Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street is currently playing in cinemas around Australia. It clocks in at exactly three hours (not including ads or trailers). According to most critics, it could have got its point across in a more bladder-friendly running time without feeling truncated. Could the same be said of every lengthy movie? Discuss.
I recently finished reading Peter Biskind's Down and Dirty Pictures; an expose of independent cinema that focuses on the careers of the Weinstein brothers and their controversial handling of various movies under the Miramax Films umbrella. One of the book's recurring themes involves Harvey Weinstein's frequent trimming of movies against the filmmakers' wishes. Throughout the '90s, directors who prized final cut were advised to steer clear of the "Harvey Scissorhands" studio if they could land a deal elsewhere. But could it be that Harvey is right?
When I go to see a film at the cinema, I generally expect to be sitting in my seat for between 1.5 and two hours. Movies that deal with weighty, complex issues can stretch the running time out to 150 minutes — but anything beyond that is pushing it. Frankly, if you can't tell your story within these accepted time conventions, perhaps it would be better served as a TV mini series. Or could it be that you're simply being too precious over scenes that aren't essential to the plot?
In recent times, there have been plenty of movies that have been guilty of unnecessary bloat — who could forget the numerous 'endings' that plagued The Lord of the Rings: The Return of The King? Avatar, The Dark Knight Rises and Troy are some other recent offenders.
In my humble opinion, even old classics are guilty of stretching the viewer's patience. While the vistas in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia are undoubtedly spectacular, there's only so much of Peter O'Toole toing-and-froing in the desert that one can take. Likewise, if you took the soulful glances and pointless, flowery monologues out of Gone With The Wind, you could probably cut its 220 minute running time down to about 60 minutes.
But I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. If you can think of any movies that justify running for more than 2.5 hours, let me know in the comments section below. Be sure to include your reasoning as to why the same story couldn't be told effectively in 2.5 hours or under. Your move, cinema buffs!
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