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The long playing record better know as the LP is the definition of restraint. Limited to around twenty two and half minutes on each side there is no room for fillers and no opportunity add a few more minutes on a whim.  Film does not have an equivalent, whether digital or film there is no limit to the potential length, Modern Times Forever (Stora Enso Building, Helsinki) (2011) runs for ten days, yes I di say days. The term epic seems to be tagged onto films simply because they are long. Even the longest of movies can not compete with television for length and yet television until recently was always the poor relation to the cinema. When talking about two movies that came out around the same time the critic Mark Kermode made a very salient point; Killing Them Softly benefits for it relatively short 97 minute run time but within the 131 minute Savages there is probably a good 90 minute movie trying to get out.mark kermode

I had carried this thought around in the back of my mind for over a year without thinking too much about it until Christmas. I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy over two days, in the case of the final film, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King it was the first time I had seen the film since seeing it at the cinema on release. Despite coming in at a whopping 201 minutes (that’s more than three hours) it never felt that long. Even the bizarre sense that the film doesn’t want to end doesn’t drag out as much as I remember it. However, I wasn’t watching a 201 minute version, I was watching the a 251 minute extended edition. I understand there is an even longer version on Blu-Ray clocking in an arse-numbing 263 minutes, that’s the best part of four and half hours. To be perfectly honest I can’t remember how it differs from the original cut, but know I enjoyed watching both.The Lord of the Rings The Return of the King

This leads to the big question, what is the point of extended versions of movies? I kind of understand directors cuts where a film maker who didn’t have final cut returning to a movie to re-cut it in line with his original vision. However extended cuts are a very different beast, but what is the reason for it? A vanity project of a director who believes his movie is so great and so important that it deserves a longer version. A cynical money making exercise of a studio who promise extra footage or a more explicit cut to temp people to buy the DVD/Blue-Ray.The Godfather Part II

It would be understandable if length equated to quality, but it very often does not. Many films would benefit from a trim not an extended edition. King Kong (2005) is a perfect example, sorry to pick on Peter Jackson, I do like his movies. The original film is 187 minutes long and to be honest too long, so what did Jackson do? He added another fifteen minutes to the special extended DVD edition. The original 1933 movie directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both uncredited) is less than a hundred minutes and is a far better film. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a campaign for short movies, I don’t think there is a wasted second in the 200 minutes of The Godfather: Part II (1974). Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013) is actually too short, running through the 95 years of Nelson Mandela’s life in 141 minutes. It plays life a movie version of CliffsNotes. On the other hand Steven Soderbergh’s Che (2008) splits its four and half hours into to distinct movies.Che

I’m not sure there is any right answer, Martin Scorsese films are often long but never too long. Films should be the length they need to be, I just can’t help thinking that they often should be shorter than they are. I would also go as far as to say they should also always be the same cut whether they are being shown in cinemas, on DVD or on TV. I know this won’t happen, as long as filmmakers believe their own bullshit the length of films will be dictated by directors ego’s and producers wallets and not the way they should be, by the art.

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If you take a look at the top ten grossing movies of the year so far there are seven sequels (Iron Man 3, Despicable Me 2, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Monsters University, Fast & Furious 6, Oz The Great and Powerful, Star Trek Into Darkness) and a reboot (Man of Steel). World War Z (based on a book) will probably be knocked out of the top ten by The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smug leaving Gravity as the only original property to bother the top ten. Do audiences only go in large numbers to see sequels of franchise movies or do studios only commit large amounts of money to existing properties that a ready made audience? The $825million taken by Christopher Nolan’s Inception proved that a totally original movie could make money, however it would probably never been given the green light if not for the $1billion The Dark Knight took. As cinema prices creep up and audiences become ever more selective, studios become more cautious making it a self fulfilling prophesy relegating most original ideas to smaller films. With this in mind, here are my top five original movies of the year. Original movies, not a sequel, prequel, remake, re-imagining or reboot. Also, not based on a book, comic book or true story.

Stoker: In the year that the remake of Chan-wook Park’s masterpiece Oldboy limped onto cinema screens Stoker proved to be Park’s best film since Oldboy. The original screenplay was written by actor Wentworth Miller. A weird, beautiful and sublime blend of melodrama, psychological thriller and coming of age drama. Budget: $12,000,000 (estimated)stoker

Gravity: Alfonso Cuarón’s space adventure about a pair of astronauts trying to find a way home after a collision in space is a truly stunning film and the first film that should be seen in 3D preferably IMAX 3D. Budget: $100,000,000 (estimated)GRAVITY

Prisoners: Great acting from ensemble cast and stunning photography from Roger Deakins combine with taught direction French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve making his English-language debut elevate this from a genre movie with an overt subtext to a really good film. Budget: $46,000,000 (estimated)Prisoners

The East: An original story of the murky world of private intelligence firms and an environmental anarchist collective. Written by director Zal Batmanglij and star Brit Marling. It is notable for great acting and its dark melancholic tone. Budget: $6,500,000 (estimated)The East

Pacific Rim: To call Guillermo del Toro’s monsters vs. robot movie original would be a stretch as it appears to be based on every other monster movie/comic book to have gone before it, however it isn’t directly based on any other previously produced work. It makes the list ads it is just great fun, pure and simple. Budget: $190,000,000 (estimated)PACIFIC RIM

Mud – the continuing renascence of Matthew McConaughey.
The Counsellor – Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay is far better than has been reported
About Time – Charming and funny time travel comedy from Richard Curtis.
Blue Jasmine – Cate Blanchett, deserves an Oscar.
Elysium – Neill Blomkamp’s Sci-Fi action drama lacks subtlety but is still good

Check back at the end of the month to see how many of these movies make my top ten of the year.

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