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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

is ‘Michael Clayton’ too clever for its own good?

Overseen at the IMDB user forums for the film Michael Clayton (my review):

But does it have to come off so smart? I feel it kind of alienates the common viewer.

Yeah! Why don’t more movies pander to the idiot demographic?

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  • Oh god, please don’t read the IMDB message boards. The sheer, soul-destroying idiocy of those forums is rivaled only by YouTube comments.

  • “Great films! With plots! Where you cared about whose ass it was and why it was farting!”

    It’s a beautiful dream, I know, but some of us will die defending it.

    (BTW, full-score behind the Count on this one. The IMDB forums have fully dedicated themselves to redefining the term “weasel pit.”)

  • Further evidence of rampant audience idiocy from the self-same IMDB:

    “Revenue from in-theater advertising rose more than 15 percent to $456 million from $395 million a year ago, according to a study by the Cinema Advertising Council and reported in today’s (Monday) New York Post. Reporting on the results, the newspaper observed, ‘Advertisers eager to reach an audience stuck in their seats are buying up the time in between shows, making it one of the fastest-growing ad categories.’ The Post quoted CAC Chairman Cliff Marks as expressing the belief that moviegoers are becoming ‘more accepting’ of screen advertising. A recent Arbitron poll indicated that two-thirds of moviegoers ‘don’t mind’ the ads.”

    Two-thirds! TWO FREAKIN’ THIRDS!!!

    I’m going to go scream into my pillow now.

  • MBI

    Uh… yeah, Rob. You can count me among those two thirds. I don’t know what you remember preceded those ads, but I remember that before that had commercials, they had still ads. So I don’t see how it’s that much different than before, and when those commercials come on, I do what the rest of the population does with the advertising that inundates society: We tune it out. The more omnipresent ads have become, the less anyone cares, and you can see this problem within the ads themselves, as big companies increasingly turn to bizarre and disturbing imagery in a desperate attempt to get someone’s attention.

  • What’s so bad about ads in between screenings? What I hated was a few years ago when, in addition to previews, they had a whole slew of commercials that started at the film’s posted start time, then previews, and then the movie. I never saw it get too bad, but Ebert got mail from people who sat through over forty minutes of commercials and previews before the movies began. So, by putting the commercials between screenings, they can get the extra revenues, thus not having to further raise ticket sales, while movies still start roughly on time. What’s the problem here?

  • The problem is that you’re still dealing with a captive audience who cannot readily avoid what’s being thrust at them in 70 mm 5.0 digital. It’s the lack of choice involved that galls me… and the unspoken cost that people would apparently rather tolerate than spending a few extra bucks. No, the commercials don’t affect the start time, but they still place usin a position of total and absolute subservience for a message that we did not pay to receive. These are not the same as print ads and motionless slides. With those you have the option to ignore them and engage in other activities before the show starts. The current wave of commercials are purposefully designed to prevent you from doing *anything* other than absorbing their message. Many ad companies pay extra to have the volume on the “pre-show entertainment” cranked up to ear-splitting levels. So if you want to have a quiet conversation with your friend before the movie starts, or read a book, or engage in anything containing a shred of human dignity, you’re out of luck. If you want to get to theater early and get good seats, you’re not just giving up the extra time to do so; you’re deluged with Pepsi ads as well. That’s a cost — an additional price they’re saddling the customer with. Unspoken, unacknowledged, and happily absorbed because it’s not couched in dollar terms… and saving a little money is more important to this society than not being treated like cattle. We have been so complacent about the inexorable creep of relentless product promotion into every aspect of our lives that each additional affront now elicits a shrug and a “whatever.” The pertinent companies know this, and are thus willing to shrug off complaints because — like the frog in the cook pot — we’ll eventually become accustomed to whatever further indignities they hope to inflict on us. I’m sorry, but that’s not okay.

    I may be a little spoiled, because I’m a critic myself and if they pulled any shit like that at press screenings, there would be a riot. I also live in LA, where movie theaters like the Arclight charge a little more for tickets in exchange for running their movies without ads (and providing a few other creature comforts as well). And art house chains like Laemmle’s and Landmark Theaters still try to limit their ads to motionless slide projections because they know their customer base would pitch a fit if they threw commercials into the mix. But that all goes to show that movie theaters get away with this because audience members let them. If we don’t think it’s that big a deal, they’ll keep pushing further and further… and eventually, they’ll force us to accept whatever greedy little hustle they want to foist on us. I understand the need to find new revenue streams, but developments like this will not save movie theaters. They’ll only hasten their demise.

    And I seem to have hijacked this thread, for which I apologize, M-A.

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