Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Titles that measure periods of time

Titles can be tricky to come up with.

You don't want them to be too on the nose, but you also don't want them to be so abstract that they lose all meaning. Too generic, and no one will remember them.

So some people just give up and name the movie after a period of time.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's latest film -- called Two Days, One Night -- is one such example. It's a really good movie, perhaps even verging on great. But that title? It's like they just threw their hands up in the air.

The title measures the period of time the protagonist, played by Marion Cotillard, has to convince her co-workers to forgo their annual bonuses so that the company has enough money to keep paying her salary. It's an unenviable task, since her 16 co-workers already voted 14-2 to keep their 1,000 Euros instead of allowing her to keep her job. Did I mention she has been on sick leave because she's suffering from depression, and that her co-workers all know this? An unenviable task indeed.

The realization that she has only this short amount of time to change their minds, therefore, does have a certain titular relevance. With filmmakers other than the Dardenne brothers, we might even get regular inserts of ticking clocks to increase the sense of pressure on Cotillard's character (though I'm glad we didn't).

Still, will it be easy in a couple years for us to see this title and remember what the movie was about? Does it carry that much relevance for the story?

So I thought today I would briefly explore some other movie titles that are also time periods, to see if the periods of time are truly relevant to the story, or if it was more just a case of someone giving up on finding something better. In order to limit myself, I'm only considering movies I've seen, and only movies where the time period is the whole title. So, for example, the Sandra Bullock rehab drama 28 Days would qualify, but the Danny Boyle zombie movie 28 Days Later would not, because of that little word "Later" added on to the end.

Also, I thought it would be fun to order them from the shortest amount of time to the longest.

Without further you know what:

8 Seconds (1994, John G. Avildsen)
Meaning of title: It's the length of time a rider is required to stay on a bull in order for his ride to be scored.
Success or failure? As it represents this goal that the movie's characters are trying to attain, its use is justified.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Un-bull-ievable

15 Minutes (2001, John Herzfeld)
Meaning of title: Relates to the desire for 15 minutes of fame by a couple Eastern bloc baddies who videotape their crimes and are chased by two detectives (Robert DeNiro and Edward Burns).
Success or failure? Success, I guess, as it uses the exhibitionist's desire to become famous as the central motivation behind the crimes. However, it's unlikely to be remembered as a title itself.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Video Berserker 2001 Now!

88 Minutes (2008, Jon Avnet)
Meaning of title: Al Pacino's forensic psychiatrist (there is such a thing?) is taunted by one of his former patients on death row and attacked through a Jigaw-like series of clues, frame jobs and assassination attempts that takes 88 minutes to transpire.
Success or failure? Failure, as the clock doesn't begin ticking until about 20 minutes in with a couple minutes of wrap-up. The title is otherwise meaningless. And, the movie is really dumb.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Unreal Time

127 Hours (2010, Danny Boyle)
Meaning of title: The length of time Aaron Ralston is trapped in that canyon before he finally decides he needs to cut off his own hand.
Success or failure? It sure does give a good sense of how long that guy was alone with his thoughts and without almost any food or water. However, they probably could have come up with something better. Maybe the title of Ralston's memoirs, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, was too on the nose.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Evil Dead 3

Six Days, Seven Nights (1998, Ivan Reitman)
Meaning of title: The amount of time Harrison Ford and Anne Heche are trapped together on a deserted island after crash landing.
Success or failure? Mostly failure here. Is that a really long time to be stranded? It's supposed to be a play on the length of time advertised for vacation hotel stays, but it doesn't exactly work. It's also supposed to be an intolerable amount of time to be stuck with someone you loathe, but since this is a romantic comedy, the loathing is only foreplay to an inevitable romantic connection.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: An Old Guy and a Lesbian

Thirteen Days (2000, Roger Donaldson)
Meaning of title: The length of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Success or failure? Given those days' importance in narrowly avoiding World War III, I suppose they are important in and of themselves, so it works. Tellingly, though, when I tried to remember the title on my own I thought it was Three Days -- which in retrospect seems obviously wrong. The point being, though, that I couldn't remember the actual title -- even though I liked this film quite a bit.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: That Time Kennedy Almost Blew Up the World

28 Days (2000, Betty Thomas)
Meaning of title: The amount of time an alcoholic (Sandra Bullock) must spend in a rehab facility to avoid jail for a drunk driving accident.
Success or failure? I suppose it's a success of sorts in that I have come to think of this as some industry standard amount of time addicts must spend in rehab before they can have some hope of being cured. However, that could also be a failure because I don't actually think that is industry standard.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Stick to Driving Buses, Sandy

40 Days and 40 Nights (2002, Michael Lehmann)
Meaning of title: The length of time a dude (Josh Hartnett) must abstain from sex, which he gave up for Lent.
Success or failure? Big failure, and not just because I hate the movie. Sure, it gives some idea how difficult it must be for the guy to refrain from pleasuring himself, but the use of a Bible-inspired phrase as the title of a lame sex comedy is distasteful at best.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Douchebags on Parade

9 1/2 Weeks (1986, Adrian Lyne)
Meaning of title: The duration of a smoldering affair between Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger, one intimately involving the contents of a refrigerator.
Success or failure? In the sense that the film became kind of iconic, with the time period coming to represent the exact amount of time animal magnetism can possess two people, I guess it's sort of a success.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Sizzle

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007, Cristian Mungiu)
Meaning of title: The exact age of a fetus at the time it is aborted by a woman in communist Romania.
Success or failure? Incredibly chilling success, one that manages to horrify without taking a side on the debate about when a human life begins.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: N/A

Nine Months (1995, Chris Columbus)
Meaning of title: Yes, the length of gestation of a fetus before it's born (and a pretty alarming juxtaposition with the previous film).
Success or failure? Look, there had to be some romantic comedy that bore this title. Why not this one?
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Hugh Grant Stammers His Way Through His Girlfriend's Pregnancy 

10 Years (2011, Jamie Linden)
Meaning of title: The amount of time that has elapsed since this movie's characters graduated high school.
Success or failure? I suppose it is a reasonable title for a reunion movie, since it gives an idea of how much may have changed in their lives since they were last together.
Humorous alternate title I thought up in 30 seconds: Reunion

What? I haven't seen any movies whose title is more than a decade? That's BS.

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