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Some Things That Make Great Films, Great

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Inception - Directed by Christopher Nolan

image via Paul M. Martin Blog

Film, video, moving pictures–the medium of cinema can be an amazing thing. Some movies pull at our heart strings, leaving a lasting impression of unabashed hope and romantic wont. Others leave us with unanswered questions, driving us to dive deeper into the deluge of curiosity. Film is an important part of our society–it’s something that keeps the threads of community tightly wound, when otherwise they might slowly unravel.

People from all different walks of life enjoy different aspects of movies. Whether it be creation or consumption, a great movie always stirs up a desire to want more. A great movie gives makes us feel like we don’t want it to end. As an aspiring filmmaker, there are a few things I look for when taking on a project in regards to storytelling.

Creativity
The avenue of free expression and creativity is the first and main reason most people get into film making. Taking the medium and transforming it into a valuable cultural token is the dream of any cinematographer. Anchorman took the the comedic formula audiences were familiar with and threw them out the window. All of the comedy romps that audiences are used to this generation are all thanks to Ron Burgundy, Brick and his furry tractor.

Getting creative in the method of storytelling is exemplified in Primer. It’s one of those movies that you recommend to people and you tell them not to read the box: just put it into your DVD player and enjoy. Movies that break away from standard storytelling conventions stick out in the audience’s memory, and build a lasting impression that can last a lifetime.

Message
Every movie has a message, whether or not the director explicitly states it. When I look at taking on a project, I want to examine the both the manifest and latent meanings of the message behind the story; that is, I want to look at the surface and core driving motives. M. Night Shyamalan gets grief because of the way his movies always have a “twist”, and that the twist is a forced gimmick used to get cheap pops in the theater. I would disagree: Signs is a perfect example of a movie that uses semiology to convey a latent meaning that takes study and investigation to uncover.

For example, red is always thought of as an aggressive color, whereas blue is a passive, non-dominant color. Shyamalan toys with the notion of color and meaning in the movie: if you give the flick a careful watch, you’ll notice that he uses plaid patterns to represent a new meaning within the context of the movie. What exactly the message is he is trying to convey, well, half of the fun is figuring it out.

Delivery
One of the things that makes Memento such a memorable movie is the way the story is presented. At face value, the narrative is a complicated juxtaposition of a man suffering short term memory loss. He has two timelines that divert in seemingly opposite directions. However, once you break the story down, there is only one story line and that story is presented in a way that makes the story more compelling and emotionally appealing.

We’ve all had the sense of lost time, be it a long day at work, or a weekend vacation that felt like a week. This sort of delivery style makes the viewer question and ponder what makes a sound story valid. It challenges the sense of linear time and, in turn, challenges the viewer’s sense of continuity.

When we look at different delivery devices, I think it’s important to realize that there are other methods of storytelling other than the common linear storytelling mode. Christopher Nolan is a master at messing with the modes of story delivery. But with that, it’s also important to realize that the delivery method must serve the well being of the story. Telling a story in a complicated, convoluted sort of way just for the sake of it can be distracting, and harm the impact that the story can have. I’m looking at you, Tarantino.

So when I’m looking to stir my creative juices, I always keep these few things in mind. Creativity is a sandbox. There are so many avenues of messaging styles to choose from, and choosing your method is the best part of the experience.

Adam H. Wong can be reached via email at adamhwong.Zooppa@gmail.comFollow him on Twitter here.

Meme E

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