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Boiling Point

In doing a quick bit of research for this article, I came across an article from none other than our own publisher, Neil Miller. Now, I didn’t bother to read the entire article, because I got what I needed and wouldn’t want to be swayed by facts or reason or anything, but his opening felt perfect for this topic, so I’m going to use it here: “Expectations are a funny thing. For a critic, they are the worst thing to have. Going into a film with any kind of expectations, good or bad, can color one’s ultimate perception of a film and sway a review one way or another.” I hope that now Neil feels good knowing that I think he has a really good point there, because in a minute, I’m going to use him as an example of what the fuck is wrong with this world. His point is relevant though, because expectations definitely influence how we view movies. If you go into a movie with super high expectations, you may feel let down. If you go in with low expectations, you can be pleasantly surprised. The best thing to do would be to go in with no expectations and just feel the movie slip inside you, deep and raw. But the modern world doesn’t allow this. Everyone is vying for the top spot when it comes to the final word on a film. To be noticed, we shout out the following words: amazing, funniest, greatest, best, of […]

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Movie studios have been using testimonials to market their films for years. Most frequently, they rely on professional film critics to supply pull quotes for use in advertising. While some of these quotes are genuine, some are simply generated on demand by media hounds who just want to see his or her name on a movie poster or in a TV spot. In the industry, we disrespectfully refer to these folks as “quote whores.” Quote whoring is big business to some, giving them attention from the studios with perks and junkets. Being in the inner circle of quote whores is kind of like being in the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. There’s lots of benefits and little responsibility. However, there’s a disturbing recent trend in Hollywood that jeopardizes the institutionalized quote whore’s well being, and it comes in the form of social media.

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Culture Warrior

Last week, we explored the concept of shoving products into movies, but there’s an equal and opposite marketing method where movies are shoved into product commercials – especially if the character is an iconic one. There’s a distinction to be made here about the difference between celebrities endorsing colognes and fictional characters doing it, although the line can definitely be blurred. Movie star endorsements are as old as the medium, whether it’s Buster Keaton slugging out the chalk for Simon Pure Beer, Charles Bronson going overboard with his self-sprinkling of Mandom, Arnold Schwarzenegger scream-laughing for a Japanese energy drink, or Abraham Lincoln selling us churros. And that doesn’t include all the normal, run-of-the-mill advertising where an actress loves a brand of make-up or a wrestler loves beef jerky. A human being selling out is one thing, but there’s something especially heinous about a character being used to market a product because it’s an element of art forced into a square hole of commercialism. Oftentimes its done without the creator’s consent (or consent is contractually taken away from the starting block). In most cases, the original actor doesn’t even have to be involved (for better or worse), especially if there’s a costume involved. In its rawest form, it’s the uglification of something we love. This list is light-years away from being complete, but it hopefully shows a well-rounded view of different types of movie characters in commercials throughout a few different time periods.

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Culture Warrior

Buried deep within this sentence (Doritos are delicious) is an advertisement. Did you catch it? You probably didn’t because it was so subtly subliminal, but that’s exactly how product placement has worked for a century to varying degrees of success. After all, there’s a thin line between using real-life products in a film to create a sense of verisimilitude and using them to promote the product in question. Where that line is drawn is up to each person. One person might see a kid reading “National Geographic” in It’s a Wonderful Life and think it’s quaintly appropriate while another person might find it craven and conspicuous. To the same extent, different film productions have delivered brands with means ranging from the slyness of near-imperceptibility to almost Doritos-Scorchin’-Habanero-Flavor levels of obviousness. It’s far from new, and even though sold items have sneaked their way into movies for almost one hundred years, there’s been an explosion in recent decades, seeing a new revenue stream for studios and a new annoyance for film fans.

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Culture Warrior

We often don’t think of commercials as having authorship, at least not in the same way we think of movies. Commercials are created by advertising companies, by focus groups, by strategists; not by “artists.” But while the purpose of a 30-second ad may on the surface differ from the motive of a feature length film (though not always), both are media assembled through a particular economy of storytelling devices and are made often by a collaborative company of individuals. But commercials don’t often contain credit sequences, and thus the phenomenology of its making is cloaked and the personalities who made it unconsidered. The focus is on the product being sold, not the creative team selling it. So it can be surprising to find out that well-respected, top-tier, artistic filmmakers often direct commercials. Sure, many filmmakers regularly make commercials as a more lucrative and less time-consuming alternative to feature filmmaking, and there are many visual artists who have honed an ability to express their personality in various media forms, but a surprising number of supposedly cinema-specific auteurs make commercials, despite a lack of apparent monetary need or professional benefit. This subject came to my attention recently because of a series of articles on Slate last week by David Haglund about the oeuvre of the Coen brothers that included the filmmaking duo’s commercials in considering their larger cinematic contribution. It’s an interesting way to view a filmmaker’s career, for it forces you to look for their identifying traits and revisited themes via […]

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Why Watch? Technology is getting cheaper by the minute. The long, Kurzweilian talk about technology aside, there’s a major news story that makes this short timely. It involves the scrapping of The Lone Ranger due to its inflated budget. It’s a blockbuster, sure, but studios are now realizing that effects work is being innovated by many, and the cost of shots is coming down. To that end, here’s a Coke commercial from The Purchase Brothers who utilize that inexpensive CGI pedigree better than most. It’s a stunning use of popular imagery that Neill Blomkamp and Andy Warhol would both be proud of. Is it an ad? Yes, but it also tells a story, and it’s the best kind of bizarre. What does it cost? Just 1 minute of your time. Check out Coke Babies for yourself:

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Ratings… We all hate them. They’re the things that keep programs like American Idol on the air but shut out shows like Lone Star. It’s no secret that the system is out-dated. When the Nielsen Ratings were first established, the only way to watch television was through, well, a television. There was no on-demand cable, no internet, no laptops… you get the point. Because of the archaic nature of the current system, many eye-balls are not counted, and thus, fan favorite shows get cancelled (I’m still shedding a tear for CHASE). It’s not that the networks have a vendetta against fan-favorite programming, they just need it to be profitable. And if the data says “this works, but this doesn’t” that’s what they’ll follow. In other words: Don’t hate the playa, hate the game. But thanks to CBS, it looks like that game might be changing sooner, rather than later.

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Happy VCR Day, everyone. Just in case you think Blu-ray might be a fad, here are a ton of reasons to buy a fancy new Betamax.

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Is the MTV Movie Awards self-defeating? Probably. But does it make money off your 12 year-old? Definitely. And you didn’t even know you had a kid, did you?

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Ah, the brilliance of movie marketing — always providing ample opportunities for a schlub like me to make a drug reference in conjunction with one of my favorite on-screen characters.

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It’s one month until Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull hits theaters, and we’re already under an invasion of billboards… including this batch of six IN A ROW on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles. What’s next?!

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