As of late I have been looking at films from a completely new dynamic. When I was younger and less mature in my film tastes I would watch films based entirely on the stars. Case and point back when Tom Cruise was hip and cool having his name attached to a movie was enough to suck me in. After I matured a bit as a film watcher I learned that directors make a movie, Guy Ritchie was the man for crime capers and Michael Bay is the lord of all things that blow up. After a while I started basing my film viewing based off what those critics on TV would say but figured out pretty quickly they were studio peons that had zero interest in me as a movie goer.
In recent years though I have started a brand new pattern for what films I watch and have become less and less about actors and much more about screenwriter’s. Let’s be honest Tom Cruise would be nothing more than a hack was it not for the talents of the directors in his early films and those directors themselves would be hard pressed to deliver at the box office if they were not working with top notch material. This of course all leads to my evolution of watching films more based on who wrote it then who directed and rarely based on who stars.
I just finished watching The Departed for about the eight time which is one of my all time favourite films by Martin Scorsese. It features a huge cast including Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio but even with its $90million budget it would be nothing without its writer William Monahan. The writing made this movie much more so then the director and its all star cast although admittedly it’s the way the three tied together that made this movie work so well.
Had you of been following Monaghan you would have likely watched two other movies he wrote Kingdom of Heaven and Body of Lies. Kingdom of Heaven is a period piece action movie and Body of Lies is a spy thriller completely unique from The Departed but both equally fantastic making the point that a great writer makes for a great movie and is a better gauge then basing your opinion solely off the stars or cast.
Another good example that makes my point is the low budget sci-fi horror film Pitch Black. It received very little fanfare and I bought it for $3 in the discount bin at the video store and it is now one of my all time favourite scifi films. With a complex anti-hero and a great angle Pitch Black is easily one of the greatest sci-fi movies of the last 20 years in this humble movie fans opinion.
It was written by David Twohy and had I of been watching for writers and not directors and stars I could have possibly stumbled on this gem sooner. David Twohy is responsible for some other great projects including work writing on one of the greatest crime capers of all time, The Fugitive starring Harrison Ford, the excellent sc-fi thriller Imposter ( which everyone must go and see ) and my personal favourite that many of you likely don’t agree with Kevin Costner’s Waterworld. Heck David Twohy even worked on Charlie Sheen’s rather fun big budget sci-fi movie The Arrival back before he became type cast as the crazy guy on twitter.
Another favourite film of mine which again I simply stumbled on is the crime thriller The Usual Suspects which is a truly powerful caper movie as good as any Guy Ritchie movie. It is written by Christopher McQuarrie who who also wrote another one of my all time favourite caper films The Way of the Gun.
I had absolutely no idea that two of my Top 50 movies of all time had the same writer. Christopher McQuarrie has been a busy boy and wrote the upcoming Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol movie and is also writing the Wolverine sequel as well as the upcoming thriller One Shot. Both Ghost Protocol and One Shot star Tom Cruise and normally I avoid his films like the plague but I will see both based on Mr McQuarrie’s involvement.
These are just three samples but the point I am trying to make is the next time you are wondering about a movie to watch on Netflix or to rent at the local video store try what I do. Go to IMDB and search for a movie you truly loved and look at the writing team and what other movies they have written and you might just find some new hidden gems in the mix. Clearly this rule will not always apply and at times you will be disappointed in what you end up finding but I would be willing to say you will find better movies basing them on who wrote them then who stars in them.
My basic rule for film watching is to eliminate the hype and ignore the critics. Lookup the film, see who wrote it and look at who directed it and is starring. A great cast is a bonus, a great director is a perk and a fantastic writer with a proven history makes it a must see.