‘Ideal’ movie running time is 92 minutes, poll claims

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Your assumption is all Scorsese is doing is telling a story.
No, that's your assumption of what I'm thinking.

Thank you so much for mansplaining Scorsese to me - the one director whose work I have watched over and over again - more obsessively than any other director, actually - for the last 4 decades!!



Trouble with a capital "T"
He wasn’t using it as a form of criticism towards his films itself, but rather as an example of a film that seemingly gets a pass (although I’m not so sure this so true here) because it is aimed at the masses, where art house and Avant Garde films are unfairly criticized by such criticisms.
It doesn't read that way to me. I'm open if someone wants to parse it word by word or phrase by phrase and explain it. I also can totally get a post written quickly might not read as intended. I do that all the time myself. But what you're sighting in the second though he touched on in his post, where he says Bay's movies gets a pass... further strengthens the feel that he believes Bay's films are self indulgent. And they probably are! I seen one and hated it, it was bombastic.

It's never a Michael Bay movie which, by literally any definition, is extremely self indulgent in how it fetishizes action and violence. But because this is the kind of movie that indulges the masses, that gets an exemption.



I think his argument is that it shouldn’t be used as a catch all phrase as criticism, especially in a glib manner.

Yes. And also how it predominantly gets directed only at certain types of films and almost never others. Because it's about an attitude people have about certain kinds of movies that artists shouldn't have been indulging themselves. That this isn't what the people want. Even though every kind of film can contain all kinds of indulgences. people just don't see them as such if enough people accept them as just the norm.


If someone dismisses a movie as indulgent, and you try and imagine what kind of movie that might be, it's never going to be something like Commando. Even though that movie gets into all sorts of fetishistic attitides towards violence and masculinity that are so absurd they are absolutely indulgent. But because it was a marketable product, for middle of the road American audiences at the time, it's just considered a blockbuster.


It's about how certain types of words warp our perceptions of things. And when you hear that something is supposedly self indulgent, it conjures



Yes. And also how it predominantly gets directed only at certain types of films and almost never others. Because it's about an attitude people have about certain kinds of movies that artists shouldn't have been indulging themselves. That this isn't what the people want. Even though every kind of film can contain all kinds of indulgences. people just don't see them as such if enough people accept them as just the norm.
Again, I just don't see this happening at all. In fact, it's probably the other way around - indie directors are usually given a lot more latitude, usually, than directors doing big-budget movies.

Was Robert Rodriguez self-indulgent when he made El Mariachi? I would say he wasn't, at all. Has he become self-indulgent in the years since then? Oh, that's a big, definite yes!



No, that's your assumption of what I'm thinking.



Thank you so much for mansplaining Scorsese to me - the one director whose work I have watched over and over again - more obsessively than any other director, actually - for the last 4 decades!!

Well then you'll be happy to know I'm done with you now.


Blocked.



And to counter the idea that a long running time or a leisurely pace are, in and of themselves, something that automatically puts a movie in the "self-indulgent" category, I would say: have you watched La Belle Noiseuse?

It is truly one of the most exquisite and delightful artistic statements ever committed to film. It doesn't matter than the movie runs 4 hours (with intermission IIRC) and that there's not a lot to the story. It's delightful because it is a commentary about art by an artist, and that spends 4 hours immersing the viewer in the artistic process.

Truly one of Rivette's best works (and a must-see if you ever get a chance to watch it in 35mm in some revival house)



There's a similar thing with video games, where consumers/reviewers use the time it takes to complete the game as a major selling point (or criticism, if it's short). This isn't entirely unreasonable, but it also reveal which people are approaching which things as simple time fillers/mere entertainment, rather than works of art.

They're probably doing all three: looking for time fillers, blockbusters, and works of art.


The first they'd probably watch on streaming or during dump months only because they're bored or fans, the second they expect to look expensive because they'll be paying a lot to watch them (IMAX, parking, lunch or dinner, overpriced snacks), and the third only because a friend recommended it.


The first can be done in the desired running time and can be lucrative (like the Paranormal franchise), the second will have to be long (more than two hours) so that it will look like an epic, and the third can go either way.



I think it's really important to nail down an answer to Yoda's question. Are many here arguing the concept of self-indulgence does not exist, or that it exists but is universal as a necessary feature of all or most filmmakers, who all make films that they enjoy and that cater to their own passions primarily? Or, do we allow for the possibility that some films are actually self-indulgent, but the examples provided are not good examples definitionally? Also, do we agree, or disagree, that the concept exists, even if perhaps the word may not fully fit the concept? I'm still really not clear on this from this discussion, and I think it's a major dividing line in how we are all thinking about this.

Re: "Killers", I think an argument can be made that the film was not self-indulgent, but that Scorsese was in fact seeking to indulge a particular audience. It's very clear to me from the development of the film that the movie was originally intended to have a completely different focus, and due to the urging of the tribes he worked with during the film, he decided to completely alter the story so that it would better and more accurately highlight the native struggle and the oppression that they faced, and to in fact make that the central motif, theme, and story of the film. So, perhaps when we are saying that the film is self-indulgent we may in fact mean that the movie catered to the wrong audience in our opinions, perhaps in too narrow a way and didn't maximize the value of the story? However, if that is the case, that is not so much self-indulgent as motivated by political, social, cultural factors and seeking to cater to a particular audience, rather than the filmmakers personal passion, is it not? I think a case can be made that a 3.5 film that was not necessary to tell the story that the book depicted was perhaps not the right direction to go, but most of the issue that many have with "Killers" is the focus of the story and how it was executed, and not just its length, from what I have heard.



Re: "Killers", I think an argument can be made that the film was not self-indulgent, but that Scorsese was in fact seeking to indulge a particular audience.
No, imho, why makes this such a monumentally self-indulgent movie has nothing at all to do with trying to "indulge a particular audience" or not.

I think a case can be made that a 3.5 film that was not necessary to tell the story that the book depicted was perhaps not the right direction to go, but most of the issue that many have with "Killers" is the focus of the story and how it was executed, and not just its length, from what I have heard.
There are a lot of things that are wrong with KOTFM, which, imho, would have been very easy to fix with just one small change: have someone else direct it. In fact, it would have been so much better to let a Native American director take the material and run with it, again, imho.

Instead, someone gave Scorsese carte blanche and $200 million dollars, with (AFAIK) absolutely no one involved being able to tell Scorsese "no". So he takes the $200 million and hires his best buddies, whether they are right for the movie or not, and he runs wild with it, again knowing that most moviegoers these days aren't going to sit down for almost 4 hours with no intermission. (You could argue Oppenheimer shows that even 3 hours can be reasonable, with the right material).

And that's what really hurt the movie: nobody involved could tell Scorsese "no". He could just run wild and Apple was just going to keep writing the checks to the very end. The process was probably very similar with Netflix and The Irishman.

Scorsese knows darn well he can get away with just about anything these days - but that he has to get the streamers to finance his movies, because the Hollywood studios would know better than to give him carte blanche and astronomical budgets for movies that just wouldn't be that commercial in the first place.

Tell me which other director working today would be given $200 million to make a movie with his best buddies (whether they are the right actors or not) and the freedom to make it as long as he darn well pleases.

I don't think anyone else would get that kind of a break.



It doesn't read that way to me. I'm open if someone wants to parse it word by word or phrase by phrase and explain it. I also can totally get a post written quickly might not read as intended. I do that all the time myself. But what you're sighting in the second though he touched on in his post, where he says Bay's movies gets a pass... further strengthens the feel that he believes Bay's films are self indulgent. And they probably are! I seen one and hated it, it was bombastic.

Self indulgence essentially means too much of something has been done. Too much dialogue can be self indulgent. Or too much violence or sex or surrealism or abstraction or too long a run time..anything. We can could even call one of the most commercial films of all time, Jaws, self indulgent if we know about its production history and its ridiculously impossible shoot, and how big a money pit it was, all in the service of what is essentially a monster movie. It's certainly how his producers at the time considered it.


Indulgence is in the eye of the beholder. But even though it can be virtually anything, more often than not, certain styles of filmmaking are more likely to be branded this way. How we use the term self indulgent, says a lot about who is deciding what is the right way and the wrong way to make a 'proper' film. And I reject the term as a criticism because of how frequently it is used to pass judgement on artists who don't appease commercial sensibilities. As if somehow their arrogance has led them astray from doing good work.


Also, I don't think the term is in and of itself a bad thing. I encourage it, whether it's Bela Tarr or Quentin Tarantino or even the whole concept of the Marvel universe. Indulgent, indulgent and indulgent. In fact, a vast number or our established classics were considered self indulgent at the time. Citizen Kane was considered indulgent by daring to using different types of lenses and camera angles (all of which are now considered completely normal now). Pulp Fictions seemingly banal conversations littered with pop cultural references was considered indulgent by many at the time, not to also mention it's glorification of violence and structure that plays with time. But now that isnt so much a revolutionary film as a part of established pop culture itself.




So in short, it's meaningless as a criticism unless we define what we actually mean when we use it. Plus, it's not really such a bad thing to be self indulgent in the first place. Most, if not all, of films innovations were products of some kind of self indulgence. Much of our culture is built upon indulgence, and there is good and obvious reasons for that.



Just came across this fascinating column from the NYT. It's about how Hollywood encourages self-indulgence in filmmakers. Enjoy!


In the movie industry, 1980 is likely to be remembered as the year of the gold-plated dud. From Steven Spielberg's ''1941'' to John Landis's ''The Blues Brothers'' to the most resounding flop in recent memory, Michael Cimino's ''Heaven's Gate,'' Hollywood turned out a series of films afflicted with what might best be described as terminal bloat. Directors with one or two successes behind them were encouraged to spend millions and then more millions. Studio production chiefs seemed to have lost all sense of artistic and financial control.

Mr. Cimino's $36 million ''Heaven's Gate'' was an ''unqualified disaster'' in the estimation of Vincent Canby. Mr. Spielberg's $40 million ''1941'' was described by Mr. Canby as ''about as much fun as a 40-pound wristwatch''. Mr. Landis's $30 million ''The Blues Brothers'' was condemned by Janet Maslin for its ''hollowness.'' These may be extreme examples, but they do not exhaust the list.

Many relatively successful films were marred by their directors' self-indulgence, too. Most critics enjoyed ''The Coal Miner's Daughter'' but found it much too long; others enjoyed ''Just Tell Me What You Want'' but found it meandering; and ''All That Jazz,'' for all its sparkle, wallowed in the unnecessary. What, for example, was an excruciatingly gory open-heart operation doing in the middle of a musical? By contrast, critics were lavish in their praise for the economical story-telling of ''Kramer vs. Kramer.''

Last year's notable failures, with their super-inflated budgets, seemed to stir extraordinary concern about how and why they went wrong. The major studios are, in fact, echoing with self-doubt and talk of retrenchment.

Moviemakers offer a variety of explanations for the outbreak of self-indulgence. These include the need to attract audiences with blockbuster films that outdo anything available on television, the ascendancy of ''accountants'' in the ranks of Hollywood producers, the decline of the old studio system, and the bowing to the ''auteurist'' director-as-demigod approach to filmmaking.

But why the push for blockbusters in the first place? It seems that today many movies must be either sensational or nothing at all. In the old pre-television days, a habitual movie-going public used to queue up at the box office every Saturday night almost regardless of the attraction; today the theaters are empty unless something genuinely out of the ordinary packs in an audience. When a movie connects, however, it scores as never before. Films such as ''Star Wars'' generate profits reckoned in the hundreds of millions. For this reason a production cost of $30 million becomes less unthinkable today than at an earlier time. And a director believed capable of creating such a profit gusher becomes a person of awesome power.

The eminent British director Michael Powell blames the failure of ''Heaven's Gate'' on the auteurist mystique. ''I had many reservations about 'The Deerhunter' (Mr. Cimino's previous film) but it had qualities,'' Mr. Powell said. ''Still, it was the work of a gifted amateur, and to turn a gifted amateur into a gifted professional, you need much discipline and control. Those just do not seem to be available in Hollywood anymore. To turn a gifted amateur loose is to guarantee disaster.''

Mr. Powell was obviously aware of the fact that United Artists ''turned Cimino loose'' because ''The Deerhunter'' had been a success. ''To that extent, it is precisely the producers' fault,'' he said. ''They are aware that somehow, mysteriously, such and such a man has made vast amounts of profits for them and now they are superstitiously afraid to open their mouths and break the spell. But even if it works -if, say, that film 'Blues Brothers' earns its cost back - I see no reason not to regret this frightful prodigality.

''There is something corrupt about it. It reminds me of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire - an artist who'd insists on doing whatever he wants to do, no matter the limitations in money and time. After all, a person can tell his story with pen and paper, if he has to. These directors have as little consideration for the industry which they are ruining as for the bottoms of the public.''

Does it take a man trained at the old studio production assembly line to provide the discipline Mr. Powell felt was lacking in ''Heaven's Gate''? Sam Fuller, a veteran director, did learn his craft that way. ''I was taught on the 10-day movies,'' he said, adding that he found it difficult to understand a director who had every take developed and printed as Mr. Cimino did. ''That's like a publisher publishing four versions of a novel,'' Mr. Fuller said.

In Mr. Fuller's view, most of the responsibility for movies going wrong can be charged to the lack of discipline among producers - ''those desperate men at the top with their endless meetings'' who, he feels, lack the proper enthusiasm. ''As a director,'' he said, ''you need your own enthusiasm and the enthusiasm of the men behind the desks. If 'money making' is the one and only target, you're heading for catastrophe. They are men with no background in film and with no family name like Warner or Selznick to protect.''

''Gone With the Wind,'' produced by David O. Selznick, is perhaps the classic example of successful (and ultimately profitable) selfindulgence - a project carried forward on a lavish scale but with such clarity of vision that the final result was a work of immense discipline.

Irvin Kershner, who directed ''The Empire Strike Back,'' which was generally well received and is regarded as a financial success, is in his 60's, but he did not learn his brand of discipline under the old studio system. ''I never worked in that frame,'' he said. ''I worked in documentaries. From doing documentaries you learn to react to what is there.'' Speaking in the lobby of the United Nations Plaza Hotel in New York, where the walls were a shade of green that seemed to fall short of his approval, he said, ''If I had to film in this lobby I would not order X thousand feet of bad brocade to cover it all. Instead, I'd just change the colors of all the flowers on all the tables, and that would do it, too.''

Mr. Kershner is a film director who jumped from maximum budgets of $6 million to the $25 million ''Star Wars'' sequel, ''The Empire Strikes Back'' without, in his own words, getting out of hand. And no one accused him of self-indulgence. ''I never think of my pictures as big or small,'' he said. ''I could have shot 'Empire' for one million. It would have been a different picture but it would have been a picture. I never did more than two or three takes. I used little overlap and no coverage (those extra shots with which directors make it easier for their editors to cover mistakes and insure continuity). I am a cheapskate.''

Ned Tanen, the president of Universal Pictures, said he for one was not nostalgic for those so-called good old studio days. ''After all, Lincoln abolished slavery. In those days, the studios owned everything and everyone, including of course a weekly captive audience of 40 to 50 million people who had nowhere else to come in out of the cold. Then, just as now, most movies were bad. People only remember the good ones.''

Mr. Tanen said he did regret the dismantling under Federal antitrust laws of the links between the studios and the distributors and theaters, which were controlled and often owned by them. It assured an orderly process of screenings. Now the uncertainty of outlet has added to the nervousness of executives and to their hunger for blockbusters.

''The trouble with most West Coast executives is, they don't want to make films simply earning their money, they want only winners,'' said Mr. Kershner. ''With everything they do, they want to 'bust through.' They expect you to keep raising the ante. It is standard wisdom here that the man with the zillion-dollar flop is very much more respected than the man with the modest success.''

Mr. Tanen agrees that some of the younger directors had ''gone overboard'' because of a psychological climate which he described as ''the industry looking for the man on the white horse. The industry always does - the man on the white horse is to end all our problems.'' But how could things get so out of hand, as, for instance, with the spiraling budget of his own ''Blues Brothers''? ''It is very hard when you are producing a personal-vision movie to fire the person with the vision, that is, the director, for then you end up with nothing,'' Mr. Tanen said ruefully.

Screen directors have a powerful union, and their ''Basic Agreement'' gives them considerable artistic protection. ''A director's professional function is unique,'' its text states. Rule 7-1401 forbids (except in an emergency, for a maximum of five days) replacement of a director with any person already connected with the film in question. In a case like the one cited by Mr. Tanen, the firing of a director regarded as having lost control would seem to increase the danger of failure, because he would have to be replaced by someone totally unfamiliar with the project.

Ray Stark, a producer with a string of profitable films to his name (from ''Funny Girl'' to ''Smokey and the Bandit'') feels it is all a matter of control, that directors do their best work for strong producers. Few Hollywood producers still have the power and prestige to exercise such control, and directors have increasingly become their own producers or put their friends and associates in that role. The pendulum, Mr. Stark predicted, would swing back.

With few exceptions, the people now controlling the industry no longer have the point of view of the old studio bosses and seem to be at a loss when outside the realm of finance. Asked to cope with the question of how much freedom a director needs to fulfill his concept, they seem to fluctuate between too little and too much, either regarding movies merely as products or as a mysterious creative art beyond their understanding.

But does control carry with it the danger of smothering an artist's creativity? One production manager reacted angrily to the suggestion: ''We're talking of craftsmanship when we talk of movie making,'' he said. ''For me, craftsmanship means do it here, do it now, do it for this money. It does not mean waiting for inspiration like a painter in a loft. But that's just how the new boys work.''

Production managers and assistant directors are the noncommissioned officers of moviemaking. Like sergeants in the army assessing their officers, they often give a painfully cynical evaluation of screen directors. Of course, professional jealousy may play its part in this: much of what a director does, these people could do as well. (They must remain anonymous here, for their opinions would make them unpopular with any future employer.) ''Control?'' the same production manager asked, as he voiced a widely echoed sentiment. ''Directors are the last mad dictatorship left.'' But blame for directorial excesses was aimed at producers for failing to impose restraints. Directors, it was felt, did whatever they could get away with.

''I've begged a director to turn his camera just 10 degrees,'' another production manager said, ''just that much to lose the TV aerial or the hotel sign which was going to cost a fortune to get rid of later. He refused. No one tells them what to do.''

Why would a director insist on wasting money? ''They don't think of it as wasting money,'' he said. ''They think of themselves not as craftsmen but as artists whose every whim is inspired. And length! Talk about length, about the final cut!'' What argument, he and others asked, can be made in favor of a director committed to a twohour movie who shoots an overlong script and hands in a final cut of four or five hours which he has kept secret until the last moment?

A director who thinks every foot of his four hours of film is indispensable is at best indecisive. Art means selection. This is where millions go down the drain or, rather, end up on the cutting room floor. Stanley Kubrick's ''The Shining'' was quoted as a case in point by a man who worked on it: ''They had to take it out of the theater and cut 20 minutes, simply because Kubrick hadn't allowed anyone to see the movie beforehand. That's maybe 15 percent of the budget right there. There are 100 more cases.''

There is a certain irony in all this. It took years of experience with the art of the film to establish the importance of the director. Then, last fall, during the New York Film Festival, Jean-Luc Godard told a press conference that he was now discovering the role of the producer and was discarding the ''auteur'' theory, which he and others of the French New Wave had so successfully championed in the 1950s ''We did it to protect ourselves,'' he announced, ''and it has done a lot of damage to the brains of some young boys now filming. Movies are made by teams.''

In a year of remarkable ''personal'' failures, Mr. Godard may have been among the first to predict the demise of the director as self-indulgent dictator.



The goal is likely maximization of profits.



You don't say!




If so, then movies should be shorter, but those operating as tent-pole flicks tend to be longer.