1. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Has writing ruined movies?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Arathald, May 8, 2011.

    Has learning the craft of writing ruined movies for me? I'm finding myself noticing flaws in the writing instead of simply enjoying the movie. I'm only doing this when my suspension of disbelief has been broken (the hallmark of bad writing), but maybe it's gotten easier to disrupt my disbelief.

    Has anyone else noticed this, or did I really just see a particularly badly written movie?
     
  2. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    Yes. I thought it was just me. The plots in movies seem so simple now. I am usually guessing the ending before it happens. I also hate watching the movie after I read the book. They cut so much out in the movie. I had to explain Harry Potter movies to people because they cut out so much.
     
  3. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    It's a problem easily solved: watch better movies. Mainstream cinema often recycles plots, dumbs things down and goes for cheap thrills and exploitation. Independent cinema isn't as glossy or as action-packed, but what it lacks in budget and special effects, it makes up for in intelligence and quality. Independent movies are made by people who are genuinely passionate about what they do, and it's obvious in the result.
     
  4. Unit7
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    Unit7 Contributing Member Contributor

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    This is why I am blessed for my ability to love some of the more horrible movies/books/tv shows. Though even this ability has it's limits...
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although I watch some movies and decide the writing is below par, I enjoy others with good screenplays more because I appreciate better the craft that has gone into the product. The King's Speech was a goodie, Black Swan was fun to dissect because for me it was a near-miss as far as interesting and well-written screenplays go.

    There's a very unassuming movie starring Ice Cube named Are we done Yet? that I play in lessons sometimes that is very well put together with several plot threads all neatly resolved and which has really good pace. I didn't appreciate the talent of the writer until I'd watched it a couple of times and was more aware of just how much goes into a successful screenplay, even the deceptively simple ones.

    Also, imo movies are a bit like a short story rather than a novel because of the length requirements and technical challenges. This doesn't mean the characters and plot can't be fully rounded--just like in a short story a lot can be told in a few words.
     
  6. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    So, to provide a little more background, the movie in question was Thor, and I'll give a brief overview of what bothered me while trying to avoid spoilers.

    On second thought: this turned into something more appropriate for a blog post than a forum entry. It's posted here.
     
  7. Yoshiko
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    Yoshiko Contributing Member Contributor

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    I used to be able to guess endings to films even before I began writing - now I deliberately don't think about it as I'm watching (way easier said than done) as I found thinking about it too much ruined them. Of course, this is useless when you live with someone who feels the need to point out the obvious ending to a film about half-way through, thus ruining it anyway.

    As for the HP films, I like them but I don't read the books. This means a lot of characters people talk about I seem to have little to no idea about (in particular the Black family) because I don't think it was explored in too much detail in the films. However, I feel I can enjoy the films more because it's not like I know what they've cut out.


    Agreed. I watch a lot of low-budget psychological thrillers and horror films: despite practically unknown casts and (often) a lack of visual appeal they tend to be a lot stronger in plot than those that are specifically made to appeal to a large audience. Directors of these also seem less afraid of pushing moral boundaries and unrealistic "happily ever afters" appear to be much less common.
     
  8. JeffS65
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    JeffS65 Contributing Member

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    My advice is to stop thinking.

    Honestly, I don't read novels for the many reasons people write here about movies. I often don't find myself transported as many do with fiction. With a movie, I can suspend my disbelief for an hour and a half but I can't do it for the length of a novel.
     
  9. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    This is something I can't, or at very least, won't do. If you study the craft of writing and truly begin to think like a writer, then it's just that, thinking like a writer. Writers observe what's around them, and collect words, attitudes, expressions, and techniques like many people collect coins or stamps. If I turn off my writing mind during a movie, at worst, it shows that I'm not truly thinking like a writer, and, at best, means that I'll miss an opportunity to identify and learn from both the good and the bad that I identify in the movie.

    Maybe some writers can genuinely turn their writing mind on and off, but to me, thinking like a writer really means that the lens that I view the world through has changed, and that's something I can't simply discard and pick back up again on a whim.

    What I may be able to do is identify those things, good or bad, that stick out to me in writing, and file them away for later consideration without letting them interrupt the movie for me (though, if a movie shatters my suspension of disbelief, it's already been interrupted). That's completely different than not thinking about it at all, though.
     
  10. Jonp
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    Jonp Senior Member

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    I spot inconsistencies and flaws, but if the movie is still enjoyable, I don't mind. I liked Thor. I watched Priest last night, I liked that too. I HATED Sucker Punch with a fiery passion, but that's because it was a terrible film rather than a good film with a few holes.
    My sister studied film and television and is now overly critical of everything she watches, to the point where she doesn't enjoy things any more. I would hate to be like that, I like TV and films.
     
  11. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think for me it's the opposite. I was watching one yesterday and found myself noticing ways to show instead of telling as pictured in the movie, like gestures, action etc. I think I actually learned some ways to improve in that way by that. I never used to think in these terms before. But I think I understand your point.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Aaron is right - quit watching bad movies (primarily, the mainstream wide releases). Every time you pay to watch complete crap you give filmmakers an incentive to produce more of it.
     
  13. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    You do realize that being able to guess the ending to a movie doesn't actually make it predictable right?

    Because there's only three possible endings to any story:

    1. The characters conquer all of their problems and the movie ends happily.
    2. The characters conquer none of their problems and it ends tragically.
    3. The characters conquer some of their problems and not others and the ending is bittersweet.

    What makes a story predictable is if you can guess everything that's going to happen between the beginning and the end of the story without actually having seen anything. Because the anticipation comes from HOW the characters get to the end of the movie rather than where that ending is. You should know from the BEGINNING of a story what the character's goals are to achieve at the end and since most stories have happily ever after endings, then you can be pretty confident that they can achieve those goals. The unpredictability comes when you know from the beginning how they are going to do those things.

    You should be able to anticipate where the story is trying to go and what the characters are trying to achieve, basically, without having any idea how they are going to overcome the obstacles of how to get there.

    A prince is trying to save a princess for instance. Should you be surprised that in the end he achieves the goal set out from the beginning? No. What leaves you in suspense, should be things like, how he's going to slay the dragon who can not die and who guards the princess in the tower without dying himself. The surprised shouldn't be that he eventually made it there. Character goals should be made clear to the audience from the beginning.
     
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  14. JimFlagg
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    JimFlagg Contributing Member

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    No, I can actually see the how. I just rented "The Tourist" last night and knew Frank was Alix the moment he walked on the dance floor in his Ice Cream suit and when the main character Elise was about do die, the detective kept asking why has Alix is not coming and I was yelling at the TV that it was because he was handcuffed to the back of your boat.

    That is just one example.
     
  15. LaGs
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    LaGs Banned

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    If a story moves me in a certain way, i'm not bothered if i can predict what's going to happen. It's not the be all and end all of good writing!
     
  16. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Umm, ending aren't necessarily that clear cut. For example, they could accomplish their goals, only to find that causes more problems. Or, some help and others don't. Or, they completely fail, but it's actually a good thing.

    Even if there were only three, part of the key is to make sure you can't guess which one of those three would be the ending.
     
  17. Lord Malum
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    Lord Malum Senior Member

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    I couldn't help but laugh at this! I do this all the time when I see movies or read books. Try as I might, I can't help it. I've found that I can selectively not pay attention to the writing when it's well done. I have to let myself get consumed by the story. Later on I can go back and examine what made it good.
     
  18. katica
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    katica Senior Member

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    @Killer300: Surprise endings can be interesting but they aren't needed for a story to be good.

    Knowing what the ending is going to be, yet the characters being stuck in a predicament that makes the ending seem impossible to get to, is very good storytelling. Because most of the time a story ending is what it has you rooting for the entire story.

    Most of the time we are able to predict that a story is going to have a certain kind of ending because it fits into a certain genre, but if we were to watch movies without those expectations we wouldn't know how a lot of them were going to end when they got into those impossible scenarios.

    And you need to realize, endings are about wrapping things up. Sometimes wrapping up a story involves twisting it in some way, but for the most part, the surprise and suspense and unpredictability is supposed to come in the climax rather than the ending.

    Then say that instead next time.
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    born a virgo, seeing flaws and nit-picking has always been like breathing to me... but i do have to say that in the years since i took up writing full time and especially since i started writing scripts, the stupid little goofs, gaffes and glitches that jump out at me while watching movies or tv shows have been bugging me much more annoyingly than they used to... it's like the pesky no-see-ums grew bigger and acquired fangs!
     
  20. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    You know, I thought I was just being incredibly snobby, but the same thing happens to me all the time. I could watch a trailer and everyone would squeal and get psyched about it, but I'd sit there and say, "It's probably gonna suck". Or when I'm watching a movie with friends and they gush about how amazing it is, I'm the only one who thinks, "The movie was a mess". Ever since I started seriously writing, thinking up characters, weaving story and plot points together, I can no longer enjoy movies as I used to. HOWEVER, in my defense, movies were better back then than they are now.

    I'm a big fan of the nineties and early 2000s. After 2005, I gradually lost faith in mainstream movies. A great example is Avatar. There wasn't one person I knew who disliked the movie. It was hyped up and everyone couldn't stop talking about how amazing it looked. At first, I sort of coasted on the same bandwagon until I realised one thing; it was the same story as Pocahontas, only with blue alien cat creatures.

    That made life for me a little more difficult, especially when I would try to explain to my friends that Avatar is not as great as everyone says it is. One even had the gall to say that "Everything has already been done, so why bother trying anymore?" As a writer, this felt like a personal blow. Sure, maybe "everything" was done, but that doesn't mean that you can't put a twist on it and make it a little more unique.

    Sure, it's a little frustrating when you're the only one to point out every flaw in a movie/TV show/video game/etc. but at least I know what the writer of the movie is doing wrong. The only thing that I've watched and actually enjoyed all the way through is Portal 2 and, yes, it's a video game, but I found the characterization, dialogue, and story to be darkly humourous and properly fleshed out.

    There, I'm done ranting.
     
  21. Cthulhu
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    Cthulhu Member

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    I disagree

    I once determined that in every scene in after there is a scientific/consistency/or plot error that would kill a character, usually the lead.

    But overall I don't find writing has made me enjoy movies less, the difference [when there is one] is that I can now quantify what I don't like about a movie better.
     
  22. JimFlagg
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    Movies are the same. We have good ones and bad ones coming out today. The differences are, technology (better cameras and editing software) and movies that are just remakes of movies that have already been done. We have the same thing with books. We have Word Processors and better printing presses and a number of fan fics or sequels done or based on stories that have already been done.

    If you average the remakes in with new I guess you could say movies use to be better but I personally would remove them from my sample and only look at the originals in comparison.

    It is all opinion related though. Movies are all a matter of taste. Movies I like you may not and vice-versa. If there is a number of movies that come out in a genera that I don't like I would feel the same.
     
  23. Kio
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    Kio Contributing Member

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    I may sound stupid and I apologise in advance, but what does that have to do with what I said about Avatar?

    And would you care to elaborate on your earlier comment? I suppose it was callous of me to blatantly say that the movies of now are not as good as they used to be, but I still stand by what I said. What is mainstream now isn't as amusing or as impressive as it previously was. I'm one of those nineties kids that complains about how new things aren't as good as the stuff from the nineties.

    I know some good movies that recently came out, but there are a lot more out there that hardly look like much thought was put into it. Hollywood is just remaking stuff, so, after a while, I stop watching the mainstream stuff and deem it as a waste of my time.

    This is all personal, though. I'm not saying people should start hating Avatar, I'm just telling it how I see it.
     
  24. eMotive-
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    It depends on whether the movie was badly written or well written :p I don't think you need to be a writer to be critical of the way a movie plays out.
     
  25. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Well, it's that I think I've been more critial lately. I think I would have thought the movie was alright, but not spectacular, a couple of years ago. Now, I can't help but think that it was pretty awful.
     

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