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.



When are you in the moment?

New year, fun times. Recommended actions: look back to the passing year and try to set goal for the next. What I do is short term (month or two) and long goals (tasks for the whole year). It’s useful, fun and surprisingly effective.

Now for less material issues. I consider myself a romanticist. I may not be romantic all the time, because I am definitely a pragmatist too, but I do wonder. And the ability to wonder is a trait that I cherish quite a lot. “Anything that tries to explain the world mechanically, has not really seen the world,” – a quote that has sparked the most emotion from me the last month. I think it’s refreshing to sometimes just shun the explanation and focus on the beauty itself. The elegance of a growing flower, a stunning view, the movement of animals, crashing waves, thick forest, herd of humans. Love it.

Following is a vision from a music festival last summer. In front of the small free stage, where a folk artist is playing for dancers, sits a little blond boy. I imagine he had blue eyes, too. And he was sitting and staring. Not watching, but glazing. Like we all do sometimes, when our attention gets lost and we stare without a thought. That boy was about 3-4 years old. I just can’t imagine, what was going on in his head at that moment. But the fact that he was not playing, dancing or watching, but instead was in the moment, surrounded by all of those things and yet he was in his own world, is so pure to me. He was in that moment, he was the moment. What could have been the reason for that boys stare? That pureness is something I would not want to lose.

Osho is a good author and I have enjoyed the few of his books, which I have read. I discovered him when I was still in business school and was looking for some book to improve my intuition. I guess to improve my poker skills or my salesman skills. And I stumbled upon Osho’s book that took a whole different approach to intuition that I had expected. And that discussion evolved into a statement: your intuition is your body and heart. Your mind is a tool. You should follow your heart and use your mind as a tool. And you can find contact with your intuition through meditation.

There's lots to learn from this guy. I wonder what he's thinking.

There’s lots to learn from this guy. I wonder what he’s thinking.

My friend Karl (not quite Pilkington, but close), who I’ve mentioned before, has defined meditation as a state of complete emptiness. A state of isolation, where you are completely alone and thus you eliminate the possibility of comparison with others and elevating through that absence. This is based upon the theory that one of the things that cause unhappiness in life is the moment of comparison with someone more successful/beautiful, etc. When you win 600 €, you might be happy, but if you find out that your neighbor has won 2000€, then you feel comparative unhappiness. I, for instance, have found this kind of meditation when playing drums. Practicing an exercise or when improvising, it’s easy for me to forget everything else, even control of my limbs and feel the flow. I discovered it when I played “Flight of the Bumblebee” on xylophone to an audience for the first time. Halfway through the piece I noticed that I don’t know what I’m playing, that my hands are moving without my thinking and that if I tried to remember what’s next, I would lose the flow and fail. What a wonderful feeling it was.

Many books and many speakers and many articles talk about why having a “non-grown up” attitude is and that people need to rediscover it. Leave your job, start having fun, etc. But I think they’re wrong. I think that the point is not in changing, but finding the joy in what you have. And that leads to getting enjoyment out of absolutely everything. And that’s because you love yourself and you love being with yourself. If you love the idea of being just with yourself, even if you are completely alone, then life becomes much less threatening and much more enjoyable. If all else fails, you still have yourself and that’s just awesome.

Some are afraid of being with themselves. Scared of being with their own thoughts. Fearful of  their own body. And that is an issue that screams for a solution. You are the only one that you can count on in this life and the only one with whom you have to spend your whole life together. If the problem of accepting yourself is solved, then you improve the rest of your entire life in one sweep. It’s a constant battle, but if the success in life is measured by happiness, then it’s a battle worth fighting. One way to build up change is to not accept the present state and use that as a motivation to change your life. But maybe a more peaceful way is to start accepting the present and let the flow of life take you with itself.

Try to find something that inspires you, be in that moment and let yourself forget everything else.

Why so serious?

This is a little different post. In this post I tell you to do something and you have to try it out.


Smiling cereal

Live longer by eating healthy and smiling(at the same time?)

Yes. I think everyone should smile more often. There was actually a great exercise in a book by  Joe Navarro, an ex-FBI agent trained to be a human lie detector. The book focused on body language and how the body reflects inner feelings. One chapter in his book was dedicated to an idea that not only do your feelings reflect on your face, but your face reflects on your feelings also.

The idea is that from the beginning of time, a wrinkled and shrunken face with a tight mouth and lowered eyebrows has meant that the person is experiencing angry feelings. On the other hand, the same goes for a cheerful mood and raised eyebrows with an open smile. These connections are strongly entwined. When you are happy, you smile and when you are mad, you frown and when you feel proud you walk with a forwarded chest etc.

But what about the other way? Can you become infuriated, when you frown all day or more importantly, can you become happy when you smile all day? Well, try it and you will see that it works. The face brings the mind along. That is why I practise the following as much as I can:  where ever and whenever I remember, I try to smile as authentically as I can.

Caution: Side effects may include – mood swings toward the positive, happy thoughts, social acceptance, good relationships.

There are, of course, the nay-sayers: “I can not smile when I do not feel like it,” or “it will not work in a million  years.” And in some ways they are right. This smiling practise won’t work on them, because they do not believe in it. If they would just for once shed their doubts, it would work in an instant. Whenever I try to smile out of the blue, I lose control of my face – I’m just so surprised every time of how wonderfully this method works. And when you smile like that, you become positively radioactive. Everyone feels your positivity and wants to hop on the train. Smiling is the best thing you can do when you interact with people.

I think that possessing this kind of fail-switch that you can pull, when the current mood itself is not the best, is extremely useful. I like when everything falls together and I feel happy, because nothing is wrong and good things happen. But relying only on things that you can not control is a risky business. Everything can not go right all the time. Practising the “smile to become happy” gives you control over yourself. When you rely only for others to put you in a good mood, you give the power away and the side effects now include mood swings that are not guaranteed to be 100% positive.

Here rise some interesting philosophical questions, but they can be postponed to the future. For now, it is important that you smile:)

Be positive and enjoy your day!

(The book: Joe Navarro, “What every body is saying : an ex-FBI agent`s guide to speed-reading people.”)

What makes you happy?

At the crossroad by Hermanne Allan Poe

Need signposts?

The main goal of this blog is to get you to think and reflect on yourself. Sokrates said that an unexamined life is not worth living for a human being. I think that life is worth living in any way, but being concious about your decisions and actions and feelings upgrades that life to level 4.

The simplest way of reaching that goal of self-realisation is asking questions. Questioning basically everything. Until you see the meaning in it and what it represents for you. The are no overall right answers, but there are right answers for each and every one of us. The truth is out there. But the truth is hard to achieve. Reflection is something most of us aren’t used to, because society basically doesn’t want to allow that. But even though it feels strange at the beginning, you will grow in to it. It is just so engaging.

We are creatures of routine by nature I think. But routine is one of the greatest obstacles on the road to happiness. I don’t mean getting used to something and doing it, because it feels good or it generates cash. I mean doing something regular while not knowing why you’re doing it. When you have no purpose and you act just because you are used to do that. That’s when the hero of questions should interfere. He constructs a mystery for you: What is the goal of your actions?

The simplest place to start that actually has implications right away is happiness. Maximizing well-being is considered by most the goal in life. So why not know what makes you happy? Think, what are the things that delight you. Think outside your own actions. Think outside yourself. Think, what do you think the happiest person in the world does.

Also, money is not accepted as an answer here. Think what you would do with it besides hoarding it into a pile(or a bank account number). Furthermore, it is best when you do not think of material things at all and see what are the feelings you desire to fulfil with those objects. For example not your family, but the sense of belonging etc.

Write them down (we’ll get to the importance of this later on). Update the list regularly, you won’t think of everything with only one shot.

Now you are on the road. It’s a long road and with many stops. Sometimes to pick flowers, sometimes to get out of the rain. And because the way has many crossroads, it is highly unlikely that you’ll get lost many times and spend time finding the way back onto the right road. But having a clear idea what makes you happy, is like having signposts along the way, telling you which way to take.

What’s your first world problem?

The previous week was about nature. Went to the zoo, got home, watched a video..

What I experienced alongside the creatures of wild was total awe. It is just so refreshing to get out of the concrete walls and floor of society. And into the impressing arms of  evolution(yes, this is not a blog of a religious man).

But.. I mean.. the zoo. Everything is isolated from you. You are safe. Although you ARE in the presence of predators that could rip you open with their noses if need be. But we are not afraid. We have grown accustomed to not having to be afraid for our lives. It is normal in our everyday lives. Our brains are reconfigured to fear a 0,001% rise in unemployment ratio, rather than a polar bear.

But imagine that you are in the room behind the glass and it shatters. The lion leaps through the formed portal between civilisation and the ancient. With a swift move that is hardly seen by you, the teeth are already clashed around the baby’s tender flesh. Blood everywhere.

Well..what would you imagine you’d feel in that situation? A primal fear that is straight from your unconscious mind. You would be terrified.  You’d freak, go psycho. That’s how fragile we really are. But of course we do not see it. We have lost the touch to the nature. We do not emotionally connect to those situations anymore. We have overcome natural evolution.

And it is totally a first world thing. It was quite well said in a new Netflix series “House of cards”: In this world we fear things that cannot be seen. Like how little am I seeing, or have I wasted this day.. But overseas its the rational fears like fear of disease or violence that keep you alive.

What I’m saying is that in the environment we live in, you cannot be stressed about your survival all the time. It wouldn’t make sense. But when you think about it, it is ridiculous to worry about the things we are used to be pained with, when someone out there is distressed about genuinely mortal danger. .every day.


One of the most famous villains against the modern civilisation