The other day I got to thinking. I was wondering about what makes a film special for me. What are the different ingredients that make a movie resonate and ensure I will return for more. I should stress I’m going to jump around in genres here a bit. There is no one film that will contain all these things (at least I don’t think there is?) After some thought I came up with the following list.
a Futile Gesture
Nothing better than a character(s) in a movie laying down their lives for very little point. With a cry of either “You go on without me” or “I’ll hold them off” the plucky sidekick is instantly doomed and royally screwed. Examples: Almost the entire cast of Aliens, Miles Dyson (Terminator 2), Spoon (Dog Soldiers) Ok I admit boxing a werewolf is cool but be honest he was fucked.
Breaking the 4th Wall
Wikipedia defines this as “The presence of the fourth wall is an established convention of fiction and drama, which has led some artists to draw direct attention to it for dramatic or comedic effect. When this boundary is “broken”, for example by an actor onstage speaking to the audience directly, or doing the same through the camera in a film or television program, it is called “breaking the fourth wall”
Mel Brooks is very good at this and he does it all the time, see the example below. Nothing funnier than a glimpse behind the curtain so to speak. Other good examples in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, National Lampoon’s Animal House and The Mask.
time travel / Time machines
Doesn’t matter if it’s Back to The Future, The Time Machine, Primer, Twelve Monkeys or The Time Traveller’s Wife. Messing about with the linear nature of the universe is just epic. I enjoy nothing better than the headfuck that is a good temporal paradox. I saw Hot Tub Time Machine the other day and it dealt with the macguffin that is time travel excellently. It was also great to see Chevy Chase on screen again as I love Fletch. I tried reading the article on Wikipedia about time travel but my head threatened to implode and then explode.
Highlander alone should be reason enough to have this on the list but there are many other splendid films that feature the merry swash and buckle of swords. Kill Bill would not have been half as special if it had been all gun rather than sword play. Other prime examples include Zatoichi, The Sword and the Sorcerer and The Princess Bride.
The Lower Lip wobble
Something that always amuses me, when it really shouldn’t, is when an actor attempts subtle emotion on screen. Some lovely lower lip acting going on in this scene from Jerry Maguire. Fucking hilarious!
an epic finale
I have much love for Who Dares Wins, I’ve discussed it before at some length. One of the reasons is this ten minute sequence toward the end of the film. If your not that interested in watching the whole clip cut to around 9.05 and enjoy the macho hall jogging.
So there you have it. All you Directors out there please take note. All you need do is create a film that has even one of these elements and I’m there. Two or more and I will be your willing slave for life.
A Cinematic Cheesecake