How I Pick Films

Moving Pictures

Since Netflix is not available in Indonesia, residents who wish to watch films resort to either going to the cinema, or buying DVDs, or — given the luxury of time — downloading them directly off the internet. These methods have and still strongly persist, even when the rise and fall of various intellectual property laws put a large part of the world and people all across the internet on high alert.

I am partial to the first two options. Up until recently, most of my film selections have been largely independent decisions. I would have several friends who would make the occasional recommendation. I’d consider them, especially those whose tastes are most like mine, but end up going to my usual DVD shop completely forgetting their list. (To friends reading this, it’s not intentional. I swear.) Now that I am around fellow film buffs for most of the week, I am far more exposed to other people’s preferences. During the odd lunch hour, we would pop by a shop far more stocked with blockbusters to see what has been recently churned out in film. This shop is slightly more expensive than the one I frequent, but it does fairly supply people who have missed a recent showing in the cinemas.

When I step into a DVD shop with the intention to buy something, I don’t always have a list of film names I am specifically looking for. In fact, I go in with the possibility of leaving empty-handed. But I have a set of criteria that I take into account when I sift through their stock.

I Judge a Film by Its Cover

I can proceed to justify this by saying that it’s part and parcel of being a designer by profession. While that in itself is true, it is also because I am a visual person, and at its core, appearances still carry a significant meaning in human nature. I do take into account of the impact a film’s DVD cover or poster has to me. I like to examine the images used, the colours, the typography, and in terms of the bigger picture, see how each of these elements are laid out. It is no coincidence that many art films and a number of non-English films make it into my haul. With that said…

I Also Read the Back Cover

While I do believe in the power of good packaging, what’s within should substantiate the outside. A film can be presented in a visually pleasing way, but if the synopsis isn’t all that interesting, then pretty is all it is. So, I resort to the back cover summary. At the same time, I am also aware that the writing on the back should be taken with a grain of salt. It gives a limited view and purposely doctored to sell. Had I no external factors influencing my decision, how I interpret that blurb as “good enough” or not to warrant an incentive to purchase cannot guarantee how I will ultimately experience the film. But, that’s precisely the beauty of the hunt.

Within tasteful limits, plot-wise, I am more or less open to virtually any film genre. Well, except for one.

I Don’t Do Romantic Comedies

I like romance and comedy as separate entities, but not so much together. Those less enlightened about the ills of gender divisiveness are quick to point out the disconnect between my taste and what is so-called “traditionally expected of females”. But I’d like to think that my preferring to watch “Real Steel” over “No Strings Attached” is merely a question of preference. Besides, I think robots kicks thousands of asses!

A colleague once told me that genres — whether it be film, books, or music — are essentially templates that individual creations are grouped into. After some thought, I believe he is right. Even my own favourite films are patterned after the basic elements required for comedy, drama, fantasy, history, and what have you, because it is precisely the type I appreciate. Save for very few exceptions, — “While You Were Sleeping” being one of them — the romantic comedy template just does not cut it for me.

I Watch Adaptations at My Own Risk

I like watching films that were adapted from books. I usually do so when I enjoy the latter, and as much as possible, I read the book before watching the film. However, I am also aware that books and films are two completely different media. Books allow room for the reader to take full reign of interpretation when sailing through the author’s words. Adaptations convenience those who lack imagination, but are essentially manipulated at the hands of the screenwriter and the director, giving viewers a glimpse into their minds instead. People may have their own reasons for comparing the two, but if there are emotional attachments existing between either of them, it only leads to heartache.

So, in the event I catch myself scrupulously pointing out the discrepancies between book and film, I remind myself of the very fact. Any disappointment that arises from that point onward is completely my fault.

I Believe Star-Studded is Secondary

To me, the casting choice is secondary to the directors, cinematographers, and other creatives involved in the production of a film. I am drawn to learning about creative methods in cinema, as much as I am attracted to a good story. This is very evident in my film reviews.

I have no qualms in purchasing a film featuring a handful of unknown actors, provided that the film appears promising from the cover, the back cover summary, and other given elements that is uses to advertise itself. After all, considering the dynamic nature of the entertainment industry, any unfamiliar name can be thrown into the centre of media attention and be emblazoned in neon lights at the stroke of good reception.

What About You?

Do you have any criteria when selecting films? If so, feel free to share them in the comments.


  1. Jannie

    Gosh. We pretty much have the same criteria when looking for films. So glad to hear I’m not the only person who judges a film/DVD by its cover. For me, if the cover looks interesting, then the film itself must be interesting too. Although there are a few with nice covers that turned out to be duds. Not too many though. Haha… I also like reading the back cover as well. It really helps in picking out a movie. :)

    I did not know there is no Netflix in Indonesia. I thought it was everywhere. Then again, I don’t have Netflix. I don’t watch enough movies to get one. :P

    Really enjoyed reading this post about how you select films. I’m sure people who get all undecided at a video shop will find your methods helpful. :)

  2. Anne

    I enjoyed reading this! I love that you talked about your method in detail. People don’t tend to get specific about their film-picking ways. Your observation of romantic comedies is dead on. Most of them are really just dismissible!

  3. Caity

    Haha I always judge films by their covers, too. That’s the first thing I look at. I do the same thing with books even though people always say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I can’t help it. I also always read the back cover and most often I will try to read an online review if it’s possible before I go but I read them from random people’s blogs – not from mainstream review sites because it gives me a different shine on it (I usually have a few things in mind that I want if it’s the best case scenario). A lot of times I’ll find movies that I like and then I’ll just look around the same area for movies that are similar – but that only works in places where the movies are sorted by category.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *