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What Makes Better Films?

What is it that we love when we love a film? What is my taste and why is it not your taste? Is there really something that makes a movie good? I went a long time without asking these questions. I think most of do and probably a large share of us never really ask these questions of ourselves. We watch, walk away, ponder, but are content to just feel it in the moment. But yet, if art film is a film which we feel compelled to talk about after we see it, what is it that we want to talk about? What makes it work, or not?

I have had the pleasure of sitting on a few film festival juries, and based on that, I think most people are willing to just use the Court’s definition of pornography as their litmus test for good film too: I know it when I see it. But me, I am just not content with that. Why is a good film, good?

I do think that there are specific qualities that make films work for me, qualities that when they are lacking, I find the films lacking too. I am not sure if I would ever be able to write a comprehensive list of such qualities, because certainly some of the pleasure of film is the specificity of the viewing experience, the context, the set and setting of the viewing and consuming, but still there are some worth noting.

I do believe that when we have something to strive for — when we know what it is to reach for — we prosper because of it. Although I don’t think it is truly possible to design a film to win a festival or win critics’ favor, I do think there are a handful or even several handfuls of qualities that cinephiliacs respond to – and for good reason. Over the next few weeks, I am going to do my best to list out these qualities, and describe them here at Let’sMakeBetterFilms (on HammerToNail).

Please forgive me if I wander into the realm of pretension and pomposity with this experiment. It’s hard to talk of things like ambition without sounding like you are on a soapbox. And I am sure I won’t complete the list. I will need more help, suggestions. So, well, watch this space.

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