Forget quick flicks

The Gripe

more and more films are very long engagements

The Gripe

December 08, 2006|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Movie Critic

Is it just me, or are movies getting more and more long-winded?

It used to be that two-hour running times were pretty much tops for movies. But this year, as the studios drag out their Oscar contenders, it seems film lovers are being asked to sit in their theater seats longer and longer.

There have been Martin Scorsese's The Departed, at 152 minutes; Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babel, at 142 minutes; and Tony Scott's Deja Vu, at 128 minutes. Opening today is Edward Zwick's Blood Diamond, at 138 minutes; Mel Gibson's Apocalypto, also at 138 minutes; and even Nancy Meyers' The Holiday, a comedy that checks in at 131 minutes. Sorry, but no comedy should last that long.

Fact is, all of those films (except for maybe The Departed, which really is brilliant) could have used trimming, some tightening of story lines and elimination of unnecessary plot threads. And the list doesn't even include Robert De Niro's The Good Shepherd - which, when it opens Dec. 22, will require the commitment of a whopping 157 minutes of a person's life.

Certainly, some movies have been worth every bit of their long running times. Lawrence of Arabia (216 minutes) immediately springs to mind, as do Gone With the Wind (222 minutes), The Godfather (175 minutes) and the three Lord of the Rings films (178, 179 and 201 minutes, respectively). But these were all exceptional films, epics. They earned their lengths.

Let's be real. The Wizard Oz was only 101 minutes, Casablanca only 102, the original King Kong just two minutes longer. Duck Soup, the funniest movie ever made, clocked in at a thrifty 68 minutes. The best film so far this year, Robert Altman's sweetly elegiac A Prairie Home Companion, was a compact 105 minutes.

Hey, brevity may not be the soul of good filmmaking, but it never hurts.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

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