All entries for Monday 19 September 2005

September 19, 2005

A Punch At The Heart

Movie image
Cinderella Man
5 out of 5 stars

I don't know how Ron Howard does it. There is no longer any doubt. He is the best and most consistent director when it comes to affecting the audience emotionally and just generally telling a good story, a good story when we need it.

And I cried at a movie for the first time in a long time.

That is a significantly unusual outcome. Cinderella Man is a weird title for a movie – at the very least, laughable. Plus, I make it a point to avoid boxing movies. I haven't seen any. I don't care. I avoided Million Dollar Baby, even though it was a good movie, because half of that film was about boxing.

But then reviews streamed through – apparently audiences deemed the movie fit enough to enter the Oscar race for Best Picture next year, though we all know it will in all likelihood not win it. Point is, people said the film was beautiful. And so I went.

And this is what Ron Howard as a director has done time and time again. We know the outcome of the movie. Heroes always win. That's how movies should be like, most of the time. Some audiences (which, from my observations, includes a large proportion Brits) prefer to have dark endings. Cliched, that's what they called happy endings. Cheesy. Lame. Such a wuss – the film doesn't have the guts.

Wrong. Movies should inspire and show us the way most of the time. Let the movie (i.e. the director) decide the best course, the best ending. In the case of Cinderella Man, we know it ends in an uplifting mood.

But with Ron Howard, we enter the boxing matches with that expectation in mind, yet we're still constantly afraid of Jim Braddock falling down, or being given the murderous punch and be left half dying there. There are countless sports movies, or basically any movie with a high suspense level with scenes like these. But no one does it like Howard – you forget that the possibility of the hero winning is quite high.

Howard did it perfectly in Apollo 13. He has done it again here. Howard pulled off the emotional aspects of A Beautiful Mind. Tricked the audience into believing that John Nash's delusions in the first half of the picture was real. And then tricked us again even after we were shown the entire first half was delusional. And never once did we feel like we were manipulated. An indication of a truly masterful storyteller.

You don't need to know whether the acting or cinematography or score or whatnots are great.

Just go see the movie.


Writing A Better Screenplay …

… is about taking your cheesy, obvious and very much on-the-surface script and burying it under layers and layers of subtlety, metaphors, symbolisms, indirect revelations, and somehow still make what you want to say obvious and make the audience enjoy the film.

Near impossible.

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