The Bladder Busting 4 Hour Jesse James Cut Warner Bros. Spared Us

Master cinematographer Roger Deakins recalls a four hour version of the movie The Assassination of Jesse James that he believed was “far superior” to the cinematic cut. I say that again for effect:

Four. Hours.

That’s too freaking long, sorry, Mr. Deakins. I’m disappointed in 160 minutes for a movie. If you can’t tell your story in 90 minutes or less, maybe it’s time to look at the script again. Does every scene advance the story and/or is vitally important? Do you have too many unnecessary characters? Are there overexplained plot points? Learn the function of delete key already.

Professor Strunk: “Omit needless words!”

…about the making of Andrew Dominik’s 2007 revisionist Western drama “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” The original four-hour cut of “Jesse James” got trimmed down to a 160-minute theatrical cut because of studio notes. For Deakins, the 240-minute “Jesse James” was far superior but less commercial for Warner Bros.

Roger Deakins: Warner Bros.’ Problem with Four-Hour ‘Jesse James’ Cut | IndieWire

Thank our lucky bladders Warner Bros. had the good sense not to subject us to this on the screen. Again, I’m questioning the need for 160 minutes, but at least that is less than three hours.

Four hours is two, almost three, movies, really. Classic films used to be an hour, so that would be the equivalent of four movies. With creative works, often less is more. If only more of today’s filmmakers understood this concept: respect moviegoers time.

Can there be amazing movies over 90 minutes? Of course. But once the story reaches a certain necessary length just cut the darn thing in parts (hello, Kill Bill). Or if it’s got enough story, make it into a TV series and go hog wild with episodes.

What’s your sweet spot for run time? 90 minutes? Two hours? Less? More? I know it depends on the story, that’s the obvious answer, but my argument is most movies being made are too long these days for the story. Like there is almost a belief that the longer a movie is in run time, the more “epic” it is. Nope.

China requires all movies in theaters to limit movie run time to max 2 hours – Tenet needs to cut 30+ minutes

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet just hit another roadblock in China’s movie theaters: maximum run time length of two hours.

As if there weren’t enough issues complicating theatrical releases, China has announced a new barrier. While it’s allowing theaters to reopen as of July 20, that permission comes with a caveat: To limit the length of time audiences spend in auditoriums, all titles must run two hours or less.

‘Tenet’ Faces a New Challenge: China Says It’s Too Long to Play | IndieWire

Actually, I like this safety requirement. I like this for the majority of movies even without COVID-19.

As a general rule, I’ve felt most movies I’m seeing are too long. Sure, I’ve enjoyed movies that were longer than two hours, but prefer that movies look at 90 minutes as a target and if they go over, they have 30 extra minutes of buffer. The vast majority of films have stories that can be told effectively in two hours or less.

At the same time, artificial limits for films can limit a story that truly can’t be told in that amount of run time. If the story goes too long, just go the Kill Bill route and split the films up into two distinct parts and separate films. If it’s really long, then go the series route. There are any number of streaming channels that would welcome a good miniseries. If the story can be expanded beyond 8 hours, start considering it to be a TV series broken by seasons.

Films started out being around an hour in length, but that was 100 years ago. As time has gone on, movies have gotten longer and more bladder challenging. Some so long that sites like RunPee (see: Need A Bathroom Break During the Movie? Runpee to the rescue) have become necessary tools.

Back to Tenet.

What should they do to get down to two hours? A China-specific edit (The Tenet China Cut) is likely the most logical answer. Or they can skip China, but that’s a huge market they can’t really afford budget-wise to ignore. The film is about 30 minutes over, so Nolan and his editor needs to get cutting.

What do you think of this COVID-19 requirement in China? Would you like to see it imposed in the United States? I wouldn’t mind, would you?