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What makes a movie good?
By Dave Winer on Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 4:08 AM.

A picture named radishSpirit.gifOver the last few days I've seen two movies, Harry Brown and Robin Hood. permalink

I thought Harry Brown was good, but didn't care for Robin Hood.  permalink

That got me thinking -- what is it about a movie that makes me like it, and the answer was surprisingly simple. First, the movie has to make me care about the characters. Second, they have to be true to who they are.  permalink

It's nice if something interesting happens in the movie, but not required. For example, I like Vicky Cristina Barcelona, because the characters are so interesting and lovely and so is the scenery. Movies can be like paintings. It's not the plot that matters so much as the colors and the feelings they inspire. permalink

It also helps if I can project myself into the place of one or more of the main characters. What would it be like to be them? What would I do in their place?  permalink

If all this comes together, you stop feeling so much like you're in a theater watching a movie, and more like part of an unfolding story. permalink

And if there is a resolution, as far as I'm concerned, it doesn't have to be a happy one. I respect movies that have a bitter or sad ending and pull it off. I also don't need a sense of closure. I like movies that leave you wondering at the end what happened. If it's annoying that's fine. I don't mind if a symphony ends in discord, as long as it makes sense. Real life stories often have unhappy outcomes, no need to tie off all the loose ends in movies, but I don't mind if they do. permalink

I guess it all comes together in what we call suspension of disbelief, and I think it's different for everyone. That's why some people liked Robin Hood, and giggled and cheered at moments when the movie called for it. I didn't -- all the time I was aware I was in a theater, not in a story. Thinking about the time, and what I'd do later, and wanting to check my email.  permalink

I often criticize a movie for being predictable, but that's actually kind of bogus. I don't really mind if a movie is predictable. I only really care when the other things aren't working for it. If they didn't do enough with the characters to get me involved, to care one way or the other, what happens to them. permalink

People have compared Harry Brown to Gran Torino -- but I couldn't figure out whether that movie was Clint Eastwood's tribute to Dirty Harry and the Man With No Name, or a mockery. I loved his early movies because his characters were interesting, consistent and deep. It's not so much that you come to care about the Clint Eastwood tough guy -- you don't, but you understand him. I didn't understand the main character in Gran Torino. He seemed shallow and unreal. Maybe if they had Ed Asner in his Lou Grant role play the vigilante, or the old man in Up, it might have made sense to me. <img src="> permalink

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