The type of quality I am talking about here is technical expertise. In filmmaking this would be things like: editing, cinematography, pacing, special effects, etc.... American film makers are clearly the best with these types of things. In fact, this sort of thing is not subjective and experts can agree which movies are good in these areas and which are bad. The subjective part of a film involves it's actual content. Also what one culture considers good content can be seen as poor content to another. I, as an American, might think the Captain America movies are great, while someone from another country might find them boring or repulsive. In fact, they might even dislike all super hero movies. So basically, I'm saying American movies have the best craftsmanship, even if when the content isn't considered very good.
A similar sort of thing can be said about Japanese games. These kinds of complaints tend to be more common for Western games that Japanese games: controls are unintuitive, game is buggy, development feels rushed, etc.... That is because Japanese games are the best put together purely from a craftsmanship standpoint. Also, these sorts of complaints are also objective in nature. On the other hand, when a person complains about a Japanese game it is more like, "Why does this guy have a huge sword and spikey hair?" That is a complaint about the content. Japanese people see this as good content, but someone from another country might see it as bad content. What is seen as good content or bad content is subjective, and it is highly influenced by a person's culture.
There are parts to any art or entertainment that are objective and their are parts that are subjective. When it comes to the objective parts, Americans are the best at film making and the Japanese are the best at game development. That doesn't necessarily mean any given person will like American movies or Japanese games. What people like is still highly dependent upon the content and that part is subjective.
Since this is a long post and it's mainly off-topic, I'm gonna use the spoiler tag, so that all the off-topic part can be easily ignored.
Warning: long read.
I was taking into account the technical expertise too (which is not 100% objective, but I'll go into that later). Saying that American filmmakers are "clearly the best with these types of things" is quite unfair to people like von Trier (Denmark), Haneke (Germany), Meadows (UK), Koreeda (Japan), Dolan (France), Chang-Dong (Korea), Bergman (Sweeden), Lanthimos (Greece) or Zviágintsev (Russia), just to name a few. You can like or dislike their films, but they have nothing to envy to American-made movies in terms of technical expertise: photography, illumination, camera planes and movement, use of color, pace, scriptwriting, characterization... When considering these and other areas, all these directors I've mentioned and many others who aren't American have proven themselves more than capable of making top-notch films that can compete face to face with the big Hollywoodian blockbusters in pure technique.
Now, apart from that, you're talking about content, a word that, if I'm not wrong, you are using to refer to the story, the concepts, the topics, the style and the cultural aspects of a movie, right? If I'm overlooking something, please tell me. If not, you're totally right when saying that all that is purely subjective: you may like a certain culture, but that doesn't make it automatically good. Or you may dislike certain topics or concepts, but that that doesn't mean they're bad. Also, you can feel indifferent about a certain kind of story, but that doesn't make it boring or mediocre by definition. So, yeah, that's totally subjective and doesn't add to, or detract from, the quality of a movie.
But all that subjective stuff is not floating in the air: the story, the concepts and the topics all need a scriptwriting that brings them to life and put them in the middle of the whole product; creating a certain style requires of a lot of job in technical things like illumination, color and the like; and capturing the defining aspects of a culture is not possible without a great ambientation and characterization. And one thing that all those aspects have in common is that they can all be valued in terms of technical expertise. Does that make them objective, however?
Imagine a person (named Awesome) who has a deep knowledge about a certain field, be it scriptwriting or photography or whatever, and who makes an excellent job at their expertise field. Now imagine another person (called Terrible) who works on the same field that Awesome and has literally no clue about what s/he's doing, so their job is always a total mess. If we were going to evaluate the quality of each one's jobs in this particular case, we could "objectively" and with no doubts whatsoever say that Awesome's job is better than Terrible's job. So no problem thus far.
But then a third person (called Amazing) comes in and does an excellent job in the same exact field than Awesome does. So now we have to evaluate Awesome's job and compare it to Amazing's job, and we have indeed a problem, because, if both excel at the technical aspects of what they do, which one of them is "objectively" better?
And that's exactly the problem I have with saying that America makes the best movies, and why I said that it was arguable. I mean, a movie is not like a car, for instance. The creation of a car also involves a lot of technical jobs which can be done better or worse. However, in this case, we can still easily compare two cars using purely objective and measurable data. If a car, for instance, reaches its maximum speed at 220km/h and another one sits at 200, then we can objectively and undeniably say that the first car is faster, or that is better than the other in terms of maximum speed. The same can also apply to other characteristics, like the time they need to reach that speed or their resistance to crashes, because they're measurable and comparable as well. Thus, you can tell that a certain car has objectively more acceleration or that it is objectively safer than a certain other car.
But these comparisons and objective statements are only possible because the results of the technical expertise in this particular field can be measured. Regarding movies, however, and providing that the technical part is well made, how can you possibly and objectively measure and state that a Dutch angle is better than another or a color range is better than another when they all work equally well in their respective movies? Of course, you can say that this acting is objectively worse than this other one, but things change a lot if we compare the latter to this one instead. Good luck then trying to get an unanimous answer on which one is better, whether you ask experts or not.
And why is that? Because, unlike the example of the cars, the results of those equally great displays of technical expertise cannot be objectively measured. The only way to objectively state that one acting is worse than another is when the differences between both are so big that it becomes obvious. And this applies to every single aspect of the filmmaking process: good luck making an objective comparison between two strikingly crafted movies, while trying to irrefutably conclude that either of both is better. After a certain point, when the technical part of a movie excels, the only remaining thing is subjectivity.
That said, why did I then say that America doesn't make the best movies when we also count in those that don't look for pure entertainment and mass market appeal? Because, when you want to focus on entertainment or getting to as wide an audience as possible, you generally have to make certain concessions (usually in terms of scriptwriting or characterization), therefore sacrificing bits of technical expertise. Let's use an example.
Two characters on a movie reject each other at the beginning, but, by the time the story is finished, they are already friends or lovers or whatever. That plot is in a lot of films and, even if it's not intrinsically bad (although it is indeed a bit unoriginal and cliché), in most movies is done terribly. Why? Because it's generally conceived as a side story that is there only to appeal to the public and make people get involved with the characters. However, that little plot is not the main part of that movie, so filmmakers only have a limited amount of screen time to make it happen. Hence, they are forced to tell that story almost rushing it and in a very superficial way.
The result is obvious: the most of the times there's no sense of progression at all: the two people involved just meet or reencounter each other and are compelled to be together, but that's a situation neither of them likes, so there's kind of a tug-o-war between them during a big part of the movie, until, at some point, something happens that makes them cooperate, or one's life is put in the hands of the other, or whatever other situation. And then, just because of that situation, their relationship suddenly becomes good. That's a perfect example of a very badly driven story, even if it's just a secondary one.
However, if that exact same plot gained more relevance and had more screen time, the creators could then develop it better, driving it more carefully and creating a smooth evolution of the characters' relationship, by making them slowly getting along with each other as the film progresses. If that was the case, this would be a very good plot, even if it's exactly the same than in the situation above. Nothing has changed, except the way it's done. And in American movies (even in the good ones) the bad way of doing it is much more common due to what I explained above: it's just a side story that is thought only to make the movie more compelling to the general public. So, in order to make that plot fit into the movie, a part of the quality of the script and the characters has generally to be sacrificed.
As I say, that's only an example that may or may not happen in a given film. But, like that, there are many others too. The thing is that those kinds of decisions that put the entertainment and the mass appeal above the technical excellence of some parts of the film (mainly the scriptwriting and the characterization) are present in a lot of good American films. Consequently, it's hard to consider them the best, when there are many other films that excel in every single area without such sacrifices and concessions.
This doesn't mean, however, that all the American films that aim for entertainment and mass appeal have these flaws, or that America only makes this type of movie, or that all the other films in other countries put the mass appeal aside, or that the movies that don't do that are all awesome, or whatever other absolute statement. I mean, not at all. In fact, I think America makes indeed great movies, as I said. But, if had to compare the most skillful movies of each country, I'd give the edge to places like France or Korea.
And, even if subjectivity is always gonna be there for anyone when talking about any form of artistic or cultural products, that edge that I give to those countries is based on the reasons I wrote above, so this is not a matter of liking or disliking them, or having preferences (some of my favorite directors are American), because the fact is that I indeed enjoy Captain America as much as I enjoy Irréversible or In This Corner of the World, even if they have literally nothing to do with each other.
Another example: despite thinking that there's an oversaturation of love stories, I recently watched Lost in Translation and, being it such a purely romantic film, I enjoyed it a lot. And that was because of how well driven the story was and how well crafted it was in general.
And that applies to everything: I always try to keep an open mind, because otherwise I'd be missing on a lot of pretty good experiences, including American movies, which are in fact among the best movies in the world. You could even give America the edge over the rest of countries and that would still be pretty much fair and fine. But saying American filmmakers are "clearly the best" is unfair to many others around the world who reach the same levels of technical expertise than them.
As a side note, I didn't mention FX at any moment because many films don't need them as much as others, or even need them at all, as opposed to all the other technical aspects, which are indeed necessary in any movie to a greater or lesser extent. FX are a bit like money (in fact, they're quite subject to money): a big budget allows you to aim for a bigger scope, but it's not necessary to make a good movie. To illustrate this, Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami) is a nice example of a well made movie with almost no budget at all and Vanya on 42nd Street (Malle) is a nice example of a well made movie with almost no FX at all.
Regarding Japanese games, you gave three reasons to prove they are factually the best and, although I suppose there are more (because the sentence was left open), I'll stick to the ones you mentioned. And the only thing I want to say is that two of those reasons (bugs and rushed development) say more about Japanese companies having better schedules and being way more realistic with their scopes than what they say about games been better. You have to take into account here that bugs and rushed developments are mostly due to strict deadlines needing to be met. They affect the quality of games, of course, but I wouldn't use that to prove that some are inherently better than others, because that's actually circumstantial (even if those circumstances may be more common among Western developers).
As for the other reason, nothing to point out, it might be true.
But I need to ask: when you're talking about Japanese games being the best, are you especifically refering to RPGs? Because, when I think of FPS, life simulators, open-world games or football games, for example, the first names that come to mind in those genres are not Japanese at all; in fact, they are American (Call of Duty, The Sims, GTA, FIFA). I mean, probably Japanese developers have recognition in some genres, but I'm not sure if that's the case overall or if that's the reason why Xbox doesn't sell as much as its competitors in Europe. I actually don't know, to be honest.Last edited by Verter - on 17 December 2020
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