Author Topic: Midnight Special  (Read 6747 times)

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #20 on: April 15, 2016, 08:13:58 AM »
Nichols could've tightened up the narrative by streamlining all those characters into Roy, but it would've lost the emotional motivations for actions that aren't being explained on the surface, which Nichols is great at. Lucas is there because Roy needs someone he can trust so he can get the strength to leave the ranch. He just needed to say Lucas was an old friend and that he showed up at his door to know why he needs to be there. Lucas could've left after that first scene, but then, you could assume, Roy would be more likely to give up and go back. It's the conversations in the car that are happening offscreen that are most important here.

And I'm not against tidy stories, it's that Nichols's films work by being looser and more mysterious.

verbALs

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #21 on: April 15, 2016, 08:18:15 AM »
Too many characters in a movie with five main ones?
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #22 on: April 15, 2016, 08:25:33 AM »
I think the criticism about characters would be the same regardless of the number. In a more plotted story you could make a chart with each character and their goals, but Nichols doesn't seem interested in that, and it's what makes this and his other work so good.

verbALs

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #23 on: April 15, 2016, 08:32:09 AM »
It's tightly plotted just not explained much or at length.
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #24 on: April 15, 2016, 08:47:28 AM »
I should be clear that I'm just trying to get inside the head of someone critiquing the film in this way. I'm not saying that it isn't plotted. I'm saying that the idea of just having the dad instead of all three adults, the thinking being that one person can do all of these actions himself more efficiently, runs counter to what makes Nichols a great filmmaker, and this a great film, which is that connection and both the gradual and unspoken reveals.

To quote Norm Macdonald as Mr. Fantastic: "I think we're saying the same thing with different words."

alexanderthegreat

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #25 on: April 16, 2016, 12:05:33 AM »
Okay, I wasn't being very clear... My problem isn't that there were too many characters. It's that Dunst, Edgerton, and Shannon have virtually the same point of view. They all want the same thing, they have the same goal (to help Alton), and they all go about it in the same way. I'm talking about the ACTIONS of the characters. Motivation can come from all sorts of different sources. It doesn't justify the presence of a character for an entire movie. Combining them into one character is a half-baked idea on my part, but I was just trying to illustrate the point that the three of them are so similar. There's no conflict. Conflict = drama, right?

Let's look at Star Wars, another movie where a group of characters spend a lot of time running away from a threatening government-type organization. Luke wants adventure. Obi Wan wants to train Luke, pass along the Force. Han wants money. Leia wants the get the Death Star plans to the Rebellion, defeat the Empire. I'm not saying Star Wars and Midnight Special are comparable in every way, but these are just the nuts and bolts of illustrating compelling characters and creating drama.

Also, when the characters are faced with a problem they must overcome in Midnight Special, the characters don't actually have to DO much of anything. Again, I'm talking about ACTION. If every time something that is established as a problem is solved without the characters having to actually take any action, the stakes are lost. There was never any real threat in the first place. Think about all that our heroes DO to accomplish their goals in Star Wars. They are constantly fighting off enemies, sneaking around, going into enemy territory, etc. And they're arguing the entire time about the best way to go about it because they all have separate goals and points of view. And each character takes ACTION the drive the plot forward. Each character is crucial to accomplishing their ultimate goals. And all the while we see how dangerous their opponents are because the characters have to really challenge themselves mentally and physically to just barely survive (and some don't survive!). And not only does this drive the plot forward, it illustrates new things about the characters.

So back to Midnight Special... Obstacles are overcome without the characters ever actually having to take any action except maybe drive fast or put cardboard over some windows. When the worst possible thing that could happen happens, when Alton is taken, what actions do our heroes have to take to overcome this adversity? Nothing. Shannon almost killing himself doesn't contribute to him getting Alton back. And Alton uses powers that, correct me if I'm wrong, he already had. So the big bad government posed little threat from the beginning. This lowers the stakes of the movie. And the stakes should be building throughout the movie.

So, in conclusion: stakes, conflict, drama... where is it? I understand that there are a lot of nuances and interesting little character dynamics present and I think the tone is great. Nichols nailed that stuff. But I'm talking basic big picture, nuts and bolts stuff. Do you understand what I mean? What am I missing?

verbALs

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #26 on: April 16, 2016, 12:25:52 AM »
It doesn't really sound like you are missing anything. I mean Lucas shoots another cop or Sarah is the one that frees herself first when Alton is taken. The rest has somewhat been covered but not to your satisfaction. I don't like every movie I watch either so there's no arguing that point that some movies hit you and some lose your interest. The dynamics of this movie are different from many others. Like your point about Roy Lucas and Sarah all acting the same. They all believe the same thing just like Paul comes to believe and all the ranchers believe. A killing belief. Most films don't have that element do they? At some point someone will come in and talk directly about the religious aspects and a Jesus allegory going on. Comparing it to Star Wars? Well it's a very different story but so are most others. I'm not sure why SW would especially come to mind. It's a chase movie? Or how about this comparison? They find an d guy in the desert and suddenly people are acting weird and doing what they are told.....it totally skews the film.

Not to disrespect your point of view at all. I can understand "what did I miss?" as far as bits of information is concerned because this is so concise. Anti Nolan. I respect your reaction that it doesn't interest you enough and that you have reasons. But two parents and a friend isn't too many people and they do act differently. Lucas tells Roy ;D to stay out of his way. Lucas tells Roy to take the kid to hospital and they come to blows over it. I wouldn't expect any of that to change your overall feeling. I do get it more in Sarah's case. Let's say Nichols doesn't define female characters as well as he does men because I found Chastain really flat. I hope this isn't an incipient Bechdel Test argument though.

It's good to see you writing here. The reason isn't to your liking either like you said. The anticipation of what Nichols can do is there for lots of people. So it disappoints more if it doesn't hit the mark. For some it's a continuation of already established good or great film making. For me it's his first great movie. As a piece of genre movie making it redefines a lot of tropes, redeploys some old 70s ones from SF and thrillers but it does it in the context of a family drama. Maybe this style
Will hit harder next time round and bring people round to what is so good about MS. I never suggest rewatches if films don't interest people the first time. When I watched it again everything moves faster than it didn the first time which is saying something. Sarah appears earlier in the movie than I remembered. I think of it as very simple linear movie with a dimension of SF spurring on the chase and another dimension of humanity supporting it throughout. Im glad it spurred you to write and in a considered way.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2016, 12:36:43 AM by verbALs »
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy

Jinenjo7

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #27 on: April 17, 2016, 01:03:51 AM »
I'm wondering, of those that saw it here, who saw a glow in Roy's eyes at the end. I didn't see it, but our daughter did, and the Wikipedia page has it as such. Did the Dad have the touch of the aliens?

Jeff Schroeck

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #28 on: April 17, 2016, 04:03:03 AM »
I didn't notice a glow, but I thought he was looking at the sunrise and thinking of Alton. It may have been that reflecting.

verbALs

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Re: Midnight Special
« Reply #29 on: April 17, 2016, 04:35:33 AM »
Yes Roy's eyes glow at the end.
I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art; I don't do that so much anymore. - Banksy