New Series: Why you should Love this Movie

In recent days I’ve been thinking a lot about a question that was posed at a conference I attended. The speakers were debating the merits or demerits of a certain sect of cinema – whether it helps or hurts its cause – and they posed the following quandry:  “how do people who don’t know much about movies, who don’t follow or study film, how do they hear about great films?  How do they become aware of movies that deserve to be seen?”

This struck a chord with me.  I grew up in Northeast Tennessee, about as isolated from Hollywood as possible.  People liked movies a lot – our Cineplex was constantly filled despite its terrible quality (I recognize this in hindsight now).  But even for me, someone who decided that the study of cinema was to be my life’s pursuit, I was not aware of the vast quantities of incredible movies that get a small release and miss the mainstream entirely; films that we simply never hear about because our market is too small and, at that time, the connections of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime had not yet been established.

So then, my thoughts turned to the question.  How could I be a part of the solution – spreading the word about certain films, old and new, that deserve to be seen by broader audiences?  I know that most of the people who read this blog are probably family or friends, either from back home in Tennessee or those I’ve met here in Movie-land, but primarily people who are looking for the good stuff; people who would love to see great movies but just don’t hear about them.

Thus, I got the idea to start a new series of posts entitled

Why you should Love this movie

These will be short posts about a film (a la the Criterion Three Reasons videos), in which I expound on why that movie deserves your attention.  My hope is that this can be a bridge for people who are not connected to the film world to find works that are powerful, uplifting, and potentially life-changing. I hope you’ll come along this journey with me.  Hopefully this will be of some use to you.  Hopefully it will give you a longer Netflix queue or a conversation topic for the workplace.  Hopefully this can start the effort to get the word out and improve our viewership and critical response to a world I care deeply about.  Thanks for stopping by and keep an eye out for this new series coming soon.

The Town: A Meh Title for a Meh Film

Summer Film Challenge 2011
REPORT #3
Date: 15 June 2011
Film: The Town
My Rating: 6/10

First of all I need to clarify the reason for this film being on my Summer Film Challenge List.  It is not because this film is widely heralded as an amazing bit of cinema, a modern classic.  It is not one of Ryan’s favorite movies that I needed to see in order to understand the real him.  I watched The Town because I don’t like the title. Ryan pointed out that I was judging a book by it’s cover (ie – title) and made me actually read it before passing full judgement.  Unfortunately for the axiom, it seems I was right all along – the title isn’t that great (which I will get into) and the film is only just above “meh”.

Basic overview: It was okay.  The production value was good, story was pretty decent with a few nice tweaks, and the acting was definitely above average.  Particularly, I thought that Blake Lively destroyed her small role as the drugged-up whore girlfriend of Ben Affleck.  I thought she did an amazing job.  Otherwise, it was just okay. Followed the typical “last job” pattern with a bit more grit and a lot less “wow! this is totally new and amazing!”

My biggest issue with the movie is that, while there was more “Town” in it than I expected, it still isn’t the focus of the film, and thus I don’t know why it is called that.  I went in expecting the focus to be entirely on the characters and not the setting but there were a few references Charlestown, especially the beginning, which did give some validity to the name but not nearly enough.

A title tells me what your film is about.  It is the last profound punch of the film.  It focuses me one what the artist is trying to convey – be it answer or question.  If you call something THE something, you had better be right.  “The” implies not just an individual but a singularity, an importance, a point that this above all else stands out.  Let me give you some examples:

  • THE Godfather
  • THE Lord of the Rings
  • THE Silence of the Lambs
  • THE Bible
  • THE Once and Future King (read it!)

“The” has dropped from its truly royal position in the kingdom of words to that of a lowly article, simply the filler between the important nouns and verbs.  That really doesn’t jive with me. When I see a “the” I think “Singular” and “Important” (it is not called a murder weapon; it is called THE murder weapon.)

Having said that, I really don’t think that this film is about the town of Charlestown or it’s effects on the characters.  There is the influence but the filmmakers chose to stick with who the characters are more than how the community has ruined them.  I do like the parallelism that occurs at the end with the scene from before (no spoilers). That was a nice touch. However it isn’t about the locations of the people but the connections between them.
Another thing I wasn’t crazy about was the long monologues detailing backstory. Affleck had at least two spots I can think of where he just laid his whole past on the table.  While I get that he is reaching out for acceptance and understanding in a female figure, I doubt that someone having come from a tough-as-nails, fight-to-live environment like Charlestown would just totally go teenmo (teen emo) on their first real girlfriend.  Just saying.

So there you go.  You just got my rant about movie titles with “The _____” and my third Summer Film Challenge 2011 review!  Freebie!  Thanks and I’ll leave you with the only face of Ben Affleck:

Yup…That’s it!

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