Recently, The New York Times ran an article called, “In Defense of the Slow and the Boring,” about slow moving films, and what movies are truly boring.
One of the writers of the piece, Manohla Dargis felt the second Hangover was bored because it was “filled with gags and characters recycled from the first Hangover…grindingly repetitive…”
They also referred to the infamous Andy Warhol films, like where he shot the Empire State Building for eight hours, and recent films that moved slow like The Tree of Life, and Meek’s Cutoff, a drama about pioneer settlers.
Today’s audiences of course expect films to move fast, with a lot of action right away.
For example, I’ve heard people complain with There Will Be Blood that “nothing happens the first hour,” and younger audiences obviously want shit blowin’ up, a monster chompin’ on somebody, some big moment or event within the first fifteen minutes.
And it’s unfortunate that several old school directors looking back on their classic films of the ’70’s have remarked it would be difficult to pace their films the same way today.
Executives at Fox also told Ridley Scott “nothing happens” the first 45 minutes of Alien, which starts off slowly, but is brilliantly structured where the major event of the film, the chest burster scene, happens unexpectedly nearly an hour into the film.
With an hour left to go, the audience feels completely helpless that anything could happen after that. (During a slow scene in the film, Scott joked on the DVD commentary, “Anything happening yet?”)
The only time I had to fight falling asleep at the movies was seeing George Lucas’s THX-1138, which was extremely boring.
But as one fan of the film explained to me, it’s great that the movie’s boring, because it reflected the boring atmosphere of the story, a futuristic, 1984-style society where joyless conformity rules the day.
It’s one thing if a movie is slow, as long as it goes somewhere, and a film’s length truly doesn’t matter because a badly made movie under 90 minutes can feel like an eternity, where there’s classic three hour movies that aren’t boring for a minute. (I’d put Godfather I and II, Scarface, and Heat in this category.)
Francis Ford Coppola tried to cut The Godfather down to two hours and twenty minutes because he was afraid the studio would recut the film if it was overlong, but comparing it to the three hour version, one Paramount exec remarked it moved faster at the original length.
At least one critic complained of Scarface being close to three hours, but director Brian DePalma clearly saw it as a tragic opera, and like The Godfather, GoodFellas, and The Sopranos, gangster sagas have proven perfect for a complex, epic canvas.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie Seven is when Gweneth Paltrow confesses to Morgan Freeman she’s pregnant, which made the tragedy of the ending even greater.
As Seven screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker said in Creative Screenwriting magazine, “That scene between Somerset and Tracy, along with Mills and Somerset’s argument in the bar about whether they can make any difference at all or should even try, these were scenes that some involved in the making of Seven wanted to cut out, I guess because they were slow, maybe even boring, scenes for some. I’ve come to seriously appreciate a movie that isn’t afraid to bore me occasionally. I find that a really daring choice these days, to be applauded and celebrated as a great achievement.”