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.
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!