A Dialogue on Movies, Books and More

Posts tagged ‘Blockbusters’

Episode 20 – End of the Year!

Well, it is now 2012, but we recorded our latest podcast last year, when we were all relaxed and unwound after the holidays and some time off (for those of us working…).  Maybe it was just me, but I could pretty much only find stories that were basically lists, so this episode is relatively laid back and free from any real heated debate.  In fact, one might say that we… bantered.  Ha, ha.  Don’t worry, that bit of lame humor is 2011 leftovers.  This year, the three of us are going to up our game, move to our own site, get some cooler theme music, get back to blogging as well as podcasting, and change some other stuff that our team isn’t ready to unveil yet.

So.  Here is what we talk about in Episode 20 – End of the Year!

Also, I gave reviews of:

Justin mentioned a book he’s reading, Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside.

And Matt got a puppy, so be jealous!


Trailers & The Term “Literary Fiction”

There are two things I wanted to talk about, but I couldn’t decide which; therefore, I shall split my post into two things.  I don’t think the two mini-topics will cross paths, but if they do, won’t we all be pleasantly surprised?

First, trailers.  Justin and I complain to each other a lot of about trailers, and about how they are just ridiculously misleading.  But I was thinking today that we haven’t really written about it, other than biting comments here and there.  (I even searched the blog using the clever Find function, just in case we’d already done it here and I’d forgotten.)

So, the purpose of trailers is to get people interested in the movie.  It sounds simple, and formulaic.  Take some of the best lines that are rated G for TV, add some tracking shots of scenery or people fighting or money or whatever, and then of course highlight your star actors looking their very, very best.  The finishing touch is the movie title and tagline, sometimes ambitiously done in voice-over too, with the release date really large.

Like an online dating profile, sure, we expect that the movie probably won’t be quite as exciting, mysterious, funny or dramatic as its tightly cut shots hint.  It can basically be a tiny, tiny short film or a montage-like artwork, or, equally effective, a seriously funny hook or exciting explosion.  All the same, we make a knee-jerk decision about it, the same as we do about books based on covers… which we’re told is a no-no, so that should be a clue, huh?  Trailers are even anticipated, for movies that have had a lot of hype since pre-production or filming or whenever–or want to create or snowball hype.  They matter, a lot of movies get made or broken because if the movie is aiming for wildly, hugely successful, then the trailer needs to just kill it.

But that’s so much pressure, and those skeevy little money-grubbing accountants and ad execs and studio managers just rub their greedy hands together and make the trailer-making people make a crafty bit of thirty-second, one minute film designed to get us all hooked on the movie faster than we’d get hooked on meth.

Think I’m exaggerating, or being harsh?  Say instead I’m melodramatic instead, and think about how many trailers made you think a movie was going to be amazing and turned out to be just mediocre.  If the trailer had been mediocre, or okay-mediocre, then maybe the movie itself would look better, no?  It’s possible.  The trailer somehow boils down the movie to its most essential pieces and makes it seem like the best thing it could possibly be.  That takes skill, can’t deny that, but, man, does it really set up the movie to fall short by comparison.  The downfall there is that it makes us dazzled with the tantalizing daydream of the best possible version of that movie that each our imaginations can conjure up.  Ohhh, and how betrayed we are when the movie isn’t as tense, as fall on the floor with laughter, romantic, bitchin’, etc., as we’d dreamed.  It’s entirely unfair.


On from one indignity to the next.  A short while ago, my husband gave me marching orders to read and mark up our Writer’s Market, a tiny “manageable” step towards me, you know, being a writer.  Or something.  Anyway, the agencies and the publishing companies list all the types of fiction and non-fiction they accept.  The non-fiction categories are pretty normal, I don’t even care about them anyway.  My point is that the fiction categories include this thing called “Literary Fiction” and then so-called “Genre” types of fiction like Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction (a personal favorite that makes my eye twitch) and then Romance (some get more specific, like Time Travel Romance…. not kidding).

Fuuuuuck the people who came up with this.

Witness the following two definitions from the Oxford American Dictionaries:

Literature: “written works, esp. those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit : a great work of literature.”

Fiction, as it relates here: “literature in the form of prose, esp. short stories and novels, that describes imaginary events and people.”

Imagine me with my big huge all bug-eyed and huge, all sad and dewy with disappointment, as I ask out loud, “But, but, why can’t I be a literary fiction writer?  Why can’t I be called a Writer, the type who wins awards and has champagne offered to me in a New York loft full of first editions and mahogany built-in bookcases?  Why am I called a Genre Writer instead, with so much disdain?”

Genre writers are, after all, the bread and butter of the publishing world.  Genre authors write things with wide public appeal (which literary critics and egotistical Writers consider quotidian, at best) that make lots of money.  Harry Potter is genre, Bridget Jones’s Diary is genre, and The Da Vinci Code is genre.  (Hey!  Those all got turned into movies!  How shocking!)  Classy literary fiction writers graduate with their Masters in Creative Writing (whatever, I have a BA in Philosophy, bitches) and write things that only critics and other equally douchey classic literary fiction writers are ecstatic about. Don’t believe me?  Find the glowing, orgasmic reviews in The New Yorker for the last five years and tell me how many of those books you’ve even heard of, let alone picked up, let alone finished.  I’m guessing a big fat stinking zero.

Am I right?  Yeah, reverse discrimination and reverse elitism are strong and kicking.

Come on, this makes me feel like a kid benched in T-ball, for God’s sake, because the GENRE ROMANCES I read are in this secret corner of the libraries and bookstores, 96% in paperback (the other 4% are hardcover with covers that don’t involve half-naked people…).  Sci-Fi and Fantasy are worse, because they get like one bookcase–or, at the main branch of the SF library, a room that actually has glass doors that separate it from the rest of the library, like a quarantine, so that nice snobby readers don’t stumble into the porn-like stash of graphic novels and sci-fi and fantasy.

What’s up with that, librarians?  In this day and age of text-spelling–R U LOL?  Luv U 4EVA.  THX–shouldn’t you just shut up and be grateful that I’m reading at all?  Don’t judge me. I don’t want to be furtive.  If the books I read were movies, they’d be blockbusters… wait, I already thought of that!  Do you see how I cleverly had foreshadowing a few paragraphs back?  Okay, back on track, genre writers’ works are the blockbusters of the literary world, while the highly lauded, etc., are like the struggling indie films that win all the awards but still only about 100,000 people worldwide see them.

Oh, snap!

My topics DID come together.  See, universe?  I am so one with you right now.  There are two opposing and necessary sides to both the literary world and the cinematic world.  There are Novels and there are Books, and there are Films and there are Movies.  This division of course is predicated on, or reinforces, or is structured by, this idea (or fact?) that popular things are low-quality and that high-quality things are out of normal people’s grasp and to be striven for deliberately.  Ad execs, trailer-makes, critics/bloggers and all the people try to sort out what’s best about all of them; and some try to entice us and the others try to decide if they want to be enticed.  It’s a lovely game we all play, using all of these little opinions and stances to define ourselves, then define ourselves again, then again, ad nauseum, until we’ve got so many specific tags that we’re unique.

But sometimes, it’s just simple.  I love a good bodice-ripper and I’m proud of it; I dislike Jane Austen and am ashamed of it.  And yet, I love Iron Man 2 (popular), Blue Valentine (elitist/indie), and The Dark Knight (miraculous bit of both).  Love what you love, and try it all so that you can love more things; how can that possibly be a bad thing?

Expand yourself, don’t refine yourself!

The Great Movie Debate

Zoe: Welcome back to another exciting addition to Idle Banter & Escapades.

Justin: I really wish we had stuck with shenanigans. I like shenanigans.

Zoe: Yes, well, shenanigans would have been great but then our initials would have been IBS. I think that sends the wrong message to our audience about our purpose here.  Or, it’s too much TMI on how we bonded and became friends…

Justin: These are good points. So what would you like to do today?

Zoe: Same thing we do every day, Pinky: try to take over the world! MWAHAHAHA!!!  Erm, I mean, I was thinking we could talk about people’s taste in movies.

Justin: Riiigghhttt.  No one else can see this, but I’m definitely sending a concerned look your way right now.   So by “taste,” you mean like some people don’t have any.

Zoe: Justin, be nice, I would like to still have an audience after only one week.  You didn’t even let me finish.  You preempted me–you’re an interrupter.  Interrupting cow who indeed.

Justin: What is with you and animals today? First, Pinky, and now some cow. Anyway, I am just saying that people who…

Zoe: Stop!  Now I’m interrupting you, because I know that you are about to rant about people who like the last two Matrix movies again, weren’t you?

Justin: NO… maybe… fine, I was, but apparently you felt the need to steal my thunder.

Zoe: Not steal it, just drown it out with what I was actually thinking, which is more along the lines of the merits of indie films versus blockbuster movies.  People get all worked up about the subject.  “Oh, people who like indie movies are elitist schmucks.”  “Yeah, well, people who like blockbusters are morons who are distracted by flashiness.”  Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  Meanwhile, they all sound like schmucks and morons.  It’s like suffering through the what-is-great-art discussion or the argument about whether genius is a prerequisite for making anything worth anything.  I’m just saying, it’s worth talking about why people should try a little cross-pollination with their tastes.

Justin: I agree. Just because you might like one more than another doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them both. Everything can have some merit to it if you allow it. I am not one for really goofy comedies, but every once in awhile I need a good “stupid” comedy. I often find out I enjoy it more than I thought I would.

Zoe: That is what I am talking about. So let me start off by saying that it sounds just so… “Everybody love everybody!” (Semi-Pro), but I actually find something worthwhile in nearly movie I see.  Um, except for Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.  Seriously, it’s the only movie of all time that I’ve seen that literally has no value by any set of standards you could conceive.  But aside from that complete and utter waste of time, I say even awful, awful movies provide conversation and thinking and debating.

Justin: Let me get this straight: you wouldn’t let me go off on the Matrix movies but you can talk about Boondock Saints II.

Zoe: Yeah, I don’t want to talk about it. 

Justin: Great!  Movies are meant to be enjoyed by all. Just because you like watching films from some unknown director from Sweden, doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally enjoy Michael Bay’s explosion-filled movies. 

Zoe: I totally agree, especially because now it’s so easy to check out trailers that wouldn’t air on t.v. or get a billboard or whatever–there are tons at imdb, Apple’s website and YouTube.  Say to yourself, “Hey, that poster looks cool.  Hey, I’ve heard of / seen that lady / man before, wonder what this is?”

Justin: There is no excuse not to try to broaden your horizons.

Zoe: Just like I said you should check out a solid example of a genre before you dismiss it entirely earlier–this is the same idea.  If you don’t watch to watch something because you don’t like “that sort of movie,” my response is the universal response to children who refuse to try a kind of food: “How do you know you don’t like it until you try it?”  You can’t be an arrogant d-bag about your tastes if you’ve never seen anything else.  That makes you a liar face.

Justin: Exactly and if you want a great place to check out movie posters, IMP Awards is a great place to visit.  There are other ways to experiment with film that doesn’t just feel like a homework assignment.  If you like an actor, don’t be afraid to see a small movie they are in. A lot of great actors don’t make distinctions between mainstream and indie. If they like the script, the story or even the character, they will do the movie. Take Joseph Gordon-Levitt for example.  He was just in the huge blockbuster hit Inception. It was a mind bending tale with lots of special effects that everyone went to see. However, back in 2005 Levitt was in a film called Brick, which barely anyone saw in the theaters and only made $2,060,589 overall. Even thought this may seem like a lot, when you compare it to the larger blockbuster releases it is absolutely tiny. Who cares though?  It is a fantastic modern day film noir and if you haven’t seen it I would highly recommend it.

Zoe: Of course people labeled “character actors” do this far better than “leading men / ladies,” but plenty of A-listers do it–and go back and forth between bigger-budget high-concept movies and summer tent poles–but you wouldn’t know it unless you’re looking.  Brad Pitt is a good example; he does small, relatively unnoticed by the general populace movies, thoughtful ones like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and bitchin’ ones like Snatch, and then he does huge entertaining movies like Ocean’s 11 and huge “artsy” movies like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Justin: Exactly. If you like the actor, take a chance in seeing that person in something other than a blockbuster. Hell, I watched a French movie called Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d’enfants (the English title is And They Lived Happily Ever After, for those of you who don’t speak French) just to see Johnny Depp play a very small roll and I enjoyed the film as I do with a lot of foreign films.

Zoe: And Justin, you don’t speak French either; I am the one who had to translate while we were studying abroad in Luxembourg. The direct translation for that title is “they married and had a lot of children.”  Besides, even if you didn’t know Depp was in that, it’s an Yvan Attal film starring himself and Charlotte Gainsbourg (currently of notorious Antichrist).

Justin: Well, the movie had subtitles and I was trying to sound intelligent.  Now I have to go look up those two people and find out why you think they’re worth mentioning by name…

Zoe: A swing and a miss. Anyway, if you’re going to see Johnny Depp in a great cameo, go for his double appearance in the wonderful Before Night Falls (Julian Schnabel directing, starring Javier Bardem).    But Justin has the right Idea.

Justin: Thank you.

Zoe: If you like an actor see the film. If you like the genre see the film. If you like the director, the graphic artist, the music composer…. you get the idea. It doesn’t matter if it is mainstream or indie. Each has their own unique values and can be enjoyed by everyone. That is the whole point of movies.

Justin: So all you elitist indie snobs and all of you blockbuster morons, get off your asses. Go see something you might never have seen before. Get outside your box, who knows you might enjoy it.