Mary Arline (queen_of_kithia) wrote,
Mary Arline

Determining Film Quality

Needless to say, I have a lot more that I would like to say about PotC III, but I want to wait until more people have had a chance to see it. I have some stuff to say yet about the other two movies (and yes, some of it is actually intelligent), but who knows when I'll ever get around to it.

But I do want to talk a little bit about films in general and what makes a "good" film, as far as I'm concerned. "Good", after all, is such a vague word, but the films that I consider to be worth seeing have at least one of two qualities: artistic value and entertainment value.

Artistic value includes all the technical aspects of filmmaking, it includes the literary quality of the screenplay, it includes the quality of the casting and acting, and it also includes rhetorical purpose (i.e. what is the message or point of the film and is it successful in getting that point across to its intended audience) and its cultural significance.

Entertainment value simply refers to how enjoyable the film is to watch, and while it's possible that there could be objective measures of artistic value, entertainment value is, I think, entirely subjective. Speaking for myself, I have said before that my philosophy toward film (or any story, really) is rather Aristotelian; I expect to be taken out of my own reality for the span of the story and I expect to experience some kind of emotional release. I also appreciate a nice, clear, denouement; I'm not saying a film with an ambiguous ending will have no entertainment value for me, but entertainment value will more than likely take a huge hit if I don't get a clear idea of how it all comes out.

I picture the two qualities as a Cartesian graph. In the first quadrant are films with both high artistic and high entertainment values. There are many, many films in this category; I tried once to make a list of the top ten for me, and to do so I excluded animated films, musicals (with one possible exception), movies that were part of a series (with one exception) and movies that were released before I was born, and I still had to expand it to fifteen. I'll just name a few films in this quadrant just to give some examples; most of these you've probably heard me mention before: The Shawshank Redemption (indeed, the films of Frank Darabont), Brokeback Mountain, Pan's Labyrinth, The Princess Bride, the films of M. Night Shymalan, Little Miss Sunshine, the original Star Wars trilogy, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, West Side Story, many of the old school Disney animated features, all the extant Pixar features (by which I mean all those that have been released as of now), etc.

In quadrant II are the films with high artistic value but low entertainment value; in other words, films which are very good works of art but are no fun to watch. In this category I place films such as Apocalypse Now and Munich and some others, most of which I only saw because I had to. Another good example of films in this category are the Kill Bill movies, which have a very specific audience and a very specific rhetorical purpose, and fulfills that rhetorical purpose with that audience, but because I am not part of that specific audience I find them pretentiously incomprehensible and therefore almost entirely unenjoyable.

In the third quadrant are the all-around losers, the films that have neither artistic quality nor entertainment quality. There are many, many films in this category too, but thankfully I've managed to avoid most of them. The most prominent examples that come to mind are The Black Hole, The 13th Warrior, Van Helsing, and Kalifornia (which is the most hateful movie I've ever seen, except for the fact that it features David Duchovny and Michelle Forbes as husband and wife, so there's a scene in which Mulder and Ensign Ro are getting it on, which I found rather amusing). I would also place Academy-award-winning Crash in this category, but I do have to apologize to all those involved in Crash for saying it was the worst movie of 2005, because after I said that I actually saw one that was a little bit worse, which was The Brothers Grimm...and I also have to offer them an apology, because I really, really wanted to like it and I tried really hard to like it, but it was pretty much unlikable.

And in the fourth quadrant are the films that score low on artistic value but high on entertainment value. This would include films such as Clue and Napoleon Dynamite and The Wrong Guy that aren't necessarily visually stunning or have something profound to say about the human condition, but are just fun to watch. It also includes the films in the "so-bad-they're good" category, like the films of Ed Wood (not to be confused with the film Ed Wood, which would hover around the border of quadrants I and IV) and other MST3K fodder, like the infamous Manos: the Hands of Fate, and Laserblast, and Quest of the Delta Knights, and many more.

So, from now on when I talk about artistic value and entertainment value in films, hopefully you'll have a better idea of what I mean. Now, if you'd really like to know how I'd rate the PotC movies, I think Pirates 3 has the highest artistic value of the three...actually, I'm going to have to belay that judgment until I get the chance to see it again, because it has some strengths where Pirates 1 has weaknesses, and vice versa. Pirates 1, I think, has better writing, but Pirates 3 plumbs the deepest depths (literally and figuratively) of the three. And let's be honest; none of them are anywhere near the artistic level of, say, The Shawshank Redemption. Regardless, Pirates 1 has the highest entertainment value (being still the most fun to watch), and Pirates 2 is the weakest in both categories; it's another one that hovers right on the border of quandrants I and IV. I really want Mike Nelson (of MST3K fame) to do a Rifftrax of it. Actually, what I really really want is to write and perform a Rifftrax of it with Mike Nelson, but unfortunately I don't think that's going to happen, although in the FAQs it says, So far, there have been a grand total of 0 people added to the "These people will never, ever guest riff" list. So there is that tiny spring of hope.
Tags: films, rifftrax
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