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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

critic’s minifesto #3: it’s all about story

(In which I expound upon aspects of my critical philosophy that seem obvious to me but probably aren’t at all obvious to you.)

There’s one thing I care about most when I approach a movie: the story. Is the story engaging? Is the story interesting? Is the story something that will keep me diverted or entertained or provoked for two hours?
This means that a film that does not tell a story that appeals to me on some level has, in my reckoning, failed as a movie. I don’t care how gorgeous the cinematography is if I don’t like the story. I don’t care what a technical marvel the FX are if I don’t like the story. I don’t care what an amazing performance the marquee cast turned in if I don’t like the story.

This is an analogy I like to use. There are two restaurants:

One serves the best meal you have ever had in your life. The service is perfunctory. The ambiance is forgettable. But the food is the amazing.

In the other restaurant, the service is impeccable and supremely attentive. The atmosphere is spectacular. But the food is shit.

I would rather eat at the first restaurant. Every time. The second restaurant does not interest me in the slightest.

Of course, ideally, I would choose, if I could, to eat in a restaurant where the food is to die for, the service is slavish, and the setting is magnificent. But this is not always what is on offer.

Movies are the same way. I will take a great story that is not technically distinguished over a beautifully presented story that does not speak to me.

(If there’s some characteristic of my criticism that you think needs explicating, feel free to email me with a question.)

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