“Welcome to the Otherworld Vault. Within, you will find an exclusive selection of films that champion the imagination, defy reality, challenge the mind and draw a mustache on the face of convention. They are Other.”
Greetings fellow traveller. Welcome to the Otherworld.
So, here’s how this all works. Each film that goes into the Vault is a film that I believe champions the imagination, is non-conventional and fully utilises the medium of film to tell a brilliant story as uniquely as possible. In order to justify the entry of each film into the Vault, I will write a blog post for each in which I will answer the same 10 questions for every film. These questions are designed to test the films’ suitability to be in the Vault and weed out any weaknesses they may have. I will answer them as honestly and in as unbiased a way as possible, having carefully viewed the film beforehand. Bear in mind however, that at the end of the day the answers are my own opinion, which may differ from yours and are also, admittedly, subjective.
1. Does the film successfully create a world, however different from our reality, that is believable?
In this question, the word ‘believable’ should not be misconstrued to mean ‘realistic’. A film which creates a realistic world is one which looks and feels as close to the real world as possible. This is not something that an Otherworld film should do (except in exceptional circumstances). A successful Vault film should create a world which may be extremely different from our own, yet still works within its own established rules and boundaries and never takes you out of the film.
2. Is the film predictable?
This question mainly relates to the writing of the film, the story or plot, but may also be used to include the casting and visuals of the film. Many of the best Otherworld Vault films surprise the audience upon first viewing; either with twists, unexpected character arcs, an unusual ending, unconventional themes or just the order in which the story is told.
3. Are any of the characters boring?
In this question, the word ‘boring’ is being used to cover a variety of questions relating to the characters, so, depending on the film, the answer may not take ‘boring’ in a literal sense. If a character(s) is poorly written, underdeveloped, not given any arc, is poorly acted or directed, does things that don’t make sense for the character, has poor dialogue, is not wisely cast or has no function in the story then any or all of these things can result in one of the biggest sins a film can have – characters the audience don’t care about.
4. Does the film actually make you think?
Many films are entertaining, which is great, but only a relatively small number of those actually challenge your mind and make you think about something that is actually important. The best films are the ones that change your life and the way that you see the world, and good films should at least keep your brain a little bit busy when you watch them. This does not mean they have to be clever, or overly complex, or really deep and certainly not pretentious. It doesn’t always have to be about intellectual thinking either, it can be emotionally challenging, it can make you think about how you live your life, your relationships, your priorities or simply your perception of films.
5. Are any of the actors phoning-in their performance?
If an actor is phoning-in their performance, not really trying, then it is because they don’t care, maybe they don’t care because they have no interest in the film itself and are doing it for the money, or maybe they aren’t getting enough money. Bad films can have good acting, mediocre films can have good acting, conventional films can have very good acting, but they can all also have bad acting. A film in this Vault should never have bad acting. If a film has a great script, with great characters, with great casting, with a great director and is clearly something outside of the box, then an actor would recognise these things and put in a good performance.
6. Is the director’s style noticeable when watching the film?
So many films these days have direction which you don’t even notice because it is so bland, so generic, so by-the-numbers, so without vision and uninspiring. This is absolutely fine for a conventional Hollywood movie, especially blockbusters or big properties where it has to appeal to as many people as possible – visionary directing is not welcome in such films. But for a film to get a place in the Otherworld Vault the directing has to be a bit better than that. Just look at Edgar Wright’s directing style in Scott Pilgrim versus the World – it’s like another character.
7. Does it manage to avoid a ‘Disney’ ending?
I don’t have an issue with Disney-style endings, in a Disney film. The problem arises when someone (read ‘studio’) decides to stick a Disney ending onto a film that in every other aspect is it’s own special thing and not at all Disney-like. This happens when the people with the money decide that the film’s original ending is too ‘confusing’, or too sad, or too dark, or too challenging or too controversial or doesn’t have enough skipping bunny rabbits in it. Films with unnecessarily happy, upbeat, optimistic, formulaic, predictable and emotion-squeezing endings make lots of moola and aren’t always bad, some can be quite good even – as long as it suits the film and matches the vision of the film-makers. If it doesn’t, then it’s not going in the Vault, baby.
8. Where is it on the weirdness scale?
The weirdness scale is simple, a film is given a score out of five based on how, er, unusual it is overall, the scale is as thus:
- 1/5 – Conventional reality
- 2/5 – Reality, but different
- 3/5 – Strange, but I can deal with it
- 4/5 – “I have a question; you’re crazy!”
- 5/5 – Brain-melting weirdballs
9. What is its rewatchability factor?
Again, this is simple. A film that is fit for the Otherworld Vault is almost always going to be at the extreme ends of this scale. For example, Withnail and I is firmly on high rewatchability, whereas The Royal Tenenbaums is just as firmly on low rewatchability. Both extremes are good, for different reasons. Be aware though, that a lot of conventional films will be at the high end as they don’t tax the viewer and are generally entertaining, but the majority will be at medium rewatchability.
10. Is the film considered to have a Cult Classic status?
This will be a short summary giving a few details on whether the film is a cult classic or not and whether it is one of the more popular or less popular ones (if it is at all). Many of the films in the Vault will have cult status, but not all, and having cult classic status does not mean I will automatically put it in the Vault.
Finally, depending on the film, there may be additional ‘Bonus Points‘ for things like a great score or soundtrack, imaginative credits, artfully designed posters or really well done trailers.
At the end, I will make a very short summary.
I would like to finish by repeating that readers and fellow film-lovers are more than welcome to submit suggestions of films for me to write a post about and enter into the Vault. If you are also a keen writer, you may be allowed to write your own post on a film, using the set questions above, to be published on the site. Films of any age (except ones from the future as we cannot yet view them, alas) can be considered.
Odd day to you. If you would like to suggest a film (new or old) for me to consider putting in the hallowed Vault, or perhaps you would like to review it yourself in a post on this blog, then please do email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on facebook or at @OtherworldVault on Twitter or alternatively use the contact form below. I will consider all requests and submissions.