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Film Expectations

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In the Beginning...
Watching War of the Worlds tonight, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Man, this film would have been an instant classic had it come out years before now." I'm not talking about the quality of the special effects, of course. I'm talking about the feel of the film, and how it corresponds with recent sci-fi classics like Alien, The Abyss, The Thing, and the Terminator films (to name a few). It's got nearly everything these films have and more. But it seems like the majority of those who saw it finds it lukewarm, if not altogether stale.

So, I'm wondering: do we attach an ever-growing expectation to films as they are released? Do we enjoy films less and less if they don't give us something completely fresh and original in exchange for our cost of admission? I mean, even I can see how War of the Worlds is a "johnny-come-lately" of sorts, but does that really make it less enjoyable? Are we growing fickle with the film industry? More demanding? Are we becoming less sympathetic with the formula?

What films would you say are condemned now, when they would be praised had they been released years earlier? Do you think these films should be praised more or less today?



I am having a nervous breakdance
Interesting topic.

I think you're right about War of the Worlds. The film is decent, it's exciting and it's got a fast paced tempo, but it's not giving us anything new. It's a good old "alien invasion" film. I think for a film like that to really grab a hold of us the filmmakers need to make the aliens more "believable", as stupid as that may sound. I think that the aliens in War of the Worlds have perhaps more in common with what people were afraid of in the 50s than what we are afraid of now. Is the threat from Outer Space really that scary today? On the other hand, I think thanks to the fact that it was a Spielberg piece, it was very enjoyable after all. This is home turf for him - absolutely. As entertainment, it is really ok.

Really good film, according to me, is always challenging, thought provoking or innovative in some way. But that doesn't mean that it can not still be good entertainment.

I thin I Heart Huckabees would have been more praised if it hadn't been for films like the films of Wes Anderson, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and some others.
__________________
The novelist does not long to see the lion eat grass. He realizes that one and the same God created the wolf and the lamb, then smiled, "seeing that his work was good".

--------

They had temporarily escaped the factories, the warehouses, the slaughterhouses, the car washes - they'd be back in captivity the next day but
now they were out - they were wild with freedom. They weren't thinking about the slavery of poverty. Or the slavery of welfare and food stamps. The rest of us would be all right until the poor learned how to make atom bombs in their basements.



there's a frog in my snake oil
Originally Posted by Sleezy
Are we becoming less sympathetic with the formula?
I think that's definitely part of it. I think the subject matter is what's really to blame for that tho.

I haven't seen War of the Worlds - but i'd bet that the execution is as good as you guys have said (full of Spielberg's traditional emotion-guiding fizz and bangs). Like Pidz said tho, the theme is too old. Over 50 years old (in cinematic terms). I bet they hoped it would self-modernise itself by associations between its fear-factor and the terror-troubles of the modern day, but the premise, and its potential associations, have been explored in a 1000 and 1 ways before.

The formula can still work, if the subject matter brings something fresh. But that's tricky in these media-saturated days.

But hey, i don't care that much. Ultimately, i prefer the brand of 'testing' film that P mentioned - and they tend to either present a situation without the use of more overt/'artificial' story formulas - or do something new with the formula along the way. They are what they are coz they confront your expectations or your comfort-zones.

That said, i'm sure blockbusters will find a new cocktail to get everyone's blood fizzing again - but they are fighting against the tide of all the films and themes that've gone before. I think it's human nature to want a bit of a change - as much as we want things to stay the same. (Ain't we troublesome ).

---

Erm Man on Fire might've done better, if Tony Scott had never made any of his previous films. (Oh, if only ).
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The People's Republic of Clogher
Originally Posted by Golgot
Erm Man on Fire might've done better, if Tony Scott had never made any of his previous films. (Oh, if only ).
....and handed the helming duties over to someone who's less of a hack. The cast and performances were spot on, pity about the rest.

WOTW is my favourite Spielberg film since Close Encounters.. (though I'm not a huge fan of his anyway) and think a lot of the criticism is due to him being so faithful to a story that set out to shock all those years ago, as everyone has said, and just doesn't have the latent power now. He'd have been damned by the fogies if he'd tinkered too much with the subject matter anyway, so a strange choice but, for me, nicely low key (if a Tom Cruise action-fest can be called that) and downbeat.

I guess there's a lot of stuff out there which would have been appreciated more with release in an earlier era - but I don't really care too much if it's liked, or even 'got', by The Great Unwashed.

If something's done well it's symbols and themes should be universal and, to a certain degree, timeless.
__________________
"Critics are like eunuchs in a harem; they know how the Tatty 100 is done, they've seen it done every day, but they're unable to do it themselves." - Brendan Behan



there's a frog in my snake oil
Originally Posted by Tacitus
If something's done well it's symbols and themes should be universal and, to a certain degree, timeless.
Ay, for sure

I'm starting to wonder whether it's not just the restrictions of the blockbuster formula, but the restrictions on mainstream content, that are stymying lots of modern releases. Their power to shock's been nullified by their remit to entertain.

Summat like that anyway .



I See You When You're Sleeping
Originally Posted by Golgot
I bet they hoped it would self-modernise itself by associations between its fear-factor and the terror-troubles of the modern day, but the premise, and its potential associations, have been explored in a 1000 and 1 ways before.
Yeah, I agree with that. There's a part in which Tim Robbins portrays some sort of paranoid schizophrenic who ends up posing an equal threat upon the main characters. I couldn't help think that there was some sort of social satire afoot here but couldn't put my finger on it.

Anyway, unlike the original the aliens die of bird flu which is relevant.



The People's Republic of Clogher
Originally Posted by Golgot
Ay, for sure

I'm starting to wonder whether it's not just the restrictions of the blockbuster formula, but the restrictions on mainstream content, that are stymying lots of modern releases. Their power to shock's been nullified by their remit to entertain.

Summat like that anyway .
You're probably right, though I don't often watch blockbusters as they're intended, in the cinema. In fact the last one was.....War Of The Worlds.... Aghhhhh!!!



I am having a nervous breakdance
At the same time, some films that are being championed as "the new thing" or "a milestone in film history" are quickly outdated. At least this goes for newthinking films (as if films had a mind of their own... they do, right?) in the action/adventure/sci-fi genres.... Shortly put - entertainment films. I discovered during my third viewing, I think it was, of The Matrix that this film isn't really that good. Underneath that fantastic looking surface there's really not that much depth. And on top of it all, the surface has been imitated and chewed and digested so many times over that it's actually not that exciting either anymore.

The question is, in ten or twenty years... will we look back at War of the Worlds and classify it as a terrific alien invasion movie on par with the rest of la créme de la créme of its genre? Perhaps the fact that it's rather conventional or traditional will make it last longer. Not saying that The Matrix will not have a permanent place in the history of action films.... but maybe Spielberg did a good thing here after all. At least he did a safe thing (as if Spielberg + Cruise could go wrong at the box office).



I am having a nervous breakdance
Originally Posted by MinionTV
Yeah, I agree with that. There's a part in which Tim Robbins portrays some sort of paranoid schizophrenic who ends up posing an equal threat upon the main characters. I couldn't help think that there was some sort of social satire afoot here but couldn't put my finger on it.
Yeah, I think you're right but I'm not sure what to make of it either. Haven't read the book either.

Was I the only one getting the impression that Tom Hanks was the first choice for Tim's part?



The People's Republic of Clogher
Originally Posted by Piddzilla
At the same time, some films that are being championed as "the new thing" or "a milestone in film history" are quickly outdated.
It's always been thus. Remember Tron? A bit cheesy (well, more than a bit) nowadays but Star Wars-like when I saw it in the cinema.

Maybe that's why I'm more of a kitchen sink kinda guy.



I See You When You're Sleeping
Originally Posted by Piddzilla
At the same time, some films that are being championed as "the new thing" or "a milestone in film history" are quickly outdated. At least this goes for newthinking films (as if films had a mind of their own... they do, right?) in the action/adventure/sci-fi genres.... Shortly put - entertainment films. I discovered during my third viewing, I think it was, of The Matrix that this film isn't really that good. Underneath that fantastic looking surface there's really not that much depth. And on top of it all, the surface has been imitated and chewed and digested so many times over that it's actually not that exciting either anymore. .
Yeah, I get that with the matrix film but it was discovered after watching the sequels. It was trying too hard to re-create it's initial gloss and 'cool' that it forgot that the content was suffering as a result. You start to realize that it's all just a bit stupid,

Originally Posted by Piddzilla
The question is, in ten or twenty years... will we look back at War of the Worlds and classify it as a terrific alien invasion movie on par with the rest of la créme de la créme of its genre? Perhaps the fact that it's rather conventional or traditional will make it last longer. Not saying that The Matrix will not have a permanent place in the history of action films.... but maybe Spielberg did a good thing here after all. At least he did a safe thing (as if Spielberg + Cruise could go wrong at the box office).
It's not a bad movie but to say it's to go down in history, well I seriously doubt it. There's so many 'historic' movies out there and this just complements the genre without leaving a footprint.



I am having a nervous breakdance
Originally Posted by Tacitus
It's always been thus. Remember Tron? A bit cheesy (well, more than a bit) nowadays but Star Wars-like when I saw it in the cinema.
Actually, I've never seen Tron.

But wasn't the thing with The Matrix that everybody was so excitied about the revolutionary theme and that it had some kind of ideology and all that? Then when you scrape on it a bit, it's really just a cyber western, isn't it?

Maybe that's why I'm more of a kitchen sink kinda guy.
Me, I'm into bath tub realism...



I am having a nervous breakdance
Originally Posted by MinionTV
It's not a bad movie but to say it's to go down in history, well I seriously doubt it. There's so many 'historic' movies out there and this just complements the genre without leaving a footprint.
Yeah, well... okay. You're right. Perhaps it isn't on par with, say, some of Spielberg's other adventure films. Or, isn't it? I don't know. As Tacitus said (or was it Golgot?) it could be as good as, for instance, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. To me it's a solid 3/5. It's the kind of film Spielberg makes. They're great fun and fantastically well made but they don't do much on the psychological level.

Didn't the aliens die really quickly in the end? It was like RUN, RUN, RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!! AAAAAAAH!!!! WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!OOOOH NOOOOOOO!!!!!............ and then they all got the flu and died... That was a bit of an anti climax for me. And I don't like anti climax that much.... It seems it's always in the wrong place at the wrong time....

I'm double double posting... I should get a prize



The People's Republic of Clogher
Originally Posted by Piddzilla
But wasn't the thing with The Matrix that everybody was so excitied about the revolutionary theme and that it had some kind of ideology and all that? Then when you scrape on it a bit, it's really just a cyber western, isn't it?
Nothing wrong with Westerns, cyber or otherwise, and that particular genre has been regurgitated into many different styles over the years. Last one I saw recently that made the grade was Mangold's Cop Land, but it didn't have any such pretentions.

I was never that much of a fan of The Matrix (though I own it, it's packed away somewhere) to attempt to dig any deeper though I never saw anything ideologically challenging or fresh in it anyway. Decent little Sci-Fi, on a par with Pitch Black for me, nothing more or less.

Dunno what 'deep' is anymore, don't know if I care to find out either.

As Van Morrison said, "It doesn't have to be....it just is."



there's a frog in my snake oil
Originally Posted by MinionTV
Yeah, I agree with that. There's a part in which Tim Robbins portrays some sort of paranoid schizophrenic who ends up posing an equal threat upon the main characters. I couldn't help think that there was some sort of social satire afoot here but couldn't put my finger on it.
Spielberg's got it in him to do the occasional bit o'commentary. But that sounds more like the classic "Don't panic!" message. (Buy a peace-keeping mini-gun and trust in your leader instead ).

Originally Posted by MinionTV
Anyway, unlike the original the aliens die of bird flu which is relevant.
Either that or scare-tacticary.

Maybe that's a cinema prob - issues getting used as emotion-rollercoaster fodder (increasingly)?

Or perhaps i've just got the cynicism bug

Originally Posted by Piddzilla
And I don't like anti climax that much.... It seems it's always in the wrong place at the wrong time....
Drink your formula like a good boy



I am having a nervous breakdance
Originally Posted by Tacitus
Nothing wrong with Westerns, cyber or otherwise, and that particular genre has been regurgitated into many different styles over the years. Last one I saw recently that made the grade was Mangold's Cop Land, but it didn't have any such pretentions.

I was never that much of a fan of The Matrix (though I own it, it's packed away somewhere) to attempt to dig any deeper though I never saw anything ideologically challenging or fresh in it anyway. Decent little Sci-Fi, on a par with Pitch Black for me, nothing more or less.

Dunno what 'deep' is anymore, don't know if I care to find out either.

As Van Morrison said, "It doesn't have to be....it just is."
No, it's nothing wrong with westerns. Keanu or Clint, doesn't matter....

The ideological thing I guess was the parallell to that part of marxism where it says that the capitalists are creating some sort of false world for the workers who think they get everything they need in it, and don't see anything wrong with it.

I didn't know Van Morrison was a post modernist.....



I See You When You're Sleeping
I have to admit, as soon as those aliens started to kill people I sat up slightly in fear for the general public. I thought that was a great scene - full of suspence and fear. It just couldn't pull the same hand throughout the rest of the movie, it was as you said "Run, Run, Run".

..and how the lad appeared safe as houses at the end made little sense to me.



The People's Republic of Clogher
Originally Posted by Piddzilla

The ideological thing I guess was the parallell to that part of marxism where it says that the capitalists are creating some sort of false world for the workers who think they get everything they need in it, and don't see anything wrong with it.
Oh right. I kinda got that on first viewing, a tad heavy-handed then, no?

I didn't know Van Morrison was a post modernist.....
Neither does Van...

But that's my take on most films - they either grab you or not. If they don't grab you quite as much 10 years later it's not always their fault. Sometimes it's ours.

Just remember the first time.



I am having a nervous breakdance
Originally Posted by Tacitus
Just remember the first time.
Sure, the first time I saw The Matrix was awesome! It was in Dublin, btw. But a really good film I think you should be able to watch over and over again. And I guess someone is able to watch The Matrix over and over again, so......



I See You When You're Sleeping
Originally Posted by Golgot
Either that or scare-tacticary.

Maybe that's a cinema prob - issues getting used as emotion-rollercoaster fodder (increasingly)?

Or perhaps i've just got the cynicism bug
I like that idea. Wasn't the original WOTR used by Orson Welles on the radio to produce major general panic?

Adding your own messgages to that rollercoaster ride could induce slight brain washing techniques too. Just how far could it push the scare-tactic? (Surely heading for one hell of a dystopia where big bro fills us in on current events.) Maybe going off-tangent...