offerings and look at MF reviews of recent movies and can't help but reinforce something that's been rattling around in my head...namely, what movies are supposed to be. When I read published reviews I know that, based who is reviewing, they will have a preference for a certain type of flick.

At one extreme, we have the cinephiles who often veer toward movies that don't do much with action and FX, who want intelligent drama, centered around people taking about important stuff.

On the other extreme, we have movies that are little but action, clearly stereotypic dialog that's kept brief, lots of combat, car crashes, exploding planets or whatever.

In particular, a movie popped into my queue, "After Sun", which according to Wikipedia, is meaningful, full of angst and psychological issues, adolescence and parenthood. It's being touted as a "great" movie. It also seems like it could be a book or a stage play, since it's about "meaningful" dialog, etc. In short, really slow and talky on a night where I need some action.

I guess, my contention on this issue is that, if a movie doesn't do more than what can be done in a book or stage play, if it doesn't take you somewhere, alter the time-space continuum, evade some of reality, show you something that you won't see in regular life, why bother? If it's just a visual version of a book I wouldn't read, why bother? Critics will say that it's meaningful, insightful, well acted, etc, but again...to me....too much sitting and talking, an angsty version of My Dinner With Andre.

I guess the question is...what is the right balance of action, literature and FX? Is a movie just filmed dialog? I don't know the answer, but I do find myself asking the question a lot.
You really need to watch 'Aftersun' to see exactly why it is masterpiece of modern cinema and offers EXACTLY the things that a stage play / book can not.



Professional horse shoe straightener

Moreover, films are financial endeavors.
No they are not. Infact I'd say the opposite. If the purpose of a film is to be a financial endeavour, then it has lost all artistic integrity.



Your position or posture seems puzzling, in that you seem to insist on including art in your discussion of movies. It becomes puzzling because you seem to subscribe to the prevailing Zeitgeist that believes that art is anything and everything, which effectively destroys any possibility of defining art.
Not really the prevailing Zeitgeist is it? Unless you mean the last 100+ years. In which case, it is.
Duchamps and Fountain settled this over a century ago. That does't mean that you can't think differently, but it does mean it's not a new or modern thing or that it's a fad that will pass once the silly people realise their mistake.

The argument isn't what is art? It's what is good art?
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Titties and lasers.


Next question.




Not really the prevailing Zeitgeist is it? Unless you mean the last 100+ years. In which case, it is.
Duchamps and Fountain settled this over a century ago. That does't mean that you can't think differently, but it does mean it's not a new or modern thing or that it's a fad that will pass once the silly people realise their mistake.

The argument isn't what is art? It's what is good art?
Well I think it's both. One can't answer the latter question without answering the former. That said, I don't think it's a simple proposition, it's an ongoing perennial discussion that has yet to be resolved definitively. The question of art is also a historical philosophical question, and anthropological. If we take Western art, there are incredibly vast and complex areas to plumb in adjudicating this question. For example, Greek tragedy and then Roman poetry, and then the long arc of Christian art that synthesized Graeco-Roman culture.

After those sweeping complex rich traditions lasting millennia, we get to this strange episode in human history which we're still thrashing around in, called "postmodern" where simultaneously with stupendous advances in technology and science, and mixed in with that unprecedented geopolitical imperial powers, we have a strange unraveling of civilizational traditions, where the moral and legal substance and structures of the West in large part are running on the fumes of a dead civilization while enjoying the unprecedented razzle-dazzle and power that technological progress bestows.

In this context, you have art reflecting a complex array and disarray of disorientation on all levels -- cultural, psychological, philosophical, religious. Thus as the 19th century merges into the 20th, there was an explosion of experimentation of this newfound freedom from tradition, often richly supported by wealthy institutional powers and wealthy individuals, and an increasingly receptive mainstream (with token resistance here and there).

Amid all this complexity, one still has a kernel of what art is supposed to be, and that is a kind of existential enactment or reenactment of the fundamental paradox and mystery of life between opposing poles that create tension -- life and death, good and evil, suffering and success, rich and poor, love and betrayal, emptiness and meaning, anxiety and hope, honesty and hypocrisy... and dozens of other polarities one could think of -- where art doesn't deliver one from the tension, but grants glimpses of what it would mean to "solve" it.



Normie Film Buff's Worst Nightmare
A movie is an experience, and as such, it doesn't have to abide by conventional rules of filmmaking, whatever those are.

When watching a movie, don't focus on overanalyzing it. Some thoughts will naturally come to your mind, and that's OK. But don't try to analyze a film while watching it. Let it wash over you, just like a classical piece or looking at a sunset. Appreciate the scenes, pacing, performances, atmosphere, and writing. If you want to analyze the movie - fine, but do that after the movie. Not while watching it. Engagement is important, don't waste your first watch on misinterpreting minute details.

Viewing a film is an opportunity to explore perspectives and reflect on yourself. By the end of a good movie, you should feel enlightened. and be able to look at the world (and cinema) in a new way. (Or at least be entertained.)

Cinema is perhaps the only branch of art that is inevitably connected to money. To write a book, you just need a pen and paper. Or a computer. Or a typewriter. But to make a film... with the exception of radically minimalist no-budget filmmaking, you actually need money. So, there's always that tension in cinema; it has two feet. One foot is inevitably steeped in commerce. The other is steeped in art.

And so, money becomes the fundamental issue in cinema. At the very least you have to pay for the equipment. And you have to pay the actors. There's no way around it.
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A movie is a situation: where you go to a dark room and someone else controls what you see and hear, typically for about two to three hours.

I think the biggest problem with movie buffs is that they take the opinions of other movie buffs too seriously. Since experience with movies is subjective, they have to accept their individuality and therefore understand what they like without caring about what other people think about it.



No they are not. Infact I'd say the opposite. If the purpose of a film is to be a financial endeavour, then it has lost all artistic integrity.
I think that the best movies are a balance between the artist's desires and the public's. That is, movies can be made with some consideration for the public's preferences and not absolutely as an exercise of the director's self-indulgence. However, if the movie is made absolutely as a product, with the team producing it without trying to do anything creative but instead just delivering a by-the-numbers product, then it tends to be unwatchable garbage as well.

Miyazaki said that when he made his movies, he consciously tried to make them entertaining, but at the same time, it showed what he liked in his movies (such as his obsession with flying or environmentalist).



"No they are not. Infact I'd say the opposite. If the purpose of a film is to be a financial endeavour, then it has lost all artistic integrity."

Yeah....but.....We're in blind man and the elephant territory here. Given that most movies cost millions, involve hiring a lot of people, negotiating contracts, dealing with unions safety issues and locating sets, etc, etc, they will never be like doing an oil painting, which is fairly cheap.

Somewhere in the calculations, a bean counter has to figure out how much money is likely to come in. Even this has gotten seriously complicated in an environment where the income includes streaming and media sales in addition to the old measure of tickets that lead to butts in seats and popcorn purchases. There's no way to engage a studio without dealing with the economics.

Somewhere in this mix of mercenary interests, you hope that the "Art" doesn't get lost, but, at its core, if you are the person putting up a few million, you probably want to think that you will at least make that back, hopefully with some profit.

Artistic integrity is one thing, but for the investors, it's just a means to an end.



There have been many movies and shows exploring this very theme, of the tension between artistic integrity and the financial side. One of my favorites that explored this with great wit and poignancy was the Showtime series "Episodes" (2011-2017) -- and incidentally probably the greatest role Matt LeBlanc has ever had.



Professional horse shoe straightener
Yeah....but.....We're in blind man and the elephant territory here. Given that most movies cost millions, involve hiring a lot of people, negotiating contracts, dealing with unions safety issues and locating sets, etc, etc, they will never be like doing an oil painting, which is fairly cheap.
I don't agree. Maybe most of the movies that you watch cost millions. But of all the hundreds of thousands of films made every year, a minimal percentage will be costing 'millions'.

Somewhere in the calculations, a bean counter has to figure out how much money is likely to come in. Even this has gotten seriously complicated in an environment where the income includes streaming and media sales in addition to the old measure of tickets that lead to butts in seats and popcorn purchases. There's no way to engage a studio without dealing with the economics.

Somewhere in this mix of mercenary interests, you hope that the "Art" doesn't get lost, but, at its core, if you are the person putting up a few million, you probably want to think that you will at least make that back, hopefully with some profit.

Artistic integrity is one thing, but for the investors, it's just a means to an end.
Again, you're just focusing on large production companies / distributors within the industry. This is not 'all movies'.

This is the thing with these threads, they always seem to get generalized into....'movies'. As in the movies that are on at the multiplex. That's not the whole of cinema.

You wouldn't generalize music into.....'the songs that you hear on the radio', because you know there are bound to be a few local bands that are actually quite good. Yet they don't have a multi album deal with Sony.

Why do it with cinema? Just check the career of Sean Baker to see how the cinema ball gets rolling.



Again, you're just focusing on large production companies / distributors within the industry. This is not 'all movies'.
That's why I asked it depends on what you mean by movies.

You wouldn't generalize music into.....'the songs that you hear on the radio',
Are you new to the internet?

No need to engage, I'm just passing through.



How much does it cost to make a movie?
https://stephenfollows.com/how-much-...-cost-to-make/

Excerpt from the above linked article:
$18 million, give or take

Between 1999 and 2018, half of all movies released in US cinemas cost under $18 million to make.
If we line up all those movies from the cheapest to the most expensive then we get the chart below. On the far left are the movies which were the cheapest to make (such as Primer, shot for $9,000) and on the right are the priciest (such as Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which reportedly cost $410 million).

The moviemaking process has changed dramatically over the past twenty years and so today Iím going to focus on the budgets for the past five years. Next week Iíll show how theyíve changed over the past two decades.



The lowest budget movie still costs a lot of money, and it's the only art form that requires lots of money to produce, with rare exceptions of some individual who films something on his phone or something. Blair Witch Project budget was $60,000 which to most normal people is a lot of money (particularly in 1999) to throw away on a possibility of success. The only other art form that comes close is music, if you want good quality sound system/engineering of recording, but still pales in comparison with what it costs to make a movie.



I don't agree. Maybe most of the movies that you watch cost millions. But of all the hundreds of thousands of films made every year, a minimal percentage will be costing 'millions'.

Again, you're just focusing on large production companies / distributors within the industry. This is not 'all movies'.

This is the thing with these threads, they always seem to get generalized into....'movies'. As in the movies that are on at the multiplex. That's not the whole of cinema.

You wouldn't generalize music into.....'the songs that you hear on the radio', because you know there are bound to be a few local bands that are actually quite good. Yet they don't have a multi album deal with Sony.

Why do it with cinema? Just check the career of Sean Baker to see how the cinema ball gets rolling.
I don't disagree with you entirely, but the other side of this is that a movie has to get shown somewhere before someone like me sees it. Festivals and universities are nice for an "in group" of cinephiles who congratulate each other for being there, but most of the world never hears about those films, much less sees them. If you're lucky, you live somewhere big enough to have a theater or two that shows movies like this but, even in better times for the business, it's hard to keep them afloat. I've at least heard of Baker and his movies, again, shown at a festival.

It makes for an interesting question about what movies are. Mainstream movies take a lot of money to make, need to make a lot of money to be profitable and the people that back them expect profit. Personally, one of my gripes is when cinephiles advocate for movies that have low budgets, unknown actors and zero FX. To me, as a guy who also enjoys live theater, movies like that are like imitations of live theater, except not live. That's a middling proposition at best.



Professional horse shoe straightener
most of the world never hears about those films, much less sees them.
Who cares? That has no bearing on those films existing, how good they are, what they cost etc etc.

There are hundreds of thousands of films I haven't even heard of. Some cost $200 dollars to make, some probably $200m.

If you're lucky, you live somewhere big enough to have a theater or two that shows movies like this but, even in better times for the business, it's hard to keep them afloat. I've at least heard of Baker and his movies, again, shown at a festival.

It makes for an interesting question about what movies are. Mainstream movies take a lot of money to make, need to make a lot of money to be profitable and the people that back them expect profit. Personally, one of my gripes is when cinephiles advocate for movies that have low budgets, unknown actors and zero FX. To me, as a guy who also enjoys live theater, movies like that are like imitations of live theater, except not live. That's a middling proposition at best.
I made a short film last year. On a shoestring budget, with a professional crew. It got shown at two festivals. It made no money whatsoever. I expected it to make no money whatsoever. I paid for it myself. I expected nobody I know to ever hear of it at any time in their lives, let alone see it. I made a movie. Nobody can ever take that away from me.

So this does come from a place of personal perspective. But I'm mindful of the whole art form being considered. And as with any art form, there are millions of people making art for many different reasons, and for many, money really doesn't come into it.



Who cares? That has no bearing on those films existing, how good they are, what they cost etc etc.

There are hundreds of thousands of films I haven't even heard of. Some cost $200 dollars to make, some probably $200m.



I made a short film last year. On a shoestring budget, with a professional crew. It got shown at two festivals. It made no money whatsoever. I expected it to make no money whatsoever. I paid for it myself. I expected nobody I know to ever hear of it at any time in their lives, let alone see it. I made a movie. Nobody can ever take that away from me.

So this does come from a place of personal perspective. But I'm mindful of the whole art form being considered. And as with any art form, there are millions of people making art for many different reasons, and for many, money really doesn't come into it.
Who is the audience for a hypothetical $200 movie?

In my local world, a guy who grew up in my neighborhood with an ambition to make movies, was John Waters, the Pope of Trash. Even his earliest movies cost more than $200, even back then, just to get enough 8 mm film to put in the borrowed camera, and required neighbors working for free to be cast members and crew. It seems possible that someone like Waters, who had energy and novelty, could do this for a while, but once the novelty was past, it was also certain that budgets and production would have to get bigger since Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs (see Divine get raped by a giant lobster) had been done by then and some of his actors (other neighbors) had moved on or wanted to be paid.

That was when Waters' movies got a wider audience and he became the somewhat-celebrity that he became, but the march of money seems to have been inevitable, even for a film maker whose biggest budgets are really pretty small and who specialized in being outside the boundaries of "Hollywood".