Eight Things That Make Good Films Great

From Dennis Hopper to training montages here's 8 things that lift even the most mediocre film to greatness
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From Dennis Hopper to training montages here's 8 things that lift even the most mediocre film to greatness

Montage, every film needs a montage

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For Francis Ford Coppola it was integrity. Spielberg, the ability to make his audience laugh, cry and smile and for Scorsese it was important to keep it personal. Unfortunately all of these Oscar winning directors are completely wrong. You cant blame them. It's difficult to define the specific qualities that make a great film, and even more difficult to bring those elements together.

But here are eight sure fire signs of celluloid genius. The inclusion of any, or even better all, of these will immediately improve any movie. Making the terrible, bearable and the good, great.

1) A house being fortified. Whether trying to stop two knuckleheaded burglars ("Home Alone") or prevent the rape and murder of your wife ("Straw Dogs"), using everyday objects to sure up the family home is always great fun. More importantly it's educational. An entire generation are now able to fend off intruders using nothing but paint tins, feathers and an iron.

2) Somebody saying: "Get some Rest" or a derivation thereof. For instance: "We should get some rest." Also true of the phrases "If I'm not back in five minutes...", "We'd better go...it's getting dark" and "I rest my case". Phrases as ominous as they are clichéd. No court room drama, action film or horror would be complete without them.

I wish someone would just make a 90 minute montage of a boxer punching sides of beef and running through the industrial areas of a major city

3) A Training montage. An irreplaceable part of any sports movie and a welcome addition to any other. I wish someone would just make a 90 minute montage of a boxer punching sides of beef and running through the industrial areas of a major city. For the finest movie montage look no further than the climactic scene of 1985's "Teen Wolf". In which all 5ft 4inches of non-wolf-form Michael J Fox dominates the basketball, court leading his team of misfits to victory, ably accompanied by an acceptable in the 80's musical classic "Will To Win". There are two messages to be taken from this, you don't need to be a wolf to excel at sport and all your need is a montage.

4) The presence of Jeff Daniels. From "Terms of Endearment", to "Dumb and Dumber" via "The Purple Rose of Cairo". He was also the best thing in "Space Chimps" - an excellent film let down by some scientific inaccuracies and a pretty lax attitude towards space travel. And he has the capacity to grow facial hair with an even more varied acting range than his. Daniels is a passionate playwright who started a non profit theatre company called the Purple Rose. His beard will be playing the lead in Othello this summer.

5) Any film in which middle aged men or young nerdy tech types sit in a van and use audio equipment to spy on people, as seen in "The Conversation" and  "Enemy of the State". They always overhear some suggestive chatter between a married couple and end up making  sexual comments about the "target's" wife. Always. Has made it almost impossible for flower delivery men to loiter in any location without arousing suspicion.

There are two messages to be taken from this, you don't need to be a wolf to excel at sport and all your need is a montage

6) Any film that encourages, glamorises and promotes excessive alcohol consumption or lends itself to a drinking game. "Withnail and I" does both brilliantly. Just make sure if matching 'Withnail' drink for drink you substitute the lighter fluid for something else. Turps maybe. Also true of "Leaving Las Vegas". It's not advised you drink along with this film, the main character dies of acute alcohol poisoning underneath a badly beaten up prostitute. Unless that's your thing.

7) The presence of Dennis Hopper. Great as an unstable, maniacal photo journalist ("Apocalypse Now") or an unstable, maniacal gang leader ("Blue Velvet"). Famously accused noted lunatic Rip Torn of pulling a knife on him whilst shooting "Easy Rider". Only for Torn to sue Hopper for defamation of character, alleging it was Dennis who pulled the knife. Torn won. Takes some balls to accuse someone of assault with a deadly weapon when your the one doing the assaulting.

8) Any film in which someone is coaxed out of retirement, "Space Cowboys" is a particularly fine example. The old people don't like the young people, the young people don't like the old people and there's always a middle aged love interest who has been carefully cast to straddle the age gap, appealing to both generations. Everyone ends up changing their outlook on life and there's often scenes of elderly people dancing in order to appear "trendy". Really, what more could you ask for?

I rest my case.