Monday, November 21, 2011

Bad Signals of Movie Quality

When the premise of the movie begins as follows:
"X is a (movie/book/etc.) writer who has enjoyed past critical success. But he  finds himself suffering from a bad case of writer's block, and ... [blah blah blah]"
The problem is that this just screams out projection by the scriptwriter. "Holy crap, I can't think of anything to write and the studio is busting my @**! Let's write a movie about a guy who's struggling to write a movie and the studio is busting his @**!"

Let's not.

This formula is just a very slightly disguised version of what happened in primary school when you were told you had to give a speech but couldn't think of what to talk about, so you gave a speech about how to give a speech. It wasn't interesting then, and it's not interesting now.

Looking back to the synopsis above, there's only two possibilities. Sometimes the [blah blah blah] is actually interesting, in which case why not just start there? Why have all this self-indulgent bit at the start that merely dilutes the average quality? The other possibility is that [blah blah blah] isn't actually that interesting. In which case, the good news is that quality is not being diluted, but the bad news is that it's uniformly bad.

I noted this while watching Barton Fink last night, which follows almost exactly the plotline above for values of [blah blah blah] = murder plot that comes out of nowhere. It definitely one of the Coen Brothers weaker efforts, and I'm normally a big fan of their work. The movie has a great performance by John Goodman, and some hilarious portrayals of 1940s Hollywood types, especially the studio head. But it takes 70 minutes before anything interesting happens. 70 minutes! Many good movies are mostly finished by that point!

I did look at the Netflix synopsis, which was pretty similar to the outline above, and it gave me some trepidation, but I figured the Coen Brothers could make it work. Yeah, not so much. Do yourself a favour and watch The Big Lebowski a third time, you'll have more fun.

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