November 16, 2005

Pilgrim's Progress

First New Line tries to subliminally affiliate The New World with the middle cow in their cash herd; then they show even less inspiration with their final one-sheet (below), which I thought was fan art when it first showed up online.

You know you're living in anti-intellectual times when the poster for a Terrence Malick movie is identical to that of a Dakota Fanning weeper. Remember the good old days (of Heaven)?

70 comments:

Dave Gibson said...

The decline in poster art is one of the saddest realties of the post-eighties era. Even the worst of the 1970’s Grind house dreck was usually accompanied with a lurid, gorgeously sleazy one-sheet promising all manner of depravity. Geez, even porno movies often had a great poster. Most current posters seem to be of the star driven “Gigantic Head” variety or class photo cast lineups of bratty actors looking petulant. When the traveling carnival hucksterism inherent in movie promotion gave way to the eight-thousand theatre bookings, I think a lot of the charm went with it. I’m sure this is also why previews now resemble “Cliff’s Notes” versions of the entire film. Of course, nowadays it seems every Science Fiction and horror film must be a grave, self-important Christ parable rather than a load of rubber-masked mutants that you must SEE! SEE! SEE! God, can you imagine a movie poster with small type (“Badlands”) or something like the great “Vertigo” poster which is a work of art in and of itself. Both “The New World” posters are terrible—eighty million gets you direct-to-video bait and switch or Ken Wahl and Cheryl Ladd in “Purple Hearts. I’m already gripped with fear about Terry Malick’s run at Pocahontas—thoughts of the uber thug Colin Farrell pawing a teenager and Christopher Plummer with hair extensions are making me queasy.

Walter_Chaw said...

Just sickening - and sapping. Glossy mass-market homogenization - the new posters for Harry Potter 4 are similarly without imagination. My favorite posters are ones for Night Moves or Altered States or the teaser poster for Blair Witch Project that had raised handprints on it over a photo-neg of a forest. Images that were really evocative of something. Even the hero monumentalism of the original Star Wars posters (and Disney's Black Hole) were something special.

Appropos, but only tangentially: I remember seeing a cardboard standee of The Thing in the lobby of an old theater where I was waiting to see Ghostbusters and almost wetting myself.

Anonymous said...

If I can hijack the thread for a second, does anybody have any favorite movie posters? Perhaps it'd be more interesting to ask what people's favorite posters are since the Photoshop Era began; I can't think of any right now, but if I can, I'll write one down. But I'd be interested to hear people's reactions.

Alex Jackson said...

I have two picked out already but I'll be sure to work out a list with links and explanations soon.

Bill C said...

*Since* the Photoshop era began? So, from about 1990 on? I think that Thin Red Line one-sheet would be one of mine. Looking forward to Alex's list, but, purely off the top of my head, I'd have to say Miller's Crossing, the teaser poster for The Phantom Menace, Ghost World, Pulp Fiction, and Fargo (the "homespun" one, which I actually have autographed by the Coen Brothers and framed on my wall).

Anonymous said...

The people that bottom poster is meant to attract are going to be confused and disappointed by the movie itself. At least those are my hopes for it.

Rachel said...

I'd have to go back... off the top of my head? Moulin Rouge, Eternal Sunshine, Lost in Translation, My Summer of Love (the one where they're lying down together), Requiem for a Dream, Office Space (Points for evoking Brazil? I might be a sucker).

Dave Gibson said...

Great posters from 1990 onwards? I'd have to pick the awesome Naked Lunch one-sheet (the head as typewriter), the smoky romaticism of the Wild At Heart poster and the B+W Ed Wood--replete with those little 5X7 photos lining the bottom, introducing a cast of 1,000 stars...

Walter_Chaw said...

Man, I love this topic. How about the Barton Fink poster, the Dead Man, and The Frighteners - all three are hanging in my office or my basement. Wanna second Bill's opinion back there that Frighteners is Jackson's best work. It's fucking amazing, really, with cult legend Jeff Combs in a key role, and a high degree of melancholia.

Anonymous said...

As we discussed some months ago -- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Astounding movie. Poster that rips through John Hughes. Yes.

After Photoshop, though... toughie. Today's are too utilitarian for me. Fargo would be up there.

-- Ian

rachel said...

Speaking of bad posters, can we talk about the awful one-sheet for The Libertine? Besides ripping off the Sleepy Hollow poster, and managing to make Johnny Depp look horrid- and stinking of rushed Photoshop- it doesn't even try to get across any major theme of the movie. Unless a major theme is glaring over Samantha Morton's shoulder. It's pretty bad when your title is doing all the legwork.

Bill C said...

Remembered 2 more: love the 'cigarette-package' poster for The Insider, and I thought the 40 Year-Old Virgin poster was better than the movie. There are a few posters I used to think were pretty cool, like those for American Beauty and The Truman Show, that have dated like bad pop art.

Anonymous said...

That Insider poster is really striking. Me likey.

Alex Jackson said...

It might be obvious, but I am only including posters for films that I can also endorse.

In order as to the best of my ability.

1. Sid and Nancy
2. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
3. Pulp Fiction
4. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
5. Punch Drunk Love
6. The Exorcist
7. Casualties of War
8. Batman
9. Blue Velvet
10. Eraserhead

The two best posters for films I have never seen:

Getting Straight (Although, this might just be the art for the video box, which is even funnier)

Happy Birthday to Me

Only one is my office, but all probably should be.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Alex,

I finally watched Happy Birthday to Me about a month ago being that it was one of the few '80s slashers I hadn't seen, and it was unbelievably stiff and boring (director J. Lee Thompson did much, much better work in Charles Bronson's career-best, the dynamic The Evil That Men Do and the original Cape Fear).

Favorite posters:

Alien
High Plains Drifter
Stone Cold Dead (Turkish version)
Flesh and Bone
The Mean Season
The Island (1980)
Weeds
Year of the Dragon

Jack_Sommersby said...

Oh, and Alex: Although I dig Casualties of War, I absolutely fucking detest its lick-the-sweat-off-my-balls poster of it. Ick!

Bill C said...

I sorta vacilate between liking and disliking the Casualties of War poster. Certainly it's better than the DVD cover art.

One of my favourite posters of all-time is actually for a movie I've never seen: Downhill Racer. Then there's the odd bland poster redeemed by a great tagline, a la Clear and Present Danger: "Truth Needs a Soldier."

Anonymous said...

Long time reader, first time poster.

Ocean's Eleven - the original red one, with the tagline: "They're Having So Much Fun It's Illegal".

Keith Uhlich said...

Doubt it'll even approach the Alan Moore source material, but the latest posters for "V for Vendetta" are pretty awesome IMHO.

(sorry to defile you cultured gents with a link to Ain't It Cool :-) )

http://www.aintitcool.com/display.cgi?id=21841

http://media.filmforce.ign.com/media/715/715513/img_3218735.html

Keith

Walter_Chaw said...

Speaking of old slasher posters that kick ass: Mother's Day.

Anonymous said...

By necessity, '80s slasher posters have to be utterly outrageous and ridiculously awesome. Probably the best thing to come out of the genre, really -- forcing people to really be creative in order to hide the fact that it's just a bunch of teens getting offed. (The same dynamic comes in titling them -- no movie could possibly live up to the titles Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers or Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.) The best part about this is how they purposely flout any logic; I'm still trying to work out April Fool's Day, which always brought the phrase "remember not to turn around" to my mind. And, I just admire the hell out of a poster that tries to make a serious affair out of a movie called Dr. Giggles.

-- Ian

Vikram said...

One poster that is fairly recent that made me laugh and one that is not the typical bland/boring/recycled poster is the one for for "The Rules of Attraction" with the teddy bears. In fact I remember being surprised at the time that they would even do a poster like that. I'm not sure that it qualifies as a work of art but I still chuckle every time that I see it.

Alex Jackson said...

That April Fool's Day poster kicks all kinds of ass. I think I actually like it better than Happy Birthday to Me. That's a new favorite.

Dr. Giggles is actually a pretty good show, you should check it out, Ian. It's more Nightmare on Elm Street than Friday the 13th. It likes its protagonist, and the ending is really sweet. Several great moments, including a dig at Nintendo's Dr. Mario! Attendant readers will also note that that is the movie I saw the day I lost my virginity; so it has sentimental value.

Casualties of War poster is an interesting affair. I like the movie, but I do like the poster more and it looks as if it'll present a new angle on the primordial, hyper-macho mythos of the Vietnam movie genre. Great poster.

With the exception of April Fool's Day, I think that I'm getting to feeling satisfied that I made the right list.

Alex Jackson said...

Oh, I forgot the Rules of Attraction poster. I liked both the fucking teddy bears and the offical one which reminded me of some cover art I saw for an early seventies printing of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Ada.

Walter_Chaw said...

Loved the teaser for the first Spider-Man film of the web strung between the Twin Towers. Also like this one for Buffalo Soldiers that was also going to be banned at one point, if I recall.

Vikram said...

The Rules of Attraction

Check this one out for The Night Walker that I found by accident. That is from 1965. 40 years later and it is still scary.

Bill C said...

I happen to love the original Nightmare on Elm Street poster, which has been hanging on my wall since the late-'80s. There's this great tension in the art between wanting to look exploitative and Spielbergian. Dream Warriors is the other great poster concept in that series. I still remember forging mythologies for all the characters standing on the Freddy blades because I was too young to go see it. (Canada's R is like America's NC-17.)

Walter_Chaw said...

Vikram:
That poster seems to be aping Swiss painter Henry Fuseli's 1780 painting "The Nightmare" - an image that was also taken for the poster art for the Gothic film as well as for Ray Bradbury's Long Past Midnight collection. I also recall it showing up in some film or another now and again. Creepy stuff - the Fuseli painting has a horse (the "night mare" as it were) coming in through a window.

Vikram said...

Walter,

I Googled the Fusili painting and I have no doubt that that was the inspiration and that imagery certainly seems to pop up in a lot of different places - I think I've seen a similar image on a friend's old Conan comic cover way back in the day.

Going back to movie posters - considering the amounts of money that studios spend on marketing etc...I am wondering why don't they try to make the posters unique and interesting as they used to? They've got the money, I mean, it would certainly increase interest, would it not?

Is it that no one cares or is it a lack of imagination? Perhaps that's a rhetorical question.

Bemis said...

There was a show a few years back at Mass MoCA (local art gallery) of hand-painted movie posters from Ghana. These posters are circulated with travelling "video shows" of films like Man Bites Dog and Leprechaun 2, and they boast more weird imagination and pure salesmanship than anything coming out of Hollywood. They're also interesting as a reflection of how our junk artifacts are decoded by the rest of the world.

Alex Jackson said...

Ada pic

Rules of Attraction

At the very least, the two are kindred spirits.

I think the movie posters that work the best aren't made from whole cloth but simply consist of a particularly iconic still from the film (Sid and Nancy, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Exorcist, The Shining, which I neglected to include on my list). I mean, I don't think that you can get any more honest than that.

Vikram said...

Alex, I think your point is well taken especially in films with competent directors who have the capacity to create iconic imagery.

What is interesting is when you see great movie art that makes you want to see the film where the film is worse than the poster - where the artist has to sell you the movie because there may be no great imagery in the film itself.

Of course that is in some ways dishonest but I suppose that one has to appreciate the talent it takes to sucker you in - especially some of those bad exploitation movies where the posters are definitely better than the film - so much so that I wonder whether they should have had the poster artist maybe direct the movie.

Anonymous said...

Walter-

Enjoyed your review for Harry Potter 4, but who is J.K. Potter? Methinks you might want to go back and fix that one. Unless it was some sort of nickname that went way over my head.

Walter_Chaw said...

Ah - goddamnit. J.K. Rowling, right?

Holy shit, this brain tumor just keeps getting bigger.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the person you were talking about is J.K. Rowling.

Scott said...

I always loved the teaser poster for BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II. My junior-high self, loving the first one, had always dreamed of a sequel. I was stunned, floored, THRILLED to see the teaser poster nonchalantly hanging on the lobby wall.

(I also love the BACK TO FUTURE PART II theatrical poster. Or rather, my adolescent self does. It seemed so close to the original, but slightly different, slightly futuristic; it was actually happening. It was real. It was coming. It held possibilities.

Remember those feelings?

Bill C said...

Ach, I take full responsibility for that Rowling gaffe. Fell asleep at the wheel.

And holy shit, do I remember that feeling, Scott. The only comparable high was lingering in the theatre after DeepstarSix just to see the Batman teaser again.

I lost the address in a comp crash, but Drew Struzan runs a website where, among other things, you can browse abandoned poster concepts for the three BTTF movies.

James Allen said...

Re: Movie posters

I still have an affinity for those cheesy 70's "all-star" film posters that had the actors' faces in little boxes at the bottom or the side. Like the one for Murder on the Orient Express or most of the Airport films.

As far as 70's horror films go, I can still clearly remember the scary simplicity of the It's Alive poster.

Anonymous said...

James, have you seen the It's Alive trailer? If you haven't, check it out on IMDB; one of the most straightforward horror trailers ever. Essentially: "Holy shit! Monster baby!"

-- Ian

James Allen said...

The one I remember was just for the first one (It's Alive, the sequel was called It Lives Again, the trailer you refer to jogged my memory, as they did rerelease the two of them together) was simply similar to the poster, with narration (some of which is used on the poster, including the "don't see it alone" line) and a revolving baby crib, with the reveal of the hand at the end. The baby was never seen in the original spots, which I remember to be 15 second TV spots that were shown constantly on TV at the time.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Picking on a tangent, I am in absolute fucking love with Buffalo Soldiers. To me, it is one of the most overlooked, under-appreciated films of last 5 years.

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Just finished watching Vernon, Florida for the first time. My life and perception of range of film-art has been altered irrevocably by these 55-minutes of pure heaven.

Walter_Chaw said...

Big fan of both Buffalo Soldiers and Vernon, FL. Did I never write a review of Buffalo Soldiers? I remember seeing it about ten times when it first came out - it was playing at a Madstone Theater that had hired me to do discussions every week (they folded still owing me a couple grand - nice) and I'd often watch it instead of the film I was supposed to talk on. You don't know hell until you have to discuss Love, Actually in front of fifty middle-aged women who loved it.

You seen Gates of Heaven yet?

tim r said...

Isn't the problem that posters these days just get routinely farmed out to the in-house marketing depts, and the creative team barely get a say any more? I can't imagine, say, Kubrick letting anything past him that he wasn't completely happy with. (Eyes Wide Shut was a good, or at least a grabby one.) My own favourites are all Saul Bass ones for Otto Preminger. Anatomy of a Murder. Advise and Consent. Exodus. There we had one of the greatest designers in film history single-handedly coming up with a concept that not only worked brilliantly in the abstract for each film but even dovetailed with the opening credits.

Where have the Saul Basses gone? Or was this guy a complete one-off?

Bill C said...

I think Buffalo Soldiers was one of the dozen or so reviews permanently lost to the great meltdown of '02.

Back to posters: I don't know how much influence the creative team has over the marketing these days. On the 12 Monkeys DVD, Terry Gilliam takes a meeting with the art department where he selects the poster concept he likes best, and it's the one that made it into multiplexes. I suspect it's one of those privileges you earn as you ascend the ranks, but this New World debacle has really thrown that theory for a loop.

tim r said...

It's the small/cult movies that need and get the best posters these days - something like Memento, where the burden really does fall on the marketing to come up with something fresh, as opposed to just getting the stars' faces in the right place.

The Captain said...

Damn, this Psychology Work Placement has got me missing out on all the great discussion here.

You don't know hell until you have to discuss Love, Actually in front of fifty middle-aged women who loved it.

Still at a loss as to how anyone could be fooled into enjoying that patchwork quilt of embarrassing, hateful crap. Similar to the way people love both Saw abominations.

Movie posters - loved the fantastic Punch-Drunk Love, Rules of Attraction, Dream Warriors, The Frighteners posters, as above, and the nifty Lost in Translation poster that Bill had on his Top 10 List last year. Also to add to that list:
This fantastic Kill Bill Volume 1 teaser poster
The many versions of this speccy Kill Bill Volume 2 poster
The Sopranos Season 5
Oldboy

Hollow Man Stuffed Man said...

Walter:

Did see Gates of Heaven when Cinematheque Ontario showed it a few months ago. I thought it was a good film with a lot of subtext that I would have to see the film again for, but Vernon, Florida is a fucking masterpeice for ages. And i know one when I see one.

In retrospect, it's a shame that Errol Morris's new stuff plays like Michael Moore. It almost feels like the old Errol Morris would have made films like Vernon, Florida just asa reaction to vanity and annoyance of Fast, Cheap & out of Control .

Bemis said...

Walter:

Your Harry Potter review was right on the money, although those last twenty minutes were pretty swell. During the Quidditch World Cup scenes, I started to fear that we might one day look back on Harry Potter 4 as yet another hoisting of the bar for what is expected from a franchise movie in terms of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Anonymous said...

Allow me to throw in the poster for The Dead Pool, the fifth and final Dirty Harry film, in reality a wonderful movie; a great riff on celebrity culture and movies (and movies-within-movies, for that matter). The somber poster (and film) conveys the fact that Eastwood/Harry has aged, something that the previous Harry film, Sudden Impact, unwisely tried to ignore. Also, the prominent use of Harry's Magnum is delightfully ironic when concerning the film's climax, where the killer du jour gets ahold of the famous .44 and chases him around with it in an almost horror movie fashion.

-- Ian

Bill C said...

I'm gonna have to take another look at The Dead Pool now. Watched all five Dirty Harry movies consecutively a few years back and came away disliking all but the first two. Jim Carrey and Patricia Clarkson are both pretty swell in that flick, though, and that car chase is my kind of bugfuck. I remember thinking it looked kinda chintzy; it's the only one not shot in 'scope and that and the '80s put it at an aesthetic remove from its predecessors that makes it feel more like a Cannon picture. And Harry's Asian partner gets about as much respect as Tyne Daly did.

sabine said...

Walter:

Agree with most of your Harry Potter 4 review. Newell does not create from his subconscious, he just tells the story as it's in the book. He makes it a kind of relationship comedy with a number of dark setpieces strewn in. The film never really involved me emotionally or imaginatively.

I don't quite agree with the verdict on the teen actors though: I feel Radcliffe does o.k., Rupert Grint finally gives up his formerly unbearable grimacing and becomes believable, Emma Watson is unfortunately driven into overacting, which is a real nuisance.

Enjoyed both Miranda Richardson (my favorite actress now, I think)and Ralph Fiennes a lot.

Anonymous said...

Definitely worth a look, Bill. Recently plowed through all of the Dirty Harry movies myself this week and was surprised. The Dead Pool is, admittedly, incredibly eighties (particularly the opening credits' horrendous music), but I like the fact that they portray Harry in the actual time of the movie's creation; a strange, far removal from Harry's original 1971 case. (Also, you'll note that the SFPD treats Harry differently -- more as an unstoppable force that can be exploited, rather than reprimanded.)

I liked Magnum Force (Dirty Harry #2) as well, though I think they could have done more with the Dirty Harry vs. vigilante cops ethics issue -- it's more of a straight action flick. The Dead Pool capitalizes on its premise a bit more.

-- Ian

Bill C said...

Always wished Eastwood would make one more Dirty Harry movie, just to put the character to bed. Something a bit po-mo along the lines of Unforgiven; even though he's 106 years old, I feel like Clint's recent gloomy phase, the filmic equivalent to crawling under the porch to die, is a bit premature. With all the Blood Works and Space Cowboys he managed to squeeze in after his big comeback, just seems like a waste that there's not more closure on the Callahan mythos.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Magnum Force has always been my favorite Dirty Harry ffilm, so it's all the more frustrating that I've never seen it in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I can never find a rental copy of it at my video store, damnit. And speaking of which, that film's director, Ted Post, according to critic Stanley Kauffmann, made the best Vietnam film, Go Tell the Spartans, but I've never been able to find a DVD rental for that, either. As for another Harry entry, I don't think so. I re-watched The Dead Pool just about a year ago, and it was as bad as I remembered it at the theatre. Sheesh, I have ten times more fun with Pink Cadillac instead! Also re-watched Tightrope, since it was available on DVD, and I don't have nearly the problem with its logic loopholes and underdeveloped premise like I used to. Still, it's inexcusable that there's no anamorphic transfer for Clint's best film, High Plains Drifter; and there's also not one for 48 Hrs., which I hadn't seen in years and watched because the library had the DVD in its catalog (I know you're not a huge fan of James Horner's work, Walter, but his score in that film is simply outstanding, to where I've found myself replaying just to take in some very, very classic music cues.)

Scott said...

The big problem I have with critics reviewing kids flicks is that they're not, well, kids.

Having just watched HARRY POTTER 4 with a bunch of preteens in a Philippines theater, I was reminded once again that what it is boring for us old folks is fresh for them young folks. To kids going through adolescence, wondering about girls and boys, realizing that they're awkward schmucks at heart, all those scenes in the flick -- at the prom, before and after -- rang true as bell, as their anxious laughs attest. For me, the film also serves as a wonderful metaphor for the painful slog of growing up -- competing in games we feel we're not ready for, trying to deal with the opposite sex, dodging our teachers' questionable motives. Viewed through a genre prism, it may not be fresh, but the ideas can be snuck in and presented to kids in a way that rings true and doesn't sidetrack from the really cool stuff, like dragons and wizards and demons. (Oh my...)

I know the latest HARRY POTTER flick is aiming older, and I can't say I disagree with any of what Walter says, but I still feel that entertainment aimed at children, at the unjaded, is very, very hard to judge and digest through thirty, forty, fifty-something eyes. It may not be for us, no, but for them, the young 'uns, films such as these can still have a freshness and vitality that smacks not so much of regurgitated ideas but more of an understanding that there may be nothing new under the sun, no, but it's always new for SOMEbody.

Bill C said...

The widescreen DVD of Magnum Force is pretty cheap if you hunt around, Jack, and it's actually the best-looking of the Dirty Harry discs. Indeed, Ted Post is a really underestimated director--for all the flaws of Beneath the Planet of the Apes, it's very cinematic, and Post made one of the most absolutely disturbing movies I've ever seen, called The Baby, which I've heard inspired the Stewart character on "MADtv".

Walter_Chaw said...

What I'll say about what Scott has to say is "sure" and "'course" and "no argument here" - but I can only review through the peepers I got - conjecturing what others might like because they're unlike me begins to be condescending sooner or later. Dangerous road to hoe, there. A lot of folks do the review and say "but kids will love it" and me, I feel like that's sort of a given. Unless it's Bergman, kids are going to love it. But there should be a standard of quality beyond what makes the kiddies squeal.

Believe me, being a parent, the temptation is huge to say "Madagascar isn't great but my two-year-old, she's seen like three movies in her lifetime and she really loves it." - but I'm not saying anything worth saying, am I right? Arguably, I never do, but you get my meaning.

I will say, though, that I've gotten a goodly amount of mail about that HP4 review - and a few -particularly one from a 13-year-old - were extraordinarily articulate about their agreement. No hatemail yet. Astonishingly, the HP contingent is proving itself to be a more responsible, respectful, and intelligent fanboy group than the Star Wars geeks and the LotR fans.

sabine said...

I remember watching Harry Potter 3 in a theater full of schoolkids at 3 p.m. - what would be a very unruly audience under any circumstances.

I've never seen such a rapt audience, no hoots, no giggles, no whispering but a very long applause at the end. And that was because the film was excellent and I felt the children were completely taken in by the storytelling.

Not so with HP 4, it was the usual sports event, where all the expected stuff came up and was cheered at in recognition.

The Captain said...

Any chance for a special reader mail for the HP letters?

shrug said...

Late to the party, but:

Straw Dogs (Hoffman's face with the broken glasses)
The japanese one-sheet for Hana-bi which features only the flower.
I'm fond of the "british quad" for Kitano's Zatoichi
I think the only reason I own the japanese poster for A Clockwork Orange is sheer novelty, but it still has a special place in my heart (or at least on my wall).

Alex Jackson said...

The big problem I have with critics reviewing kids flicks is that they're not, well, kids.

Eh, the big problem with that statement is that it can be applied to anything.

"The big problem I have with critics reviewing Armenian flicks is that they're not, well, Armenian."

"The big problem I have with critics reviewing 1930s flicks is that they do not, well, live in the 1930s"

"The big problem I have with critics reviewing Nazi flicks is that they're not, well, Nazis"

"The big problem I have with critics reviewing retarded flicks is that they're not, well, retarded"

And so on. The way I see it, any film that cannot be generalized to other cultures and social groups is of limited worth anyway.

That said, we need to stop thinking of movie reviews as passing ultimate judgment on a film's worth. That's insane. Just as insane as people who believe that film adaptations of novels should be little more than an illustrated text. The book is always going to be there for you to read, and the movie is always going to be there for you to watch so what's the problem?

And besides, Walter is closer to me in experience and perspective than any given 12-year old and that is likely to be true for most of the site's readers, and so wouldn't it make sense that his opinion is valued over that of 12-year olds?

And who is to say that Harry Potter is for children anyway? Adults read the books as well.


Any chance for a special reader mail for the HP letters?

Here, here.

Jack_Sommersby said...

Scott,

The big problem I have with critics reviewing kids flicks is that they're not, well, kids.

Re-watched the excellent Dennis the Menace about a month ago, and I had as great a time with it as I did 10 years ago. And I'm 35, pal! Also took a look at an early Roland Emmerich kid's film called Making Contact, and it wasn't anything that bowled me over, but it possessed a sweet spirit to it that carried me through to the end. (Hell, I checked out Scooby-Doo 2 from the library last week because it was free, and while I detested the original I kinda liked the sequel.)

So as a grown-up I can enjoy kids' films. It's just when it's crap like Baby Geniuses and the like that my bullshit detector immediately goes off.

Jack_Sommersby said...

And something about the Potter films is the subpar Ratcliffe in the title role. Clearly, the producers didn't give a damn if the kid could act or not; his looking the part was all they cared about, and Ratcliffe is about as exciting to watch as a soap commercial. So when it's hard to care about the lead character, it's hard to care about the story, which is why I made it only through 20 minutes of the first film and have had no interest in watching the others. Now, About a Boy's Nicholas Hoult, now he would have made a great Harry Potter!

Anonymous said...

Bill:

Here I go defending The Dead Pool again, but I would call it pretty impressively post-modern in its own right. The chase sequence from Bullitt, recreated with an explosive R/C car? Damn. Simultaneously hilarious and exciting.

Scott/Walter/Jack:

One thing we have to remember about kids' flicks is that they're made by adults; they can try to pawn it off as "just kids' stuff" (really a condemnation of their own work), but just as the critics know things the kids don't, so do the creators. That perspective is just as valid as one from the target audience. Prime example is the many "what were they thinking" moments from the Olsen Twins' New York Minute.

For some reason I'm also reminded of Peter Jackson's Meet the Feebles, an early stab from the NZ filmmaker as a horrifying parody and gross-out. Not a very good film -- it starts off a little too perverted to be a successful parody of the Muppets (purposely offensive racial stereotypes, visible nipples on the puppets), and the humor is extremely "poo-poo-pee-pee" -- but the idea of adults making kids' fare becomes an interesting one in this sense; basically a matter of taking real-life behind-the-scenes antics and applying them to puppets. An extended Deer Hunter parody played out with felt frogs in foot-high grass to represent 'Nam -- probably the best scene in the movie.

As for Harry Potter, I'm just sorry that Mike Newell took us back to Chris Columbus' territory and found an inexplicable need to remain faithful to the book. I'll be the first to admit I've read the books; Goblet of Fire is probably my favorite among them. The fact that Kloves and Newell decide that they could both (a) remain faithful to the text of the book and (b) chop it all up so much that it results in 2 1/2 hours is what kills it. They cut out so much that the primary plotline that they decided to keep becomes Swiss cheese; it results in something loud and unintelligible. David Yates and Order of the Phoenix have a lot of work ahead of them. But yes, allow me to also throw a vote in for the HP reader mail.

And, ah yes, Dennis the Menace, directed by Nick Castle, The Shape himself. Should really check out his movies again...

-- Ian

Walter_Chaw said...

In semi-defense of Scott - there's something really great about seeing certain films with exactly the right audience. I mention a while back a sneak of Candyman I saw in college and that remains one of the most illuminating, and terrifying, communal film experiences that I've ever had. The movie's great, but my memories of my first experience of it remain current and live-wire - mostly because the audience was just right. It'd make a lousy, Ebert-esque review if I wrote it up that way - but there you have it - and therein lies a lot of the madness of studios scheduling evening screenings of some of their pictures up for review.

Ian certainly brings up an interesting topic, though, in regards to adults making films for children and the level of transparency - or opacity - embedded in that sneaky proposition. Think, too, about men making films for women (almost all chick flicks are at least directed, if not also written and produced, by boys) and whites for blacks. Kathryn Bigelow for a while was making pretty nifty flicks for men so. . . I dunno'.

I don't wanna' speak for Bill, but the reader mail for HP4 is all pretty similar. Articulate, well-thought-out little bits of agreement. Maybe a blog reader mail with one or two examples? If I can get my shit together, we actually have a couple of Sunday Features in the pipeline that should take precedence. Of course, I'm always in the market for safety nets.

Interesting thing - the dude who wrote me about the Batman Begins review, wrote back - still calling me a coward and hoping that I get cancer. (Sure wish he'd sign his emails, that paradigm of courage.) It's odd to attract that kind of venom for what I think might be a reading comprehension error on his part. I don't recall sympathizing with Al Qaeda in that review - maybe it's my "unamerican" name.

If only they could all be Harry Potter fans.

Back to posters: the teaser for Dave McKean's Mirrormask is super-keane. Big fan of McKean/Gaiman - at least I was about a decade-and-a-half ago.

Anonymous said...

http://www.moviegoods.com/Assets/product_images/1020/311494.1020.A.jpg Does this work?

Anonymous said...

No. Tch. Well, copy-and-paste if you have the incentive. It's a pin-up of Joaquin Phoenix for Walk the Line and I think as a poster it's pretty nifty.

Bill C said...

Try this: Walk the Line.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that's the one. Thanks Bill.