I'm seeing Fast Food Nation tonight -- again -- partially because I think I'd like to see it without it being the fifth film of the day. It's end-of-year, so a lot of big movies are coming -- and every movie makes you think about your year-end list, and what's going to wind up on it. I have a simple, four-question series of things I ask about any movie -- and a fifth one that's kind of the final hurdle. I thought I'd share that with you, just in case you were curious about process. Or reeeeeally bored.

-- Is the film well-made technically? This doesn't refer to simple gloss and style - money can buy that, these days -- but to the camera work, the mise-en-scene, the editing and sound and set design.

-- Is it well-written? (Or, if it's a documentary, was it well-shaped and crafted?) Do the characters make sense, are they well-drawn, does the structure have rigor and flexibility? Is the plot an afterthought, or an integral part of the story?

-- Is it well-acted? (Or, if it's a documentary, is it about interesting people and ideas?) Do the actors fit with the material and bring it to life? Are you conscious of watching a performance? Are the performances in tune with the feel of the material, whether goofy comedy or high drama?

-- Is it actually about something? Does the film address real concerns, real ideas and true challenges? Or, if it's a piece of entertainment -- a comedy, a thriller -- is it actually funny, or actually thrilling?

And, finally:

-- Could this story be as well-told in any other medium? Or does the film use, understand and apply the freedoms and constraints of filmmaking because that's the best possible way to tell this particular story?

Of course, an independent observer could read this and suspect I'm over-thinking the movies; another could read it and think I'm under-thinking them. (I'm inclined to think it's the latter; Jeff Anderson's post about Paul Schraders Canon -- actuallly, just talking to Jeff -- reminds me that I've seen Tango & Cash more times than I've seen Jules & Jim, for Pete's sake.) All this list runs down is what I think about after the movie's done. What do you think about after the credits, and what movies have you been thinking about lately?

Mmm, sunshine,

J.
categories Cinematical