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When we took Penny on we new life was going to be interesting. We made it more so by suggesting that her next piece be pondering whether there is such a thing as a perfect film and what makes such a film. If you thought you knew  about films (unless you are a pure film buff) this article is likely to challenge you. Penny has written largely from what her own perspective is on films  and because it is so personal, no doubt some of you might disagree and feel even more strongly about it.
5. The Perfect Film????  Truth or Myth?
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I have been thinking about the perfect film and whether such a thing exists.  I feel a little like Indiana Jones on the search for the Holy Grail, but I also know that like the Grail, the perfect film does not exist. So I’ve been thinking about the methods I use to pick good films from bad ones, and in this piece I’d like to share them with you. I also apologise in advance if I get too carried away, but this is unfortunately inevitable. Stick with me though.

Loads of new stuff has been released recently - so after seeing some things that are unexpectedly brilliant and some things that are awkwardly dire I know that you will be able to find something to enjoy. When our Editor suggested my next topic of interest, to be honest I knew it was going to be the hardest thing to write about to date.

To be a critic, I’ve heard that you need to take yourself out of the picture, regardless of personal preferences and watch the film with a clean slate. It is definitely fair to say that I am fussy, but also unpredictable. This is why I watch as many films as I can.

So how would someone like me be able to describe to you what the perfect film is?  Opinions and perceptions of this world make things the way they are, so in an imperfect world -  perfection is born in the eye of the beholder,  so from the outset, please understand this is perhaps, more an insight into my mind that anything else. However, I hope you will find it thought provoking and even enjoyable.

The Method in the Madness...

I’ll begin with the ‘rules’ I would use to assess how good a film would be - to me.  Would I be enjoying the film myself or would someone else be enjoying it? The assessment would be slightly different depending on the eyes through which it is being seen.  I would then watch a film in its entirety from start to finish. If at any point I find that I have to stop watching something, the term ‘bad film’ does not even begin to describe it. One recent film had me so bored I couldn’t be bothered to pretend to be interested through the second act. These instances are quite rare, but when these films surface it is best to stay away from them.    So, if I’ve watched a film all the way through, I now start thinking about the following things and why I did or did not like it.

· The Subject Matter
    This is normally my reason for watching a film and this to be a very personal thing. If a new Star Trek film comes out, count me in. If there is a killer virus in Manhattan, sign me up. However, if Patrick Dempsey confesses his undying love in a film – you probably won’t see me in the front row. Unfortunately, I love Horror and Science fiction the most. After this come the action films and thrillers as a close second. Fantasy and drama come third, comedy fourth and children’s films (nostalgia only) fifth. One genre of film I cannot stand unfortunately is the Western. In fact the only one I will tolerate is Westworld, but since it is a Science Fiction flick – I guess I’ve cheated. My enjoyment in film is not restricted to this, as most of the time I’ll watch a film regardless of its genre out of curiosity. This in itself doesn’t make it a ‘good’ but it does influence my enjoyment of it.

· Direction
     Some films are too simple in their direction, but some are too complicated. I find that I admire and enjoy some directors more than others, especially if they have a set of stylistic conventions of their own. For example, British director Edgar Wright is fond of making his point in quick cuts that don’t linger in a scene. These often make something a lot funnier as his choreography of actors and camera shots remind me of quick witty comedians with one liners that make you cackle. You can do it with images too.

     A style of directing I don’t particularly like however is David Lynch. His films are often out of sequence and don’t make a lot of sense unless you are able to make your own interpretation of what on earth just happened. This is not to say that he is not a good film-maker and I do watch some of his films – but this is often to study and not for enjoyment. I admire those who can be apart from the mainstream and he is most certainly one of them.

     I’ve found that any film by James Cameron (e.g.Titanic) will be something that I’ll enjoy; they are often simple in their direction but stylistically beautiful in the iconic images he creates. He prefers to let the spectator look at what they want to, instead of using the camera to force a perspective. Some of my favourite directors include: Bryan Singer (X-Men), Steven Spielberg (E.T., Jurassic Park), Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien, Blade Runner), Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Paul Verhoven (Total Recall), Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight, Inception), Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), Danny Boyle (28 Days Later), Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future), Clint Eastwood (Million Dollar Baby), (Kevin Smith (Dogma, Clerks), Chan- Wook Park (Thirst, The Host), Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings), Stanley Kubrick (The Shining), Takashi Miike (Audition, Dead or Alive), David Cronenberg (The Fly), J.J. Abrams (Star Trek) and the list goes on for a bit more. The films above are the most popular projects by these directors, but are not necessarily my favourite films that they have created. I also have many favourites where I take no notice of the direction. A paradox indeed, but hey.

     It takes something special about a project to get my admiration, so the following rules can be interpreted loosely.
  · The Cast
    This is an especially loose method of seeing whether a film is good. Sometimes unknown casts catch my eye, sometimes the cast is multi-talented or all equally average (whilst moving a film along passably) and sometimes I will become attached to my actor/actress of the month and watch/enjoy every film they have made. This month that actor is Michael Sheen (Underworld, The Damned United, Unthinkable, The Queen), a man who I have dubbed ‘The Chameleon’. This man can be anyone or anything and play everything with integrity, raw talent, enthusiasm and just pure awesomeness.

    This can work the other way too in my fussy mind. I’ll hate an actor for about a month until he redeems him or herself.
The reasons for the hate can be anything from acting terribly in something or signing up to something that would offend me.
     I know that the above is a little shallow, but we’re looking for an excellent film here and not just a passable one. You can’t bake a cake with rotten eggs after all.

· The Story
     If something is coherent, inventive and smooth as a plot – chances are I’ll like it. Something that is just recycled from somewhere else or a prequel without enough blood and gore to keep me sweet – will probably be despised. I love things that are different, or at least trying to be awesome to keep my attention. A plot that sags in the middle will ensure a film gets turned off with pleasure instead of me hoping the thing will redeem itself. My favourites are plots of thrillers and mysteries that reveal themselves at the right time – kind of like the fireworks display in London at New Years Eve. A slow build up, fantastic visuals, constant effort and a phenomenal ending. I also love endings that you would never, ever expect.

    Excellent screen writing is also a must for any good film. We all knew that didn’t we? A good example of this would definitely be the King’s Speech. An excellent screenwriter can write horrible yet imaginative swearing scenes (in a speech therapy context) and make it good enough for royalty to view it with pride.

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Penny Glen Investigates