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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Best "Intelligent" or "Challenging" Movies (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Best "Intelligent" or "Challenging" Movies
SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by Teshi:
2001: A Space Odyssey I vote against, however. It wasn't intelligent. It was five minutes of poor prediction spread out into thirty years, or something. I watched it fully expecting something amazing, and was disappointed.

I also feel 2001 is an incredibly over-rated movie.
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Szymon
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But the music is marvelous and effects were splendid
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SteveRogers
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I agree, but I think it fails as a film. If that makes sense. The effects are gorgeous. The music is wonderful. The narrative is lacking.
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GaalDornick
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quote:
Originally posted by BYSOAL:
Hmm, did I overrate the depth of Gattaca? I'm shocked not to see it at least mentioned yet.

I love Gattaca, but I don't think it was that challenging other than raising an interesting issue. I think it's a great, well made movie, but I don't know if it qualifies as intellectually challenging.
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SteveRogers
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I suppose you could argue Gattaca raises some interesting ethical issues which might make it an inherently challenging film, but I don't think it's the kind of movie to alter someone's world view or something.
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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
Although I completely don't get it what people like about The Tree of Life. Yawn.

Some thoughts I had after seeing TOL (pasted from an email to friends):

Obviously the movie is mainly about God, or more specifically what I would call "God's perspective on human life." Now, regarding the God part I actually have two different readings of the creation scenes and their role. Very related, but also in a sense opposed to each other. The first is the one that fits with the Job quote at the beginning, which is sort of a pro-religion reading of the movie. If I had to guess I would say this is the one Malick intended, but I don't think that detracts from the other, more anti-religious reading.

The character who actually asks the question "Where were you?" right before the creation scenes is the mom. I think you can see the creation scenes as a kind of mocking response to the mom and her whole approach to belief. She thinks of God as this man in the sky who is involved in her life and cares about her. The first segment of the movie highlights these ideas of hers. Then we see the creation scenes and realize that any being responsible for the creation of this universe must simply perceive us as tiny things eking out life in the cracks of His great work.

Following the creation scenes, we see another vision of God alluded to more obliquely: a more Old Testament conception embodied by Brad Pitt's demands of obedience from his boys, as well as his demand for love without consistent reciprocation. This is the one thing that leads me to think maybe Malick had the more anti-religious meaning in mind, because I can't imagine that he didn't have a critique of Old Testament religion in mind when writing the Brad Pitt part. Again we see how this concept of God falls short, in this case not because of anything cosmic, but simply because it's morally corrupt. The revelation from this storyline is that Brad Pitt is no more mature than his son, the parallel message being that the Old Testament God is no greater than the humans who are supposed to be his subjects. The mother is sort of like Mary in some ways, I think. She's perfect in the boys' eyes, for one thing. Also, she stands for a more loving, Christian stance rather than the dad's Old Testament stance.

I think the movie is brilliant. The only part i don't like now (and again, I've gone back and forth) is the last 20 minutes on the beach/in "heaven" or whatever. Boooring.

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Destineer
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A couple of movies that belong in the titular list are Cronenberg's early-ish ones "Videodrome" and "Exisenz."
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
I also feel 2001 is an incredibly over-rated movie.
The title of this thread is important here. It's a challenging movie. Many movies come right out and tell you what they are about. 2001 leaves it entirely up to you. Either you get it, or you don't. I find the movie to have incredibly deep meaning, so I guess I'm curious, what do you think it's about?
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SteveRogers
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The title of the thread also says "movie." I don't think 2001 really excels within that medium. If you're looking for like multimedia art, then that would be closer.

But I don't think it really works as a movie.

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Glenn Arnold
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You didn't answer the question.
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Stone_Wolf_
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(In a sing song voice) You didn't answer the question Steve.
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CT
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I was thinking of this to add, and also the following:

The Truman Show
Being John Malkovich

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SteveRogers
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I don't have one specific meaning in mind for 2001. It's not the kind of thing you can slap an explanation on and do it justice. And, frankly, I find the phrasing of your question to seem to indicate you seem to think I "don't get" the movie, and I take umbrage at that.

I'm not debating whether or not 2001 is ambiguous. It could mean any number of things. It could be a story of human evolution. It could be a story exploring life in the universe. It could be exploring intelligence and freewill. It could be exploring the vastness of the universe and the limited capacity of human understanding. It could just be about the smallness of mankind in a vast universe. It could be a religious story explaining what place their might be for "a god" figure in the universe (The Monolith, the star child sequence at the end). There are about a billion debatable explanations for what 2001: A Space Odyssey could mean.

I think the style in which it's shot and the music which accompanies much of the project is just breathtakingly gorgeous. And it's really easy to see why it was such an influential project when it was released.

However, I don't think Kubrick or Arthur C. Clarke truly meant to give it one single meaning either.

What I AM saying is that I think the it's far too ambiguous to be considered a success as a movie. Aside from the sequences with David, Frank, and HAL towards the end of the project, there's not really a narrative. And that's why I think, in my opinion, it fails to meet the specifications for being a "movie."

Which isn't to say I don't value Kubrick's work on the film, the overall visual style and effects, the music, or the potential philosophical questions it addresses.

I just don't think movie is the right word to describe it. I said it was over-rated as a movie because I think it is. I would say the same thing about The Tree of Life. Movie is a word which doesn't even begin to do either of them justice specifically because of how challenging they are.

Edit:

I took a class which assigned me to read the original short story and novel upon which Kubrick's project were based and then a paper and review about the adaptation which I was going to post here too, but I can't seem to locate it on my computer now.

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Teshi
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If you're an afficianado of the Slow Spaceships in Space film, don't read this. You'll just hate me forever.

2001:

(Inhu)Men progress. They go looking for a mysterious monolith. The most human character, HAL, goes crazy and kills everyone, and is then deactivated. The surviving spaceman kills HAL, travels through a wormhole for ten minutes to the most boring rooms ever, then progresses some more.

Women are absent entirely except for as stewardesses.

*

Leaving space for interpretation does not make a good or intelligent film by default whatever is read into it by viewers. It's not rocket science (heh) to put together something that's interpretable in a number of ways; almost every shape and piece of music and story and word choice and even name choice has a connection with something referenced. Part of the reason religion is so successful is that people can interpret stories like this and give them meaning.

Personally, I don't find something so vague engaging. If I can think of several ways it can be interpreted while I'm watching it, what's the point of it being interpreted at all?

It's like half a tank of fomaldehyde, or a painting of a sky.

*

quote:
I think the style in which it's shot and the music which accompanies much of the project is just breathtakingly gorgeous.
Simple? Static? Measured? What is Kubrick trying to tell me? The music was put in as a stop gap until the real music could be written. When the real music was completed, Kubrick decided he liked parts of the stand-in music better. It was chosen, but it wasn't cherry picked from all the music in the world.

*

Finally, I find the ethos unpleasant. As I said above, either deliberately or by mistake, the most engaging and human character is HAL. Dave is like a piece of stone. Deliberate? Who knows! The characters are all like this. Maybe it's supposed to show us in a crappy future.

But then, assuming that the end is supposed to be a step forward (which I'm not even sure about, maybe if you're dull and emotionless) the most stonelike person gets to progress, or be restarted or reborn or turned into an Ancient or alienized or whatever happens at the end in vague white room land.

Thinking about it, I always assumed that the movie was about progress at its most basic, but perhaps it's about stagnation-- progress has basically slowed to a halt and all the meaning has just vanished. See, I'm not even sure that Kubrick isn't just playing an enormous joke on everyone. It's just half a tank of formaldehyde.

*

Well... I'll just watch the opening scene to a Hard Day's Night, again, thanks.

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SteveRogers
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Teshi, some of the points you make are way I think 2001 fails as a film.
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Szymon
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
The title of the thread also says "movie." I don't think 2001 really excels within that medium. If you're looking for like multimedia art, then that would be closer.

How do you propose to tell a movie from "multimedia art"? Don't get me wrong, I quite agree, but for this topic's sake we have to consider all "motion pictures" as movies. Because I'd say Tree of Life is also something multimedia-artish, so is Requiem for a Dream, so is Antichrist. Antichrist- that you could put on the list- it's definitely challenging. I hated it, but it's challenging non the less.
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Szymon
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:

I think the movie is brilliant. The only part i don't like now (and again, I've gone back and forth) is the last 20 minutes on the beach/in "heaven" or whatever. Boooring.

I'm sorry I can't tell you why I disagree, but it's been some time since I saw the movie. I just remember my impression- and I remember it was dull. But it doesn't mean it was a bad movie, however. I am very moody about stuff. Books, not so much, because it usually takes more than one day to read a book and the mood swings and I've got a pretty objective look. But movies- man, if I am tired or stressed about something- I can mark the best movie as "dull" because I simply don't pay attention. I would have to watch it again. After your post I think I just might, you made it sound really cool.
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SteveRogers
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quote:
Originally posted by Szymon:
quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
The title of the thread also says "movie." I don't think 2001 really excels within that medium. If you're looking for like multimedia art, then that would be closer.

How do you propose to tell a movie from "multimedia art"? Don't get me wrong, I quite agree, but for this topic's sake we have to consider all "motion pictures" as movies. Because I'd say Tree of Life is also something multimedia-artish, so is Requiem for a Dream, so is Antichrist. Antichrist- that you could put on the list- it's definitely challenging. I hated it, but it's challenging non the less.
I think the difference I'd have to suggest based on things I've already said is for a "movie" to have something resembling a narrative.
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Szymon
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Then 2001 is definitely a movie because, at least for a the Moon part, it's definitely got narrative.

trivia:
My father told me that they let 2001:SO to be watched in Polish theaters when he was young because Kubrick made Soviets look pretty good. Other movies they had to smuggle [Wink]

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SteveRogers
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I think the scenes with Dave and HAL hardly constitute a narrative for the whole film.

[ July 29, 2012, 07:06 PM: Message edited by: SteveRogers ]

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GaalDornick
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
I suppose you could argue Gattaca raises some interesting ethical issues which might make it an inherently challenging film, but I don't think it's the kind of movie to alter someone's world view or something.

If the standard used for this list is it must be world view altering to be deemed intelligent or challenging then I think about 99% of the movies listed here are disqualified. World view altering is pretty serious stuff.
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Szymon
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Have you ever? Watched or heard of someone watching a film that altered his/her life?

I have, but I forgot what movie that was. I can hear this sentence in my head though: "this movie changed my life".

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Bokonon
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
I agree, but I think it fails as a film. If that makes sense. The effects are gorgeous. The music is wonderful. The narrative is lacking.

I sort of agree. I love the movie to death, but it is really several stories at once, and without the novel, it is hard to grasp them all.
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Aros
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Baraka has no narrative at all. Neither do many documentaries. They're still movies.
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Teshi
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To be clear: I agree that 2001 is a movie. I just don't think it's particularly intelligent.

None of the movies on my list changed my life in the way you mean, but I think they're intelligent.

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SteveRogers
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I don't necessarily think a movie has to change someone's life to be considered. That was just the phrase I used to point out the weaknesses in the movie Gattaca.
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GaalDornick
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quote:
Originally posted by SteveRogers:
I don't necessarily think a movie has to change someone's life to be considered. That was just the phrase I used to point out the weaknesses in the movie Gattaca.

Not being life changing is a weakness for movies? Man, you have some high standards. [Razz]
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SteveRogers
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[Razz]
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
And, frankly, I find the phrasing of your question to seem to indicate you seem to think I "don't get" the movie, and I take umbrage at that.
It was, but what's weird is that from your explanation, it seems to me that you *do* "get" the movie. But all your reasons for why you don't think it works as a movie are precisely why I DO think it works.

quote:
What I AM saying is that I think the it's far too ambiguous to be considered a success as a movie.
See, first of all, the movie is a success. Commercially, historically, etc. it is a success. The fact that it was able to be a success while being ambiguous is evidence that the ambiguity at the very least didn't interfere with that. But beyond that, the fact that it is successful enough to cause people to debate it's meaning is a strong sign that the ambiguity has value.

And yes, it changed my life. I was probably 9 years old when I saw it, and I came out of the theater with my mind reeling with the thought that Bowman was a distinct link in the evolution from man to star-man.

quote:
It could mean any number of things.
And good literature usually does mean "any number of things." I think it means at least all of the things you mentioned, and it does so without being obvious. The narrative you are searching for is often merely a distraction from the various meanings the author or screenwriter actually intends, and it should be so.

Most people think of Moby Dick as a story about Ahab and crew. In my opinion, Ahab is merely a plot device in Moby Dick, created to give Melville the structure on which to flesh out his ideas (which again, are left extremely ambiguous, so you the audience has the opportunity to have to think about them). 2001 does much with as little narrative as possible, and that's an incredible accomplishment.

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SteveRogers
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I'm not talking about whether or not it was a success commercially or critically. I understand how almost universally acclaimed it is. And I'm certainly not debating its influence on pop culture or filmmaking to follow. Just that I don't think it really excels in that medium.

I mean, this is all my opinion, of course, but I've watched the movie, written about the movie, and discussed the movie, but I've never really understood why people make such a big deal about it.

I think it's an anomaly in Kubrick's work. Most of his other movies are "big idea" movies which have a much more cohesive narrative, and I think succeed to a greater degree because of it.

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MrSquicky
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Anyone seen Exit Through the Gift Shop? We spent a good hour talking about what we thought we just saw after we watched it.
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SteveRogers
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I actually have seen that movie. It was part of the film series at my school's fine arts theatre.

What did you think?

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Darth_Mauve
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No one mentioned:

Dr. Strangelove

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Dan_Frank
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SteveRogers did on the first page, actually.
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SteveRogers
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Dr. Strangelove is one of my favorite movies of all time. And despite my issues with 2001, I really love Kubrick.
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