Author Topic: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?  (Read 2729 times)

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B.C. Long

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Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« on: December 09, 2007, 02:25:07 AM »
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The Godfather, Blade Runner, Citizen Kane, 2001, Taxi Driver for example are considered by most to be cinematic masterpieces. But all of them deal with poignant issues that never really make the viewer "feel good" in the general sense of the word. Especially the endings.

Maybe there is an obvious answer such as "feel good" movies don't challenge the viewer enough to invoke deeper issues.  Or Perhaps "feel good" movies are inherently designed to NOT challenge the viewer. That's why they're "feel good".

So my question is, Is it possible for a "feel good" movie to achieve masterpiece status? And if there are, what "feel good" movies do YOU consider to be masterpieces. (I throw that word around loosely, I think)

The closest movie I can think of that is both "feel good" and also a masterpiece would be Rushmore. But even that ends on a melancholy note. Oh right, and I forgot to mention films like "The Sound of Music" and "Singing in the Rain", but I personally don't consider those masterpieces. Someone here will probably tear me a new one for that.

Gold Trumpet

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2007, 02:46:35 AM »
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Feel good movies can be masterpieces. We align serious films to masterpiece status, but there are a lot of differences between The Godfather and L'Avventura. One group may disqualify the former because it isn't serious enough. I don't think the Godfather is a very good film myself, but that has nothing to do with what it is. I think masterpieces can exist on all levels. I say that while thinking the hollywood musical may be the most beautiful of old Hollywood genres.

polkablues

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2007, 03:12:21 AM »
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It certainly depends on your definition of "masterpiece", but just offhand, It's a Wonderful Life and Field of Dreams spring to mind.  Also, as GT stated, there are at least several old Hollywood musicals that could be stamped masterpieces, and a great number of childrens' movies, especially classic Disney and modern Pixar, fit the bill.
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brockly

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2007, 05:51:50 AM »
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Pubrick

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2007, 08:32:59 AM »
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The closest movie I can think of that is both "feel good" and also a masterpiece would be Rushmore. But even that ends on a melancholy note. Oh right, and I forgot to mention films like "The Sound of Music" and "Singing in the Rain", but I personally don't consider those masterpieces. Someone here will probably tear me a new one for that.

there are a lot of things wrong with your theory. the above paragraph sums it up best. basically it's you're own subjective definition not only of what "masterpiece" entails, but also "feel good". this is crucial if we're even to discuss this beyond the post above me, ie, just listing things. (PDL is a great choice btw)

firstly, to masterpiece. GT is making a good point that masterpiece can be agreed upon without having the film be a favourite. you even disproved your own theory with Singin in the Rain and Sound of Music, but these were arbitrarily disqualified because they are not favourites of yours. there's a difference, because they are masterpieces. you just didn't like em.

secondly, "feel good". is PDL feel good because it's a short comedy? boogie nights has darker content but i think this allows it to reach an even higher crescendo at its end. a hopeful ending seems to be a good definition. hopeful is not necessarily happy. for the record, rushmore is neither. it's a melancholic, sober ending. so again, you are operating on simply if the film makes YOU feel good.. arbitrarily.

in conclusion, i think the question is not "why are feel good movies never masterpieces" (and the points i've made could hav been developed simply from that title).. rather it is actually "why do i define masterpieces as not-feel-good". answer to the first: they're not, it presumes the statement "feel good movies are never masterpieces" is TRUE -- it's not.

the real question "why do i, BC Long define masterpieces as not-feel-good?" answer to that: to make things harder for yourself.
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matt35mm

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2007, 08:48:56 AM »
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A Little Princess, several of Altman's movies, several of Fellini's movies, several of Billy Wilder's movies, Billy Madison, Dumb and Dumber... Punch-Drunk Love makes me feel good.  Some of Miyazaki's movies.  The Incredibles.

Since many of us would consider "Singin' in the Rain" or "Some Like It Hot" masterpieces, and I have the above mishmash off the top of my head, maybe the question is why you don't consider any feel-good movies as masterpieces.

Do you consider the first five movies you listed as masterpieces or were you just saying that most people consider them as such?  I don't really consider The Godfather and Blade Runner masterpieces.

Maybe at this point you or we should just try to define masterpiece, especially the differentiation from "classic."  There are a lot of classic feel-good movies.  A classic status is not really debatable.

"Masterpiece," then, is a relatively personal word.  To me, it means that I was completely in the hands of the filmmakers--mentally, emotionally--and the word also implies something about the craftsmanship.  When all of these things marry and I am brought to awe, then I tend to think of the word masterpiece.  But that's such a personal experience.

Another element, I think, is that we identify more with the drama (Though Citizen Kane and 2001: A Space Odyssey are both hilarious).  We see a dramatic situation and we are moved oftentimes because we can relate ourselves to it, whereas in many comedies, we laugh at someone or some situation, and that doesn't tend to touch us as deeply because of the distancing of laughing at someone else rather than ourselves.  But there are exceptions, because comedy can be very personal, and it can make us laugh at ourselves.  I find it rare, though.

So maybe some of it has to do with how seriously you take yourself and your world-view.  Perhaps it's possible (I don't know because I'm not very old) that as you grow older, and if your world-view changes, then your ideas of masterpiecery change as well.

But since I just woke up and haven't had any coffee, I can't be sure of the cogency of anything that I just wrote, so you probably won't want to take any of it very seriously as any sort of argument.

EDIT: Ah fudge, Pubrick just made one of the same points as I did, but better.

brockly

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2007, 10:34:55 AM »
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this is crucial if we're even to discuss this beyond the post above me, ie, just listing things.

sorry, just wanted to lay pdl out there as i found it strange it hadnt been mentioned in posts above me. it seems an obvious choice considering this is a pta forum and all. as for what constitutes a "masterpiece", i think matt described it perfectly. its a combination emotional impact and brilliant craftsmanship. i think miyazaki movies are perfect examples/choices. totoro, especially, is naively positive. i cant think of a better movie thats that optimistic. its an extemely warm, heartfelt portrait of adolescent escapism that doesnt delve into any shady territory (although it does hint at it) and its amazing. definately a masterpiece in mind. miyazaki is like the bjork of cinema - naive as fuck and a brilliant craftsman at the same time, consistently.  ..yes, i realise he makes "kids" movies.

Ravi

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2007, 01:40:00 PM »
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miyazaki is like the bjork of cinema - naive as fuck and a brilliant craftsman at the same time, consistently.  ..yes, i realise he makes "kids" movies.

I doubt that Miyazaki's films are slotted as "kids movies" in Japan the way animated movies are regarded as such in the US.

brockly

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2007, 04:47:51 PM »
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i agree with u, thats why i used quotations. i think its just the general conception most people have of him.

B.C. Long

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2007, 06:07:25 PM »
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answer to that: to make things harder for yourself.

What do you mean by this? And I ask that sincerely. Not defensively.

Pubrick

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2007, 08:46:39 PM »
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your definition is such that feel good and masterpiece cannot both describe the same thing,. you are the only one who is thinking this. thus, everyone else has no difficulty thinking that feel good movies can be masterpieces. like i explained, the main question (see thread title) is based on a fallacy.

why does 2 + 2 = 5?

well. it doesn't. i was just answering your main question. the other two you ask are more interesting..

1. Is it possible for a "feel good" movie to achieve masterpiece status?
2. And if there are, what "feel good" movies do YOU consider to be masterpieces. (I throw that word around loosely, I think)

1. yes.
2. and so it's alrite to list, that's when xixax really shines. although i don't think it's as subjective as how you phrase it.
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Gold Trumpet

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2007, 05:20:23 AM »
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This all reminds me of the situation with classical music. Certain people love to ridicule pop music and use classical music as an example of a more developed and established form of music, but saying that is inaccurate because classical music has as many cliches and standardizations as pop music does.

Masterpiece means nothing more than a person's greatest piece of work, as in an art. What we're talking about is the identity of a great work. I think it should be said that foreign and independent cinema has cliches and bad ideas the same as Hollywood does. We may argue there is a greater percentage of bad in Hollywood, but we also see the smallest number of foreign films. It's impossible to say who is worst, but easy to say the basic idea is true.

I'm not sure how far this discussion will get because it's a wide open subject and open to interpretation on all levels.

socketlevel

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Re: Why are "feel good" movies never masterpieces?
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2007, 10:06:42 AM »
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even though a lot of the replies have been very nit picky, and technically they're correct regarding subjectivity, i do have to say that 99% of the time the OP is correct.  masterpieces do tend to be darker movies.

Before i make my point I'd like to share some feel good movies (or at least feel good in the conclusion of the film) that i think are masterpieces.  off the top of my head, I'd say: Shawshank Redemption, toy story, toy story 2, spirited away.  films like these transend normal feel good movies.

i guess people generally got sick of the "hollywood ending" and therefore gravitated toward darker films, because the majority of feel good films lack originality and care of execution.  therefore, a masterpiece is harder to see because it's a needle in a haystack.  even though a darker masterpiece is still a hard thing to come by, it stands out more among other dark pieces.  maybe the feel good emotion is easy to achieve in the simplest form, it's all a matter of pulling certain strings.  however to do it well, and not going for cliched emotions might prove to be more challenging then any form of film making.

I do think that most darker films tend to be masterpieces, and i don't think this is a bad thing.  i think this is because there is something to be said for an artist who expresses his/her endeavor.  usually the strongest emotions are the ones we can't get over.  artists tend to be indulgent, and things in life that can't be explained easily are usually the issues we find hard to work our way through; making a film about such emotions usually impresses the most and breaks new ground.  a Russian anthropologist, victor turner, strongly thought that the artist's job was to be the dissident, the person who spoke messages of discord against authority and the norms of society.  i like this notion, always have, despite the romantic indulgences that come with it.  in the 80s we saw a lot of the film makers and artists from the 70s (American) making feel good movies because they were tired of fighting the system, and ironically were starting to get fat off the money they made from their discord.  a lot of other artists started to think of the future instead of the past and took the paycheck movies to secure their future as well, because the older they got, the more conservative their sensibilities became.  i guess if i generalize, I'd have to say that the serious, darker picture, has a better shot of being a masterpiece because it invokes strong emotions in the film maker.

the movies i mentioned above, and others like it, are feel good movies in which the artists involved still had a strong message to get across, and chose a brighter way to tell such a story, and this is in fact harder to do then the satirical negative piece.  hats off to them.

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