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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Posted in Movie Blog, tagged 12 Angry Men, Amour, Argo, Bank Holiday Monday, BBC Radio 2, Black Swan, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Cloud Atlas, Coldplay A Rush Of Blood To The Head, Dido No Angel, Drive, Duran Duran Rio, Eminem, Fleetwood Mac Rumours, foreign language movies, Future Classic Movies, Goodfellas, In the House, Inception, Keane Hopes & Fears, Led Zeppelin Untitled fourth album, Margin Call, Moonrise Kingdom, Pink Floyd The Dark Side Of The Moon, Queen A Night At The Opera, Rust and Bone, Skyfall, Star Wars, Stoker, The Beatles Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, The Godfather, The Rolling Stones Sticky Fingers, The Searchers, The Skin I Live In, Top 100 Favourite Albums, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Zero Dark Thirty on April 2, 2013|
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I spent a large proportion of the past Bank Holiday Monday listening to a BBC Radio2 poll ranking their Top 100 Favourite Albums. Basically what they did was take their Top 100 Most Played Albums (limited to one per artist) and asked listeners to rank them. The results were often surprising with a top five consisting of:
- Coldplay – A Rush Of Blood To The Head
- Keane – Hopes & Fears
- Duran Duran – Rio
- Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (the only one a lot of people expected)
- Dido – No Angel
Ahead of what a lot of people expected including in the top five:
The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers
The Beatles – Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Queen – A Night At The Opera
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Led Zeppelin – Untitled fourth album
One of my thoughts were that different records live longer in the mind and memory, and possibly the heart than others. For example, I bought No Angel when it first came out (before the Eminem sample made it a hit), I listened to it a lot but haven’t listened to it in about five years. I first heard Rumours and Zeppelin’s fourth album when I was a kid and still listen to them all the time and see no reason why I won’t continue to for the foreseeable future. The conclusion, if they re-do this list in fifteen or twenty years time No Angel and A Rush Of Blood To The Head may not make the top 10 or even the top 100, but Rumours, The Dark Side Of The Moon, Sgt Pepper, Born to Run, Bridge Over Troubled Water and countless other classic albums will still be there.
This got me thinking about the current and recent movies that will be heralded as classics in the future and which will be forgotten. Skyfall will be watched a lot and may prove to be the best Bond ever but will be dismissed as just another Bond movie. The Dark Knight Rises will survive as part of, one of the best movie trilogies ever, but possibly the weakest link of the trilogy. The Artist may be considered a gimmick. Stoker, Cloud Atlas, We Need to Talk About Kevin and some great foreign language movies like Amour, Rust and Bone, The Skin I live In and In the House may be too obscure for the masses. Moonrise Kingdom is going to age well as is Argo so could be up there in popular opinion. I can’t make my mind up about Drive and Black Swan but hope I love them as much in years to come as I do now after two or three viewings and hope others feel the same about them. Margin Call and Zero Dark Thirty will possibly stand as testaments to the time but possibly not a time we will want to look back on too often or very fondly.
The conclusion, there hasn’t been a 12 Angry Men, The Godfather, Goodfellas or even Star Wars in recent years, the two closest are probably The Dark Knight and Inception. I’m not saying it is a bad time for film, in fact the opposite, while, the occasional all time classics seem a little few and far between the number of really good movies being made is greater than ever. I just long for a Citizen Kane, The Searchers or Casablanca, we are about due one. Or am I being cynical and some of the movies I have mentioned will find their way to the upper reaches of the IMDB top 250?
Want to read more on the subject? Check out THIS ARTICLE that picks up the baton from where I left off.
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Posted in My Movie Year, tagged A Clockwork Orange, Alien, American Graffiti, Apocalypse Now, Blazing Saddles, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Cabaret, Chinatown, Deliverance, Dirty Harry, Don’t Look Now, Enter The Dragon, Life of Brian, Mad Max, Mean Streets, The French Connection, The Getaway’ Silent Running, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Sting, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Warriors, Two-Lane Blacktop, Vanishing Point on April 10, 2012|
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Growing up in the 80’s and 90’s I watched a lot movies America’s new wave, it is therefore no great surprise that the 1970’s featured heavily in my thoughts when picking “My Movie Year”. Here are a few that I considered but didn’t make the final cut:
1971: A Clockwork Orange, Dirty Harry, Vanishing Point, The French Connection, Two-Lane Blackto
1972: The Godfather, Deliverance, Cabaret, The Getaway, Silent Running
1973: American Graffiti, The Sting, Enter The Dragon, Don’t Look Now, Mean Streets
1974: Chinatown, The Godfather Part II, Blazing Saddles, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia
1979: Apocalypse Now, Alien, Mad Max, Life of Brian, The Warriors
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