Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Newsday Tuesday

How long is too long for a movie?

"I do agree you can't just make movies three hours long for no apparent reason. For a romantic comedy to be three hours long, that's longer than most marriages," Fincher said.

This story on CNN.com notes the recent trend of movies to stretch towards the dreadful three-hour mark, a trend popularized by the unfortunate "made-for-BBC-miniseries" trilogy, Lord of the Rings. It's a little known fact that the actress who played Gollum was originally a fresh-faced hottie plucked straight from the Disney afternoon lineup (to boost the movie's Hollywood appeal), but the movies took so long to film that she became the gaunt, spirit-crushed eyesore you see in the final cuts.

There is always inner turmoil between my inherited "get your money's worth" gene and my "attention span's so short that they should show multiple movies in tabbed windows" gene, but in this case I side with the attention span gene. Movies today are definitely too long -- two hours is a reasonable and traditional length of time for a movie, and they should only be longer in very rare cases. One needs to look no further than Bad Boys II for an example of this phenomenon: a horrible movie which takes a whopping 144 minutes to explain why Will Smith and Martin Lawrence shoot stuff. In my rewrite of the movie, I managed to cut it down to 14 minutes, after which Smith puts Lawrence out of his whining misery with a bullet to the back of the head.

As a public service, I have created a shortlist of rules to follow when determining how long your next movie should be.

  • Your movie should never be shorter than 90 minutes unless you plan on letting me watch it for free.

  • If your movie sucks, compassionately cap it at 90 minutes. Audiences will recognize that it's crap regardless, but sometimes a short, crappy movie can hit the spot. A long, crappy movie never does.

  • Romantic comedies and chick flicks should be less than 100 minutes. You should never pad them out with deleted scenes to make an Uncut DVD, especially scenes with unfunny jokes or scenes that lengthen the bonding time of the two romantic leads (exceptions allowed for montages).

  • Movies with subtitles should be less than 100 minutes as well. Otherwise we would go read a book.

  • Action flicks should be under two hours. If yours is running long, cut out an explosion, a chase scene, and a slow motion hand-held camera pan, in that order.

  • All other movies should be about two hours long. You are allowed to go over this amount by no more than twenty minutes if your movie is based on a true story, involves a war, or can be described by a reviewer with the phrase, "the lush cinematography is a character in and of itself". This extension is invalid if your movie can also be considered pretentious.

  • Three hours is far too long for a movie. No one wants to see any of the following for three hours: apes, hobbits, Muggles, pirates, the Mafia, ancient Greeks, Kevin Costner, or Ben Affleck. Cut, cut cut! If your movie fades to black more than twice, then maybe you should cut one or more of the endings. YOU GOT THAT, FRODO?

  • If your epic movie simply can't be any shorter, split it into two ninety minute segments and release the sequel a year later. If your movie is too long for one sitting but not long enough for the sequel approach, pad the running time with a bunch of uninteresting garbage and call it Kill Bill.

  • Happy Birthday Jay Morrison!

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