Post Oscar season usually brings about a flurry of discussion, usually "did the best picture win?" This year folks are harping about Crash
and Brokeback Mountain
. The thing is, there's always a lot of debate about movies, especially before and after Oscar, about what a good movie really is. Are they art, or entertainment? Harbingers of social change, or reflections of a society glorifying violence and sexuality. Mindless escapism or tight story telling that makes viewers ponder the meaning of life? I can't answer a those question, but I can tell you what a good movie is and it has nothing to do with Oscar! A Good Movie is one that, when causally surfing through your television channels if you happen upon it you stop and watch it even though you own it on DVD. That is a good movie.
Example A: I don't watch much TV, if you read this blog at all you know I am much more of a book person. However, I've had a cold lately and not had the attention span for starting a new novel. Idle surfing of the telly yesterday found me absolutely engrossed in the movie Jaws
. What a great film! The dialogue, the cinematography, the score, the damn shark popping up at unexpected moments! Roy Schneider's deadpan "We're going to need a bigger boat." This film is almost as old as I am, yet it's utterly riveting. Truly a keeper for the ages, and even though it won awards that's not what we remember about this film.
Example B: Back to the Future
. Again with the channel flipping, this time my husband has the controller...music is the first thing we latch on to. As children of the eighties we were happily grooving to the tunes before we even realized what we were watching. There was a maybe three second delay before we happily settled in to watch Marty skateboarding up to his house. In this film, while the music's grand, it is the writing that is really the glory. A tightly scripted, detailed set-up followed by the actual adventure. We sat on the couch and ooh-ed and ahh-ed at how elaborate the seemingly mundane opening scenes with the McFly family really are. They set the stage for everything, even though as a child I mostly just remember things picking up when the Delorean hits the screen. The sequels to Back to the Future were fun, but the first installment was art, pure and simple.
Last but not least, Example C: Raiders of the Lost Ark
, in fact perhaps all three Indiana Jones films can be cited. They weren't actually on this weekend during my rare bout of channel surfing, but every time they have been I have stopped to watch them. It doesn't matter if you pick it up when Indy is swapping sand for the Idol, digging up the ark or racing on a horse across the desert. This movie sucks you in and doesn't let you go, nor do you want it to.
There are probably more movies I could list; Gone With the Wind
and the Princess Bride
come to mind. The point, though, isn't to list what I think of as great movies. The point is that Oscars and awards don't matter. Heck even their initial grosses don't really count (Wizard of Oz
was considered a box office flop!) What matters are the movies themselves, and how they stand the test of time. I doubt I will ever sit down with my son and watch "Crash." I *know* I will sit down with him and watch Raiders...or if you want to keep it to current movies, Batman Begins
. So lets quit blathering about the nominees, award winners and Best Pictures and lets start talking Good Movie.