Jack Nicholson’s grinning face peeking through the axed door grins at you early when you open the door to film teacher Hope Martinez’s room. This poster of The Shining and other critically-acclaimed films such as The Godfather and Frankenstein line the walls, letting you know that you are in a room that embraces film. A similar decor is seen in the room of other film teacher Margaret Haun, with silent film actor Charlie Chaplin staring into the room. Both of these teachers have the privilege of teaching students one of the greatest known art mediums of our time.
Movies are multi-dimensional art forms. While books, music, and visual art all deal with one dimension at a time, movies combine all three, demanding powerful, all-around use of the three art styles. Many writers fail to meet the industry standard and many projects seem to be major letdowns, while others are box-office hits that rise usually over $50,000,000. The question that many people are asking is, “What makes a good movie good?”
“A good movie just has a special effect on the audience itself, whether it’s the message it has or the way it’s portrayed,” Martinez said, in response to this question.
“I think a good storyline makes a good movie, I think a set of good directorial choices make a good movie as well,” Haun said.
A movie is composed of many factors that can be categorized into three general groups: visual, plot, and audio, but a good movie should not have to rely on big-budget graphics or a professional score to tell a good story. Throughout time, good movies have had one thing in common: well developed characters in a well-developed screenplay.
“I think the character has to be believable, not cartoonish. I guess the most immediate contrast that comes to mind is between Vito Corleone in The Godfather, who is a fully developed character… and a superhero; there is something cartoonish there, something one-dimensional… We invest ourselves in well-developed characters.” Haun said.
“The screenplay you get the characterization, you get the theme of the movie…. Based on the screenplay the director can then visualize, in terms of money or whatever, what he can incorporate [into the film]. I think the screenplay is the backbone to the story, and then you can incorporate all the special effects and everything else. I think [a screenplay] is a major vertebrae,” Martinez said.
No matter what time period the film was created in, a good script will carry the film to the top of a box-office. This can be seen when domestic box-office revenue is adjusted for inflation, where the top movie is Gone With the Wind, which was developed in 1939.
A good movie needs to have an engaging plot and characters with depth; these two important things are vital to the art medium of movies. Hiring the best actors, producing the best CGI, and composing a professional score cannot save a film if it does not have these two vital components.
With both of these necessities in place, a film can correctly engage a viewer and speak to them on deeper levels just like any great piece of literature or painting.
When the audience leaves a good movie, they need to feel as if they gathered something from it, as if insight was gained from the conflict between the antagonist and protagonist. That is what separates a good movie from a great one: the ability to enrapture and teach and not simply spoon-feed you.