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Watch it, 'cause all the cool kids are - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Watch it, 'cause all the cool kids are
This is my pet peeve of the moment:

Movie advertisements that tell you nothing about a movie other than that the critics liked it.

"Watch this movie.... it got 12 Golden Globe nominations!"

"Oscar worthy performances!"

"Stylistically gorgeous!"

"Critics adore it!"

What-the-hell-ever. What's it frocking about? I'm not going to go see a movie just because other people liked it; I'm going to go see a movie because it looks like it has an interesting story to tell. You could do a voice-over, give telling snips of dialogue, show a particular battle. If it's a sequel, you can show the hero doing some new and exciting thing. If it's a love story...

Well, honestly, if it's a love story, particularly of the "brilliant, character-driven" kind, you really have to let us know who the players are. Sorry, Closer promoters, but "a love story for adults" tells me zip. I'm an adult, and my kind of love story is...

Okay, I don't have a kind of love story, so that ad line is just never going to appeal to me one way or the other. My kind of love story is the one that happens incidentally while people are involved in more important things, like saving the world from a megomaniacal evil genius bent on enslaving the population. But still, I'm willing to watch a plain old-fashioned love story if I have some reason to believe that the characters will be likeable and I'll give a damn one way or the other whether they get together. (Granted, I can't give a lot of examples, because I generally can't be bothered to go see a romance, but I have enjoyed the occasional small story; Lucas comes to mind, and, while not a romance, I did enjoy the small Shattered Glass.) So tell me... who are they? What's the obstacle to their love? Give me a few lines of dialogue. Give me a voiceover on the pretty pictures. Anything.

But please, don't tell me that I really need to go see this because all the cool kids are doing it.

Of course, depending on the movie, the promoters may not have much choice. Some auteurs like the pretentious notion that their movies should never be reduced to being "about" something, or at least about something more specific than "love" or "overcoming differences." But frankly, the ability to summarize doesn't mean or imply that nothing else is going on, and the inability to do so implies (to me, at least) that the story is probably muddy and unfocused. I have yet to meet a decent story that can't be summarized, whether it's "Indiana Jones goes in search of the Lost Ark of the Covenant" or "A troubled teen bonds with his father as they build a house together." True, the summary doesn't catch every nuance of the story in question--in fact, it will catch very few of them--but that's not the point of it. The nuances are what you go see the movie for. The summary is what makes the person go, "Huh. That sounds like a good way to spend my hard-earned... let's see if it pans out." It's not cute (and certainly not sophisticated) to say, "I won't tell you until you come, so there." My response to that is, "Um, okay. You haven't given me any reason to be interested in being told, so really, I'll take a pass on that one. Have a nice day."
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Comments
ashtur From: ashtur Date: December 31st, 2004 02:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yet more style over substance. The same way that many ads today leave you wondering what in the world the product was, or if they do show a logo at the end of the commercial, you still aren't entirely sure what the rest of the ad had to do with anything.

You're right though, everyone carps on "we should make informed choices"... but then we are given no information.
leelastarsky From: leelastarsky Date: December 31st, 2004 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
The trailers I really hate are the ones when, after you've watched them, you KNOW you've seen all the best bits of the film. The ones that give the whole freaking story away. grrrr! Specially if you wanted to see said film without being 'spoiled' beforehand.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2004 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, you do have to hit a happy medium. There's a difference between a mystery whose promos are, "Could the killer be one of us?" and one whose promos are, "See that weird looking guy that we keep flashing on? That's the murderer."
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fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2004 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
You didn't like When Harry Met Sally? :)

I knew I was forgetting one!

But again, the advertisements were very clear about what the story was--two people who have been friends falling in love with each other. That's what it was about.

I know it works with some people. That's what totally squicks me. Why on Earth would people go just for that? I mean, particularly when we're talking about critics. If we're talking about something that's doing really well at the box office after three weeks or so, then it might be reasonable to surmise that it's entertained people adequately. But critics are just individual people who sometimes have very offbeat tastes... unless it's a particular critic whose views have turned out to coincide with yours at several points in the past, what possible difference could it make? I'd trust a friend's recommendation more; at least I know I have something in common, interest-wise, with a friend.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 31st, 2004 05:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
More to the point, even if it does work on, say, 75% of the people, it's not like those people will be driven away if you say, "Hey, this is a story about _______." You could even flash the critical reactions in text boxes on the screen so you could get bandwagon effect at the very same time. Why not go for 100% rather than 75%? The cost doesn't particularly rise.
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natgel From: natgel Date: December 31st, 2004 03:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ugh, not to mentioned that a lot of the time it's written when the critics </i>don't like it</i>.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: December 31st, 2004 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
As for movies that the sole purpose is to show 2 people falling in love, let me recommend "Alex and Emma" which has the virtue of being about a writer.

The critics and the audience didn't care for it, but as a writer, I enjoyed this movie immensely.
katinka31 From: katinka31 Date: December 31st, 2004 04:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's as bad as my least favorite tag line:

"If you loved X and Y, you'll love Z!"

Glad to know I'm so predictable. *inserts eyeroll*
From: laizeohbeets Date: December 31st, 2004 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Why on earth people actually believe, "FIVE GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS" is beyond me. Do people not notice that the "academy" that does the nominations is made up of ... oh, say... 35 people? Which means that it doesn't have to have that many votes to be nominated... I'm not sure I want to see a movie like that.
gryffin23 From: gryffin23 Date: December 31st, 2004 11:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have the same problem with books. I get four pages of praise but nothing that tells me what the book is about. I don't understand those people either. If everyone else jumped off a bridge . . .
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: January 2nd, 2005 05:51 am (UTC) (Link)
You have to dig around and find out the truth about these things if you're not predisposed to seeing them in the first place. Sometimes though they emphasize critical praise and award nominations when they know the subject matter of the film itself might keep people away i.e. it's depressing, downbeat, hard to understand, strange, violent, sexually-graphic, etc..

Here's the tagline I always hate: "It's smart, sexy, and funny!!" I avoid any movie billed as such like the plague. It's like being set up on a blind date with someone who has a "great personality."
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