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This week's question: 

I’ve really come to respect your opinion.  What do you look for in a good movie?

Terry from Ireland

This week's Answer: 

Moving Movies

Somebody’s abandoned, full or at least half-full box of popcorn; loose change under the seats; an attractive blonde sitting by herself.  I digress.  Actually, Terry, what a simple yet profound question you have posed.  You really made me think.  (Please don’t ever do that again.)  I believe that most important to me is that I’m moved (not by the usher who notices me too close to the blonde).  Emotionally, that is.  I always love a good panoramic vista, a “thriller-diller,” an adrenaline-racing car chase or sex scene (both can definitely affect the ol’ “inner chemistry”), but what I cherish above all is a film that “takes me over the falls,” (my way of saying “moves me to tears.”  Or, better yet, moves me to tears and laughter at the same time.)  I’m talking full, cathartic, emotional release.  (Heck, you can’t do the other kind – no matter how hot the blonde is on the screen -- or in the seat -- and not risk being apprehended by the Movie Police.  You know.  Those uniformed, flashlight-carrying gendarmes that patrol every screening, giving out TALKING IN THE MOVIES tickets (or, even more severe:  WHISPERING IN THE MOVIES, THINKING THAT NOBODY CAN HEAR YOU – ESPECIALLY FOR GUYS WITH BOOMING VOICES -- tickets, or taking away peoples’ light-up-the-theatre cell phones that love to BLEEP or TRILL or play the entire first movement of the 1812 Overture at the most sensitive moment in the story.) 

Speaking of the most sensitive moment in a film, if the screenwriter, director, actors, director of photography, grips, special effects and makeup artists, etc., (who says making movies isn’t a team effort?) have done their jobs, that’s the moment when everything that has come before it crescendos into a symphonic, emotional climax.  Often, it’s when the protagonist confronts and allows deep-seated feelings that are intrinsically connected to his or her predicament and its resolution.  Theme and emotions finally intersect.  We have been groomed for this moment, step by subtle step, our emotions having been tightened, heightened, shaken (and stirred), and if the moment has been perfectly choreographed and timed (timing is of the essence in a movie), then we will receive our just reward for being “put through the wringer;” for sitting through our own discomfort.  We’ll have our much-desired payoff. 

We’ll recognize and feel deeply the film’s uncovered truth such as:  He does love her (or she does love him.  Or, often, it’s they do love each other.  Or:   he really does love that dog after all.)  Love is the most prevalent discovery in a story, and therefore in a film story, screenplay.  This love often is revealed by a protagonist’s willingness to sacrifice something dear to him or her, it frequently being his or her own life.  Staying with the “life” motif, another revealed truth can deal with the resurrection of a protagonist, physically, emotionally, even spiritually.  We, the audience, in that resurrection moment, along with the protagonist (and, often, other characters in his or her life) come alive, are revitalized with renewed hope and courage.  Yes, sometimes it’s all accompanied by a sweeping and often sentimental soundtrack that let’s you clearly know that this is That Moment.  Or that is This Moment (depending on where you’re sitting in the theatre).  Even for us “sophisticated” viewers, although we may see (or hear) the rising violins or crashing cymbals coming a long way off and recognize that our tears are definitely being “jerked,” if the story and characters have captivated us, we’ll go along for the ride.  Because, ultimately, we like and want that ride.  We paid our ticket (which doesn’t come cheap any longer) and want to get our money’s (and hearts’) worth.

There are many other elements that need to be skillfully executed to bring off a good movie:  storyline, structure, tone, character development, theme, dialogue, pace, good catering, etc. (minus the food factor, it sounds like a script consultant/story analyst’s website!), but, for my money (which I’d rather only pay for a good and not a less-than-good movie), you can keep slick, sharp, tight, scary, funny and give me MOVING every time.  And, assuming that everybody in the entire world who goes to movies is reading this, I now implore you all to allow me to experience these Moving Moments, please, without a cell-phone soundtrack.  (Trilllllll!   Oops, sorry.  I need to get this.  Could be my agent.) 


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