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Boring versus Interesting


misswonderly3
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 I've started this topic on impulse - maybe I won't even hit "post" when I'm done.

 

Sometimes I wonder if I'm bored too easily. I rate being interesting, whether we're talking about a movie, a book, a human being, or a post written on these very boards, very highly. I don't have to agree with someone, but if they express their opinion in a way that engages my attention and/or amuses me, I don't care.

Same with movies; I've often thought, the worst sin a film can commit is to be boring. I think sometimes that's why we like bad movies. A certain kind of bad movie can be be very entertaining. The worst kind of bad movie is the kind that is bad mainly because it is boring.

 

To get a little boring for a moment: I've always remembered this from a university English class - Edmund Spenser's "In Defence of Poesie" (1595). I won't go into detail -for one thing, I've forgotten most of it, and for another, you'd all be really bored if I did.

(Should anyone actually want to find out more, there's an article about it on wiki. I cannot promise that it will be interesting.)

So, get on with it, what have I always remembered from this late 16th century essay? That art should "both instruct and delight". That there's got to be some sugar to help the medicine go down.

 

If you think about some of the most memorable films you've ever seen, I bet there were 3 things about them that impressed you: (I can certainly apply this to my own feelings on favourite films, anyway):

 

1) You were in some way "instructed" by the film. By this I don't mean it was dismally didactic (I don't think Spenser meant that either), but that they gave you something to think about, that you took away some kind of meaning or "life lesson" from it.  By the way, I hate "message movies" per sec, I don't mean those.

 

Of course, something like Top Hat  has no "meaning" or "instruction" as such, (unless it's not to trust that Helen Broderick will get things straight), but it's completely delightful. So the "instruction" part isn't as essential as the "delight" part. Speaking of which...

 

2) Even more important than #1, you were "delighted" by it. The film gave you some kind of aesthetic or emotional satisfaction, either with its outstanding camera angles and lighting, or the cinematography, or just the way a certain scene was filmed, or the clever dialogue, or the performances. 

Could be anything, really, but the point is, it gave you pleasure to watch it.

 

3) It did not bore you. This, of the 3, is the most important. I suppose it's sort of connected to #2. If a film does have something to say, but it's boring you to the point where you want to stop watching it, then it's failed. You're never going to find out whatever "meaning", if any, it was trying to convery, because it did not engage your attention.

 

C'est tout. I hope I have not bored you all with this random musing. 

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Remembering (with difficulty) my old college, I seem to recall that the "instruct and delight" was actually or sort of dictum that related to nearly all Renaissance Literature. Literature was to be didactic with regard to Christian Humanism to make one a moral person in the presence of God. The "delight" part was a departure from the rather severe and morbid Medieval period that preceded it. In the Renaissance it was actually okay to have fun (within reason, of course :-) ) Even though we have 'message' films today, it doesn't have much to do with the Renaissance "instruct and delight" thing, IMO. That a film should please in some way, there is do doubt (i.e., delight). The "message" is a little less applicable, sheer escapism is probably the rule of the day in our own era.

 

Boring vs Interesting is so profoundly subjective that I have finally trained myself to stop saying, "that film is boring." More proper to say "I was bored by that film." Let the film be what it is to whoever. Theoretically, if a 100 people watch the same film and 97 of them say that it bored them then maybe one could say it was 'boring' but only relative to that study. Besides, there are probably very few films like that.

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Remembering (with difficulty) my old college, I seem to recall that the "instruct and delight" was actually or sort of dictum that related to nearly all Renaissance Literature. Literature was to be didactic with regard to Christian Humanism to make one a moral person in the presence of God. The "delight" part was a departure from the rather severe and morbid Medieval period that preceded it. In the Renaissance it was actually okay to have fun (within reason, of course :-) ) Even though we have 'message' films today, it doesn't have much to do with the Renaissance "instruct and delight" thing, IMO. That a film should please in some way, there is do doubt (i.e., delight). The "message" is a little less applicable, sheer escapism is probably the rule of the day in our own era. (just musing as well)

 

Boring vs Interesting is so profoundly subjective that I have finally trained myself to stop saying, "that film is boring." More proper to say "I was bored by that film." Let the film be what it is to whoever. Theoretically, if a 100 people watch the same film and 97 of them say that it bored them then maybe one could say it was 'boring' but only relative to that study. Besides, there are probably very few films like that.

 

laffite, my friend, I trow you are right, with regard to your first observation. But I'm applying a broader interpretation to that medieval/Renaissance precept of "instruction" being of a religious nature, Christian or anything else. I know that's what those artists and philosophers meant ("how to be a moral person in the presence of God" ), but I'm just putting a broader, 21st century spin on it. Leave out the religion, and you can still have a book or film or piece of music that in some way gets people thinking about being (or not being) a moral person. Presence of God part optional.

 

And right again, on your second point. I should have added that to my original post. Possibly nothing is so subjective as whether a thing is "boring" or "interesting". And certainly when it comes to movies.

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Boring vs Interesting is so profoundly subjective that I have finally trained myself to stop saying, "that film is boring." More proper to say "I was bored by that film." Let the film be what it is to whoever.

 

So very true.

There are a few "action-packed" movies that I find very boring, and I have actually fallen asleep during at least one of these movies.

But there are those who find "action" in movies (chases, gun fights)  excitng in and of itself.

 

On the other hand, I find Mike Leigh's movies extremely interesting and entertaining, but I have had a few people tell me that they find his films boring because, according to them, "nothing happens" in them.

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I try not to definitively blame the movie for boring me. After all, my own receptivity fluctuates for many reasons from the petty to the profound.

 

But, there is one movie coming up that will finally put the test to whether it really is a boring movie in my estimation, or not. Being a Robert Redford fan, I remember beginning to watch 'Out of Africa' at least 3 times. Couldn't do it. Boredom overwhelmed me every time and no matter how much I'd seen, I couldn't remember any of it because my mind had naturally gone somewhere else. Like when you're reading a book and you realize you have no idea about the last 2 pages you just read.

 

But I'm older now. Have more time now. More patient, more examinative.

 

4th time will be good - I'm countin' on it.

 

 

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laffite, my friend, I trow you are right, with regard to your first observation. But I'm applying a broader interpretation to that medieval/Renaissance precept of "instruction" being of a religious nature, Christian or anything else. I know that's what those artists and philosophers meant ("how to be a moral person in the presence of God" ), but I'm just putting a broader, 21st century spin on it. Leave out the religion, and you can still have a book or film or piece of music that in some way gets people thinking about being (or not being) a moral person. Face of God part optional.

 

And right again, on your second point. I should have added that to my original post. Possible nothing is so subjective as whether a thing is "boring" or "interesting". And certainly when it comes to movies.

 

Got it! Sorry, I didn't mean to talk down to you, I should have known and therefore skipped the obvious (blah-blah laffite).

 

I once tried to come up with a film that changed my life, some friends and I were discussing this once, couldn't come up with anything. I can't even think of a movie that taught me anything, at least in any profound way. Something sad about that, quite sad, in fact. Am I unteachable? Anyway, interesting subject. I will mull this one over ... surely movies are more than sheer entertainment ... aren't they?

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I think pacing has a lot to do with if one finds a movie boring or not.    Pacing may have more to do with ‘if boring or not’ then content (the plot, dialog, if there is a message).

Take many 30’s programmers;   if one was to read the plot\storyline in many cases one might not find much that interest them since there isn’t a lot of substance there.      Due to that lack of substance directors would quicken the pace of the film.   This gives the impression there is a lot going on when there isn’t.     Of course they would also throw in action sequences that didn’t advance the plot.

 

Great topic BTW.

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...I once tried to come up with a film that changed my life, some friends and I were discussing this once, couldn't come up with anything. I can't even think of a movie that taught me anything, at least in any profound way. Something sad about that, quite sad, in fact. Am I unteachable? Anyway, interesting subject. I will mull this one over ... surely movies are more than sheer entertainment ... aren't they?

 

I'm not saying a film has to "have something to say" to be good. Yes, that would be the "instruct" part of Spenser's essay, but of the two - art should "instruct and delight" - I'd say "delight" was on the whole, more important.

 

In ways that are not always easy to articulate, sometimes being "delighted" by a movie, being taken into another world by it, even if only for a few minutes, is worthwhile in and of itself.

I'm sure some of the most obnoxious films I've ever seen have been those that try to hit you over the head with their "message".

 

It's possible you did see a film that affected your thinking in some way, but perhaps it was too subtle to realize it had happened -oh, wait, that's called "propaganda". We don't want that, either.

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I believe that I am what is called: 'an easy mark' in the matter of educate and entertain because I enjoy learning new things even when they are disconnected bits and pieces which have no intrinsic value as: "knowledge."

 

1930s comedy murder mysteries are prime for me:

The comedy genre is important because I am not witty of and by my own self and must learn lines which can be trotted out when circumstances warrant it.

The murder genre is important because I delight in learning of unconventional techniques for doing simple things and most movie murders have an element of this in either the commission of the crime or hiding it from authorities.

The mystery genre is important because I am learning new ways of observation and thinking which make solution obvious.

 

I have a natural mechanism to avoid boredom. It is that when my interest is not fully engaged then I am distracted with ease. This may be an external or internal distraction. I was of recent watching a movie and realized that I had been thinking about the problems with pollination which might be experienced in an indoor garden. It may have been a flower or bee or other thing in the movie which caused this distraction and I was heavily engaged in thoughts of it until such point where the movie began to capture my interest again. This happens also in reading when I find that I have "read" several pages with no comprehension of the words scanned by my eyes because my thoughts were elsewhere.

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Interesting movies feature interesting characters who aren't always predictable archetypes.

 

Interesting movies feature good actors (not necessarily "stars") who make their characters believable.

 

Interesting movies don't depend on syrupy soundtracks or cinematic gimmickry or pretty faces to be interesting.  We get enough of that during Super Bowl commercials.

 

Interesting movies are usually (though not always) set in the present, because filmmakers are able to at least recognize  the present much better than they understand the past.

 

When interesting movies present a strong point of view, they do it  in a manner that makes you say to yourself, "I never thought of it that way."  Boring movies hit you over the head with that POV, usually with protagonists who are either too good or too evil to be real.

 

Interesting movies make you think, even if it's about nothing more than trying to remember who did what in the first reel.  A truly interesting movie can't be half slept through  or picked up after missing the first five minutes.

 

Interesting movies  introduce you into other cultures without romanticizing or demonizing  them.

 

Interesting movies age well.  This may be the truest mark of all.

 

 

 

 

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Interesting movies feature interesting characters who aren't always predictable archetypes.
 
Interesting movies feature good actors (not necessarily "stars") who make their characters believable...
 
...When interesting movies present a strong point of view, they do it  in a manner that makes you say to yourself, "I never thought of it that way."  Boring movies hit you over the head with that POV, usually with protagonists who are either too good or too evil to be real.

 

I have often found unrealistic characters to be very interesting. Sometimes these characters are over-exaggerated to further illustrate a certain point of view. Perhaps if it is over-illustrated it would feel like you're being hit over the head with that POV, but I guess there are a number of depending factors. (like the POV itself and the way it's presented)

 

I suppose there is a difference between being believable and being realistic. Like in the film The Night of the Hunter; I would not consider preacher Harry Powell to be a "realistic" character, but the exaggeration of performance makes him believable as someone who is too evil to be real. He is also unpredictable because in reality we aren't prepared for anyone to act like this. Of course this film is an exception to just about any rule that can be made, so perhaps it isn't the best example. There are other films that I feel similarly about, though.

 

I guess I'm just trying to say that I often find deliberate departures from realism to be an interesting cinematic device, even as the storyline itself might be over-simplified to make an obvious point, if you know what I mean. (not in the case of the aforementioned film, though)

 

(I apologize for this muddled post. I had some trouble expressing my thoughts.)

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I guess I'm just trying to say that I often find deliberate departures from realism to be an interesting cinematic device.

 

I agree. 

The so-called realism portrayed is most mainstream American films (from any era) is often not very interesting.

I distinguish realism from naturalism.

To me, naturalism (where events in a fictional narrative appear to be actually occuring) is extremely interesting. 

Realism (where real actions and emotions are distilled to fit a formulaic narrative) is what most mainstream films strive for (tears in the predictable places, music to tell the audience what to feel). These movies give the impression of being real although they actually are not. With these films, one can say "It's just a movie."

 

And then we have films that have deliberate departures from the "real" world, where elements of fantasy and the supernatural are incorpoated into an otherwise "realistic" narrative or where characters behave in strikingly "un-realistic" ways. 

I find these types of  films extremely interesting.

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 .....get a little boring for a moment: I've always remembered this from a university English class - Edmund Spenser's "In Defence of Poesie" (1595). I won't go into detail -for one thing, I've forgotten most of it, and for another, you'd all be really bored if I did.

 

That will bore me into a coma.Unconscious-unconscious-male-cross-eye-s

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(I apologize for this muddled post. I had some trouble expressing my thoughts.)

 

Not at all, and in fact it was I who muddled the point I was attempting to make.

 

Mitchum's "preacher" character in The Night of the Hunter may not have been statistically likely, but he was certainly well within the realm of human believability, given our rich and varied history of religious quacks and con men.  And Mitchum played the part to perfection in a most "interesting" way.

 

An even better example would be Lee Eun-Shim's title character in The Housemaid, the classic 1960 South Korean psychological horror film that TCM showed just the other evening.  Her character was farfetched but not impossible, and if she'd cut it just a bit shorter (i.e. skipping the poison and the violent scenes), she would've almost been a recognizable archetype from millions of bad relationships.  And once again, it was the extraordinary acting that brought the viewers along for the ride without simply rolling our collective eyes and saying  "Yeah, tell me another one!"

 

Beyond that, of course, there's a lot of subjectivity that comes into play, and my general preference for "realistic" movies doesn't mean that it's the only one.  But the sort of "realism" you're talking about ("tears in the predictable places, music to tell the audience what to feel") is diametrically opposite to the sort of realism I like to see in a movie.  The sort of "realism" I'm talking about is represented in films ranging from Bicycle Thieves to Goodfellas, with movies like The Night of the Hunter and The Housemaid most definitely included.

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Part of my original post:

".....get a little boring for a moment: I've always remembered this from a university English class - Edmund Spenser's "In Defence of Poesie" (1595). I won't go into detail -for one thing, I've forgotten most of it, and for another, you'd all be really bored if I did...."

 

 

That will bore me into a coma.

 

But... I know. I acknowleged that would be boring if I talked about it, which is why I didn't. So no need to threaten comatization on me, I spared you the details of Edmund Spenser's "In Defence of Poesy".

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So very true.

There are a few "action-packed" movies that I find very boring, and I have actually fallen asleep during at least one of these movies.

But there are those who find "action" in movies (chases, gun fights)  excitng in and of itself.

 

On the other hand, I find Mike Leigh's movies extremely interesting and entertaining, but I have had a few people tell me that they find his films boring because, according to them, "nothing happens" in them.

You said what I would have said.  And thanks for mentioning Mike Leigh.  One of the few of today's filmmakers whose work I find consistently worthwhile.

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Actually just about every film made up through 1970 is interesting, afterwards, not so much....

 

See, that shows how very different you and I are in what stimulates us. Ninety-nine percent of studio era product bores me to tears. Starting around 1964, and increasingly each year that followed, movies became far more engaging to me than they had been before - excepting that one percent.

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I'm sure it's a sign of getting older, but I find that I'm much more interested in movies that focus on well-defined characters and their reactions to situations than I am to blind action or strictly event-driven movies.  Guess that's what I seek out in the movies shown on TCM, regardless of the era they were produced in.

 

One drawback I have noticed in more recent movies is that many of these films seem to think they need a long run time to justify their ticket price.  The only thing worse than a boring movie is a really long boring movie.

 

Conversely, I know a movie has held my interest when the time seems to fly by.

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I'll tell you what's "boring", is the endless, pointless, ongoing conversation around what is to be labelled "classic" film.

And if you want to contribute to that boring endless pointless ongoing conversation, there are a million threads about it already. No need to continue it on this one (unless you just want to say you think it's boring. Or interesting, if that's the case.)

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I'm sure it's a sign of getting older, but I find that I'm much more interested in movies that focus on well-defined characters and their reactions to situations than I am to blind action or strictly event-driven movies.  Guess that's what I seek out in the movies shown on TCM, regardless of the era they were produced in.

 

One drawback I have noticed in more recent movies is that many of these films seem to think they need a long run time to justify their ticket price.  The only thing worse than a boring movie is a really long boring movie.

 

Conversely, I know a movie has held my interest when the time seems to fly by.

 

And they (the producers) think gimmicks like 3D and IMAX will help the thing.  

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I want to thank MissW2 for starting this thread. I haven't been spending much time on these boards lately because I think the overall level of topics/discussions has been on the down side. A thread like this shows me there is always hope for some "interesting"  viewing here. 

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I'll tell you what's "boring", is the endless, pointless, ongoing conversation around what is to be labelled "classic" film.

And if you want to contribute to that boring endless pointless ongoing conversation, there are a million threads about it already. No need to continue it on this one (unless you just want to say you think it's boring. Or interesting, if that's the case.)

To me, what is most interesting on these boards are the most over-the-top, envelope-pushing posts, but they are the types of posts that result in locked threads. Therein lies the dilemma. 

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