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Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good? 
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
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That implies focus groups, shameless demographic pimping...but Star Wars is a deeply personal film. It is an auteurist film through and through, and the film George Lucas wanted to make.


It's an auteurist film that doesn't want to be an auteurist film. A deeply personal movie that just so happens to appeal to every demographic on the planet. Right.


Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:23 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
MGamesCook wrote:
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That implies focus groups, shameless demographic pimping...but Star Wars is a deeply personal film. It is an auteurist film through and through, and the film George Lucas wanted to make.


It's an auteurist film that doesn't want to be an auteurist film. A deeply personal movie that just so happens to appeal to every demographic on the planet. Right.


Have you read about the making of the film? Trust me, if Lucas had wanted to please others, the movie would have been very different. Auteurist films can be successful you know. Take Jaws. Or, hell, Transformers

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Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:27 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
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Have you read about the making of the film? Trust me, if Lucas had wanted to please others, the movie would have been very different. Auteurist films can be successful you know. Take Jaws. Or, hell, Transformers


There's just something missing from Star Wars in relation to other auteurist popcorn flicks. Perhaps a certain degree of tenacity. For a movie that purports itself as a metaphor for embracing life as an adventure, it certainly doesn't take many risks. It's a textbook fairy tale. It's not a BAD movie, but for me it loses its interest because it has no mystery. It never manages to detach itself from being a piece of entertainment.

And there's just no exoticism in the first movie. It looks like there will be when R2D2 is wandering through the canyons, but that never goes anywhere. Instead of the exotic mystery of Kershner's snowy hoth planet, yoda's swamp planet, and cloud city, we get a 10 minute scene of the gang trapped in a garbage disposal.


Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:39 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
MGamesCook wrote:
Exactly. It's playing into the viewer's nature. What I want a filmmaker to do, by contrast, is to force me to play into the filmmaker's nature.

That's just too bad, because media doesn't force anybody to do anything. Media persuades, and the most successful persuasion is invariably when the messenger and the receiver achieve a meeting of minds somewhere in the middle, a marriage of a receiver's sensibilities with a message that is relayed with those sensibilities in mind.

Never mind Storytelling 101--this is Classical Rhetoric 101. The message that has to be forced is a failure; a message that is shaped so that the receiver willingly accepts it without being forced to do so is a much greater indicator of skill on the part of the messenger. Read Plato. Read Aristotle. The tools have changed, but the art remains the same. Stop trying to convince people that their experience is wrong and consider why some ideas seem to survive the process of natural selection in our collective consciousness better than others.

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Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:44 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
Why don't you respond to some of my other points?

Do you think Empire is better or not? Is a garbage disposal more adventurous than the hoth and cloud city planets?


Mon Nov 04, 2013 9:47 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
I do think Empire is better. I've discussed my reasons for that elsewhere and I'm sure you can find them by searching. Considering Empire to be the better movie is by no means an indictment against Star Wars or the reasons for its success that we've discussed so far. As for being trapped in a garbage compactor versus a snowy wasteland, the notion that either one is inherently more adventurous than the other seems silly to me.

I responded to the comment you made in response to my post. JamesKunz can respond to the things you said in response to him if he wants.

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Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:00 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
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As for being trapped in a garbage compactor versus a snowy wasteland, the notion that either one is inherently more adventurous than the other seems silly to me.


One is a confined, colorless space, the other is beautiful and vast. Snowy environments have a look and luster to them. I don't know if one is inherently more adventurous, but I know which one I would rather be looking at. It's all about the visuals. Lucas's eye simply does not match his imagination, imo.


Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:09 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
1. A snowy wasteland is, by definition, colorless.

2. Lucas has (or had, prior to his hiatus from directing) a terrific eye, and if you doubt that, take a look at THX-1138.

3. Kershner did not choose the environments in the Empire Strikes Back, so any perceived difference in the wisdom of that choice cannot be attributed to the change in directors.

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Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:17 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
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1. A snowy wasteland is, by definition, colorless.


Call me nuts, I still think a snowy wasteland is more beautiful than a garbage disposal.

Quote:
2. Lucas has (or had, prior to his hiatus from directing) a terrific eye, and if you doubt that, take a look at THX-1138.


I don't find his eye to be that great. Many shots in both THX and Star Wars are awkwardly composed. It's good sometimes of course. Nice symmetrical compositions, but his movies never congeal visually. The wide shots and close-ups look like they were shot by two different units.

Quote:
3. Kershner did not choose the environments in the Empire Strikes Back, so any perceived difference in the wisdom of that choice cannot be attributed to the change in directors.


Whatever is the cause for it, I'm glad it turned out the way it did.


Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:33 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
It doesn't matter if you found some of the compositions awkward. The fact that the world in THX is even slightly convincing is 100% down to the careful way in which the environments are shot. Just by looking at them a certain way, Lucas makes them exotic, instead of the humdrum public locations that they actually were. In this case, more so than most movies: no eye, no movie.

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Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:43 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
I'm not saying Lucas had no talent or no eye whatsoever. But Star Wars just doesn't do much for me. I'm not afraid to admit that personally I enjoy the more masculine stuff in movies. I like starkness, action, grime, grit, adrenaline, and dread. I don't really care what a filmmaker is trying to tell me about treating life as an adventure. That doesn't do anything for me. And I would say the same thing for Avengers. Now don't get me wrong. Star Wars is 100000000 times better than Avengers. But they both have one thing in common: a kind of softness which goes against the natural inclination of the action genre. It feels soft to me. After I've seen Empire, Star Wars feels like a watered-down version of what it could have been, something that Empire brings to fuller fruition.

Star Wars also lacks an adrenaline rush. It lacks momentum. It lacks the dread that makes Empire so good. It just lacks a hard edge. It lacks existentialism. It lacks suffering. The characters in a movie are supposed to suffer, to go through hardship. Star Wars feels aggressively censored in all its aspects. That may be the genuine sensibility of Lucas, but it doesn't appeal to me.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:03 am
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
Ken wrote:
Never minding that while Star Wars may not challenge your intellect or your stomach, the entire film rests upon the assumption that we the viewers have our own inner desire for adventure and excitement, to get off this rock, to get out and brave the great unknown--all of which is antithetical to our desire for comfort and safety. Without any of that stuff, Star Wars wouldn't work for anybody, and yet it works for nearly everybody. It is the ultimate "dare to be awesome" film.



This is exactly what it is. I mean literally.

Lucas is a fan of Joseph Campbell, and Star Wars borrows from Campbell's "Hero's Journey". In that sense, Star Wars is a kind of very clever psychological manipulation of sorts. A cocktail of a million myths

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Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:31 am
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
I get my fix of adventure and excitement from about 150 other movies before Star Wars. Movies that are better directed, with more exciting action, and more swiftly paced.

I think Revenge of the Sith may actually be my favorite of the series due almost entirely to Ian McDiarmid's performance. The original just doesn't have anything as juicy as that. McDiarmid bites into that part as much as Ricardo Montalban did for Khan. And it's great.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:15 am
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
JamesKunz wrote:
MGamesCook wrote:
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Your comment drips with condescension, but it also presupposes that dark/adult material is inherently worthier. It's a tendency that all of us who love films have on occasion, but it's fallacious. In general, it may indeed be a thing to desire from movies. But to apply the standard to every individual film is absurd.


No, to force yourself to watch something that you don't enjoy; now THAT's absurd. I genuinely don't enjoy watching films like Star Wars, which have nothing on their mind except to please the widest crowd possible. I get no pleasure out of it. My enjoyment comes from darker/grimier/dirtier/rougher material, and especially from forcing soft viewers to watch the same. Of course, that's just me. But you're wrong, I don't claim it's inherently worthier. Just that I enjoy it more. If inherently worthier were instead equated to box office potential, I would be dead wrong.

Star Wars fans are the ones who often come across as condescending. Because they assume that everyone grew up with it, for one thing and that it's some sacred part of everyone's childhood whether they want it to be or not. Personally, I saw a Star Wars movie for the first time at age 13, which if you can believe it, was after I'd already seen Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, and The Godfather. Bond films are what I grew up with, but I try not to let my nostalgia get in the way of judging them based on what I've learned since. I hated Majesty as a kid. Couldn't even get through it. Now, it's my favorite.

Approaching Star Wars as a grown-up, and judging it in aesthetic terms, I can safely say it doesn't hold up. The cinematography is rarely better than competent. The sets and settings are large but don't have much beauty. The editing keeps the film moving, but it's nothing extraordinary. And Lucas has no real visual style.


It's funny that you say the film is meant to please the widest crowd possible, but I don't agree. That implies focus groups, shameless demographic pimping...but Star Wars is a deeply personal film. It is an auteurist film through and through, and the film George Lucas wanted to make. If he wanted it to be dark vs. light, evil empire vs good rebels, fine by me


Speaking as one who enjoys Star Wars but isn't the biggest fan of it (I'd trade 10 Star Wars for 1 Aliens) I have to say that I respectfully disagree in that Star Wars does represent Lucas's vision. It has its flaws sure. But there is a certain level of timelessness to it. Compare it to something like Independence Day. Star Wars still holds up while Independence Day is very much of its time and has not aged very well at all.

Yes, a lot of blockbusters don't hold up very well while a lot of the more under the radar films are the ones that last. Most people realize that.

I personally tend to lean towards edgier stuff (Goodfellas, Chinatown, Pulp Fiction, Blue Velvet, Dr. Strangelove). But I still can appreciate good moviemaking on a blockbuster (Jaws, Aliens, the Indiana Jones movies).

Lastly I don't think mass populairty forces anyone to watch something they dislike. I have yet to watch any of the Twilight movies and I will do so only at gunpoint.

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Tue Nov 05, 2013 10:45 am
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
MGamesCook wrote:
The characters in a movie are supposed to suffer, to go through hardship.


-Luke has his Uncle and Aunt executed by imperial forces and witnesses first-hand their still smoldering remains
-Luke has the only home he has ever known brutally destroyed and discovers on his own on its smoking ruins
(Now you could argue that he had an antagonistic relationship with his Uncle, and spent his first 15 minutes of screen time whining about wanting to get away from that home, but I don't think these were the circumstances he was looking for when he was seeking this change to take effect.)
-Leia is forced to watch her entire planet of weaponless pacifists destroyed with millions of lives lost due to her resistance to betraying the rebellion
-Luke witnesses his mentor (and latest father figure) cut down in front of him when escape is at hand
-C3PO is a bit of a hypochondriac, but he claims to be suffering for his entire time on Tatooiine

Inferring that because the characters slid down a chute on an enclosed space station and didn't land in the middle of a tropical rainforest, that makes it an inferior movie is kind of a silly argument.

I think that Empire is the better movie, but without Star Wars there would be no Empire. The first may be a bit more lightweight, but that is necessary to a degree when Lucas had to introduce all of the characters and the situations. And while Empire is technically the better picture, Star Wars has much better pacing. The entire Degobah sequence in Empire, WHILE Han and Leia and the droids are parked inside the asteroid, and then touring Bespin is probably the slowest sequence in the Original Trilogy. There is important character building going on (learning the force, falling in love), but I wouldn't really call that adrenaline pumping stuff.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:01 am
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
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I think that Empire is the better movie, but without Star Wars there would be no Empire. The first may be a bit more lightweight, but that is necessary to a degree when Lucas had to introduce all of the characters and the situations. And while Empire is technically the better picture, Star Wars has much better pacing. The entire Degobah sequence in Empire, WHILE Han and Leia and the droids are parked inside the asteroid, and then touring Bespin is probably the slowest sequence in the Original Trilogy. There is important character building going on (learning the force, falling in love), but I wouldn't really call that adrenaline pumping stuff.


I agree with all this, and will defend Empire no more. It's really not worth it. And you know, New Hope does have better pacing. But it's still a very silly film which never plays by its own rules. Lucas is an auteur, I'll give you that, just not a particularly good one. Nicholas Meyer's work on Wrath of Khan is much better.

As for pain/suffering in the film, I was referring to the actors. The look on Mark Hamill's face upon discovering the burned bodies of his aunt and uncle looks like a kid who just got a C on a midterm. Please. But hey, at least the script gave it a shot.

It's an issue of immersion. Star Wars entertains me in spots, but it's never truly immersive. Everything is way too clean, way too slick, pristine, and spotless. Same goes for the script and story structure. I'm too aware that I'm watching a movie, and Star Wars always feels like it's a watered down version of other things. Yeah, it's a million myths alright; and it waters down every single one of them.

Honestly, it was fun in the VHS days. I had a good time watching the Star Wars tapes on a 15 inch screen with Leonard Maltin interviews at the beginning. But 200-inch widescreen blu-ray images tell a very different story from that. My nostalgia is overpowered by the crystal, HD clarity of flat compositions and painfully humdrum pacing. And though there's a certain giddiness to what Lucas is doing, he's never really audacious. I need some audacity. Rhythm, charge, style. I need the underwater POV shots in Jaws, not the clean cut prisms of a bunch of shiny red buttons. I NEED, NEED, NEED the opening subway montage of The Warriors, not "playful banter" between two robots. I need Sissy Spacek's painful rage in Carrie, not Princess Leia frowning a little when a planet gets blown up. From my point of view, one is real and the other is fake, and there's no in between. There may be an in between for other people, but not for me.

Pauline Kael didn't like the movie either. This is her take:

Quote:
This is the writer-director George Lucas’s own film, subject to no business interference, yet it’s a film that’s totally uninterested in anything that doesn’t connect with the mass audience.


Quote:
But it’s probably the absence of wonder that accounts for the film’s special, huge success. The excitement of those who call it the film of the year goes way past nostalgia to the feeling that now is the time to return to childhood.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:47 am
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
And this from Ebert's 4-star review:

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Every once in a while I have what I think of as an out-of-the-body experience at a movie. When the ESP people use a phrase like that, they're referring to the sensation of the mind actually leaving the body and spiriting itself off to China or Peoria or a galaxy far, far away. When I use the phrase, I simply mean that my imagination has forgotten it is actually present in a movie theater and thinks it's up there on the screen. In a curious sense, the events in the movie seem real, and I seem to be a part of them.

"Star Wars" works like that.

....


What makes the "Star Wars" experience unique, though, is that it happens on such an innocent and often funny level. It's usually violence that draws me so deeply into a movie -- violence ranging from the psychological torment of a Bergman character to the mindless crunch of a shark's jaws. Maybe movies that scare us find the most direct route to our imaginations. But there's hardly any violence at all in "Star Wars" (and even then it's presented as essentially bloodless swashbuckling). Instead, there's entertainment so direct and simple that all of the complications of the modern movie seem to vaporize.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:51 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
Personally I don't think Star Wars holds up all that well today, I liked it as a kid but my enthusiasm for it has waned over the years.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:58 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
To me, describing a movie as a classic means that 1.) it's old, 25 years or older, perhaps, and 2.) it either extremely popular, critically acclaimed, exemplary of or defining a genre (a "genre classic"), very influential or a technical milestone.
It doesn't have to be good, though, and I don't have to like it.

Consequently, Tod Browning's Dracula starring Bela Lugosi is a horror classic because it heralded the era of Universal horor movies. Similarly, the version of Dracula starring Christopher Lee is a classic because it was the first noteworthy colour film about vampires and instrumental in establishing the brand of Hammer horror. Both are pretty rubbish, though, and inferior to both versions of 'Nosferatu'.

As for 'Star Wars' - it is certainly a classic sci-fi movie (if you include space opera) and it is also regarded as one of the first modern blockbusters. And no one could deny its cultural impact either, which doesn't mean that anybody would have to like it.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:51 pm
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Post Re: Can a Movie Be a Classic Without Being Good?
Well, I think I'm gonna have to side with Kael and Vexer on this. It's apparent that the only kind of movie certain people have the willingness to defend is one that has already been called one of the greatest movies of all time by 1000s of others.


Tue Nov 05, 2013 8:39 pm
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