Monday, September 9, 2013

Heroic Speeches in Movies: Weaker and Weaker?

Heroic speeches in films are getting weaker and weaker.
I remember 'Braveheart' and its legendary speech written based on Shakespeare's Henry V. I mean, who does not remember, "They can take our lives! But they cannot take our Freedom!"

But now, the last two speeches I recall seeing are the ones from 'Immortals' and 'Pacific Rim' - both cases in which it feels like the soldiers are responding to a cue from the film's director rather than to the words said by the protagonist.

Pretty lame, huh?
And by the way, disclosure, Pacific Rim kicked Kaiju ass!
But back to speeches; I absolutely LOVE what HBO did in Game Of Thrones, when Theon Greyjoy makes a heroic speech before his raiders, with glorious music and all, only to be clubbed in the back of the head and betrayed to enemy! (I don't think this was even in the books?)

And on that note, let us not forget the all-time predecessor of Speech-Interruptus: who can forget Samuel L. Jackson ( the man who belligerently demanded to know whether Marcellus Wallace looked like a bitch?!) giving a motivational speech in Deep Blue, only to be swallowed whole by a shark even before he was finished! Legendary!

Let me just say that 'Deep Blue' is worth watching just for that one scene.

And yet, if anything, these last two examples illustrate only what a mockery inspiring speeches have become. But why is that? Have we seen too many? Are we a generation so desensitized that we can't be moved by a strongly voiced oration? Or are the films nowadays just so lame that we can't bring ourselves to care whether the characters make it or not?

-Georg Freese

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Movie Without An Intro?

Are the first thirty minutes of any movie really that essential?

I remember when I was a kid growing up in Santiago, Chile, my granddad would take me to the rotary cinemas downtown. At these cinemas, a given film was played in an endless loop. One bought a ticket and walked in at any point in the film and watched it until the end, and then, if one wanted to, could stay to watch the film start from the beginning again.

I watched Rocky I, II, III & IV like this in rotary cinemas with my granddad.

Later in life, as a pre-tween, I remember finding myself with a few hours to kill, in downtown Santiago, and I decided to drop into one of these cinemas which, by then, I had not visited in a while. I still recall the film - it was 'Strange Days' with Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Lewis. I sat halfway into the movie and the conflict and the chase, and had a great time assuming by the interaction between the characters what the relationship between them was.

Then I watched the beginning and had one of those 'Oh! So THAT'S why such and such was doing this or that!' moment. It was awesome, and in a way, it was like watching a prequel (which are so popular these days).

This 'Oh!' moment was fully blown-up when I went to an art house cinema to watch Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, a masterpiece which influenced me radically and spurred the style of writing I pursue today. No, the art house was not a rotary cinema, but if you have watched Pulp Fiction, you too had that 'Oh! So THAT'S why he did it!' moment.

That being said, I think that - unfortunately - most movies are very predictable. In fact, I become the most bored during the fight/chase scenes, because I can tell beforehand what will happen, namely that the hero will not get hurt and that the bad guy will be demised (But that is the topic for another blog, one which I will name, 'Cut to the chase? Why not cut OUT the chase?")

If a movie is likely to be predictable, watching it from halfway through adds some excitement to it. Now I'm busy trying to figure out who is who DURING the fight/chase, adding another dimension of interest. And, if the denouement turns out to be interesting, hey, I'll watch it from the beginning next chance I get.

The most hilarious example of this is when, while now living in Los Angeles, I took a friend to see Aliens Vs. Predator - lame, I know. I told my friend we could do without the first thirty minutes of the film, given that all that happened during that time was the introduction of your run-of-the-mill characters, each of which will get slaughtered, one at a time.

We went instead to a Starbucks across the street for some Frapuccinos ( Fraps + Air Conditioned cinemas being the perfect antidote for the swelter of an L.A. summer ). When we returned, we walked into the cinema just in time to see the eggs hatch, the face-huggers pounce and the massacre begin. And guess what, the plot was so lame there really WAS no need to get to know any of the characters beforehand. Bang!

So ARE the first thirty minutes of a given film that important? I don't know. Maybe for films which are excellent; hallmarks or classics or revolutionaries. But then again, iconic films of this calibre, I will probably watch more than once - from the very beginning, to the very end. As for the rest, well...

-Georg Freese

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Disclosed Ending

Who-done-it? This is such a cliché there is even a genre named after it. But does it really matter who did it? I mean, is a novel/film less interesting when one knows who did it ahead of time?

This is not the case for me. As a writer, I enjoy a good story just as much whether knowing or not who did it, i.e. the denouement or ending.

In fact, every time I come across an awesome story, I make it a point of reading/watching it again, and I enjoy the insight I have gained on the characters and I sympathize for them who do not know what is going to happen to them.

If the story is good, and the characters solid, knowing the ending does not alter the enjoyment of the experience the book/film offers - the ability to transport the audience into a fictional reality - which is what matters to me and, I think, to a lot of people who enjoy watching their favourite films over and over again.

But where did this topic come from? Well, friends and acquaintances often will recommend me a film they really enjoyed. When I ask them what it is about, often they will say, "Oh, I can't tell you without giving away the ending." But the fact is that I have a busy schedule and, unless I can be guaranteed a good denouement/ending, chances are that I am not going to bother going out of my way to sit down and read said book or watch said film.

If, on the other hand, the plot actually is interesting to its end, I will make it a point to read this book or watch this film, comfortable in the fact that I know there is a good denouement at the end of it, and that I have not just wasted 800 pages or 2 hours on a book or film which sucks.

Furthermore, when writing, I always come up with the ending first and work my way towards the beginning from there. I don't know. Maybe it is just the way I am wired. But still, I guess that what I am saying is that a good story is a good story, whether the ending has been previously disclosed or not. And, in contrast, a bad story is a bad story no matter how the creator/audience try to hide its ending.

Because, if the story is boring, it does not really matter who-done-it. The only thing that matters then, is when-is-this-over?

-Georg Freese