An Effective Movie Watching Formula

I absolutely hate these kinds of writings:

Who the hell do I think I am to be writing about methods of my movie watching!

Am I a producer? No. Am I a director/editor? No. Am I a professional screenwriter or any other movie business professional? No. Am I an actor? No. Am I a critic? No.

Then why should you care about my methods of movie watching?

Let me modify one Rousseau from the 18th century:

I am not a — producer, director, editor, screenwriter, actor or critic. I am none. This is why I make this kind of list. If I was either of them, I would be too busy making movies, not these stupid how’s.

Okay with that aside, let’s begin.

What I mean to do here actually is share a formula of movie watching that I had devised a while back for my personal convenience. This formula has really helped me interpret and understand movies in context, their meanings and purposes — without which my movie watching would have otherwise slipped by as a mere one/two/three-hour pasttime-entertainment.

This formula contains multiple components and each have distinct parameters which add up for overall movie-quality.

I am sharing this for two reasons, firstly, so that it may be useful for someone and secondly, so that I may be suggested and critiqued in this so I can improve on it, hence, improving my movie watching experiences.

Before sharing the formula and briefly discussing the components, I would like to define movies in this context as:

Any fictional-moving-visual-entertainment.

It must be clear that documentaries don’t have anything to do here. But there is a problem, what about theatres and shows like WWE which has both live and TV audiences. For convenience sake, let’s include them as well!

But the main focus is on those 90+ minutes things which we all call — movies.

And there are no equipment and temporal boundaries. A fictional short shot with a cheap phone by a Nepali kid is as good as one by Christopher Nolan.

Here is the formula I use for movie watching —

ARFE-HT

Yes, it’s an acronym.

Each alphabet stands for one component and I mark them on the scale of 10. That is the parameter. Now let me describe the components one by one.

A — Aesthetics:

Technically, aesthetics is a philosophical study and examination of beauty and taste. But how I try to use it in movie-watching is by studying, examining and marking the ‘beautiful’ in a movie as per my taste. I don’t try to use ‘schools’ derived standards of beauty.

What I find beautiful is based on:

  • The color
  • The brightness
  • The set or location and costumes.
  • The music/soundtrack
  • The flow of transitions and cuts
  • The flow of shots and scenes
  • Synchrony between various components.
  • The Overall Story (not plots/subplots)

I think all these are self-explanatory.

I try to look at all these sub-components and then try to mark the overall aesthetics on the scale of 10, with 10 being the best and 0 being the worst.

Luc Besson’s Le Grand Bleu is a 10/10 for me.

I don’t remember giving zero to any. But few Nepali movies must have gotten a 1.

R — Reality factor:

While I prefer realism in movies, it is not at all necessary for all movies to be realistic. Yet it is difficult to define realism.

Which one would be more realistic: A movie based on a fantasy setting like say, Star Wars which manages to talk about human social issues and realpolitik or some types of Bollywood movies which deal with real life settings but go so astray from life that it has no resemblance with any part of our lives at all.

So, how I try to determine the Reality factor is by checking whether the movie has managed to show any kind of truth or not, by dealing with important subjects of our lives. Irrespective of the settings and characters. Star Wars gets higher point than this:

Gunda (1998) Full Hindi Movie | Mithun Chakraborty, Mukesh Rishi, Shakti Kapoor, Mohan Joshi — YouTube

I do think that the purpose of movies is to illustrate or show either the realities of life or the world. That is why I tend to mark movies with wisdom – highly. Whether it teaches me something important about our lives and the world or not, whether it challenges my opinions and perspectives or not – is what I try to determine.

Here too I try to look at all these sub-components and then try to mark the overall reality factor on the scale of 10, with 10 being the best and 0 being the worst.

Abbas Kiarostami’s The Taste of Cherry is a 10/10 for me,

The Bollywood movie mentioned above gets zero.

F — Feelings:

Feelings imply the ability of the movie to generate/trigger feelings and emotions in me. While a lot of movies intend to provide some kind of feeling but fail due to various factors, the ability of a movie — through its various players — to do things to me, is how I judge.

I have been using an ancient Hindustani theatre-use-evaluation method for the judgement of feelings. It is called Navarasa, or nine feelings to be played with by contents.

Those nine entities are:

  • Śṛṅgāraḥ : Romance, Love, attractiveness.
  • Hāsyam : Laughter, mirth, comedy.
  • Raudram: Fury.
  • Kāruṇyam : Compassion, mercy.
  • Bībhatsam : Disgust, aversion.
  • Bhayānakam : Horror, terror.
  • Veeram : Heroism.
  • Adbhutam : Wonder, amazement.
  • Śāntam: Peace or tranquility

I do not have a preference for this or that feeling. If a movie manages to hit me hard, I don’t care where I have been hit.

Let me provide my 10/10 movies for each (respective to the list above):

Mute (2018), Borat, (not being able to think of one), Where is my friend’s house?, The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Moon/Climax (2018), One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 2001:A Space Odyssey, Stalker (Tarkovsky).

E — Entertainment:

Because entertainment and fun are very very subjective and relative things, I have put my own margin into them. Plot-flow and performance have a great hand in this.

Photo by Laura Tancredi from Pexels

However, there is a limit as to how extreme one movie can go. Too much don’t-cares for the sake of making it artsy won’t do for me. Neither will mundane-repetitive-formulaic stuff nor pure comedy. I do have a guilty inclination — I find suspense/mystery pretty amusing.

The experience for me has to be tolerable. While a movie may have boring parts, every other factor mentioned here should work towards keeping me hooked. If it doesn’t manage to do it. It gets a low point on my scale.

Death at a Funeral (2007) is 10/10 for me, while any Bollywood blockbuster with a megastar is a 0.

H — Heroism:

This particular judgement of heroism differs from the one included in feelings. The heroism feeling mentioned under feelings is one where I appreciate the thought/deeds of character(s) in adverse situations. The toughness, the grit, the suffering, the act, etc.

But this heroism applies to movies where too much emphasis is provided to a character(s), such that they eclipse the story. In other words, heroism is where the actor or the character becomes more important than the movie and its story.

This is why it’s marking is done in reverse order. 0 is for movies with too much heroism such as Hollywood superhero flicks or Bollywood megastar ones. 10 is where the characters behave as characters and fit in perfectly with the story like in Rashomon.

T — Technicality:

This is where I look at the various technical aspects of movies which equally contribute to the overall performance and experience.

I have managed to find following important aspects:

  • Cinematography or Animation
  • Direction
  • Editing
  • Acting
  • Screenplay
  • Soundtrack and Music tightness
  • Plot/Subplot
  • Story

Here, the soundtrack differs from the ones in aesthetics in that this is whether or not the sound fits in with the cinema. Vangelis’ work in Blade Runner is absolutely beautiful, I do not find it apt in the movie. I felt Vangelis was more powerful than the narrative. So, it will get a high point in aesthetics but will not here.

All Coen Brother movies are 10/10 for me in terms of technicality.

So, this is how I watch my movies. I observe, analyze, mark and then add all of them up.

It may be a tedious, boring and inappropriate way for a proper experience but I found that it was the only way I could give context to my movie watching and make them relevant.

As mentioned earlier, I wrote this so that I could share the way I do it and also so that I could learn about my correctness and absurdities.


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