Thursday, April 5, 2012

TRAILERS! TRAILERS! TRAILERS! WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER WATCH A MOVIE SOLELY BECAUSE OF A TRAILER!

Some of you may have noticed that once I figured out how to transfer youtube clips onto the site, I've placed a clip on each of my blogs, usually one that's in some way related to what I'm discussing the blog that day. Often-the-case, especially involving movie reviews, this may often be a trailer for one of the movie I'm reviewing, almost always, it's the trailer for the film I gave the most stars to or thought the most highly of among the new films I watched that week. (Generally I consider release within the last two years to be "new"). However, I've come to notice that people often depend on trailerS to guide their movie-viewing choices, and i find that puzzling. On one of my comments in an earlier blog , a reader mentioned how much she was disappointed by a movie I reviewed because she had seem the trailer and decided to see the movie. In fact, some of the blogs that I actually follow often discuss and analyze the trailers for upcoming films.

On top of this, I became aware of a story that I missed originally after reading one of Roger Ebert's latest blog entries; he mentioned that a woman in Michigan named Sarah Deming, sued the distributors for the movie "Drive", claiming the trailer was misleading. I happened to review the movie "Drive," and gave the film 4 1/2 STARS and strongly considered posting the trailer for the film on my blog, but after reading that, I decided to wait until now. As of the second I am writing this, I have not as of yet, seen the trailer for "Drive".



Okay, I've now seen, and posted on this blog the trailer in question above. To contiue, according to ew.com the website for Entertainment Weekly, and among the complaints listed by Ms. Deming about the trailer, and I'm gonna pull from the website here so I don't misquote or misrepresent anybody's point of view, include.

-Drive was promoted as very similar to Fast and Furious which, in actuality, it wasn't.

-Drive bore very little similarity to a chase, or race action film, for reasons including but not limited to Drive having very little driving in the motion picture.

-Extreme gratutious defamatory dehumanizing racism directed against members of the Jewish faith

Okay, well let's start with the obvious, clearly this woman is an idiot. For starters, she actually likes the "Fast and Furious" movies, that's enough for me alone. (You want to comment and write letters on that one, go ahead, but the first one was boring as hell, and unwatchable.) More importantly, it clearly shows her state of mind, which is the second reason that she's an idiot, she's going into a movie with a preconceived expectation. Right here, the case is essentially dead because she doesn't have good post hoc/propter hoc logic. By seeing one movie and one trailer, she feels that justly, if one trailer produced this movie, than this trailor must then produce this movie, and that'll be laugh out of every courtroom.

That one's out of the way. As to the anti-semitism she's claiming, first of all, that's way too many adjectives to describe the word racism, in any literary context, but other than that, I don't know what the hell she's talking about with that, so I'm not even gonna begin to comment. It's the second claim that I'm more intrigued with anyway. She's claiming that the film bore little similarity the genre film she was expecting to see, and that part caught me offguard, because I actually thought the movie was strangely accurate to it's genre. I wrote in my review of "Drive"..., (and you can check the website for my entire review for context)

-"Drive" is that weird unique film that loyal to its genre, yet remains outside of it. Almost as though it's an out-of-body experience.

-I wouldn't say the movie ("Drive") is unpredictable with its many twists and turns, but it's certainly done well, and with a lot of great directing and tension.

I was so impressed with how much of a genre-picture it was that I went out of my way to make note of. Yes, I also described it, as remains "outside of it"'s genre, but I also compared it to "an out-of-body experience". Yes, that's somewhat subjected, but I was saying that the film, transcended its genre. Let's elaborate a little more on this point, using, the actual trailer, and I must say, that having seen the movie and the trailer, I am now more confused by her complaint because if the trailer has a problem, it's that it gave away a lot more of the film that I think was necessary. The first thing the trailer does is give us an idea of the main character, Driver, played by Ryan Gosling, and the way he is at the beginning of the film. He very business-like drives getaway cars for hire. That's actually quite a typical archetype character of this genre. (So typical, he's actually never given a name in the film.) Now, he meets a woman, boy meets girl, can't get more cliche than that, it also talks about his other work, which is also driving, he's a stunt driver. So far, he lives up to his name. He's good, and he ends of meeting some shady characters in this case, gangsters. Again, typical genre, typical genre villain, typical genre middle man, even,... he's getting close to the girl, that's every genre... let's continue. Now, we get a new character, woman's husband who's sprung from jail, couple ways that could go, still not unusual to the genre. Woman, has a kid, little odd, normally a woman is just pregnant, but still, it's variation on a theme, Driver's one-time unemotional view is altered, he's caring for woman and child, nothing new here, that's practically every Tom Cruise movie from the '80s to some extent (And "Jerry Maguire"), and still not unusual to this action genre. Also not unusual, main character goes on "one last job", it's always one last heist, one last kill, one last... and it goes horribly wrong, somebody tried to screw him over, somebody tried to kill him, people want him dead, he tries to find out who screwed him over,... this is just the trailer above, and it's quite accurate to how I would shorthandly tell somebody the story of the film. I'm starting to think this woman's never seen action or car chase films before, I think I could name ten movies off the top of my head that have almost all of these same essential elements in "Drive". Driver goes out for revenge  on those who... it's so damn cliche, I can't even bother talking about the story. It's clearly of the action genre that this woman claims it isn't. Her initial explanation and reasoning behind why it isn't, there's little driving in the motion picture. A. She's wrong, B. That's subjective, what does "little driving" mean? Little driving compared to a NASCAR race, yes, not as much driving as that, but there's plenty of driving in it. So basically she's saying the title is misleading, which C. Titles are whatever the author wants them to be. Nobody actually kills a mockingbird in "To Kill a Mockingbird," either, is she gonna sue the distributors of that film too?

Alright, I actually didn't begin writing this blog intending to smash her so much, but while, she's clearly gullable at best and stupid at worst, but lets go back, and forget about the insipid frivolousness of the lawsuit for a moment, while it's clear to me she's using a terrible test film to make her point, here's the one thing she's actually right about: Trailers can sometimes be misleading. That part is true. As far as I'm concerned, they have a right to be. Trailers are in essence, an advertisement, a commercial for the film. Now, unlike advertisements, they shouldn't be giving away certain aspects of their product. For instance, the end results. Now, a cleaning product for instance, Comet for example, advertises, that, if you use Comet, you will have  a clean, whatever, bathroom floor or whatever you use it for, but the end result is, clean. Now, you can't say in a trailer for "The Sixth Sense," "Bruce Willis doesn't know he's dead," and if you did, you wouldn't be editing trailers in Hollywood very long. (And yes, there are people who make a living just doing that, and they're really good at it.) Now, on the same token, the movie studios and distributors, do want people to use their product, so they are going to in a sense, edit a trailer in a way, or in some cases, many different trailers many ways, in which to get the most people to go to the movie. Everybody's got a few favorite examples of how a movie trailer has been misleading in some way. Promoting a major actor who's only in the film for five or ten minutes, or misrepresenting movie quotes about the film made by critics, there's a few famous examples of this. My favorite involves the movie "Eyes Wide Shut". That movie was the last one directed by Stanely Kurbrick, and he had an unusual amount of power and control over his films. This wasn't simply limited to final cut, and other such details, he also had complete control and approval on all of the advertising material for his films, and that included the trailers for his films. He died however, shortly after finishing the final cut of "Eyes Wide Shut", and instead the studios, who weren't sure how to sell the movie, which they already re-edited (again, against the contractual demands of Kubrick, who was deceased) itself in order to get a R rating, they used the fact that the movie starred then-married Hollywood supercouple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and made the film seem like a sex tape of those two in the advertising, which included strategic cutting of the film, and the use of the Chris Isaak song "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing". The movie actually, is about the Tom Cruise character going through a Kafkaesque journey into a secret sexual underworld of the rich. (And that's as simple as I can describe the movie, anything more and I'd just be writing a Canon of Film entry for it.) While that is provocative, it's not exactly something that'll sell to the masses.

You see, that's the part of the essence of this that's confusing me the most, we all know that movie trailers sole intentions is to sell you on the movie, and convince you to watch, that's the same with any advertising, so why-the-hell is anybody basing their movie-viewing actions, on a trailer of the film alone? That is the part that makes no sense to me. A woman got pissed off enough at a trailer being manipulative she sued. That's how she based her movie decision on, she saw a trailer?! I don't think, after the age of six, have I ever decided to watch a movie solely because I liked a trailer, and in that case, it wasn't so much that I liked the trailer as it was, "Oh, a trailer for an animated film! I like animation, let's go see it! I want to see the (Insert cute animated character from film here), Mom!" Yeah, you're laughing at that, but this is an adult that thought, essentially the same way. Now while, I do write movie reviews, unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, unlike a regular film critic, I don't have to go out and see any/all and/or whatever movie is coming out and/or am assigned to watch, that happens to be opening that week. I have a little more choice in the matter, so while I do ask for and try to comply with any requests somebody may ask of me to see a movie, I actually use many other factors in deciding what film to watch. The first one being film reviews I read. There are local critics most everywhere, I typically read the ones from local alternative weekly magazines, Las Vegas CityLife and Las Vegas Weekly most notably. I also read most of Roger Ebert's reviews, I also occasionally check reviews from Richard Roeper, Christy Lemire, A.O. Scott, Michael Phillips, Stephen Hunter, once in a while I try to read Rex Reed, but then I stop 'cause I can't take it, a few others sporadically. I also am aware of ratings on sites such as rottentomatoes.com and metacritic.com, although I don't normally look at the latter, as much as I should. Oftentimes, I don't even read all these critics, I just make notes of how many stars they gave a film or whether they liked or hated a film, and in some cases, if they're particular review was different from the mainstream and/or other critics. After that, there's other ways to find out about films. Imdb.com, the Hollywood Reporter, and numerous other media outlets often make notes of movie being successful, whether that be box office, or perhaps, Film festivals and awards. There's also word-of-mouth from people I trust, or at least, some people who's opinions I at least have an interest in. (Hey, I'm gonna admit it, there's some friends of mine who if they say they like a movie, that usually means I should avoid it all costs) Even then, I still try to eventually watch everything, or at least as much as I can, and if short of that, I try to figure out what's essential for me to watch. Admittedly, horror films are probably where I am weakest in this regard and using this system. I don't inherently trust horror film fans who are friends of mine, 'cause they tend to like almost anything in the genre (and especially so for certain horror subgenres), they rarely do "Hunger Games"-type box office numbers for me to justify seeing them under the "everybody else has seen it" standard, and they rarely win awards, unless they're from Asia, and even then. Still, I think this is preferable than me, simply looking for stuff that I think I'll like randomly. I can still be impressed by trailers though, but even when I am, it's often because of previous expectations. Films I've heard a lot about already, and are just now getting a look at. I tweeted recently actually, about how amazing I thought the newest trailer for the HBO show "The Newsroom" is. Of course, I've been carefully following the progress on this show for months now. It the newest show written by the best writer in Hollywood Aaron Sorkin, whose previous shows included "The West Wing," one of the best shows ever made, and "Sports Night" and "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," to shows that were great but cancelled way too early, and that's on top of, writing numerous Award-winning plays, and the screenplays for "A Few Good Men," "The American President," "Charlie Wilson's War," and most recently "The Social Network," which earned him an Oscar, and "Moneyball," which he co-wrote with Steve Zaillian, another good writer, and earned an Oscar nomination for that film. I'm familiar with his work, to understate it, so I'm aware of the way he writes, how he writes, and what he likes to write about, and because his resume is of an exceptional standard, anything he does is on my radar, and after hearing about the cast of "The Newsroom" for months, which is exceptional for a TV show, I've been intrigued. Yet, with all this intrigue already in place, I saw the trailer, with those expectations, and was still shocked and amazed at what I saw. That still doesn't mean that it was the trailer itself that makes me want to watch "The Newsroom"; I was interested in watching it before the trailer. All it did was renew my intrigue and inspire me to watch it more. It did give me some new information. It gave us an intriguing background into what "The Newsroom," is going to be about, it gave us an outline, and briefly introduced me to many of the key characters, and their goals and inspiration, and left me wanting to find out more, which is the key to all trailer, make me want to find out more about the film, and in this case, TV show.

That's a good first question to ask when watching a trailer, "Do I want to see more of it?" In regards to the trailer for "Drive," actually the answer would've been no, but there are other things I look for. Rarely do I care to look for actors in a trailer, there's lots of good actors around, although in the case of "Drive," the casting of Albert Brooks as a heavy, is certainly unusual and worth noting, as an atypical casting choice. For an action movie, I look for the look of the movie, whether it's special effects-heavy action, stuntman heavy action, or the kind and level of violence I might expect, with "Drive", there certainly looks to be violence, and some car chasing, although the car chases don't seem to be based in special effects. It looks like the cars are actually doing only things that cars can do, granted with professional drivers driving, but that's still good to me. That's more of a throwback to memorable good action and car chasing films like "The French Connection," or "Bullitt". The look is somewhat slicker than those, that leads me to believe good photography, probably digital camera, which is typical of most of Hollywood films now. It mentions the film won a major Award, at Cannes for directing, that's very interesting to me, something like that in a trailer, particularly this trailer, because there aren't that many Hollywood films, especially ones that look this slick, that have won that kind of award. That's very unusual, so this is immediately telling me, that there might be something to this movie, that might make it slightly more interesting or different than it's genre, on top of the fact that it's won a major award. They focus on the names of the director and writer. The writer, I don't recognize offhand in this case, that doesn't tell me anything, although the fact that they're showcasing him means that he must be famous enough to merit such consideration. The director, I recognize from another movie he did that I recalled liking, that film being Refn's "Bronson". These are good things to know. The thing that downgrades that in this case is that, those are all pieces of information I could've looked up somewhere else, but good for it, because it's in this trailer, I'm now recalling them, and thinking seriously about looking more into the film. In other kinds of trailers I look for other things, or judge differently. Comedy trailers for instance are maybe the most notoriously unreliable because while they may be funny, there's a major possibility that often they're giving away the funniest lines and moments from the film. Not always the case, films produced/directed by Judd Apatow have shown in the past to be only hinting at the humor, without giving away the entire movie or comedy moments in the film. Kevin Smith movies have in the past been quite good with that as well. These are some of the things to look for in a trailer, there's a few others but these are good starter things to look for. If there's a trailer that doesn't focus on such things, that's something worth noting too, and you should wonder why? Maybe a film has a first-time director, or maybe they're trying to sell it using the actors, or whatever. What do they focus on in a film that is unusual? That's a good question. I've seen a few trailers focus on the movie's soundtrack, that's a little weird, and I'd be wary if that's the best thing a movie's got going for it. Sometimes I'm skeptical when they say "Based on the best-selling book..." or "Based on the novel from the author of..." which means, a secondary, lesser-known novel from a famous novelist, that's really suspicious. Of course, the movie has an MPAA rating most of the time, I don't put much value into those at all, but you might be curious as to why a movie's rated what it's rated.

Even if and when you can improve one's trailer analysis-skills, it should still, never be the sole reason you go and see a movie. I think having no knowledge going in, is better than having just seen a trailer for the film, at least with no knowledge, that means no expectations, so you can have less objectiveness in your film-viewing experience. Remember, they're trying to sell you the movie, that's why most trailers make the film look good, but, especially in this day and age, there's no reason what-so-ever why anybody should see a movie solely because of a trailer. There's so many other ways to find out about movies, that listening to a trailer, seems outdated at best. I mean, it's not like you're ever gonna see Ronald McDonald tell you to go to Jack in the Box, their food's better, right? So, why expect it from a trailer? You can watch them, you can admire them, you can even consider them in your decision-making process, but, to do what that Ms. Deming did, that's just laziness.

Note: "The Newsroom" trailer is available online at youtube.com, as are many of the trailers and advertisement for "Eyes Wide Shut".
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