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May 5, 2009

Guest Column: The Parts are Greater than the Sum

Editor's note: If there's one thing I love, it's a guest column. A different perspective for you, less work for me - it's a win-win. This time around, it's from frequent commenter Farmacy, who has a few words about movies on TV.

I promised Fletch a diatribe on how Drumline was the greatest movie ever made. As I started to write it, I realized it’s not the greatest movie ever made (shocking, I know) but instead one of the great “TV movies” of our time. Thinking about that made me wonder what makes a movie great on TV and what it means for the movie overall.

Going back to the beginning, my old favorite TV movie was Major League. Watching the whole thing on TV is impossible, but the final scene, when the short stop approaches Charlie Sheen and delivers possible the greatest line in television movie history... “Strike this mother bucket out”. The voice is nowhere near the same, and it’s just a great overdub. It’s been redone since, and I think the movie has lost something... maybe we all have.

So what makes a TV movie great? The most important factor is that the scene needs to stand by itself. The tension needs to be rebuilt, or not have carried over from past scenes. If you’ve never seen Major League before, the scene makes sense, and while some will argue Shawshank Redemption is a great TV movie, I’d disagree, it’s only good if you’ve seen it before. Fortunately most of us have, and thus we can enjoy watching our favorite scenes during commercial breaks of other shows (this has also died, due to the DVR).

So that brings us to Drumline. First, let me explain the way I watched this movie. When I woke up on Saturdays in college, hung over and on a couch, I’d start watching TV while waiting for the rest of the apartment to wake up. For whatever reason, Drumline was ALWAYS on. I’m not sure why, but it was. Thus I watched most scenes in the movie a half a dozen times (i’ve only seen the opening scene once or twice). It took me months to figure out why Nick Cannon shaved his head (he didn’t know the band rules) or why he got suspended from the team (he couldn’t read sheet music)... but that didn’t matter.

Each scene stood alone, and each character had enough stereotypical characterization for things to make sense. The drumline leader was obviously the hardass that Cannon would win over, Cannon was obvious the hero, the dancer chick was the love interest... It was always very easy to figure out. That said, every scene was still entertaining. The dialogue was good enough, the drumming was always a fun interlude. The “action” scenes made sense, because it was one drumline against another, so you knew you were rooting for Nick Cannon’s drumline (note: I have NO idea any of the characters names). You also couldn’t really tell who won or lost until the final drumline, which is an impressive scene even if you have no idea what is going on.

The point is not for you to watch Drumline, though it’s an entertaining movie. The point is, as you channel surf through your day, take some time to stop and watch movies you’ve never heard of or thought were going to be awful. They might not be worth 3 hours of your day, but they could be a great 10 minute diversion.

2 people have chosen wisely: on "Guest Column: The Parts are Greater than the Sum"

Daniel Getahun said...

Hmm, interesting take. Good point about Shawshank. I would be one to say it's a great TV movie (I've seen it on there within the last week), but it's true that if I were a first time viewer I might not be as interested.

I don't know, it's hard for me to stop on the movies I haven't seen. I feel like I should watch them from beginning to end instead of scene by scene. So, channel-surfing, I usually just end up watching what I've already seen. It doesn't make much sense when I think about it.

Fletch said...

If it's a movie that I *want* to see, I won't do the 10-minute here-and-there business, but if it's something that I think might be delightfully awful and/or something I've already seen, hells yeah. Years ago, I was living in a house that got all of the PPV movies coughfreecough, and I can't tell you how many times I watched bits and pieces of the same movies. So I can definitely relate to the Drumline experience Farmacy shares here though, strangely, I don't think I've ever seen it pop up on my TV. Must be because I don't watch MTV or VH1 or whatever crappy channel shows (showed) it. ;)

This is highly timely, of course. As I mentioned to Farmacy after seeing his Major League comment, it sounds like Snakes on a Plane is trying to forge it's name as the Greatest Overdub of All Time. Saw this all over the web a couple weeks ago, but if you have yet to see it, enjoy: