When is “good” more than enough? Let’s discuss.
I usually spend my money at the theater to watch the blockbusters, the films that will be better on the big screen. And often the movies I spend money on to take home aren’t usually the same ones I saw in the theater. And, sometimes, there are films that earn my dollars both places. Even if they are simply a good movie. Not great, not groundbreaking, but simply good.
having the qualities required for a particular role; giving pleasure; enjoyable or satisfying
It seems to me that Hollywood’s marketing power is behind the blockbuster, the high concept, and the groundbreaking. There is certainly a place for that. But there are hundreds of other movies that may or may not even get our attention. And some of them are even good.
I have a confession to make: I have a thing for princess movies. When I started my DVD collection, 4 of the 5 first films I owned had the word “princess” in the title. I love both the medieval period and fairy tales. So, when Disney announced that they would do a live action remake of Cinderella (2015 release), I was excited. It also turned out that it would also be my oldest daughters first theatrical experience, making it all the more special.
My wife and I saw it together first, to ensure it would be appropriate for our daughter. It was certainly more mature than the original Disney animation, but family-friendly nonetheless.
Cinderella checked all the right boxes as a live action remake. It had enough elements and inspiration from the original animated film. It had enough of its own character to stand on its own. In short, it updated the classic tale while honoring the original. It was a well-executed, good movie.
But, I thought, not much more.
I didn’t see it as groundbreaking. It used the usual mix of filmmaking tools, particularly for a period piece. Lavish sets, stunning costumes, CGI to fill in the gaps, and probably a little Disney magic.
It was a simple evolution of the versions of the tale before it.
As many movies do, it seemed to come and go.
It certainly earned a profit.
Will it become a classic? Time will tell. Will it disappear into obscurity? Probably not. Was it a good movie? Without a doubt. Was it a great movie? Let me get back to you.
To be fair, a movie like this is all about the journey. For a story such as Cinderella, we all know the ending. So it’s potentially less satisfying already knowing the answer to the questions the film asks from the outset.
When the credits rolled as my wife and I sat in that darkened theater, I thought that was a good movie. I thought there were some things that weren’t perfect, some things that I would’ve done differently were I the director, and some things where they tried a little too hard. But it was definitely a good movie. And, I thought, nothing more.
I definitely purchased it on Blu-ray (for the kids, of course).
But I didn’t think it would win any awards (it won a few) or get rave reviews (“generally favorable” was the consensus).
So, what’s my point? Why am I so enamored with a movie I only describe as “good”?
To hijack a cliché: if everything is revolutionary, is anything truly revolutionary?
I was content with the last project I completed. I made peace with everything I saw as flawed because I made the best video I could with the gear, knowledge, and ability I had at that moment.
I have no delusions of grandeur, but it was an emotional video that served its audience well. Some of the faults I noticed were the slightly too shaky handheld shot, the part where a camera case ended up in the background of a shot when things went improvisational, or the noisy images because the sun was going down and the cameras I was using weren’t that great.
But no one who has seen it mentioned, or probably even noticed, those things. I have received nothing but compliments. I stretched myself with the storytelling. I did nothing “groundbreaking” and kept things simple. I cut the most cinematic shots from the title sequence, the shots I really loved, but that ultimately didn’t serve the story.
Here is, I think, my point: Not everything I create will be lauded greatly. Some of it may even be disliked. But much of it will be good. Not ground-breaking, not terrible, but solidly good.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to make work that is revolutionary. I would love to make work that pushes boundaries of other disciplines à la James Cameron, or work that pushes filmmaking boundaries à la The Matrix.
But that is not the bulk of my work.
I must push myself to do my best, to learn as I pursue excellence in my filmmaking journey, but I need not be disappointed because I’m not breaking records, or even contending for them. I must keep creating, doing good work.
Oftentimes, good is more than enough.
And maybe, just maybe, enough good together is greater than the sum of its parts.
After all, I can’t seem to stop talking about just another good movie.