As a filmmaker and reviewer, I am constantly watching and ingesting films and television shows. This is an age when everyone has the means to watch countless hours of content and everyone is entitled to voice their opinion online or elsewhere so that they might connect with others who feel the same about certain content. With the over-saturation of the market, producers are constantly pushing for more and more films, and that they be done quickly and not necessarily efficiently. This is why last year films with niche audiences, like Sharknado, were generally well received, and taken for what it is, not held to a higher caliber. These days as soon as a trailer hits the web, there are already countless sites that host trailers and hundreds of trailer review channels on YouTube, everyone yearning to talk about their favorite upcoming films, and whether or not the trailer was up to par with their expectations. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I think it is important for us all to take a step back and try to assess films and television shows for what the film was intended to do.
Recently, I have seen 3 films nominated for Golden Globes. Rush, American Hustle, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Rush I loved, American Hustle I despised and The Wolf of Wall Street I was not so fond of. I can tell you why I hated American Hustle, I thought the plot was convoluted, there was no clear direction for acts 2 onward and none of the characters were likable, it was too long and often boring at points and I saw the ending coming from a mile away. I was unimpressed with Wolf of Wall Street because I thought many of the scenes were too long, it’s about a rich douchebag doing rich douchebag things and getting away with it, and then when redemption was even slightly hinted at, the character never went through with it, he simply continued being a rich douchebag. On the flip side I liked Rush because it was driven (no pun intended) and was more about a rivalry between two not so great or likeable guys that made their life about their passion and risked their lives to win. Why is this different from the other two though? All are about unlikeable characters? I think the key is to assess the films from this standpoint: did it accomplish the goals it set out to achieve and was it successful in it’s effect on the audience.
What were the goals of American Hustle? I think the goal of American Hustle overall was to make the audience feel as if they had been hustled, to throw them into a long con and see the play by play, but to miss details that were important to the ending of the film. The reason I think it didn’t meet this goal, was because it’s a film about conning, and it tried to put on the facade of complicated when really all they were doing was introducing new characters with little exposition so that you felt lost, confused and had to try to figure out who was who. Its distracting you from the clear direction of the film and ultimately any true character development. The whole 2nd-4th act is a set up for the ending and if you pay attention to the first act you can guess that Adams and Bale are going to try to con their way out of the job.
What were the goals of The Wolf of Wall Street? This is a little more complex, there is no twist or surprise ending, there is no redemption, so ultimately the goal seems to be: “look at how bad Jordan Belfort is, what will he do next?” Every chance at redemption is squandered and every bridge is burned. Leonardo DiCaprio has said it is a cautionary tale. If that was indeed the goal of the filmmakers, i’ll say that goal wasn’t achieved, because he served barely any time in jail, ratted out the only people who remotely cared about him and then on top of continuing to make money off of a book and teaching seminars, he has had a film made about him. I don’t know, but seems like he’s doing alright to me. Perhaps the goal is to live vicariously through Jordan Belfort, if you are into that sort of thing, in which case, the film literally overdoses you on drugs, prostitution and being filthy rich, and I would say in that, it is successful, but ultimately then it would lack substance.
What were the goals of Rush? I think the goals of Rush were to put the audience into the shoes of racecar drivers for Formula one, it is a glimpse into the world of racing through the eyes of two characters and uses their story to demonstrate the perils of the occupation and the hardships that come along with it. I think this movie was very successful in fulfilling its goal. The film is well paced, changes directions in an instant and demonstrates the toll that racing can take on drivers in both personal life and professional. It is long but you don’t feel it’s length, has a clear direction and follows through with it, as well as develops both characters throughout the action and plot.
Many of the review sites that are popular are opinion based, and I understand that that is all reviews are, one individual’s opinion, as well as that no film is all bad or all good, there are things you can find that you like in any film. However, I think what is key in reviewing films when the market is saturated with films trying to accomplish different things, that we assess each film for what it was trying to accomplish and not simply this or that sucked because it had these plot holes or this character annoyed me or there was one visual effect that wasn’t up to par.
That is my opinion, voice yours below! Also check out The Zach and Zack Podcast to listen to more discussions about film and filmmakers. Or tweet me @zgriffin22.