How to evaluate a movie?

I am going to be volunteering at this years Toronto International  Film Festival and given the appropriate timing, I want write about my views about rating movies. Opposing IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, I believe there can’t be a unifying objective scale to measure films on. That’s because everyone has their own way of evaluation and each movie has a unique impression on each of us. Taking into account all past events and the environment that have sculpted the way we look upon life, the same aspects mold our reaction to all entertainment. When you like something, then it’s a personal preference and not a definite verdict on the intrinsic value of the subject. And based on that understanding, I don’t like reviewing movies in a point system. “Whose line is it anyway” got it right – the points don’t matter.

There are some aspects that can be measured as either successful or not. Correct focus, framing, story structure, etc. But it all boils down to either skillful execution of technique or artistic choice. Sometimes a lousy execution of camera stabilizing can be an effective visual tool. And if lacking in one department, then others can even the scales. Gravity lacks of plot development, but the CGI is one of the all time best. Now how can I give it a 7/10 or 10/10 and do it justice on both parts.

If the intent of the movie is clear, either it’s made to be funny, scary, visually pleasing, nostalgic etc. and it feels like it succeeds, then I feel pleasant in the theatre. Bad experiences ensue, when a movie does not fulfill the goal it set for itself. In those cases the overall lack of direction cannot be leveled with other qualities. “Batman v Superman” tried to fixate on the philosophical clash of the two superheroes. It explained why and how the adversity began. But it fell through with its execution, because at the end, the movie just overlooked the logic. You can look “Mulholland Drive” as an example of the opposite. The intent of the movie is to be mysterious and it sometimes overlooks logic, but it doesn’t drive you away from the screen, rather makes the experience whole.

When I’m in the theatre, almost everything boils down to entertainment value. I can forgive parts of the movie being bad, if the overall experience is thrilling. You can be entertained by various sides of a movie. Mostly it’s when the movie nails some aspect. Be it acting, jokes, plot twist, action sequence etc. And being not bored is the first component of a good cinema experience. And then there are movies that stick with you.  Those are the masterpieces that entwine entertainment value with a meaningful idea.  You cannot make an all time classic just based on their societal or historical message – cinema is the perfect medium for getting an idea across by making the viewer enjoy their time.


I call it the Time Value of a Movie

But let’s get even wider. Assigning a numerical value is too superficial to be taken seriously. So when I review movies, I always try to take the film apart and analyze its parts separately. Did it stay in tune with its goal, were there any displays of significant technique, what stood out and was there anything annoying. That’s part of the entertainment value in the present. I think that the past and the future should also be taken into consideration. Namely, will the movie hold up or stay watchable only in its era e.g. the past and how re-watchable the movie is e.g. the future. Those two aspects help understand the meaningfulness of the film.

In conclusion, giving a movie a numerical grade isn’t fair. Movie making is a mixture of arts and each of those arts should be considered separately.  And the best movies are those, which stand the test of time. To get a better understanding of me, I’ll share the slam dunks in my book. In no particular order, they are: “American Psycho” that shows us the dangers of the money and appearance idolizing culture we live in. It’s mysterious and looming, full of great acting and in my opinion better than the book. The message is actual, it’s thrilling to watch the first time and Bale’s perfect acting makes it endlessly re-watchable.  “Shaun of the Dead” is a rare occasion, where a comedy can be funny and yet thought provoking. Edgar Wright’s visual style is extremely captivating and it’s full of small details, witty dialogue and Easter eggs that makes me want to watch it again and again. “Lord of the Rings” trilogy (because you rarely watch just one of them) is more of a personal pick, but still one of the greatest examples how to pull off a movie on an epic scale. It carries a message of how money and power can influence us, the characters are personal and relatable, and it has in my mind the best original soundtrack ever. And because a top3 is too convenient, “Se7en”, that offers a plot full of twists and characters so well sculpted that Pitt’s character might be one of the best examples of a character arc ever, although it doesn’t end well for the protagonist. What make it so good are the gruesome visual style and the powerful emotions that you feel at the end of the movie. It gets me every time.



What has Hollywood got to learn from Game of Thrones?

Hold the door. Hold Door. Hodor. RIP.

For everyone that has read the books or seen the show from season 1, the fifth episode of season 6 named “The Door”, was a heartbreaking one. Every viewer must have been touched by the impact of the sacrifice of Hodor. And in a mind blowing reveal, turns out that Hodor had lived in the shadow of his own ill-omened destiny for as long as anyone could remember.. and that makes me a sad panda.


But out of this tragedy comes a lesson for all (screen)writers. A prime example of how to write a character’s backstory. Hodor was a minor character. The impact of his death didn’t come from the fact that we had invested so much into him, like when a main character leaves. But the kick came from the way he left, in a completely selfless act and by a sudden revelation in the backstory, that made the viewer reconsider the entirety of this characters life. During the entire time we thought we knew this individual. He had only one word to contribute, what’s there not to get, right? But as it turns out, he had a death that had as much impact to fans as Ned’s decapitation or the Red Wedding.

G.R.R. Martin and the showrunners made the perfect move. They knew that fans were interested in Hodor’s background. The easy way would have been to give a nice juicy bit of expositional dialogue and that’s it.  But that’s not how they roll. They saw a chance for a big revelation, heartbreaking moment and a way to make one minor character become the highlight of the season. They ushered us in with a vision of Hodor’s past, who once was Wyllis, a simple stable boy very capable of having a conversation with more than one word. That made the mystery only larger, as the anticipation grew. Why the hell will this boy be able to speak only one random word in the future?

And in a clever move they made us understand the what and the why. Hodor was never one word, it was three: “Hold the door”, as in “Hold the door and accept that I’m going to die”. By merging the past and the present, by letting us simultaneously see both the moment of the change in Wyllis and the realization of his fate, the show gave us one of the most memorable moments of the entire saga. And it seems to me that it only made sense the way they presented it. There was one way to pull it off and they nailed it. They hit the spot so good that they had to apologize for it:

I don’t even know which scenario makes G.R.R. Martin seem more ingenious – if he planned it since the beginning of the first book or if he just looked on what he had and came up with this solution midway. But the determination of this kind of writing is exemplary. Do not let any opportunity go to waste.

Come up with a backstory. Take time.Build on it. Keep secrets. Reveal.

What comic book movies have been trying to do recently, is achieve the same emotional impact without any of the attachment. Hodor had 6 years, movies have 2 hours. There are franchises, that could gain the same momentum. It would be a delight to see what James Cameron has to offer with his upcoming Avatar sequels and Marvel cinematic universe has also nailed some moments that they have built up with several preceding movies. The recent Civil War was a prime example, as the headbutting of Captain America and Tony Stark felt completely natural, whereas the clash of Superman vs Batman felt utterly rushed.

All in all, Hodor’s demise is a bitter moment, but out of it comes a sweet example of brilliant storytelling that is truly inspiring.

How do deaf people think?

Viljandi Folk Music Festival

My hometown Viljandi hosts an annual international folk music festival. Each year the population of 20000 people doubles for 4 days. The festival is a nice step away from our daily lives and gives a lovely opportunity to listen to unique music that you do not encounter in the mundane world. People get a chance to let loose and let the music carry them throughout the days. Look it up from Viljandi Folk Music Festival homepage.

My band Angus at the festival this year. That's me behind the congas. Picture by Madis Reimund.

My band Angus at the festival this year. That’s me behind the congas. Picture by Madis Reimund.

The quiet stare

During one concert, a young boy, I’d say 2 years old, was sitting in the midst of some dancing festival goers and with a wondering face, stared into nothingness. He seemed to be in a state that we all find ourselves from time to time – the quiet glare into a non-existing horizon, the  face giving away that the mind is only aware of it’s own thoughts at that moment. Everything surrounding you at that state doesn’t penetrate the focus of your mind. Often you find yourself in a fierce inner discussion, but as often the mind is completely empty, not registering anything but a beacon of a concious thought.

How does our inner voice work?

That blond-headed boy struck me with that stare. It seemed so pure. I can’t comprehend how the world appeared to him at that moment. What are you thinking at that moment, when your  personality hasn’t fully developed and the society hasn’t yet wrecked you with things you need to worry about? How do you think at the time, when you can’t even fully talk, yet? It could be that our inner voice develops faster than our skill to use that language verbally. Then it means that we start to talk with ourselves consideraby earlier than to others. Or it could be that the means we have to communicate with ourselves are the same that we are able to use to interact with others. Meaning that we use fragments of language, non-verbal noises, and body language until we are able to fully speak.

How do deaf people think?

It seems like I'm not the only one that has caught up on this one..

It seems like I’m not the only one that has caught up on this one..

The mystery of that blond boy lead me to another conundrum – how do deaf people think? How can they do it if they don’t have „the voice in their head”. Do they use language to make sense of their thoughts? They can’t do it like most of us can. The way they speak to themselves must then involve sign language. We can think auditorily or visually, but are they the only means to understand our thoughts? Is there a way to make sense of your inner world without translating it to a language or visual image? If there is, do you think „faster”. Is there a way to know the answer without a question being asked? Maybe what we experience as a voice in our head is not the best way to think and we are overly attached to it.

Theory of meditation

My theory is that we know the thought in our minds from the very first moment we start communicating it to ourselves. Language is meant for communicating with others, but only as a complementary tool when communincating with ourselves. We have grown too attached to it. With that, we have made us vulnerable to miscommunication and gradually lost touch with ourselves. That’s why I like meditation as an excercise. Take time to clear your mind and, for even a short period of time, try to not think of anything. When you think of something try not to use your voice, but visual images. As a result, you relax your brain and come out with better understanding of yourself. A daily or weekly routine gives wonderful results. Try it!

How to be a millionaire?

When to cash in on the premise of „YOLO“? When is the right time to act as if it is your prerogative to experience all that is chaotic and dangerous, because you will not get another chance to do so? I see it as a downward spiral. The instant you decide to go „YOLO“ mode, then all your life’s goals are meant to be set to the background, as your chances of achieving them will get smaller and smaller. If you do something rash for only the one moment you live in now, then you sacrifice potential to gain greater combined pleasure from higher levels of happiness you will have in the future.

Don’t think that you will achieve your goals. Try thinking you already have…in the future. I use a method, where I write down my yearly goals in a form that I have already achieved them. For example: „this year I wrote my first short movie script.“ I act as the future me, who documents the accomplishments of the past year. Try using the same method for your bucket list and your monthly, weekly, daily lists. The logic is that my goals are set to become true, if I know they have happened to a future version of me.

I am a millionaire, but nobody knows it. Even I.

I am a millionaire, but nobody knows it. Even I.

For a simple example, I am a millionaire. Not at this moment, but 25 years from now. My plan is to invest 1500€ a year, achieve 20% yearly growth and reinvest all gained interest. I set the goal, wrote it down and started executing it. From the moment I came up with the plan, made the first move to make it happen and until I don’t deviate from this road, I think of myself as a millionaire.

It’s easy to think of life in past, present and future forms, but it’s not the only way. One could also argue that there is only this moment. And in this moment there is encompassed every other moment. May it happen in the future, be happening now or happened in the past. Or maybe there even is no present. Or maybe your present is longer that this exact defined moment.

It’s the premise of how we understand time travel – as we change something in the past, it creates an alternative way of things to happen. The key is that those changes don’t take time to happen. They happen the instant the past is altered. I think the same way of the future. Right now, the future is happening at the same time as the present. It’s changing for me with every moment. The next word that I write will change the future the moment I write it, but until I do that, I am living a future without that word.

The point of it is in how should we think of our future? And according to me, it should not be: „fuck it, YOLO.“ Every decision you make is amplified, because you are taking care of yourself for the rest of your life in every moment. Each good decision affects the future yourselves the same way as the present you. So until you make a bad decision, all your versions live a life where that has not happened for them. So in fact, you are not living only in this moment, but in every other moment to come, also.

And the answer to the title. . Just make the first step.

How do you know, if you’re right?

A book is to a mind what a whetstone is to a sword – means to keep it sharp. For that reason, reading as a hobby should make up at least a small amount of time in all people’s schedules. I enjoy reading and out of all genres I like to read science fiction novels the most. A good science fiction novel encompasses in itself the most potential for provoking ponderous thoughts. Be it new inventions, philosophies, societal norms, political ideas, or even undiscovered ways of looking at our very own existence.

Time travel is a notoriously difficult subject in fiction as it’s very hard to keep logically consistent. When not contained, the implications of even one minor mistake in logic can ruin the entire book (movie, series, etc.). The ground rules must be solid. But if kept coherent, the maze of complex reasoning can truly inspire awe. And sometimes you read a few lines that just get you on the spot. Isaac Asimov’s „The End of Eternity“ got me with a little gem about his rule for time travel.

The book itself is set in a world where a secret group of people range through past and present Centuries, monitoring and, where necessary, altering time’s countless cause-and-effect relationships. A slight movement of a jar on a shelf can alternate and cumulate in effect until it a noticeable change materializes, like setting a car in an exact spot to take part in an accident, killing one man but delaying the invention of atomic bombs by a few centuries.


Some scholars claim that humans are programmed to find patterns in the world because it’s the only way we can give meaning to the world and ourselves. Hence, the obsessive search to find patterns in π.

The protagonist in the book described the many changes in time he had engineered to have had a calculated effect on the future. With every change, the shift brings forth an alternate course of history and would modify the outlook of things to come. And although each alternate timeline had a unique history, there was one commonality – the rules of math. The history and logical system of math would always be the same.

Math isn’t just numerology. Math has a great influence on philosophy. Math is a way our minds make sense of the universe. We would perceive our surroundings quite differently, if we would not use our mathematical understanding to make sense. From physics and chemistry to music and drawing, we use our arithmetical and geometrical powers. And when it comes to decision making, we usually weigh our options and lean towards the one that adds up to bring in more profit. May the profit be financial, social, in the shape of knowledge or leisure time. That depends on each individual’s philosophies.

The point is that math represents a key monolith that you could hang on to get a grip on the surrounding reality and state of development in the society. Likewise, you should try to find out the key monoliths in your life that you could hang on to. Whether it be your relatives, your best friend, your dog, your birthplace, a lot of ease can come from acknowledging them. A good deal of complications can be avoided if you set perspectives in life and try to develop your personal code of ethics. You should not rely on those rocks to get you through life, but use them to gain a better ground in uncertain situations. In situations where you know that whatever happens, your monolith will be unshaken and you can use its shelter to regain your way.