Monday, January 06, 2014

Are movies too long?


As you may have guessed, another rant coming up.

Have you ever noticed that sitting through a 2 ½ hour movie is excruciating yet you can binge-watch a television series and burn through eight hours at a time?

A movie should be as long as it takes to best tell its story. Period.

And most stories don’t require 2 ½ hours.

Many many times a screenwriter is faced with this: He has a great beginning. That’s fifteen minutes. And he has a boffo ending. That’s another fifteen minutes. But now he has to fill an hour or two in the middle. And trust me, a lot of it is “fill.” Subplots are concocted to kill time. Scenes are elongated. Scenes are repeated. Strangers in restaurants spontaneously sing. We’re treated to endless shots of a car driving through fields. When the car starts running low on fuel, we watch the driver pull into a service station, get out, pump gas, and walk five yards to the cashier, pay for the gas, then duck into the convenience store, buy a hot dog, wait for it to come out of the microwave, eat it, walk back to the car, start the engine, and drive off. More beauty shots of fields to follow. Zzzzzzzzzzzz.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET repeats so many sequences you’ll think the projector malfunctioned and ran the same reel over and over. For the greatness of Martin Scorsese, I could hack an hour out of that movie and no one other than Martin Scorsese would miss it.

Quite simply: many filmmakers have become over indulgent. Once they get a few hits under their belts they’re given more creative leeway and their movies begin to creep and creep in length. They start believing longer means more important. More epic. Is ANCHORMAN 2 an epic? Its running time is two hours.

Comedies should never be more than 1:45 and even that’s too long. 1:30 is perfect. If you have the funniest movie in the world, audiences will get tired after laughing for ninety minutes.

ANCHORMAN 2 is one joke. Over and over for two full hours. And Will Ferrell is hardly the only offender. Judd Apatow comedies are always over two hours. And they’re never as good as a result. Do they need to be that long? Are the jokes so hysterical and the stories so complex?  Do you think I would have any trouble getting a half hour out of THIS IS 40 or FUNNY PEOPLE?  Better yet, do you think YOU'D have any trouble trimming a half hour out of either of those pictures? 

Meanwhile, there is some great storytelling going on in television these days. All in hour-long bytes. Unlike movies, where you wish they were shorter, with some TV series you get to the end of thirteen hours and are bummed that it’s over. Why? Because the STORY sweeps you along. And I’m not even saying it has to be fast paced. MAD MEN is not exactly a thrill-a-minute.

But filmmakers beware: your work is not just being judged against fellow indulgent filmmakers anymore. It’s now being judged against BREAKING BAD and HOUSE OF CARDS and ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK. Do you really really really need that scene of a guy pumping gas?

For the next three days I will review possible Oscar films. Two you should rush to see and one you can skip. Coincidentally, the one I liked the best is also the shortest of the three. See you tomorrow.


Carol said...

I could not agree with you more. I miss the days when a movie averaged about an hour and 1/2.

Case in point, the 2nd Hobbit movie could have been much, much shorter. (Did we NEED a dwarf/elf love story? Is this fanfiction now?) It was getting to a point where I thought the bloody thing was never going to end, and when the lights when up I said to my theatre-going compatriots, 'two and 1/2 hours and we didn't even get to see the dragon killed?'

Anonymous said...

Seriously, movies are far too long than they should be, I mean, what's next? A television show that goes for 90 minutes an episode?

OK, hyperbolic joke rant over, but does anybody have a problem with the UK's SHERLOCK having 3 movie length episodes a season? Does anybody think the episodes should be cut in half and played over two consecutive nights, perhaps? I'm fine with it (except for maybe having to wait over two years for a new season that just started a week ago and ends next fucking week, THAT is going to be a problem), but what are other people's thoughts?

Richard J. Marcej said...

Ken, you write an article about long films and you don't mention the greatest perpetrator of the crime, Peter - I don't know what the word edit means - Jackson?

Hamid said...

I agree about the length of movies in general but I have to disagree on Anchorman 2. I loved it! And it zipped by so quickly, it didn't feel 2 hours long.

My theory is that so much money is spent on movies now, particularly the summer blockbusters, that the makers want to put all the money on the screen so that not a single cent spent and not a minute of effort expended goes to waste. The result is you get third acts which go on and on and on. That's why a movie like Man of Steel has a climactic fight scene that feels about 4 hours long. In contrast, Dr Strangelove, one of the greatest films ever made, clocks in at just over 90 minutes.

ODJennings said...

>Many many times a screenwriter is faced with this: He has a great beginning. That’s fifteen minutes. And he has a boffo ending.<

Flight with Denzel Washington comes to mind. Fantastic first 15 minutes and a moderately interesting 10 minute ending with a 90 minute PSA for Alcoholics Anonymous in-between.

Trevor said...

No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough. - Roger Ebert

Make the story as long or as short as it needs to be. When a movie or show gets stretched or shortened for some other reason, that's where the trouble starts.

John Leader Alfenito said...

Movies aren't the only offenders, although they're certainly the most "self indulgent." Isn't "The Wolf of Wall Street" a minute under THREE HOURS?
Try watching the latest episode of "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" with Louis C.K. chatting with Jerry Seinfeld. It has its moments, but it just goes on and on.

trail of bread said...

There ought to be an approvals panel . Any film longer than 90 minutes (ok give a 15 minute grace period) has to have special approval on the grounds of artistic merit or other extenuating criteria (such as real time documentary). You can stick as much in the extended DVD as you like.
Maybe the Academy could help by only allowing films under 2 hours to be eligible for awards?

Matt Neffer, Boy Spotwelder said...

Hi Ken, AGREED. Off-topic Friday Question: I just finished David Pollock's excellent biography of my comedy heroes Bob & Ray and there was a funny anecdote in there about you directing Ray Elliott on an episode of Lateline. Wondering if you had any other memories of that experience to share with us? (On a side note, a couple of years ago I wrote a letter to Bob and he personally responded to me on vintage Bob & Ray letterhead -- it's become a prized possession that is now framed and hanging in my hallway). Thanks. Take care.

Kelly said...

I totally agree with you! Comedies seem to add an extra 30 minutes for mindless vulgarity and fantasy/action movies seem to add at least that for 3D effects. Ever since "Avatar," fighting and flying/falling sequences have seemed to go on and on just to throw more things in the characters' (and audiences') faces. Like that barrel ride in "The Desolation of Smaug." Just a waste of time!

DonBoy said...

What's weird is that quite recently the complaint was that the damn studios would hack your movie to bits because they wanted to be able to squeeze more showings into a day. So what happened? Could it be that when 3D/IMAX ticket money is so important, the studios feel that there'll be riots if people pay $15 for a movie and it's over too soon?

Igor said...

Maybe that was the problem with "Der Ring des Nibelungen". But, Wagner had final cut, so what are ya gonna do?

OTOH, "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" violates the Levine Rule (3 hours, 12 minutes), though (in addition to lots of comma-breaks in its title) it had an intermission.

unkystan said...

Gravity=90 minutes
The Producers=88 minutes
'nuff said!

Daniel said...

The Wolf of Wall Street could have been at least an hour shorter, but there are plenty of long movies that are just the right length. I wouldn't cut anything out of Titanic or Lawrence of Arabia.

The play August: Osage County was three hours long. The film runs about two hours, and it doesn't work. Most of the first act was removed from the story. The first act is a sort of mystery story. It's about a family working together to find their missing father. That portion of the play creates suspense and builds sympathy for the characters. When it's missing, the characters have no goal to work toward, and there's nothing driving the narrative. We end up with a story about unpleasant people bickering with no end in sight.

If it had been up to me, I would have filmed the whole play, but I would have included an intermission halfway through, like in Lawrence of Arabia.

The movie La Belle Noiseuse found an elegant way to solve the problem. It's four hours long, but Emanuelle Beart is naked for three-quarters of the film.

Michael said...

Stanley Laurel used to say that the mistake he and Oliver Hardy made was going into features because the two-reelers worked far better for them. Imagine Apatow or somebody saying something like THAT!

Murray said...

It's because movies cost money and the majority of folks cannot shake loose the concept of "quantity over quality".

Back in my college days, we had an art auction to raise some funds. I came upon two women admiring their purchases out in the hallway. Two landscapes, one about twice the size of the other. I overheard two items that made me want to cry and laugh bitterly.

1) They paid about the same price for each of their artworks.

2) They agreed the one lady got the better deal because her painting was bigger

I can only assume the ridiculous length of movies recently is because people are dropping $15-$20 before the concession stand. "The movie I went to was better than yours, because it was over 2 hours long! Yours was only 90 minutes!"

Murray said...

It's because movies cost money and the majority of folks cannot shake loose the concept of "quantity over quality".

Back in my college days, we had an art auction to raise some funds. I came upon two women admiring their purchases out in the hallway. Two landscapes, one about twice the size of the other. I overheard two items that made me want to cry and laugh bitterly.

1) They paid about the same price for each of their artworks.

2) They agreed the one lady got the better deal because her painting was bigger

I can only assume the ridiculous length of movies recently is because people are dropping $15-$20 before the concession stand. "The movie I went to was better than yours, because it was over 2 hours long! Yours was only 90 minutes!"

Rich D said...

To respond to Carol's criticism of the Kili/Tauriel storyline in THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG - We're really looking at the middle act of a three-act story, or to make a more obvious analogy, this is the middle chapters of a book. IF Jackson and co. were to stick exactly to the source material, there would be no characters that have any arc at all. The inclusion allows for some character development that has a modicum of payoff into the film. To really judge how well DOS works or doesn't work, we really have to wait until the final film is out.

(And before anyone starts to say that stretching the adaptation out to three films is nothing but a cash grab, may I point out that nearly every artist in the history of history has done what they did for the money. Shakespeare, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, etc all had bills to pay and did so through their work. Calling something a cash grab strikes me as lazy and a way to avoid engaging in the actual work.

Also, for those who think Jackson is being revisionist with the material, don't forget that Tolkien himself revised the book after he wrote LORD OF THE RINGS in order to have the two works line up better. The enture "Riddles in the Dark" chapter was entirely rewritten to what we have now. Also, in 1960 Tolkien briefly entertained the idea of rewriting the Hobbit almost entirely from scratch to bring it more toneally in line with LotR.

/Here endth the Tolkien Geek's rant.)

ODJennings said...

>Ever since "Avatar," fighting and flying/falling sequences have seemed to go on and on just to throw more things in the characters' (and audiences') faces. Like that barrel ride in "The Desolation of Smaug." Just a waste of time!<

Not a waste of time at all. Without those sequences how will the ride designers at Disney and Universal ever design the ride they will add if/when the movie is a hit?

I'm sure you'll be waiting 45 minutes to enjoy "The Desolation of Smaug" water ride in a matter of months.

Breadbaker said...

Duck Soup's running time is 70 minutes. It has more plot than most films these days.

And a lot more laughs.

I rest Ken's case.

tb said...

What was that recent movie about Carlos the cartel leader, wasn't it originally like 8 hours or something crazy? And then he cut it down to FOUR? Ha!
I do remember seeing Goodfellas for the first time and wishing it would never end.
I'm sure "Lincoln" wouldn't feel so "important" (to Spielberg, anyway) if it was
"only" 90 minutes. Tarantino is also guilty of the way-too-long movie

H Johnson said...

I agree with everything you said. But I can understand the problem. With everyone around him telling him that that he's a genius, the director must have a terrible time figuring out which nugget to leave on the floor. And usually the biggest piece is what they leave on the screen.

Lilyhammer is a good example of concise storytelling and also of why our family watches fewer movies and more series.

gourilla said...

Yes - the Hobbit movies are perhaps the worst examples - three 2.5+ hour movies to tell the story of a 300 page book? I could read the book in less time than it takes to watch all this.

emilyap said...

Completely disagree about Sherlock. I think the episodes are well served by the movie-length. The pacing suits me fine; I don't get bored or fidgety by the end. Plus, I dislike "to be continued" stories, so definitely don't want them to be broken up into two nights.

Waiting two years for three episodes blows, though.

Joseph said...

I saw the film Her this weekend and while I really liked the film, I felt the same way. The film is barely over two hours but they could have trimmed about 15 to 20 minutes. I’ll often time find myself deciding not to re-watch long films that I like simply because I dread the excessive length.

Friday question: Lately when I write I often find myself obsessing about what the audience or potential buyer will think of my script which results in me becoming creatively paralyzed. While I imagine that all writers experience this to some extent it’s obvious that you’re able to get past it since you’ve written such great films and TV episodes for extremely talented people. Do you have any advice for quieting the voice of this inner audience so that you trust yourself more and write the story how you’d like it to be instead of the imaginary critics?

Bruce said...

I completely disagree- I think any movie under 2 hours is not worth going to see in the theater, given the cost and time to get there etc. Yes, stretching a movie to meet a certain time is bad, but just as bad or worse is paying $11+ to see a movie that last 89 minutes.

Johnny Walker said...

I personally didn't find ANCHORMAN 2 too long, but I agree that Apatow is a terrible offender of going overboard. The problem is that he doesn't see the detriment it makes to his films.

THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN is a great example. The original theatrical release was a wonderful, sweet natured, and extremely funny, comedy. The longer version kills every emotional beat by hammering you with jokes -- to the point where you no longer care about the characters, or the story, or the film itself.

The difference is astounding (and you could argue that the theatrical cut is still too long, but at least it works).

The latest offender is, of course, THE HOBBIT... it's easy to blame Peter Jackson (ok, I guess it IS his fault, so maybe you should blame him) but if you go look at the Amazon reviews for the initial release of the theatrical editions of Lord of the Rings on Bluray, you'll see
20,000 people (yes, that's right TWENTY THOUSAND) "liked" the 1-star review titled "We won't get fooled again...".

The public apparently felt ripped off by Jackson when he released the Theatrical Editions on Bluray ahead of the Extended Editions... implying that by not releasing the longer versions on DVD originally (even though he announced longer versions were coming before any DVD was released) that the fans had been conned.

Any way you look at the argument it doesn't make a jot of sense, of course. (The shorter versions are actually better movies (especially Return of the King, which is actually quite a poor in its Extended Edition version). The shorter movies are the ones that Jackson considers his. The shorter movies are the ones that won Academy Awards and all the critical accolades. The longer versions really only work when you've recently watched the originals.) But the "fans" STILL felt ripped off by these shorter movies.

So I almost feel he's making The Hobbit movies extra long just to spite these people... which is a shame, but I'm looking forward to the inevitable shorter fan edit of all three! :)

Johnny Walker said...

@luciuspaisley Re: Sherlock. Oh god yes! The episodes are stretched out terribly. The original pilot was only an hour long, but the BBC went back and asked them to add 30 mins. Why?

No episode of any TV show should be 90 mins!

I'm fairly certainly a fan could chop those episodes down to an hour without losing anything remotely vital.

DBenson said...

Used to be, theaters ran a package that included cartoon, shorts, newsreel and maybe a serial. You got quantity -- a good two hours plus even with a short feature. It was similar to greasy spoons filling you up by surrounding a pork chop with a heap of potatoes.

Then came the double feature, where in time all the short goodies fell away and you had a main feature teamed with a B. Genuine B features (as opposed to merely cheap films) could run as short as an hour. At best they'd top the bill for a Saturday matinee, where shorts, serials and cartoons lingered on.

Now, as noted, a feature is the Whole Show. It's expected to be an Event, to justify you choosing it over similar TV fare. So to deliver the expected quantity the potatoes are blended into the pork chop.

I keep thinking of a Penn and Teller special where they did their standard card trick using 8"x4" cards, forklifts and a crane. "You may see better," Penn announced, "but you'll never see bigger!" Admittedly it was pretty cool.

Aaron Sheckley said...

Maybe movies have become so bloated and overlong because people are now perfectly willing to sit there for three hours and have stuff just flung at them from the screen. Perhaps we've now had so many generations that were raised watching 8 hours of TV a day, and now add to that the endless hours of web surfing, and smart phone pacifiers, that it's a perfectly normal feeling to just sit there and stare at a screen. Forty years ago, people had something else to do once the movie was over; now they just change screens.

Anonymous said...

Totally agree. I think the only movies that really need to be as long as two-plus hours are those that educate as well as entertain, which would explain Lawrence of Arabia.

The first time I get the urge to check my watch during a movie to see how much more of it I have to sit through, I calculate what percent of the movie is left to get a tedium rating. I'm shocked, sometimes, when I see movies with 90% or higher ratings. If you insist on making a three-hour epic, shouldn't you try harder to keep me from getting bored by the twenty-minute mark?

PrettyParker said...

Thank you Ken! Yes, Yes and Yes! Quentin Tarantino is also a big offender in this, did you see Django Unchained? Oh come on Quentin! This is just lazy storytelling! Cut to the chase already and get that fuckin movie started... it's as you say, some hits under your belt and nobody dares to critizice your genius anymore. Watch out! :D

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Trevor: thanks for quoting Ebert's line on this. I think he was absolutely right. In a previous thread, I listed a bunch of movies i thought lived up to their length.

That said, it sounds like some modern movies are doing the 1980s blockbuster novel thing of creating unecessary length just to charge more - or like food portions in US restaurants these days.


Cap'n Bob said...

Same with books. A gold Medal paperback could tell a great story in under 200 pages. Nowadays, 300-600-page paperbacks are more common, and the result is padded, overblown novels.

James said...

Some Like It Hot is 122 minutes. Which 17 minutes do you cut?

I agree that a hell of a lot of movies can be tightened up. But "No comedy should be longer than 1 hour 45 minutes?" A few can--if they're already tight.

Marty Fufkin said...

There are some long movies I will defend. Magnolia and Goodfellas are masterpieces and had me riveted every second.

But since you mentioned Funny People -- some parts felt like the DVD "deleted scenes" feature. It was like the movie was filmed and accidentally released before being edited.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I watched the "The Lone Ranger" about two weeks ago.

It's still running.

Again, when someone asked Samuel Goldwyn how long a movie should be, he said, "How long is it good?"

In the 70s, because of the success of Saturday Night Fever and Grease soundtrack albums, every album had to have two-LP sets. That's why you can find so many second-hand copies of Sgt. Pepper the Movie and Xanadu.

There is a perception that more means value (like 300 butter cookies for one dollar) and that movies need to be experiential in addition to watchable.

But they have to have great stories and characters. "Dumbo" was 64 minutes and no one complained.

Steve said...

There is an app called RunPee (seriously) that you open at the start of a movie and it will vibrate when you get to a point where nothing much happens so you can rush to the bathroom. It even tells you what you're missing.

Anonymous said...

Okay, that tears it. I was gonna go see it at arclight, but I'll just wait and download it off of Pirate Bay.
That's the only way I know to punish film makers who cross me.

Anonymous said...

"Try watching the latest episode of "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" with Louis C.K. chatting with Jerry Seinfeld. It has its moments, but it just goes on and on."

I think Louis had a little bit of an existential breakdown while Jerry was trying to film. Louis cornered himself in a kind of interview on a large watercraft designed for rich assholes, he had no business piloting it alone, he has no serious boating experience, and he could kill somebody.

I suspect he also felt guilty, and maybe stupid about showing off his crazy waste of money, after portraying himself as an everyman shlub for so long.

I agree with him. He did look like a posturing idiot, and he looked scared shitless trying to pilot that boat. At least he had enough sense to be scared.

Jerry is to be commended by enlisting people to make a guy having an existential breakdown appear to be funny.

One more thing, his wife allowing him to take his kids out alone on that thing? She must be out of her goddameed mind.
Piloting a large boat alone in a busy river isn't a vacation. Something goes wrong when you're alone on that boat, and people will die. He's lucky he just got stranded on a sandbar.

Prediction: Louis in another accident on that boat.

-Guy Who Used to Have One

Albert Giesbrecht said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike said...

Well, I'm going to disagree, compadres.

1) The worst offender is the Sausage Factory that is American network television. 11 series of 24 episodes in pursuit of the filthy lucre of syndication. Churning out weekly episodes for the sake of churning out weekly episodes.

2) American cinema in its late '60s-early '70s period of director as auteur (eg. Peckinpah) produced far more interesting films than the subsequent to current period of blockbusters (eg. Spielberg).

jbryant said...

This "everybody's an editor" business is getting to be a pet peeve of mine. If a movie isn't working for you, it's not because it's too long. It's because the material's not interesting. We've all been riveted by three- or four-hour masterpieces and bored by 90-minute snooze-fests. Sure, an otherwise good film may have a few scenes that don't quite work, but it's not the end of the world. And sometimes scenes that digress from the plot have other things to recommend them, such as a strong character moment or funny aside.

Dbenson said...

On the matter of bladder timing: All the Harry Potters run well over two hours, and on a few of them I was in terminal fidgets -- usually late in the film when you really wanted to see what was going on. I'm sure the RunPee app means well, but no thanks.

The worst was a long sequence where Harry was fighting off scary flying things while Dumbledore had to uncomfortably consume the entire contents of a huge natural punchbowl. That was a textbook example of what you don't want to be watching when Nature keeps redialing.

I've stopped getting large colas, and I try not to drink what I do get until past the hour mark.

Hamid said...

Action films in the 80s were lean and mean. Die Hard, Predator, The Terminator, Robocop, Raiders of the Lost Ark all clocked in at under 2 hours. Now, many action films stretch to 150 minutes, and the third acts tend to consist of characters defeating the villains with tediously elaborate methods that are only comprehensible to those with a degree in engineering or physics. That's why a film like Taken was such a surprise breakout success. It was an old school, no nonsense, 90 minute actioner with a badass hero (yes, I used the word badass, don't laugh) who wasn't wearing a cape and didn't have a random non-descript 19 year old as the love interest.

Barry Traylor said...

With ticket prices what they are perhaps it is a naturally occurring thing so the movie goer does not feel cheated. I feel pretty much the same way about many long novels at 700-800 plus pages. As much as I have enjoyed the work of Stephen King quite a few of his books have felt overlong to me.

Loosehead said...

I miss the days when an evening at the cinema meant two films, with ice cream in between. Then Ben-Hur and the Guns of Navarone happened, with intermissions. What! Only one film?

It seems producers and studios feel enabled to pass over all the notes they like, but never to say "make it shorter". Of course, that would interfere with the directors artistic vision.

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Walker said...

I have to agree with the notion that a story should define its length. There's plenty of great, really long, movies -- and there's been a trend lately of bloated indulgent movies.

Case and point: Hamid just merrily stated that 80s action movies were "lean and mean", clocking in at "under two hours". To make his point he cited (among others) DIE HARD.

DIE HARD actually runs at 2 hours 15 mins. And there famously isn't an action sequence for the first 20 mins of the movie. But you don't notice because there's enough solid story to support that.

Metal Mickey said...

Don't get me started on the length of movies... the Harry Potter and LOTR films seem to have educated the filmwatching public into thinking that "stories" are just a string of chases amd fights stitched together into 150 minute programmes. I'm always mystified when young people tell me they find old movies "slow", when they're generally actually far faster-moving plot-wise, even if they're not edited so frantically...

PS Re. Judd Apatow, UK reviewer Mark Kermode's review for "This Is 40" was simply "This is 40 minutes too long."

PPS As a musical corollary, the producer Danger Mouse (most famous as half of Gnarls Barkley) insists that all the albums he produces clock in at no more than 40 minutes...

Carol said...

luciuspaisley...JUST had this conversation about Sherlock last night (friend came over and we watched the first episode of the new series). I think my complaint isn't so much that the episode itself is long, it's more that we only get 3 of them and then it's gone again. If it were 6 one-hour shows, at least we'd feel like we were getting 'more' Sherlock.

Regarding my earlier comment of the Hobbit - I think my big issue is that I read the Hobbit as a kid, hadn't read the LOTR triolgy at all, so I liked the Hobbit for it's hero's journey story. The first movie was very much like that, the 2nd movie was more like Lord of the Rings, which, quite frankly, I don't like very much. Couldn't get through the first movie. Or the book. So that's where I am coming from when I complained about the movie. :)

Dan Ball said...

Great point about Apatow. My nickname for THIS IS 40 was THIS IS 40?: I WAS ONLY 30 WHEN THE MOVIE STARTED.

The celebrated directors get to indulge themselves these days, but the ones who are more obscure are at the whimsy of the indulgence of the execs. It kills me that great mid-level directors aren't in demand anymore like Joe Dante and Richard Donner. (Donner could've retired, though.)

Greg Ehrbar said...

Best cliff notes version of The Hobbit is that animated one. 75 minutes, a little Orson Bean, a little Hans Conried, a dash of that wiggly Glen Yarbrough singing. Then we move on with our lives. Then if we want details, we open the book.

We watched an obscure little old movie last night called "The Great Rupert" with Jimmy Durante. Short "B" movie that was cute and sentimental. What struck me was the leisurely pace of movies back then, as compared to the rapid fire movies of today, where even the camera has to keep moving. Yet while those "slower" movies were shorter, today's longer movies are more frenetic but fast. No comment, just an observation.

Hamid said...


Yes, I forgot Die Hard was a little over 2 hours. But even a 135 minute "event movie" is a rare thing now. Transformers 3 and The Dark Knight Rises were both over 2 and a half hours and both were utterly bloated and self indulgent.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Unlike DBenson, I've never bought drinks (or snacks) to consume during a movie, so bladder control was never an issue.

That said, TITANIC was so god-awful and so long - I didn't want to see but had to when I had two TITANIC-struck 15yo German girls visiting - that I went to the bathroom just to get away from it for a couple of minutes. Inside, I met another escapee. We agreed the damn boat seemed to be sinking in real time. (The end really depressed me; hundreds of real people died but we're supposed to care more about two fictional ones. Ick.)


JT Anthony said...

Chocolate cake is one of my favorite desserts. A "healthy" (read: bigger than normal-size) piece satisfies my chocolate-craving pallet. Eating more than that makes me nauseated. Same with movies. Movie length can kill the overall experience. I pay to be satisfied at the end, regardless of the length. The sunk cost fallacy prevails.

John said...

I believe the word for that is censorship.

jcs said...

Objection, Ken! I - like many others - quite enjoyed long movies like Goodfellas, Casino, Short Cuts, The Godfather I and II, Heat, Unforgiven, The Player, The Departed, Das Boot, Pulp Fiction, Mystic River, Jackie Brown and The Thin Red Line. I think every film should be judged separately and some clearly deserve two and a half or even three hours. There a fewer good long comedy films from my point of view, but I can easily list three examples here: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Catch Me If You Can and Some Like It Hot (mentioned before).
And there's The Great Race with your all-time favourite actress, Ken.

Mike said...

Sorry, but you say those movies need lots of editing, but your post here is worse. It needs lots of editing to even qualify as a rant.

MuffinMan21571 said...

Oh big suprise- another old-fart/things were so much better then viewpoint! PS- 90% of Apatow's movies (even the "too long" ones), including Anchorman 2, are way BETTER and FUNNIER than Voluteers- and latter-day M*A*S*H? Ran WAYYYYYYYYY too long (and don't get me started on the finale)!

MuffinMan21571 said...

P.S.- Some of the WORST comedies these days (Scary Movie 5, InAPProrpriate Comedy, A Haunted House, antything crapped out by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer) run 90 minutes and under, all of them unfunny crap- meaning it's NOT the length, but what you do with it! How about pointing THAT out, rather than bashing Judd Apatow again (jealous much)?

MuffinMan21571 said...

PPS- Freddy Got Fingered, 87 minutes. The 40 Year Old Virgin, 116 minutes. Which would YOU rather sit through (for the record, I'd go with either before Volunteers, which is...107 minutes, AKA TOO LONG, according to the Time Length Police!)?

mike said...

Amen. Hit the nail right on the head. Self-indulgent meandering. I saw Remember the Night from 1940 w/Fred MacMurray and Babs Stanwyck in a theater here a couple of weeks ago and it was more entertaining than all six of my SAG screeners combined.

W. Keith Sewell said...

Why is it when young filmmakers/ film-goers rant. It always sounds so uninformed and ignorant. The fast-food generation strikes again!

Moviegoer said...

I'm not understanding something here. You're complaining that movies are over two hours and have "filler" for an hour in between. Then you go on and say that the standard these movies are judged against is five seasons of Breaking Bad. Excuse me if I have to point out the obvious. On the one hand you're saying that a movie should be able to tell its story in less than two hours and then you compare it to a TV show that tells its story over 60 hours. And believe me, there were many episodes that were just filler even in Breaking Bad, which was the gold standard of television storytelling. A story is a story, and sometimes a two hour movie feels like it was rushed and other times (ahem! the Hobbit!) you can actually feel your hair going gray. What about Star Wars? That's a solid 6-7 hours of entertainment (the prequels are irrelevant). Is that too long and self indulgent? It doesn't seem to me like your argument is well thought out. If a movie is good, it transports you to another time and place. And I'm sorry, but if it's a good movie, I will gladly spend two or three or sixty hours in that universe. Should Terence Malick start cutting his movies like Michael Bay so you can get the story in a lean 80 minutes? Maybe you need to start watching better cinema (and stop comparing apples to oranges while you're at it).

MuffinMan21571 said...

With the POSSIBLE exception of Spike Lee's most over-indulgent movies, I can't think of ANY movie that's "too long" compared to the M*A*S*H finale (not to mention the preachy last 5-6 seasons)... #sothere #apatow>alda