New this week on Popshifter: Chelsea describes the main mystery man of documentary Searching For Sugar Man as a “kind of rock and roll Harry Lime”; Cait assures us that Ignition—the new album from Shoes—proves “they’re still as fresh, vital, and engaging as they were when Jimmy Carter was swatting at swamp rabbits” and extols the virtues of the “gorgeous, melodic” tunes on Bad Lucy’s self-titled EP.
“The first recorded use of the term SPOILER ALERT is from 8 June 1982. It occurred in a Usenet film group (net.movies) and related to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which had been released the previous Friday.”
Research, facts, timelines. This is the kind of stuff I live for. Also, it doesn’t surprise me one bit that this originated on Usenet, the home of the original Internet smackdown. Niall Anderson traces the development of spoiler alert “etiquette” from the domain of “cultish material” to its current state of entitlement, writing, “I now read more complaints about spoilers than I do actual spoilers.” Anderson even calls it the standard for “supposedly highbrow criticism” and in this analysis, manages to say bad things about (brace yourselves) the untouchable, critic-proof show The Wire.
I must also speak in defense of those who don’t want feelings about movies spoiled. I basically don’t want to know anything about a movie—save for the most basic plot, the ostensible genre (I realize that is a tricky one), the cast, and the director—before going in. Yes, I watch trailers but if they don’t reveal more than that and some of part of the tone of a movie, I’m okay with them. For whatever reason, it seems horror and suspense thriller trailers can do this more skillfully than those of other genres. When I say “some of part of the tone” I realize that some movies change in tone (and sometimes even a clear-cut genre) within the movie itself. I’m okay if that happens when I don’t totally expect it; sometimes that works for the benefit of the movie and the audience. But don’t give away—and this goes for spoilers as well as trailers—the transformation of emotions I might have during the watching of the film.
It only took me a couple of paragraphs to talk about film critics this week. I admire my own restraint! Cole Abaius at Film School Rejects has titled his article, “Dear Filmmakers, please continue to think of critics as irrelevant.” Ouch. Kevin Smith, Rotten Tomatoes, and the “I make art for the audience, not the critics” trope are mentioned right away.
In an analysis of a Scriptnotes podcast with screenwriters John August and Craig Mazin, the article quotes August as saying:
“Reviews in general aren’t trying to further the art of movie-making. They’re really about ‘should I see this movie that comes out on Friday?’ so the reviewer’s first audience is the person who might go to see the movie. And what the person who’s looking at the reviews really wants to know is, “Is this going to be worth my time and dollars to go see this movie?’”
I must disagree. Maybe some people use a film review to decide on whether or not to spend money, but to assume that “reviews in general” are just to further whatever the market will bear is a reductionist, and frankly crass, argument. Thankfully, Abaius agrees with me and rather than taking filmmakers to task, he actually thinks their differences of opinion on the value of critics is a good thing. And he even uses the word “cheerleader” which I love. And yes, critics are relevant, as Abaius states succinctly: “So if everyone’s opinion is worthy, then why care about critics at all? Because there’s a difference between having an opinion and being able to express it clearly and interestingly.” Be sure to read the comments, too, as they delve into the whole quandary surrounding opinion and subjectivity in some detail.
Back to Flick Filosopher for August 14′s edition of “Question Of The Day”: Is there too much music in movies and TV these days? I added my thoughts to the comments section, but now I’m rethinking that whole “film as manipulation” idea.
Is film really manipulating us? Or is it guiding us? And how much of that is the audience accepting that allegedly firm hand? Obviously, editing practices, visual composition, expository dialogue, establishing shots, and other film conventions that have developed over time are tropes that we anticipate or by which we are frequently fooled. Documentaries are certainly more manipulative than other genres, except perhaps horror or suspense. But not all genres of movies try to trick us; most romantic comedies (except for maybe Crazy, Stupid, Love) don’t have twist endings or at least not twists that we don’t already expect. Some people are more easily fooled by red herrings or the elision of details than others.
However, I stand by my claim that using recent and (for lack of better words) alternative or indie music in films does manipulate the audience into feeling emotions that might not be conveyed by the dialogue or acting.
Trailers are a different beast when it comes to manipulating us. Here’s an excellent trailer for the Canadian film Cold Blooded. Twitch describes it as, “A female police officer has to keep a prisoner from escaping a nearly abandoned hospital unit at the same time his violent partners come looking for him.” Obviously there’s way more going on than that but nothing that’s fully revealed in this trailer. Take a look:
Cold Blooded will be screening at this year’s aptly-named Fantastic Fest, which will be held at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX from September 20 – 27. The poster alone should get you excited about this festival, but if that’s not enough, check out the list of films screening. Some have screened at other festivals prior, but not all in North America.
I’ve been unable to get excited about Brandon Cronenberg’s (a.k.a. Son of Cronenberg) upcoming debut film Antiviral. Mostly because I worry that he’s getting all this attention because of his father and the fact that the movie itself seems very, well, Cronenberg-y. It’s been announced that Antiviral is playing at this year’s TIFF and now we have a trailer.
After watching the trailer, I may have changed my mind. Cronenberg-y or not, it looks startlingly grotesque and creepy. I still worry that Brandon is just trading in on his father’s style, but I definitely want to see this movie.
—Less Lee Moore, Managing Editor