Sunday, December 20, 2015

On My Mind: T. M. I.


I am from an earlier generation of movie watcher than the majority of my blogging buddies. At the risk of sounding like some old fart telling 'when I was your age' stories, I must admit I miss the way things were done back in the day. Don't worry. This is not a diatribe on how the movies of yesteryear are so much better than those of today. There is good and bad from every single year along the cinematic timeline. My rantings on the greatness of the good ol' days applies to what happens before I even sit down to watch a movie. I simply know way too much about what I'm going to see.

A long time ago, apparently in a galaxy far, far away, I was anxious to see the big blockbusters on their opening weekend in theaters. Nowadays, when that weekend rolls around, I'm often already over it. I still want to see all these movies, eventually, but the unbearable anticipation that propelled me through city streets and deposited me theater seats is largely gone. If I don't get to see something on the big screen, it's okay. I'll live, content with my position outside the loop, where once I would have died. At the very least, my soul would've been punctured. The hole left behind might be microscopic, and therefore non-fatal, but its ache would never subside. The ring surrounding that hollowness made by never getting to see Ghostbusters in a dark room crowded with strangers still throbs over thirty years since the film's release. There is no such pain associated with any of the dozens of blockbusters I didn't make it to theaters for over the last few years.

To understand my apathy towards most of the high profile movies is to understand how it used to be. Back in the dark ages, before the internet, a trailer would begin playing as a TV spot about a month or so before a film's release. Some the film's best best moments were featured as long as they did not reveal any key plot points, the main stars were named, and its rating by the Motion Picture Association of America was divulged. For the vast majority of movies, this was the only trailer. It might be cut several ways, differing in length to provide variety, but it was usually just one, other than an even less informative radio trailer. That was pretty much the extent of news about the movie until the week of release day when critics who got to screen it early put out their reviews. Since most of these were in local newspapers, your average movie buff only read one of them, if any at all. Even the trials and tribulations of difficult shoots wasn't known to the public for weeks, months, or even years after the movie had already come out. Buying a ticket was really taking on a chance on the unknown. The dimming of theater lights meant the last surge of anticipatory jitters before they acquiesced to the excitement of simply being in the moment.


The wonderment of absorbing oneself in a playing film will always be there. The pre-show nervousness of someone about to embark on a surprised filled adventure is replaced with faint enthusiasm curbed even further by knowledge. In lieu of just starting to hear about a film a month or so before its release, we begin getting tidbits of info a year or more in advance. In some cases, it starts with announcement of a studio's plan to make a film a half decade into the future. This stirs up the fanboys and fangirls. They immediately take to the web with heated debates on who should play who, who should direct, and what the plot should be. Studios fuel the fire by making sure every step of the production process is "leaked" to the media. some of these aren't even steps, at all. they're just what the powers that be are thinking about doing. Even less significant, its occasionally what the people the big-wigs are thinking about think about being thought out. Let that one marinate a minute. I find it all rather silly, except it’s not. It’s serious enough that there are numerous articles, opinion pieces, and tiny blurbs written about each and every little crumb thrown our way. By the time some movies hit theaters I know who is playing practically every speaking role, the general outline of the plot, and even how it’s going to look, thanks to numerous set photos that show up when there is nothing else to tell. Trailers start showing up before the movie is even finished shooting. There’s a teaser which, as best as I can discern, is a trailer for a trailer. Really? Then there’s the big internet release for the first trailer and maybe two or three more over the next few months. We gobble it up, doing full-length reviews and in-depth analysis of them as if they were the actual films.

The deafening cacophony of information inevitably leads to sensory overload. The urgency I once felt for being in attendance during the opening weekend of a major release has given way to a nonchalant attitude. That I won’t see a particular film for up to another year is acknowledged with a shrug of the shoulders. I rationalize that maybe, hopefully, by the time I get to the movie in question I’ll have forgotten as much as possible about it and can go into it somewhat clean. I try to use the most obvious strategy and just ignore all the leaks and speculation. Unfortunately, this has become a theory impossible to practice. I honestly make a serious effort not to read any of the writing on those big movies before they come out. Still, every now and again, an article that’s supposed to be about something else veers down the path I was trying to avoid. The process continues through the first few weeks after said movie is released, therefore, I don’t read reviews on these movies. Again, that’s the plan. From time to time curiosity gets the better of me. No matter how great the review is, I end up regretting it.


Even if I don’t read any articles or reviews, look at any set pictures, and steer clear of all conversations about a film, there is something else I can’t help but see. Internet headlines. You know headlines, those wonderful one sentence eye-catchers designed for us to click on and be whisked away to whatever site they represent. Since our entire planet operates with attention deficit disorder, they often tell the whole story so there’s no need to actually click them. Often, a thumbnail picture right next to them ensures I’ll look that way. Before I know, I have already digested a sentence along the lines of “Actor X in talks to play Character Y in Movie Z.” The same goes for social media. My phone starts buzzing with the tweets of all the people in my circle of followees who just had to voice their opinion of this riveting news. If I somehow get through all of that gleefully uneducated, I’m smacked in the face by what I see right here on my very own sit. I look over to the right at my blogroll because I love supporting you, my fellow bloggers. I want to get to as many of your sites as possible at least several times a week. It’s a tall order with over 100 of you listed (defaulted to only display the first 25 until you click “Show All”). Some days, since we’re being truthful, you help me decide who to skip. The reason is that I see that you have decided to post about the same thing those headlines on the homepage of whatever search engine I’m using that day were screaming at me a few moments earlier. Please don’t take this the wrong way. It is not a call for my fellow bloggers to stop writing about that which you love. I know there is a global demand for this stuff. If there weren’t, it wouldn’t be so ubiquitous. Besides, who am I to say what the media shouldn’t cover, or what you shouldn’t discuss on your blog. Lord knows, I don’t want you telling me what to write on mine. I’m just touch on all the reasons I often don’t care whether or not I see something in the theaters.

The topic as a whole has been on my mind for quite some time. However, I’d be lying if I said this post wasn’t timed to publish during the opening weekend of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The omniscience of this particular movie in our collective psyche shaped it into the form you’re viewing at this very moment. The hoopla started three years ago when George Lucas sold the rights to his legendary franchise to Disney for a whopping four billion dollars. Billion. Specualation on what Disney would do with the property began in earnest that very day. Shortly after, they officially announced there would indeed be another Star Wars movie. Things kicked into overdrive once J.J. Abrams was brought on board to direct. We’ve reached the point where people who don’t care at all about jedi knights can’t go five minutes without hearing some sort of news about it, or seeing a commercial related to it in some form or fashion. Some that news lately has been about the massive pre-sale ticket business it’s done. This includes stories of people dressed as franchise characters and/or camping out in front of theaters a week in advance of the first showing. By itself, this isn’t enough to keep me from venturing out to the nearest multiplex and plunking down some hard earned cash. However, it’s not a top priority for me this weekend, or even next. This isn’t to say I won’t see The Force Awakens on the big screen. I plan to. After all, this is a franchise for which I was present for its birth, death, and first resurrection. I’ve went to a theater to see five of the first six movies in its canon, if not on their opening weekends then shortly after. I actually skipped Revenge of the Sith, theatrically, because Attack of the Clones was THAT bad. From what has snuck through my defenses, this latest face-off between rebel forces and The Empire looks promising. However, notice I didn’t say I will definitely pay to see it. I said I plan to. Sometimes, plans fall through. If they do, it’s okay. I’ll live.




18 comments:

  1. I'm right there with you. The thrill of going in more or less fresh to see a film is tough to capture nowadays. I'm not on Twitter so that mousetrap is one I don't have but it is nigh on impossible to remain unenlightened by just the most casual perusal of the net. Trailers, previews or what have you have lost any ability to tease as they once did now everything about the movie is put out there plain for the viewer to see. The result is I rarely watch them either.

    All those things are terribly frustrating but what I hate most about the modern moviegoing experience is that damn "pre-show entertainment" which is hardly ever entertaining and I don't need to be entertained before the show by a bunch of commercials that I have now had to pay to see!! I used to love to get to the theatre early and settle into the hush of the the place, perhaps exchanging a few words with whoever I was with and adjusting from the outside world and switching into movie watching mode. That experience is totally lost now and I time my arrival at the theatre either exactly at scheduled showtime (which means sitting through at least 20 minutes of previews-by the third they all blend together and I zone out) or about 10 minutes past that if I'm sure it won't be sold out. Because of all those things my movie theatre going has greatly decreased over the years. Like you I've adopted the mind set, if I miss it in the theatre oh well, I'll live.

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    1. I'll own up to watching some trailers, but that's about the extent of which I'm trying to educate myself on these films before they come out. Still, like you say, the most casual perusal of the net often leads to a flood of unwanted news.

      Once I decide to actually go to the theater, I generally don't mind all the previews there because they've always been part of the movie-going experience. Granted, I could do without the four or five other ads that pop up during this time, but I'm not going to try and time the exact actual start time of whatever movie I'm seeing. I still try to get there a couple minutes before the listed time. From time to time, we go to a second-run theater for $2.25 a ticket, where that's a little less of a problem. Still have trailers and ads, but generally it's about half of what's going on in first-run theaters.

      By the way, not sure if you noticed (check the sidebar on the right), but the guest post you did for the Against the Crowd Blogathon has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity. It's become my site's top viewed post this week and has vaulted into the top 10 of all time. Thanks again for the contribution!!!

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  2. I've always liked the previews too but lately they've multiplied from about two or three, which I liked since I could remember each film, to the current glut. When I went to see Spectre there were NINE previews before the feature started! Not only couldn't I take all of them in it was almost a full half hour after the start time before the film began making it an almost three hour run time.

    That's very cool that the post had a sudden spike. Wonder why, I had a lot of fun writing it!

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    1. I totally get it. They do tend to run together after a couple play and 9 is plenty.

      Not sure why the spike, but it is cool to see.

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  3. I don't remember a time when trailers didn't give away far too much, but it's irritating. The release of The Force Awakens put me into a week long internet/blog/social media shut down so that I could appreciate it fully, and it was worth it. But I guess the point is that before we had all this technology, we didn't need to do that. I really enjoyed reading this post Dell, you've got me thinking :)
    - Allie

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    1. Yeah, I've been trying to avoid as much as possible, and I still haven't seen the movie so it's getting tougher by the day. In a couple week it will die down and I'll be back to avoiding news about Batman v. Superman...ahem...some other blockbuster. Glad to get you thinking.

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  4. CO-SIGN. I can NOT with the constant barrage of news of films years away from being released. And don't get me started on the "trailer for the teaser for the trailer" phenomenon). One of my better movie-going experiences of the past few years was seeing How To Train Your Dragon 2 last year, specifically because I had somehow managed to not see any trailers or read anything about it until it came out. I didn't even try, it just happened on its own. And when I went in, there was such a feeling of excitement that I couldn't stand it. And so I resigned myself to try and do this as often as possible. The world does NOT make it easy, but I've successfully avoided just about everything Star Wars related (the first teaser trailer showed before Interstellar last year, but that's all I've seen) and hope to keep it that way until I see it next week.

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    1. The key words of your comment: The world does NOT make it easy. Stuff is just everywhere. Good luck continuing to avoid all things Star Wars.

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  5. Hi Dell, man I hear ya! "Nowadays, when that weekend rolls around, I'm often already over it." I felt that way w/ The Force Awakens, so I'm glad I've seen it, posted my thoughts and now I'm eager to MOVE ON and talk about OTHER movies! It's rare these days to see a film you haven't read much about, but once in a while it happened, but mostly on indie films. That's why I enjoyed seeing films at my local film fest as I almost always get surprised, for better for worse, and that's a rare feeling these days.

    Anyway, have a great Christmas holiday, Dell!

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    1. Yes, when it happens its almost always some indie flick that blindsides me in the most wonderful way. You have a great holiday, too!

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  6. I like to know as little as possible about both books and movies before I dive in.
    This was my first ever Star Wars movie and I enjoyed it but there were some RABID fans there, and I can't relate to that.

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    1. First ever SW? Wow! Yeah, this franchise and rabid fans go hand in hand.

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  7. Man, you know I'm with you on this. I don't watch online trailers, stay the Hell outta news feeds and generally try simply see what I can.

    But, I LOVE the thrill so much of going in blind, I try to avoid the inevitable spoiler and get to the theater asap. It's hardly even practical at times, but screw it. For me, it's the only way to keep the fight fair.

    Great post, old man.

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    1. Getting there sooner rather than later is definitely one way to attack the issue. And yeah, writing this whole thing made me feel like some grumpy old dude telling everyone to get off my lawn.

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  8. Great post and I agree, it feels like so much energy gets deflated by months of leakage and previewing and judging before the actual film. The "I'll live" thing is my feeling too, in my old age :) I can wait it out and by the time you see something without all the attendant heat and hype you usually get a clearer view of it anyway. I kind of regret not seeing Fury Road in the theater though. Thanks for the linkage!

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    1. Interesting you bring up Fury Road. That and a few of the big spectacle movies have a similar effect on me. I'll regret not seeing them on the big screen, but only AFTER I've seen them at home and realized the visuals would have played better in the theater. Oh well. I'll still live.

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  9. I'm actually on both sides of the debate on this one. I think that the internet and the marketing department for films can be your worst enemies when it comes to anticipation. Trailers that show too much or plot details that are 'leaked' can really spoil a film. Either they build your hopes up so high that an otherwise good movie becomes trash, buried under the weight of your ridiculous expectations. Or they make a movie seem so horrible that you don't want to see it at all and miss out on a good experience. I think that's the great thing about the new Star Wars movie. It revealed so little because it knew that people were going to see it regardless. It didn't need to create hype because hype was a prerequisite. I really enjoyed that movie because it was all a mystery and I got to go on an unexpected adventure.

    Now, on the other side, I actually enjoy watching trailers and reading up on movies before their release. I like knowing interesting tidbits about the film's pre-production and potential plot lines. I'm also not that torn up about spoilers because the reason I go to the cinema is more for the spectacle of a large screen and to see how the plot unfolds so knowing certain twists isn't the largest problem. I obviously would prefer to not know that Character X is Character Y's sister and their baby is a result of incest but I can handle it because I enjoy seeing how the plot is presented as much as I enjoy the actual contents on the plot.

    I love going to the cinema and it often happens that I have to watch a movie that I know nothing about because I've seen all the other better known films. This often leads to a better experience because of the mystery you describe but I can still enjoy a movie knowing almost every detail. It's like somebody explaining the exact mechanics and emotions of your next sexual encounter. Now this can increase or decrease your expectation but it'll never compare to the actual experience.

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    1. Very interesting points. I generally watch a trailer, maybe two, but that's usually it. I can enjoy a movie knowing everything about it going in. After all, I've rewatched lots and lots of movies. However, at some point I like for it to be all new to me, or at least as new as possible. This is why I try to eschew as much as I can. Ultimately, my biggest issue isn't that this stuff is out there because I know people enjoy it. My biggest issue is with how completely it saturates our consciousness.

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