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Which is the bigger issue? 
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Post Which is the bigger issue?
Last night, Mark referred to plot-driven rubbish, which is certainly something I recognise in the majority of thrillers and horrors that have been released this past decade.

But what about the other side of this coin? Plotless pretension. Movies that have no plot and no story worth telling, but are shot in a certain way (dark and moody, anxiety-ridden or pseudo documentary), and have what is universally applauded as "great acting", but is really just arty miserable realism .... but without even the dark humour that real realism (stuff like Kes) brings.

Which is the bigger offender?

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Fri Feb 07, 2014 7:30 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
It's tricky because the two groups aren't mutually exclusive. Both often fail to amount to anything.

I think the real issue is unambitious directors who aren't trying hard enough to build on the past, and instead are content merely to repeat it, or to repeat small segments of it. Are they simply intimidated by the past? They make movies that function as confirmations rather than revelations. In both of those groups, too many directors aren't trying hard enough to do anything new. And there's always potential for new stuff, or for reinventing old stuff (the latter has obviously had more success recently), but the line between repetition and reinvention is thin, and sometimes critics fail to recognize it.

And that problem applies equally to plot-driven fluff and to plotless pretension. The latter is probably a bigger issue in movies and the former more in TV.


Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:00 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Having too much plot and not having enoug are mutually exclusive by basic logic.

But to answer the question (and perhaps to corroborate the rest of MGC's post), neither one is intrinsically problematic, so neither one is the bigger problem. While anything that veers hard to one side or the other is courting disaster, it is down to the imagination and skill of the filmmakers to pull off a good movie within whatever restrictions they've placed upon themselves.

And really, the movie biz isn't exactly piling up with wild experimentation. There are enough self-imposed rules as it is that drill people with staid ideas on how to make movies and how to watch them.

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Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:43 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
I think both are problematic when they become (as they have IMO) genres within themselves. Or rather perpetual clichés to be used and abused like one of Roast Beef's be-atches

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Fri Feb 07, 2014 11:09 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
I hate pretentious movies the most as they have the attitude of being "better" then other Hollywood films but are really just as bad if not worse.


Fri Feb 07, 2014 3:01 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
I feel like this is where someone needs to point out that "plot-driven rubbish" can often be just as pretentious as what this thread has called "plotless pretension."

This doesn't apply to only this thread (although it certainly does apply to this thread), but I think a lot of people need to actually look up the definition of pretentious considering how often, and for the varying reasons, it gets used.

I mean, does it really need to be pointed out that a movie that doesn't put an emphasis on plot isn't automatically pretentious? Because that's very much what it sounds like this thread is postulating. Again, it makes me wonder if people actually know what the word pretentious means.


Fri Feb 07, 2014 3:41 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
There's a lot of truth to that, actually. "Pretentious" doesn't automatically mean "Oscarbaiting." The two Matrix sequels, for example, have way too many instances where characters just stand around discussing philosophy for no reason, bringing whatever momentum the story had to a grinding halt.

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Fri Feb 07, 2014 3:50 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
I like that one guy's point about imposition/restraint. There's a pretty good novel out there called Zoo Time (Howard Jacobson, get it from your local library) that spends a few hundred pages on the argument. I've come to think that there aren't really any inherent evils in any mode of storytelling so long as someone is actually bothering to tell a story. Movies free of pesky plot are not necessarily story-free. We all know this, it's something we've chatted about over coffee and doughnuts.

Late one night I watched a movie called 'Assault on Wall Street', "free" on Netflix and directed by Uwe Boll. This movie was virtually ALL STORY, hardly spending a second on plot (though it comes, brother, believe it) as if Boll wanted to make up for lost time and craft something that would get a Gold Edition. Perfectly noble antics for any film to get into. And yet it was pretentious, too; clearly mining the thinnest headlines, taking the cheapest black-white approach, exploiting the situation in a generally ironic way. Not so rare, really: movies do this stuff all the time. In a way, it was plot-driven rubbish in that it relied on a plot-driven, carelessly thin backstory (brought to the table by you, the viewer) in order to make the sale. This, too, isn't so rare.

So, like that one guy said, it's hard to find where the problem really lies as it doesn't seem to lie with one or the other. BUT, when my fraud alarms sound, it's almost always with what has been called "plotless pretension" (those quotes aren't meant to be condescending) in that I feel like the movie sets itself up to be watched more closely. This is a problem with the viewer, me, not the movie. But there it is.

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Fri Feb 07, 2014 4:52 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Mark III wrote:
I've come to think that there aren't really any inherent evils in any mode of storytelling so long as someone is actually bothering to tell a story. Movies free of pesky plot are not necessarily story-free. We all know this, it's something we've chatted about over coffee and doughnuts.


I think that's where I take issue with the thread. I'm not sure I understand what the question "which is the bigger issue" means. The bigger issue of what? Being a shitty movie? Shit is shit, whether it's because it goes too far one way or the other. I'm not sure it matters which one is shittier, or if that can even be decided.


Fri Feb 07, 2014 5:51 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Mark III wrote:
Late one night I watched a movie called 'Assault on Wall Street', "free" on Netflix and directed by Uwe Boll. This movie was virtually ALL STORY, hardly spending a second on plot (though it comes, brother, believe it) as if Boll wanted to make up for lost time and craft something that would get a Gold Edition. Perfectly noble antics for any film to get into. And yet it was pretentious, too; clearly mining the thinnest headlines, taking the cheapest black-white approach, exploiting the situation in a generally ironic way. Not so rare, really: movies do this stuff all the time. In a way, it was plot-driven rubbish in that it relied on a plot-driven, carelessly thin backstory (brought to the table by you, the viewer) in order to make the sale. This, too, isn't so rare.

I enjoyed Assault on Wall Street for what is was - I'm not sure I'd use the word "pretentious" though in its description - I think that would be giving Boll too much credit. It's simply a revenge flick as far as I can tell, but taking aim at Wall Street banksters (and who really DOESN'T dislike those people on some level?). AoWS is actually my 2nd favourite Boll film, after the even more nihilistic Rampage.


Fri Feb 07, 2014 9:40 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Not pretentious as in 'self-consciously arty' as people tend to mean but pretentious in the classical sense. I'll toss up Dictionary.com's definition:

Quote:
characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved


I believe that fits Assault on Wall Street just perfectly. We might not agree on this one.

I didn't care for the movie but I may as well admit that I watched it because I figured some suits would get shot by a blue collar joe who'd had it up to here. I guess I got that. Took 90 minutes of agonizing and frequently hilarious melodrama to get there, though.

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Fri Feb 07, 2014 11:01 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
I've long felt most people in the Western world are too enslaved to plot. Any time an average mainstream moviegoer sees a film that's more character- or tone-driven, they usually complain that 'nothing' happens and that it's 'boring' because of that. Surely most of us learned in school that plot is not the only means of storytelling? :?


Last edited by H.I. McDonough on Sat Feb 08, 2014 8:50 am, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Feb 07, 2014 11:29 pm
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Mark III wrote:
Not pretentious as in 'self-consciously arty' as people tend to mean but pretentious in the classical sense. I'll toss up Dictionary.com's definition:

Quote:
characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved


I believe that fits Assault on Wall Street just perfectly. We might not agree on this one.

I didn't care for the movie but I may as well admit that I watched it because I figured some suits would get shot by a blue collar joe who'd had it up to here. I guess I got that. Took 90 minutes of agonizing and frequently hilarious melodrama to get there, though.

I thought that iflm was pretty damn good myself, I found the melodrama effective enough that I didn't mind.


Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:04 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
H.I. McDonough wrote:
I've long felt most people in the Western world are to enslaved to plot. Any time an average mainstream moviegoer sees a film that's more character- or tone-driven, they usually complain that 'nothing' happens and that it's 'boring' because of that. Surely most of us learned in school that plot is not the only means of storytelling? :?


I've felt the same thing but it doesn't always seem like my feelings are correct on this one. There have been some runaway successes in both literature and film, this within the last five years (longer than that, even), that indicate that audiences/readers/etc. are willing to along with anything compelling, even if that thing is told in the most unexpected way. 1Q84's success (going to have to go by sales figures in this instance) seems to mean something. This is to say nothing about No Country For Old Men, all about the tone. But maybe I'm feeling generous.

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Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:07 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Vexer wrote:
Mark III wrote:
Not pretentious as in 'self-consciously arty' as people tend to mean but pretentious in the classical sense. I'll toss up Dictionary.com's definition:

Quote:
characterized by assumption of dignity or importance, especially when exaggerated or undeserved


I believe that fits Assault on Wall Street just perfectly. We might not agree on this one.

I didn't care for the movie but I may as well admit that I watched it because I figured some suits would get shot by a blue collar joe who'd had it up to here. I guess I got that. Took 90 minutes of agonizing and frequently hilarious melodrama to get there, though.

I thought that iflm was pretty damn good myself, I found the melodrama effective enough that I didn't mind.


I was actually willing to go along with everything up until

[Reveal] Spoiler:
his wife kills herself


and at that point, it was clear that everything and anything bad that could happen, would happen. Just too much tragedy, piled higher and higher. It got to be comic for me.

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Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:09 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
I didn't really find that part funny, I actually found it fairly effective.

Though i'll admit I feel the same way about Precious that you do about that film, there was so much over-the-top drama that I just could not take it remotely seriously for a second, there's nothing at all subtle about that film, I couldn't help but laugh my ass off at the TV-throwing scene.


Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:15 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Really any movie that amps up the drama and histrionics is skating on thin ice with me. Magnolia, which I actually like, is my go-to example of a movie that eventually falls from greatness because it just won't stop with the screeching. It's so damned dramatic and yet so damned entertaining. But the dramatic! It rains frogs, in summary. That's the kind of movie it is. It rains frogs. Again: like it, good example of a movie trying too hard to up the drama.

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Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:22 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
Mark III wrote:
Really any movie that amps up the drama and histrionics is skating on thin ice with me. Magnolia, which I actually like, is my go-to example of a movie that eventually falls from greatness because it just won't stop with the screeching. It's so damned dramatic and yet so damned entertaining. But the dramatic! It rains frogs, in summary. That's the kind of movie it is. It rains frogs. Again: like it, good example of a movie trying too hard to up the drama.

My problem with that film has less to do with the drama(though the frog-rain scene was pretty silly and it looked like it belonged more in a horror film) and more to do with the ridiculously long running time. Really long films are already on thin ice with me as I rarely have that kind of patience, it's rare that I see a film that long that jusitifies it's running time(Casino is one of the few i can think of), Meet Joe Black for me is a prime example of a film that's way longer then it needs to be for absolutely no reason(mainly because of how the characters speak really slow for some bizarre reason), and it has terrible melodrama as well.


Sat Feb 08, 2014 1:46 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
It was long but, as is often the case with ensemble pieces, episodic enough to warrant an epic length -- it had many characters to connect and any one of the storylines could have worked as a stand-alone. That they all come together (sort of. They do thematically, at any rate) is a bonus.

Length is so rarely a problem for me given that, if a movie is 3 hours long, I really have to see it over multiple nights given the activity of the house and my newly normal sleep schedule. The only time that I've ever complained about a movie's length -- while watching the movie -- was recently, late 2012, when I saw Django Unchained. Smarter, better men than myself could justify why that movie was 160 minutes but I failed to come up for a reason why that meandering thing went on for 45 minutes longer than it had to. Shit, it even seemed like it kind of wanted to end 45 minutes before it did. Tarantino's pretty generous: that was one giant movie. I wondered many, many times if all of it was scripted or if he bothered to edit out anything at all.

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Sat Feb 08, 2014 2:53 am
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Post Re: Which is the bigger issue?
I haven't read the screenplay, but it is apparently enormous (way bigger than the movie) and was restructured on the fly. If Django feels at all ungainly, it's a good bet this had something to do with it.

I do think it was important for it to have the ending that it had, but perhaps the path wasn't so elegantly made as in some of his other movies.

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Sat Feb 08, 2014 3:44 am
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