Monday, December 10, 2007

AIFF - Their Picks for Best Films, My Criteria

From the AIFF official blog:
Best Feature
The Clown and the Fuhrer

Best Short
Its a tie for first: Anonymous and Demain la Veille
Runner up: Dear Lemon Lima

Best Documentary
The Prize of the Pole

Best Short Documentary

We were pretty close. My picks were

Clown and Führer

Taxi to the Dark Side (It wasn't clear, except for the shorts, which films were and weren't actually in competition for awards. If Taxi wasn't in competition, then the Prize or maybe Autism the Musical would have been my pick)
I Have Seen the Future was my pick for animated, but that seems to have been rolled into shorts.

[December 28 - I just saw "A summer in the cage" and it would challenge the Prize of the Pole for the documentary award. It turns out that Taxi to the Dark Side was in the competition. I don't see how Prize beat it, and I think Summer in the Cage was a strong contender. Taxi wins on current political currency, but I think Cage was - cinematically a more interesting movie. Also, there were two other winners -
  • Joseph Henry - Best Super Short
  • La Flor Mas Grande Del Mundo - Best Animation
I haven't seen Joseph Henry, but I have since seen the La Flor. I still prefer I Have Seen the Future just for its technical innovativeness, though Flor does have more appealing content.
Based on Summer in the Cage I've added a new AIFF post.]

So what were my criteria? There are several factors.
  • Technical Quality A continuum from.. problems..very good..innovative. Some might have a combination of more than one of these which makes it harder to judge. Clearly Anonymous and I Have Seen the Future impressed me with their innovative technical styles.

  • Content - There's a vague continuum from:
    • Negative/disrespectful ...Boring...good story....originality...currency...impact
    • I gave my only really negative review to The Dalai Lama's Cat because I thought it was a very negative and disrespectful portrayal. That doesn't mean a film can't be critical - I gave Taxi to the Dark Side lots of credit for being critical of the Defense Department's use of torture. But they provided lots of evidence. The Cat filmmakers began with what appears to be a bogus story about a cat, knew apparently little or nothing about the Dalai Lama or the Tibetan people, and then used Tibet, its people, and its holy shrines as the props for their ethnocentric humor. They used the Dalai Lama's name to sell their picture. It was simply rude and disrespectful to get a laugh and sell their movie. This is not about being politically correct. If you drop a kid on his head for laughs (which they did in the movie) that's not acceptable in my value system. Most depressing was how many people did laugh.
    • Content is probably the most variable issue, since what interests me may not interest you. I thought Prize of the Pole and Taxi to the Dark Side both covered important social/political issues well, but that Taxi's was focused on a more current issue and had potentially more impact.
    • Friends thought No Place Like Home was awful. I thought it had some editing problems, but there were a lot of things in there that I enjoyed.

  • Use of Medium. Movies combine sight and sound and movement. The best movies are those that take advantage of the medium and tell their stories in ways that you couldn't tell it orally, in a book, etc.

  • Whole Package. Even with weaknesses here and there, a film could pull it off by doing some things so well that the problems don't really matter. Autism the Musical seemed to use pretty basic video technology, but the story it told and how it told that story made it an excellent film. Just like parts of a face, individually, might be a little off, all together the face can be beautiful. So the same is true for the movie.

Anyway, those are the things, roughly, that go into my assessment of a good movie.

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