Monday, 12 January 2009

Define "define"...

It seems that Empire magazine have taken a slightly different tack on what they did to review 2007 in film. Last year they produced their top 25 films of 2007; for 2008, they've opted for the 50 films that "defined" the year. My thoughts:

- I agree that looking not just at the very best films of the year, taking into account the films that were impactful in other ways as well, is a more rounded and objective way of approaching summing up film in 2008. However, as with any list of this kind my main issue is with clarity, or a lack thereof. How are Empire defining how a film "defines" a year? Popularity? Social impact? Launching careers? Some kind of parameters would be useful in knowing exactly how they've weighed up these 50 films against all the others released last year.

- I have seen twenty-two of them - an improvement on last year's six out of twenty-five. There's a dozen or so more that I wanted to see before reading the list, and three or four more have joined that list since reading the list.

- On The Incredible Hulk: "Louis Leterrier's daft, punchy Hulk-take isn't as good as Ang Lee's, and made less money at the box office. There's a lesson there...". I couldn't agree more. Probably the most disappointing film of 2008 for me, mainly because, with such a talented cast and the comic book adaptation/"reboot" market booming, it was a real wasted opportunity.

- On Mamma Mia!: "Ropey A-list ABBA karaoke or just, y'know, a good laugh? Either way, it's a box-office phenomenon, making more at UK cinemas than The Dark Knight. Eek!" - In answer to the first question, definitely the former. As for outdoing The Dark Knight at the box office, that's just depressing more than anything else.

All in all, an interesting list, but I'd like to see Empire's top 25 films of 2008 as well, because whilst the good, the bad and the mediocre are important in reviewing the year, ultimately the cream of the crop is what any film fan is truly interested in.


Hanspan said...

"Impactful"?? Is that even a word? Arg my eyes!

As for Mamma Mia! doing better at the box office than Dark Knight, I have to say I enjoyed the first significantly more. I could objectively say that Dark Knight was probably a better made film, but I didn't enjoy it especially.

TheTelf said...

"...but I didn't enjoy it especially" - that was because I was sitting beside you, making you uncomfortable, though. Not really the fault of the film. :P

Little LeBamski Urban Achiever said...

"Impactful"?? Is that even a word?


I have to say I enjoyed [Mamma Mia] significantly more

Everything about the film appeals to the lowest common denominator. It's trash. I really didn't enjoy it. Plus I really dislike ABBA's music. That said, I keep getting the songs stuck in my head, which is really annoying. Bloody Swedes.

Hanspan said...

Well, before I commented, I did a quick google and about half the websites listed disagree with you. That's not an exact figure by any means, but I would postulate that if it is a word, it's a fairly recent one, and shouldn't be encouraged. In my not so humble opinion.

No Patrick, you had nothing to do with it. Don't get your balls in a twist ;)

And lastly O rly? You calling me the LCD then? I think it probably helps that I have loved ABBA since the age of 10, saw the musical soon after it first came out and liked that and just generally really like their music.

As for the film itself, I enjoyed it because I could relate to the companionship between Meryl Streep's character and her two best friends. Amanda Seyfried's character annoyed me an awful lot, but I was able to overlook that (I don't remember finding her nearly so annoying in the musical. She was more of a tomboy and less of pouting blonde idiot writhing on the sand in a swimsuit).

I don't want to say you didn't like it because you're a boy and I'm a girl because that effectively has you saying that stuff that women like is trashy (behold! the power of word manipulation ;) ) but in this case it may just be that men and women like different things in films. Though given that I watched it with my dad and he enjoyed it, that's not a generalisation I'm comfortable with. Not really coming to any firm conclusion here, I just think you're perhaps expecting too much of it in the first place? It's supposed to be light-hearted escapism invoking the idea of a holiday romance? No?

happylittlecynic said...

Hannah - you appear to be telling me I'm a girl?

I would disagree.

Little Lebamski Urban Achiever said...

In reply to you agreeing The Dark Knight is a better made film, that's the main reason I find it disheartening that Mamma Mia! outperformed it at the UK box office. In an ideal world, the films that are of the highest cinematic quality would be the most successful with the public. But we don't live in an ideal world. Hence the reason I find Mamma Mia!'s superior box office figures over The Dark Knight, or indeed many other films of higher quality, a fairly depressing fact.

In terms of boys and girls liking different things in cinema, does that mean that you think I liked The Dark Knight a lot more because it contained mainly male characters and lots of fights and explosions and violence? Because I can assure you that isn't the case. I liked it because everything about it exhumed quality, attention to detail and cinematic excellence. If I just wanted to watch mindless violence I would just have Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal movies on a constant loop. But I don't. I know girls who didn't like Mamma Mia! for pretty much the same reasons as me, so I don't think it comes down to boys versus girls; I think its more to do with the reasons why you watch films in the first place. Yes, it's light-hearted escapism, but surely that can be done without awful writing and using bubblegum pop music to hold the whole thing together?

Hanspan said...

@Martin: Uh, no I'm not. I would suggest that "I don't want to say you didn't like it because you're a boy and I'm a girl" and "it may just be that men and women like different things in films. Though given that I watched it with my dad and he enjoyed it, that's not a generalisation I'm comfortable with. Not really coming to any firm conclusion here," would both indicate that I am trying NOT to pigeonhole enjoyment of films on the basis of gender. And therefore am not saying that because you enjoyed it, you must be a girl. My dad also enjoyed it and he is most definitely male.

@Bambi: The world is not ideal. And not meant confrontationally, but who are you to decide what makes a good film? It's almost entirely subjective. Hollywood execs might well say a good film is one that makes money. That on occasion produces sheer dross, in my opinion. I don't believe Mamma Mia! is dross, but I think it was trying to do different things from The Dark Knight. You might not agree with the methods (bubble gum pop et al) but some people, quite a lot it turns out, like that kind of thing. I would consider myself reasonably intelligent and discerning, but that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to enjoy something that's not meant to be taken that seriously, in the name of entertainment, does it?

As for whether I'm implying that you enjoyed it more because of all the violence, I'm pretty certain that I explicitly said that I wasn't comfortable with that kind of generalisation. I'm glad that you found considerably more to admire in it than violence and explosions. I'm not quite sure how to define cinematic excellence, but I had several problems with The Dark Knight. If the Joker is an agent of chaos he has to be ridiculously well-organised in an impossibly short space of time to pull off all the stunts that he does. Also, given his wanton attitude to the lives of those around him, I find it hard to believe that he could attract such a ready supply of minions to be pawns in his evil shkeems. I had more gripes with it at the time, but it's been a while since I saw it and I can't remember them now. But I thought it was over-long, messy and lost its way about half way through. And they could easily have made another film out of the whole Two Face story arc, as it was it felt tacked on and rushed. But that's my opinion. I really enjoyed Batman Begins and thought it had a much better plot set up in comparison. Even if the science totally failed at the end. I just didn't enjoy The Dark Knight. I could have coped with that if I had felt it did any thing from me but I didn't feel I'd gained much from watching it. At least with Mamma Mia! I had tangible feelings of happiness and relaxation at the end of it.

I think it's easy to fall into a trap of saying girls like x boys like y, but it just so happens that in this instance, I have heard mostly negative reactions from boys and mostly positive ones from girls. I'm not saying, and never did, that this gives us hard and fast rules and I think we both have anecdotal evidence to disprove the easy generalisation.