Monday, January 18, 2010


I like the intro to the blog of The Kid in the Front Row:
“I don’t really care how much the latest superhero film took in at the box office. When I watch a film the main thing I am looking for is a good story.”

But “Super” motion pictures certainly sell. “Titanic” made more money than any other film in history, a nice round number of $1,842,879,955 worldwide. A billion eight; that’s a genuine, authentic blockbuster.

"Titanic” won all kinds of awards and prizes, and deserved them – for the special effects.

But the story was trite, formulaic and predictable; the directing was obvious and heavy-handed; the acting was broad, unsubtle and undistinguished.

But you can’t argue with that box office. A billion eight – that’s more than I make in a week!

And how about that earlier masterpiece, “Pearl Harbor”? As one reviewer put it: “It’s nothing more than 40 minutes of showoff stunts padded with more than two hours of a story that exceeds all known tolerance levels for sappiness.”

Another wrote: “Never have so many spent so much for so little.”

Now we’ve got “Avatar.” Same deal. Fantastic effects. Fantastically expensive production. Will win fantastic awards. And it’s on its way to being the most lucrative movie ever made.

But that story…?

I realize I may be holding an unpopular position, but I have to agree with the critic who wrote of “Avatar”: “Everything about the story, the setting, the dialog, and the parts that aren't purely visual, is awful.”

Or this one: “If you want to go to the movies and see nothing more than new breeds of alien creatures, weapons, plant life and spacecraft, and lots of things blowing up, then you’ll probably have a ball. But if you’re looking for something more – like a story or believable characters or artistry – I’d suggest seeking elsewhere.”

With any film, don’t you care about the story, just a little, too?


willow said...

My sentiments exactly.

Berowne said...

Glad to hear it. Thanks, willow.

the iNDefatigable mjenks said...

I need a good story.

I can get pretty visuals and a decent story with a video game.

But a movie needs to have at least some semblance of a good story in order to keep my attention.

Madame DeFarge said...

Got to agree with you. Stories are all important. Big flash CGI can't disguise the lack of oomph.

Berowne said...

Mme DeF: "Big flash CGI" pretty well describes it. :-)

Berowne said...

mjenks: "I need a good story."

Right. And it's kinda amazing that this film just won Best Picture.

The Kid In The Front Row said...

Thanks for name dropping my blog, appreciate it!

And I agree, and I always feel disheartened when things like Avatar take all the money and win all the awards. But then, I don't know, why should films have a story? Like, I always feel they should -- but if a film was just a four hour loop of monkeys playing table tennis; if that does it for an audience, that does it for an audience.

When cinema first started, y'know, it was people milling around by a camera talking in silence, or a train rolling by, the emphasis wasn't on story but on wowing an audience. Maybe nothing's changed.

It's the fault of people like Chaplin and D.W. Griffith for filling our heads with the notion that we're entitled to a story, because we're not. There's no rule. And the people have voted, they've voted their billion dollars in ticket receipts to Avatar.

Jeanie said...

I have resisted seeing "Avatar" for some unknown reason. Now I know the reason. I do want a good story....way more important to me than lots of explosions or even amazing special effects.

lakeviewer said...

We need more intimate stories rather than these wide sweeping epics, with nothing new to add. However,film is primarily a visual medium. Avatar is successful on that count.

Berowne said...

An excellent comment, Front Row Kid; thanks for posting it.

"When cinema first started..."

Yes, from what I've read, when they showed footage of a train arriving at a station some members of those early audiences ran out of the theatre in terror, convinced it was a real train and that it was aimed right at them.

Film was then, and it is today, an incredibly powerful visual medium.

Berowne said...

lakeviewer: "We need more intimate stories rather than these wide sweeping epics, with nothing new to add."

Fortunately, there are "small" movies -- intelligent films produced on low budgets with excellent writing, acting and direction -- but they're not always easy to find.

The kind of movie about which they do not say, "coming soon to a cinema near you." :-)

Berowne said...

Jeanie: "I do want a good story...."

I got a kick out of the reviewer who wrote, tongue in cheek, that "Avatar" has a good story. It's the story of "Dances with Wolves."

"A white dude, a former soldier injured in battle, goes to live with a threatened native people. He slowly gains their trust, and eventually becomes accepted as one of them. When his people threaten attack, he leads the natives in what seems like a hopeless battle for survival. The natives are ten feet tall and blue; each of them has a USB port concealed in a long braid."

The reviewer sarcastically suggests that "Avatar" should really be titled "Dances with Lizards." :-)

Chef Chuck said...

Hello enjoying your blog, The new affect were phenobarbital in Avtar! Pulls you right in! Thank you

Berowne said...

Chef Chuck: "Hello, enjoying your blog."

Thanks, Chef. Enjoying your comment. :-)

French Fancy said...

I saw Titanic with Mr FF when we were courting (my, it sounds so old-fashioned) and the boring overlong film was a good excuse to fall asleep on his shoulder.

I would like to see Avatar though and hope when it is released they will make the package include some 3D glasses

Berowne said...

"I saw Titanic with Mr FF when we were courting (my, it sounds so old-fashioned) and the boring overlong film was a good excuse to fall asleep on his shoulder."

FF, I had no idea you were capable of such devious behavior.

"Avatar," for better or worse, has already broken records in IMAX 3D.

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