Tuesday, December 24, 2013

AIFF 2013: What Makes A Film Great?

Great art occupies your soul.  It reshapes your brain and plays with your heart.

Since everyone's brains and hearts are constantly changing and different from other people's, what gets to me might not get to you.  What gets to me today, might not have gotten to me 20 years ago.

So picking 'best' movies at a festival is always going to be questionable and contentious.

But does that mean all movies are equal, that there are no objective standards people can agree on?  I've written about how to evaluate films before.  (Checking that link shows it similar to this list and more detailed.  And here are my thoughts on good documentaries from last year.)  But each year there are different things that happen that raise new factors to consider.  So here's this year's take on (at least) features. 

We've got the technical aspects
  • visual experience
  • the sound
  • how it's all put together
We've got the content
  • the characters
  • the  story
  • the import in the world
We've got the style
  • complexity of the story
  • point of view
  • clarity
  • purpose 
Each of these three categories and nine subcategories are worthy of long posts of their own.  I'll spare you now and perhaps expand if necessary as I write about the films.

I would add that the great movies leave you walking out of the theater saying, "That was great."  In the perfect movie experience, everything blends together so well that you are sucked into the movie thoroughly and you aren't also observing the movie making.  These explicit factors emerge later as you have time to think about the film.  And the really good films keep talking to you. Your subconscious lets parts of the film bubble out into your conscious to ponder further.

So, how did the 'bests' get distributed this year?

Festival Judges' Best Features:
  1. Tu Seras Un Homme (You’ll Be A Man)
  2. Die Nieuwe Wereld (The New World)
  3. Inja Hameh Chiz Khoob Ast (Everything Is Fine Here

Audience Choice – Features

  1. Mourning Has Broken
  2. Hank and Asha
  3. Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?

A note on how the festival works.  There are two kinds of fims
  • those submitted for awards 
  • special selections that are solicited by the festival (or offered to the festival, as was the case of the films presented by the Anchroage Mexican Counsel)
Of those films submitted and selected for the festival, the initial screeners choose what they think are the best.  These then are "in competition" for awards.

Of the films above, Mourning Has Broken was selected, but not in competition and Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?  was a special selection, not eligible for an award.

Here's a table of all the features at the festival with the official awards, the audience awards, and my choices.

Title Status Festival Award Audience Choice My Choices

7 Cajas (7 Boxes) Special Selection

9 Full Moons Selected

Aanya Ka Banya (Delinquent Dancers) Selected

The Animal Project Selected

Contracted Special Selection

Detroit Unleaded In Competition

Die Nieuwe Wereld (The New World) In Competition 2
The Frozen Ground Special Selection

Hank and Asha James E. Duff
2 1
Inja Hameh Chiz Khoob Ast… (Everything Is Fine Here) In Competition 3
Juventud (Youth) Special Selection

Mine Games Selected

Mourning Has Broken Selected
Route of Acceptance Special Selection

Tu Seras Un Homme (You’ll Be A Man) In Competition 1
Vino Veritas In Competition

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (明天記得愛上我)

Special Selection
3 1

I've marked my choices with these symbols:
1 = Walked out thinking, wow, that was a good movie
2 =  Good movie, just not quite level 1
3 =  Lots that I liked, worth seeing
** = There's good stuff in it, but needs work
* =  Saw the movie, but not that impressed
   =  Didn't see the movie

I was trying to figure out how to write about so many films.  Putting them all in one post seemed excessive.  Now that I've finished writing about two of my favorites, I realize the best way is to just list my favorites (the films I rated 1 above) and end this post.  I'll add additional posts about specific films.  The first will discuss The New World and Hank and Asha.   As I add posts, I'll link to them from here. 

My 1's:

7 Cajas (7 Boxes)

Die Nieuwe Wereld (The New World)

Hank and Asha

Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? (明天記得愛上我)

All four of these movies pulled me in so completely that I was engrossed in the story and not thinking about the movie making - all the technical stuff worked to tell the story, not distract from the story (either because it was bad or so good.)

For all four, I left the theater with the feeling of having seen a really good film.

When I have posted about the other features, I'll add links to this post. 

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