?

Log in

Previous Entry | Next Entry

More about the way I watch movies

maiac wrote:

This sounds exactly like the kind that I need these days. Too many scriptwriters think that they have to do unpleasant and unfair things to their characters to make the story "dramatic".

And I started to answer this in the comment thread and then realized that I had enough to say that it might (might!) go long.

I don't actually mind, in context, when unpleasant things happen to characters; I dislike intensely when it feels contrived, because dammit, if you're going to do something obviously contrived couldn't it at least be nice or good? (I forgive contrived happiness).

I think, for me, I have to genuinely like the characters. In the previously mentioned Letters to Juliet, I actually liked the fiancee. When he did something very unromantic, my thought was "ouch, you idiot" and not "what a jerk". I understood why he was attractive to her -- to anyone -- and also at the same time why he could never make her happy.

I liked the fact that he was entirely unselfconscious in all his reactions and interactions.

So even though it was a romantic comedy and you knew going in he wasn't going to be the guy she married, I still *liked* him.

Let me come up with an entirely different example. I started to watch the movie How to lose a guy in 10 days (I may have the movie name wrong.) I watched maybe the first 20 minutes of that movie and then turned to my friend and said: "I can't stand either of these two. This movie is really going to have to knock my socks off for me to care -- at all -- whether or not they have a happy ending." (He said: Okay, we're not finishing this one. He had to survive my intense fury at the end of Atonement, a movie about which I can rant in rage for days).

I need to like something about the characters. I realize that this is the thing that makes my tastes so entirely about *me* because obviously the above movie did well and many people enjoyed it. What *I* find compelling or likeable in a character doesn't always work for other people; what I find sympathetic can make andpuff grind her teeth and look for a clue bat to hit said character with.

But I want sympathetic characters. Or rather, characters with whom I can sympathize -- and a lot of the time, movies don't have that, for me. If it's a straight action picture, they can all be cardboard -- but not irritating cardboard (I will not rant about James Bond either. I won't. I'm strong).

So although Letters to Juliet was not, in many many objective ways, something to write home about -- I really liked it.

Comments

( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
phillip2637
Jul. 15th, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC)
"unpleasant and unfair things"

Happens with books too. There's a writer that I'd like to keep reading but can't. I enjoy the voice, the storytelling, and the setting of his series very much. Three or four books in, however, I realized that the single non-imaginative recurring pattern was that his main character was going to be beaten near to death repeatedly in each book (or shot or burned or...).

I understand some basics about the use of risk and suspense, and the character needing to *earn* eventual success, but this was way too much.
maiac
Jul. 15th, 2010 10:34 pm (UTC)
"I don't actually mind, in context, when unpleasant things happen to characters; I dislike intensely when it feels contrived, because dammit, if you're going to do something obviously contrived couldn't it at least be nice or good?"

Yes, this.

"I think, for me, I have to genuinely like the characters."

And this. I wish I did live in Toronto, so we could go to the movies together.

I don't object to unpleasant things happening to characters, as such. Without some kind of challenge (which is pretty much by definition unpleasant), the story is really dull. It's when the unpleasantness is unfair (to the reader, is what I meant) that I snort scornfully and find something else to do. When the writer seems to think that the only truly authentic outcome is that somebody you really care about has to die so you realize that life sucks, then I get really irritated. (Which is why I don't join in the Joss Whedon worship, I have to say.) Yes, life sucks. But it doesn't always suck, and I think an important purpose of fiction is to show us that life doesn't always suck. (Which is why I love your stories -- and andpuff's stories, since you mention her. Your characters have enough control over their own fate to make life not suck.)

Edited at 2010-07-15 10:36 pm (UTC)
mtlawson
Jul. 15th, 2010 11:07 pm (UTC)
I don't actually mind, in context, when unpleasant things happen to characters; I dislike intensely when it feels contrived, because dammit, if you're going to do something obviously contrived couldn't it at least be nice or good? (I forgive contrived happiness).

The in context part is critical for me. I've watched and/or read enough stories where the unpleasant thing comes completely out of the blue, and it just gets me annoyed.

Oh BTW, good to see you back posting on LJ.
msagara
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:33 am (UTC)
Oh BTW, good to see you back posting on LJ.

Thank you!

romsfuulynn
Jul. 16th, 2010 03:11 am (UTC)
Particularly in mystery book series, there is a tendency to randomly kill off the love interest (usually a husband, wife or fiance) after building the relationship over a number of books. I have a LibraryThing tag for it ADDL (Another Damn Dead Lover.)
kchew
Jul. 16th, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
Elizabeth George, we're looking at you.
book_wench
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:53 am (UTC)
Yeah, I stopped reading her after that one. It was just the last straw.
kchew
Jul. 16th, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
Good plan, because you know that he's going to start dating again. I'm not sure I can handle the man in thwarted love again.
book_wench
Jul. 16th, 2010 05:03 pm (UTC)
The thwarted book was definitely not his shining moment.
msagara
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:35 am (UTC)
Particularly in mystery book series, there is a tendency to randomly kill off the love interest (usually a husband, wife or fiance) after building the relationship over a number of books. I have a LibraryThing tag for it ADDL (Another Damn Dead Lover.)

What I dislike is when it's obvious that this is what's about to happen. If, for instance, things have finally worked out well and people are in a happy place and I know this means someone is about to Die, it annoys me -- because it seems like so much set-up.

If, while people are still trying to work things out, someone dies, it feels less contrived to me, go figure. Loss is tragic and it's painful, and I understand that.

But it's almost like it's a game of gotcha -- ha! you thought they'd be happy? Now this is really going to Shock You!
kchew
Jul. 16th, 2010 05:32 am (UTC)
It's why I hate Thomas Hardy so deeply.
braider
Jul. 16th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
I have the opposite problem with mysteries - might be because of the ones I've stumbled on, since I don't tend to read mysteries in general. I fall into them via authors who do multiple genres. For example, Nora Roberts, who seems to declare, "Hah! Betcha didn't see this one coming, didja?" To which the answer is "No, because there were absolutely no hints and even after the unveiling this seems implausible to the point of impossibility in terms of the characters as they were presented." That's one of my biggest pet peeves.

I liked Atonement largely for the sex scene; out of curiosity, if you can do so, can you provide a bulleted list of the 5-10 top issues you have with the story? (Note that I've only seen the movie, never read the book.)
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes. I *hate* that, it's so pointless.
trektone
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:41 am (UTC)
I'm usually as annoyed by contrived happiness as I am with contrived death.
mizkit
Jul. 16th, 2010 10:04 am (UTC)
This makes me very glad I haven't watched Atonement. :)

The thing about How To Lose A Guy (for me) is that no matter how much I want to like Kate Hudson, I just don't. I fear the poor woman suffers from being Goldie Hawn's daughter but not her equal, and I *know* that's not fair so I keep *trying* to get past it, and she still just falls flat for me. I don't think I've seen a movie of hers that I liked, sadly enough.
barbarienne
Jul. 16th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
I can stick with a book or movie with characters I only kinda like if they're otherwise interesting or the plot/world are very interesting.

Witty banter will always make me like a character, even if (perhaps especially if) they're a bad guy. I loves me some clever bad guys. (It's all Alan Rickman's fault. Die Hard has corrupted me forever.)

I can be held by interesting/likeable secondary characters; this is what makes the original Star Wars work for me. Luke doesn't get interesting until the second movie. In the first film he's just the cliche farmboy with murdered family going on an adventure; even at age 12 that was insufficient for me.
_ocelott_
Jul. 16th, 2010 03:52 pm (UTC)
Oh, Atonement. Yet another example of how a story cannot be Very Serious Literature if people are permitted a happy ending. That movie broke my heart, and even now I pretend the last few minutes of the movie didn't happen. That scene where Briony finally faces the other two as an adult is the last scene, as far as I'm concerned.

The husband and I have had many discussions about the necessity of likeable characters. He can be held by a neat concept or plot, but like you, I have to be invested in the characters to care about what's going on. It makes watching movies together... interesting, at times.
amber_fool
Jul. 16th, 2010 04:12 pm (UTC)
He had to survive my intense fury at the end of Atonement, a movie about which I can rant in rage for days

I never watched the movie, but that's how I felt about the book, actually. It is rare that I don't finish a book, no matter how much I dislike it, but I quit on that one. I hated all of the characters, they seemed flat, and I didn't care in the slightest what happened to them.
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )