Thursday, August 26, 2010

Second Time Around

One of the only things I've ever won on the radio was tickets to see the re-release of Star Wars, back in 1997, when ol' George Lucas decided to remind us all that the original in his space saga was just the beginning of his camp-fest, with three more cheesy prequels on the horizon. I was in that minority, back then, of movie fans who had not yet seen any Star Wars films. As a kid in the eighties, I had t-shirts, lunch boxes, and video games all tied to the Star Wars universe but I had never seen any of the original films. So when I won tickets to see the first one on the big screen, I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew at the time was Dark Vader was voice by James Earl Jones.

I remember not being too terribly excited to see the film as I walked into the megaplex that day. I took my father and my cousin along with me, neither of whom were Star Wars fans either. As I sat there in the theater and watched the film, trying hard to not snicker at the dated special effects, what mainly dominated my thoughts was one simple notion: I was glad that I was watching this film in a movie theater and not at home on my un-HDTV.

Now I'll say this upfront for all you Star Wars fanatics: Star Wars in a revolutionary film that practically single-handedly created the big budget, special effects extravaganza film genre and it deserves its place in cinema history. But in my opinion, the original Star Wars is one of those films that dates itself and continues, throughout the film, to draw attention to this fact. When you break it down, the actual story at the core of Star Wars is simplistic and extremely predictable; the film was a success at it's initial release not because of it's original storytelling but because it was ambitious in pushing the limits of what grand special effects could do for a simple story. Lucas has balls, that's no doubt, but when watched in hindsight, none but the hardest cored fan can resist from admitting that Star Wars looks almost laughable to today's standards. The cinematic technology hadn't caught up to Lucas's vision yet but he did the best he could with what he had to work with. That he did this was admirable but doesn't necessary make for an enjoyable watching experience today. A film should bring you to the brink of reality and allow you to lose yourself into the world of the film. I'm sure that was possible watching Star Wars in 1977 but despite it's innovation, it was all too obvious in 1997 that the light sabers looked like flat neon sticks.

But the thing about these technological misgivings was that sitting in the theater that day watching Star Wars for the first time...I didn't care about that. I didn't care that the explosions looked stupid or that Darth Vader looked dorky. It was a cinematic experience, enhanced by the dark room of the theater, the booming sound system and the cheers of the other audience members who were clearly Star Wars fans. For me, the lights of the big screen and ambiance of the theater made Star Wars what it couldn't be on the standard definition television screens of the enjoyable cinematic experience.

This enjoyment could have only happened in the theater; if I had watched Star Wars for the first time at home, I might not have understood what all the fuss was about. But going to the theater and actually seeing the film as it was intended to be seen made all the difference. This is why I am a huge advocate for seeing a film in a movie theater, when possible. Screw rising tickets prices, lackluster service at the concession stand or sticky theater floors...if a film you missed is being released at the theater and it's a film you wanted to see, then you should make every effort to see it in its intended format.

I often go to Saturday midnight movies at a local theater in Dallas that show a range of different films from years past. I took my girlfriend to see Pulp Fiction one night at this theaters and initially she didn't understand why I would spend money on a movie that I owned at home. But as we enjoyed the movie splashed on the big screen, listening to the killer soundtrack through loud theater speakers and sitting next to several Pulp Fiction fans in the theater who were enjoying the film just as much as I was, I hope she realized that it wasn't about simply watching a movie.

It was about experiencing a movie.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Unnecessary Trailing

Movie trailers are a topic that deserve discussion and for some time now I've had an extensive article about the triumphs and pitfalls of movie trailers brewing in my head. It's still brewing. I'm compiling a list of good trailers, bad trailers and everything in between in order to intellectually and knowledgeably write a comprehensive article that tackles various aspects of the art behind the infamous motion picture trailer.

But until then I have something to say.

I'm noticing a current trend in film trailers that both confuses and aggravates me, and seeing as how I just ran across this weird occurrence in a trailer I saw today for Scott Pilgrim vs The World, I decided to at least get this off my chest.

Has this ever happened to you? You're watching an interesting trailer on television or on the Internet and then all of a sudden, the director or the producer or the movie star pops up on screen and proceeds to tell someone off camera what the movie is about, as if he or she is being interviewed about the movie in some obscure press junket.

Why they #$@!?

Has it come to this? Are we, the "audience" that stupid now that we have to have someone explain our movie trailers to us? Is it necessary to have a member of the production crew tell us exactly what the trailer should be telling us already? It's like watching a commercial about a commercial that we're already watching. It's like having a singer talk over their own song and explain what the song is about. Its like watching an episode of The Real World and seeing whatever media whore they cast that season act out dramatically on camera, then having that same person tell the camera, interview-style, they were "pissed". No shit you're pissed, we just saw you slap another cast member and throw a vase across the room. I think we get the picture.

I don't understand the necessity to include the director and or any other production member in a film trailer. Is it a new clause in entertainment contracts? Do the studios feel that confessional style interviews are what the audience want, seeing as how we've become a society of reality television. Or do they just think we won't get what the film is about from the trailer alone. If this is the case, interviews from the director isn't whats needed...firing of the trailer editor is whats necessary.

But of course, this is most likely the not the case. What most likely is the case is that studios are simply attempting to put a fresh spin on the" movie trailer" by including these clips of production member interviews because it not only makes the film more accessible to a wider audience but it also make the film seem more of an "event" that needs to be experienced because hey, the director is right there telling me to go see it! Now, I applaud the studios for trying to think outside the box when it come to marketing their films, and they ultimately have the right to do this. But the film enthusiasts in me cringes every time I see a trailer that does this. It makes the trailer draw attention to the marketing scheme behind the movie, rather than focusing on the movie itself. A trailer's main purpose is to tease and inform the audience on what a particular film is about, not who made it or why. The why's and the who's is great information to know, but there are already avenues for which the public can seek out that information; it's place isn't in the movie trailer.

I realize that I'm most likely in the minority here but I'm okay with that. I'm sure plenty of people will watch these types of trailers and think nothing of their obscurities. And truth be told, I can endure them, particularly since thankfully I have yet to see an official film trailer use this marketing ploy; I'm talking about the film trailers you see right before a feature presentation at the theater. Thankfully those movie theater trailers stick to their own obscurities and flaws...but that's an article for another time.

What's your opinion on this?