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- Plot or Story – Something needs to happen to something else in a meaningful way. This can be character vs. character, character vs. setting, character vs. himself, but CHANGE or the POSSIBILITY of change has to be the result.
- Characters – The people in the story. Characters need to be more than one-dimensional and have some aspect of truth to them. The best characters, for good or ill, have aspects we can relate to personally.
- Dialog – How do the characters interact with each other for exposition? They talk together or to themselves. Is it written fluidly like we hear every day from regular folks? Or was it written for robots to speak aloud? Does the imagery evoked by the spoken words make us feel emotion? Or do they fall flat?
- Acting – If we have characters, you have to have people (real or CGI) to become them on screen. Actors and actresses do more than recite lines – they can show raw emotion in their body language, on their faces, and in their actions. If you have a bad actor performing a role, you’ll know it. But not even a good actor can save a bad script sometimes.
- Cimetography – How well was the movie filmed? Does it use wide panoramic shots or close, shaky, claustrophobic shots to expose the mood of a scene? Too much or too little of any technique can take away from the best intended movie.
- Special effects – CGI, physical effects, and costumes are all used to show action or the effects of action or to enhance the action in a movie. This can be as simple as makeup or explosions or as complex as making the transition from physical props to digital effects look seamless.
- Music and Sound Effects – And last, but definitely not least, is the sound for a movie. This is everything from the voices you hear, to the explosions or bullets flying, and the music used to set the scenes. For me, music can make or break a movie. Sometimes it can elevate a so-so movie to greatness.(For some great examples of this, check out Soundtrack Geek, which has some of the best soundtrack reviews on the web.)
Each of these elements goes into the making of a movie. Most of them find their way into television. And quite a few of them also find their way into books. Storytelling elements are universal across mediums, which is what makes them great.
If none of these things is done well, a movie is typically a waste of time IMHO.
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