July 05, 2010

Blockbusted

With the impending, inevitable demise of BLOCKBUSTER VIDEO fast on the heels of it being kicked off the NYSE for allowing its stock to plummet to, oh, around .18 cents/share, wanted to take this opportunity to allow us all to share our shadenfreude or - perish the thought - our regrets at the passing of this monolithic enterprise.

Best moment with the franchise? When Ethan Hawke's Hamlet does his soliloquy in its aisles; the most brilliant re-imagination in all of a brilliant film. You know what we don't see enough of? Michael Almereyda. Can't wait for his upcoming Jonathan Lethem adaptation TONIGHT AT NOON.

Also sort of like when the Fight Club boys break in and electro-magnet-erase all the tapes because 1999 = longer ago than you think.

Worst moments? The pricing, late fees, generally apathetic and ignorant staff, ridiculous stocking policy, legacy of closed mom & pops?

Here's my personal fave: when they took a poll to see what people wanted to see in the movies with the idea that they were influential enough an entity (like Wal-Mart, fer instance) to directly affect the content of films yet to be released. Call it a test audience without a screening. Chalk one up for the good guys.

70 comments:

Dave said...

So at this half-way point through the half-ass year, is Kick-Ass your number 1 so far Walter? If so that's pretty embarrassing, about as embarrassing as your four-star review for District 9 from last year. I hate to say it, but all your bashing on the idiocy of fanboys and what have you strikes me as oddly self-lacerating. Oh well, at least we mostly agree about The Crazies.

Anyway, my best memory of Blockbuster is ignoring them. Smaller, locally owned video stores always managed to survive where I grew up.

Daniel said...

I actually really enjoyed District 9 as well.

Is there a forthcoming review of The Last Airbender? I'd be really interested in reading that.

KayKay said...

There's no BB in Malaysia but there were a few in Melbourne where I studied awhile ago...how long ago? Let's see, films were on video then and I found it strange that BB didn't have posters on their boxes...just white receptacles with the BB logo on them.

The staff weren't ignorant but they were largely disinterested in the concept of customer service.
Video EZY on the other hand hired people who cracked constipated smiles and were rude as fuck.

The small mom & pop outlet I did frequent was memorable because the video guy once recommended HK Soft Porn classic Sex & Zen to me by categorically stating it as the "best art-house Asian epic" he'd ever seen and the video girl got miffed when I told her I couldn't locate Tony Scott's The Hunger on the Horror Shelf. It was under "Art House Cinema" because it wasn't, she proceeded to lecture me, "just another vamp flick. It makes you think."

jacksommersby said...

Always despised Blockbuster. For so many years their prices were obscenely high while some mom-and-pop stores offered far better ones; yet they continued to prosper despite of this, like in college towns where so many students had daddy's credit card and didn't care about the prices, and, of course, in high-income neighborhoods where the residents saw it as way too inconvenient to drive a few more blocks for cheaper prices when a Blockbuster was just down the street. (Am reminded of the thankfully-now-defunct Sam Goody which charged mostly retail prices while across the street at a Hasting's or Best Buy the prices were almost always $3-$5 cheaper.) And let's not forget Blockbuster and their pussy way of not carrying NC-17 titles. In a nutshell, I'm super-duper glad with the nearing reality of Blockbuster finally going under for good. Hoo-ah!

Jason said...

@jacksommersby: To be fair to Blockbuster on the porn thing, you do have to have a special license to rent the stuff and you do have to have it in a separate room from everything else, complete with signage ("BEWARE! Porn be here!"). That also does change the more "family friendly" image that Blockbuster cultivated. So, between the cost and the message, it's not surprising that Blockbuster didn't go that route.

This saddens me somewhat, because while Blockbuster was never particularly GOOD with their selections and prices, they were rarely outside the norms. Like jacksommersby says, they were retail priced. Other video stores had better pricing strategies and far deeper catalogues, but Blockbuster's always been reliable, in that they're ubiquitous. They are (were) like McDonald's -- it's a small comfort knowing that, wherever you move, one would be fairly close at hand.

permazorch said...

Die! Fuckers! Die!
I manage a mom & pop in Lawrence, Kansas. Liberty Hall Video. We're not the best, we don't have very many copies of the hot, new releases, but we carry all available from that Mike Haneke guy. Best compliment ever: In 2001, two young Germans said we had a better selection on video (most was VHS, back in the old days, but we also had LaserDiscs) than any place in Berlin.
Also, fuck "Family Video". They carry a half-assed porn selection.
Schadenfreude. My soul swims in it.

em said...

I never actually went to Blockbuster for the movies. I was more about the video games. By the time my interest in video games started waning and my interest in movies grew, Netflix and On Demand and whatnot were all the rage so I never had much of a reason to go back into a Blockbuster.

Dan C. said...

I don't expect to miss Blockbuster, exactly, but the company's looming disappearance seems like the death-knell for the era of browsing the aisles. Then again, if we're playing the nostalgia game, browsing hasn't been the same since the arrival of DVD convinced the local video place to get rid of their VHS copy of "The Sun Shines Bright."

On an unrelated note, that review of Predator is a thoughtful and persuasive piece. I'll have to rent it again while I still have a video store.

O'JohnLandis said...

(This one got long and had to be split.)

Just as we should never allow ourselves to forgive the Blockbusters of this world--the arrogant, ignorant megachains that keep their feet on the windpipe of small business, always allowing just enough air through to keep the torture going--we also shouldn't assume that there is much of a difference between the assholes who run Blockbuster and the assholes who run anything else. If your goal is simply to congratulate yourself for identifying assholes, you get less credit for noticing the most obvious ones. (A lot of assholes are someone's mom or pop.) No, the really satisfying part of Blockbuster's fall is that every stupid thing it did--every evil practice and annoying habit--blew up spectacularly in its face.

Mad that it crushed the competition and became ubiquitous? Well, it got so big that it couldn't become lean and efficient during a time in which that probably would have saved the company permanently.

Mad about the cowardly selection? Well, the fantastic selection is what helped Netflix establish itself, especially among the people who tried to rent interesting stuff at Blockbuster.

Mad about the prices? The low cost of DVDs allowed Blockbuster's competitors to swallow market share by lowering prices.

So even though Blockbuster might yet survive, I understand the impulse to dance on its grave. If I haven't stated this clearly yet, I will now--Blockbuster is awful. But allow me to suggest an alternate possibility. I'm pretty sure that if Blockbuster dies, cinema (that is, the era of people going to just any old movie in a theater) dies with it.

O'JohnLandis said...

I'm going to start by strongly disagreeing with one criticism of Blockbuster--the supposed high price of rentals. You see, the high price of rentals guarantees something very important: that there will be a financial justification for distribution companies (especially the smaller ones) to release films in theaters. A rental price can't be considerably cheaper than a ticket price. That way, a person who might be convinced either to see a given film in a cinema or at home won't have a huge financial incentive to pick one option or the other. The rental market can swoop in and save a film that doesn't do well in theaters, but if the population starts to consider the price of a movie (not just a rental) to be $1 or $some small portion of my monthly subscription, cinema dies.

Even if you don't give a shit about movie theaters--and if you don't, just call yourself a TVFreak and get on with it--it's never a good idea to devalue the product in order to achieve market share. As films (or for the anti-cinema 1080philes, DVDs and Blu-rays) become devalued, the people who make and distribute the product take fewer and fewer risks and cut costs in dumber and dumber ways. And then every movie in a theater is an event and every movie in your queue is an EDGY genre picture, shot in HD, that ends in a fucking marriage. I might dislike something like Keane, but if you want stuff like that still to be made AND FOUND, you can't also want to devalue the product. And no matter how many stupid things Blockbuster has done, it's never done that. Blockbuster is evil, but it's evil in a lumbering, obvious way.

You want to yell Die Fuckers Die at an evil, monolithic company? How about Netflix? Sure, Redbox devalues the product too, but it has such a limited selection, it's really only targeting the idiots who just want some random new release. And yes, Family Video is too cheap, has lame porn, and also manages to devalue the language by offering rentals over various numbers of "nites," but their selection of independent and foreign films makes Blockbuster's look fascinating and worldly. No, the real evil is Netflix.

With low monthly prices, streaming, and the lack of a tangible, quantifiable individual rental price, Netflix isn't just devaluing the product, it's torching the value of the product. All DVDs are the same price and that price is "$Netflix is all that I need." Why walk into a store and look at boxes on shelves, boxes that weren't put there just for me, when Netflix can tell me stuff that's just like the stuff I just liked? Hell, why even put movies in theaters anymore? Companies will make a movie, Netflix will buy it direct, tell me I might like it, then mail it to me. Or if I'm really impatient, they'll send it from my computer to my TV, which will probably mean the end of net neutrality, so with that, the death of cinema, a population never leaving the couch, horrible debt, and the soul-crushing number of really stupid people out there, we should manage to be around for the fall of the American Empire.

OK, so I'm not exactly saying that if Blockbuster dies, America dies. Not exactly. Certainly anything bad that happens to Blockbuster will be well deserved. But if you don't think I'm even slightly on the right track about the future of cinema, isn't it weird that a dying company is getting exclusive rental windows while Netflix and Redbox are being forced to wait?

Matthew said...

When the Super Walmart crawled out of hell to suck the last blood of Americana out of my podunk town, the best video store in town proudly announced that they were buying up a parcel of land at its periphery. Some excitement ensued - the best video store in town was about to grow larger. The fact that it was to sit on the craggy rim overlooking a hellmouth was lost on my teenaged self.

Blockbuster Video made them an offer they couldn't refuse, bought them up, and an icon of my childhood liquidated its stock and got outta dodge in the space of a few months. The new store itself seemed to go up in a matter of days, like a slow-motion video of a facehugger egg being shlorped out of the tenebrous ovipositor of a malevolent Queen. Inside of three years, all but two of the other video stores in town collapsed. One of those had a huge section of b-movies, and had more kung-fu flicks in one place than I've ever seen since. Another offered a huge selection of video games and had knowledgeable staff. The others struggled to keep up - one was a "local institution" run by an asshole and his best friend, that clung on for a few more years before quietly dying off. Happily, Midway Video is still alive and well opposite the Blockbuster... but its survival doesn't change the fact that Blockbuster was a stake through the heart of a thriving cluster of businesses in the town where I grew up.

jacksommersby said...

Also regarding the Predator review, this great observation sticks out:

-- "That shroud of grain was an important piece of deception, keeping the Hollywood slickness beneath the guerrilla surface at bay. Now it's gone; the film looks Barbie smooth--emasculated, dare I say." --

That's *exactly* the problem I have with the too-good-for-its-own-good DVD transfer of Altman's "Quintet". With the film's intentionally-deglamourized look, it's been given a sheen of impersonal platicity on DVD, which fights the ultra-depressing subject of the material. This also figures into the remastered 5.1 audio of "The Terminator" DVD -- the gunshots have this vapid, killjoyingly hollow sound that isn't, well, "rough" enough; the original 2.0 mono is far superior.

Going back to Blockbuster, I never rented there after 1989 or so, and I had no problem finding a good selection of titles at mom-and-pop stores, from mainstream to independent to cult. And something most of those did that Blockbuster didn't was putting newly-released DVDs of older titles in the regular catalog section rather than debuting them on the new-release shelves charging new-release prices. For example, Anchor Bay's "Maximum Overdrive" would be put in the Horror section instead of the new-release one, and priced as an older catalog title. But if you still want to do the big-chain-store thing, if you have it available where you live, I highly recommend Hastings Entertainment over Bollocks Blockbuster any 'ol day of the week.

jacksommersby said...

Also regarding the Predator review, this great observation sticks out:

-- "That shroud of grain was an important piece of deception, keeping the Hollywood slickness beneath the guerrilla surface at bay. Now it's gone; the film looks Barbie smooth--emasculated, dare I say." --

That's *exactly* the problem I have with the too-good-for-its-own-good DVD transfer of Altman's "Quintet". With the film's intentionally-deglamourized look, it's been given a sheen of impersonal platicity on DVD, which fights the ultra-depressing subject of the material. This also figures into the remastered 5.1 audio of "The Terminator" DVD -- the gunshots have this vapid, killjoyingly hollow sound that isn't, well, "rough" enough; the original 2.0 mono is far superior.

Going back to Blockbuster, I never rented there after 1989 or so, and I had no problem finding a good selection of titles at mom-and-pop stores, from mainstream to independent to cult. And something most of those did that Blockbuster didn't was putting newly-released DVDs of older titles in the regular catalog section rather than debuting them on the new-release shelves charging new-release prices. For example, Anchor Bay's "Maximum Overdrive" would be put in the Horror section instead of the new-release one, and priced as an older catalog title. But if you still want to do the big-chain-store thing, if you have it available where you live, I highly recommend Hastings Entertainment over Bollocks Blockbuster any 'ol day of the week.

jacksommersby said...

(Whoops. Sorry about the double post.)

Jefferson Robbins said...

My biggest beef with Blockbuster came when I rented a copy of Breillat's Romance, took it home, and discovered that they'd telecine'd all the cocks out of frame. So a movie that was ABOUT sex suddenly didn't have any. They'd essentially crafted, or forced the distributor to craft, a soft-R-rated version of an NC-17 picture. I couldn't abide that. (I'm sure I've told this here story before.)

On another note, FFC emeritus Travis Mackenzie Hoover has a great take on Weird Science in today's House Next Door. It's part of that blog's "Summer of ..." series, a nifty lens for looking back at what we watched way back when.

permazorch said...

Are you talking to me?
@O'JohnLandis:
You want to yell Die Fuckers Die at an evil, monolithic company? How about Netflix? Sure, Redbox devalues the product too, but it has such a limited selection, it's really only targeting the idiots who just want some random new release. And yes, Family Video is too cheap, has lame porn, and also manages to devalue the language by offering rentals over various numbers of "nites," but their selection of independent and foreign films makes Blockbuster's look fascinating and worldly. No, the real evil is Netflix.
Agreed, and I agree with all of your post. The service, selection & attitude of a mom & pop can be terribly shitty, too, no doubt. But, regarding Netflix: If I lived in Garden City, Kansas, that service would be a godsend. When I'm not dealing the sound+light drugs, I'm consuming them. So, yes, Netflix is the true threat. But, it at least has the decency to carry titles I'd want to see if I were stuck in the hinterlands. There are worse places than Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (no matter what I or WC Fields might say), believe it or not.
I'm pretty sure that if Blockbuster dies, cinema (that is, the era of people going to just any old movie in a theater) dies with it.
That era? That era has been dead for fucking years, brother, years.

We're lucky @libertyhall, and I know it. But, we offer what Netflix can't, a live human to help you find movies you might like. We have our own monthly rental rate that is a much better deal when you figure in all of the costs of connecting to the internet (not yet part of the social contract). Most importantly, we offer a place to go and touch the boxes. Don't underrate tactile sensation.
I readily acknowledge the terrifying crunch that's already here. There's a glut of movies, far too many to be supported by the consumer base, simply by the fact that far too many of them are mediocre at best. For every You Can Count on Me, there are 500,000 iterations of The Bounty Hunter and worse. It's sad. It's also happening to video-games (all platforms & formats).
It's too bad, too bad we got what we wanted, what we demanded. Absolute convenience corrupts absolutely.

permazorch said...

I think I'm the oldest one frequenting this site & posting, and from where I exist, a movie crash might not be such a bad thing. It fits the sympathy for the record industry I carry within my heart (one metric quantum).
Maybe the populace will take an interest in, fuck, I don't know, science? Taking care of kids? That would be nice, given the way shit's been falling apart for the last 30+ years.
Later, we can make a movie about it (or put on a rock & roll opera, perhaps draw a comic or design a first person shooter around it), perhaps? You don't feel like going to the trouble, you say? Well, let's go gossip. We'll start a campfire down by the river.
No big deal.

Max said...

My mom managed a mom & pop video store in the town where I grew up (Rye, NH) called Rent-R-Tainment. I have so many fond memories of that place; it was a home away from home for me. I remember one day that she came home in the middle of the day (I was on summer vacation), and I thought she must have been sick or something for leaving work early. Then the next day she was still at home, just reading the paper. When I asked her what was up, she said she'd been laid off by the owners, who had decided to vastly reduce their video stock to turn their business into a laundromat and dry-cleaning operation. It was only years later, after the place had closed entirely, that I got the chance to speak to the owners about what had happened. The year that my mom was laid off a new Blockbuster opened up a little less than a mile away, which caused Rent-R-Tainment to compete by buying more movies (i.e. not necessarily interesting movies, but a greater varitety of titles in larger quantities), which also forced them to raise prices. Their customer base was reduced by approx. 75% because Rent-R-Tainment had always been known as a place to rent movies on the cheap. Because my mom was laid off (and a host of other issues, of course), my family was forced to apply for food stamps. So fuck Blockbuster. I hope their shareholders' genitals catch on fire.

Arlvy said...

Loved Th Predator review Walter, reading it and the AvClub's kinda vapid, apolitical review on the same day was very interesting.

jacksommersby said...

Bill, regarding your "Uncle Sam" review:

-- "The advantage that Uncle Sam and the other three films Cohen scripted for William Lustig (i.e., the Maniac Cop trilogy)" --

"Maniac Cop 2" is one of the very best sequels ever. Lots of color and energy and some truly spectacularly-staged action sequences. And it just so happens that its bravura LaserDisc boasted one of the format's all-time-best transfers. (Frustratingly, though, it's available only on a full-screen DVD. Ugh.)

-- "have over Cohen's utilitarian work as a director is Lustig's uncelebrated visual sense" --

*Thank* you. Even though I must admit I think "Uncle Sam" terrible, there's little denying its canny 'Scope compositions. And Lustig also demonstrated first-rate widescreen framing in the fine "Vigilante". Unfortunately, he hasn't done a feature film in a very long time; I guess the Blue Underground gig is still keeping him busy.

Walter_Chaw said...

Do I bash on the idiocy of fanboys? Aren't fanboys idiots? Am I a fanboy for liking genre films? Pretty much the only films I've reviewed so far in 2010 are genre films - why haven't I liked Eclipse and A-Team and Iron Man 2 and Prince of Persia?

Maybe I'm just a John Woo-era Hong Kong fanboy for liking Kick-Ass so well. Maybe that should have made me like Karate Kid better. Maybe I'm just not a very good fanboy and wish I were better.

Pray, Dave, what films have been better this year? Without argument.

Sorry no Airbender review - Predators, if I do it, will be late.

And by the by, Bill should get credit for that observation about the BluRay transfer of Predator. He's, frankly, just about the best editor on the planet in my limited experience in the trenches. Leads to a lot of loyalty, believe me.

Last thought: people have been talking about the death of cinema roughly from the moment someone dropped a nickel into a nickelodeon. There's a physiological reaction to projected images that I really don't see Netflix damaging.

The end of cinema is George Lucas' dream of all-digital theaters. Even changing the physiology, though, and the communal aspect of receiving stories in a dark cave before a flickering light with your tribe members remains a pretty powerful lure. I hope.

For my money, having someone deliver Casque D'or and House of Bamboo to my mailbox when I ask them to and for around 10 bucks a month is an incredible privilege - does that make me lazy or was some work involved?

And, really, people will watch shit no matter what alternative they have to said shit. Idiocracy prophecy come due #1233: the top movie in the country will generally be ASS. Until then, though, at least we get a couple of weeks with good stuff like TS3.

Daniel said...

@Walter, I am disappointed you won't be reviewing Last Airbender, but I can hardly blame you. It is, by all accounts, a grim affair. That being said, The Happening was one of the more entertaining movies of 2008.

So I can't speak for everyone on this site, but I absolutely cannot wait for Walter's/Bill's/Ian's/whoever's future review of Inception.

Bill C said...

@Jack: Blue Underground just announced Blu-rays of MANIAC and VIGILANTE. With any luck, the rights to the MANIAC COP flicks will fall to the company at some point, if they haven't already.

But yeah, Lustig clearly took the right lessons from the giallo boys. I even have a soft spot for RELENTLESS (the only movie of his I ever saw a commercial for on TV), though I haven't seen it in a dog's age.

DJR said...

Yeah, I'd love to see a FFC review for Lustig's amazing Maniac.

And Arlvy, that's an astute observation regarding the shallowness of the AVclub Predator review compared to Walter's take on the film, which may just be the most insightful that I've ever read; even if it employs much of his sometimes-obfuscatory writing technique, of the sort that rendered his Natural Born Killers review nigh-unintellible.

jer fairall said...

Walter--

Any idea where TONIGHT AT NOON is adapted from? The plot description at IMDB doesn't sound like any of Lethem's novels, nor is there anything called "Tonight at Noon" in either of his short story collections, nor on the stray pieces collected on his website.

Bill C said...

@Jer: The Cronenberg is an adaptation of Lethem's "As She Climbed Across the Table".

Kyle said...

interesting take on mst3k, alex. i don't believe this site has ever approached the material before, though it has been mentioned in passing with both positive and negative context. it has been a fair while since i've watched any episode in its entirety, though your comments on blood waters of dr. z remind me that i found the experience to so beguiling that i have never actually completed an entire viewing. i don't think that film, or manos, or i accuse my parents, or etc. are films i would have any passing interest in seeing were it not for the show's treatment of them. were i to watch them, i'm sure i'd be somewhere in between glancing at the clock and sickened.

that said, that's just regarding the particulars of those films - when i remember squirm, i remember the time i saw the film uncut on basic cable, not the mst3k version. i can't recall any of the jokes from soultaker, but i recall the film almost vividly. mst3k had a grip on me through my childhood and i credit it for giving me the ability to endure the unendurable, to experience something i never would have experienced otherwise. but two particular factions have emanated from the show's fanbase - cinephiles who don't have much of a use for it, and the comic book nerd.

Daniel said...

Saw Inception last night. Can't wait for a talkback on here. It's so overwhelming.

Walter_Chaw said...

Really? Overwhelming? It's certainly over-something.

Arlvy said...

I'm gonna guess that it's over-baked.
Damn.

Justin B-H said...

Saw Predators last night and pretty much agree with Walter's review. Just one detail-Fishburne's character didn't parachute in with the others.

Bill C said...

@JBH: I'm afraid that gaffe was mine, not Walter's. Undoing.

DJR said...

Overrated?

No, c'mon. Is this shaping up to be the worst year for movies in forever or what. I mean shit, my best of the year is still a direct-to-video starring Van Damme.

Also, agree with Walter regarding Predators, though I'd probably give it two stars for being reasonably propulsive and largely inoffensive in its idiocy. As a fan of Antal's underrated Hollywood output, I didn't think I'd be saying that Predator 2 is still the better sequel.

Daniel said...

@Walter

I look forward to your review.

Daniel said...

I will probably draw flak for this, but I actually think it lived up to the hype.

Kyle said...

just saw the talkback section for nick pinkerton's negative review at the village voice. i hope hatemail here is placed accordingly.

no comment, of course, i have yet to see the film. scoffed when i read about the ending, but i did the same when i heard about the shutter island twist and walked away feeling very positive about the experience. then again, nolan's no scorsese.

Anonymous said...

Goddamn. had high hopes For Predators- look at that Cast: Brody, Fishburne, Trejo, shooting at aliens in the jungle! Sigh

Daniel said...

@Kyle

You bring up a good point. Those making ad hominem attacks against critics who disliked the movie really need to cool down.

Some critics really need to take their job a little more seriously though. Many of the reviews have given away key plot points without a second thought. No "Spoiler Alerts" or anything.

simonsays2 said...

Blockbuster blows. Always has. I was fortunate to have a local shop that had the good stuff. Hard to finds like Pekinpah's Alfredo Garcia and more. Good 'classic' porn section as well:)

Shoot - I was looking forward to Predators. Walt's not impressed.

jacksommersby said...

DJR,

What's the title of this direct-to-video Van Damme flick?

Kyle said...

i assume he speaks of the eagle path - i don't actually think it has been released on dvd yet (or else i would have seen it) though it's screened at many places, including cannes.

Patrick said...

I thought he mean the recent Universal Soldier, which was awesome.

Patrick said...

I thought he mean the recent Universal Soldier, which was awesome.

Kyle said...

oh, that was a damn fine flick, too, but all signs point to the eagle path being nuttier than a twenty year coke habit. i keep reading "godard," "resnais," "freudian shootout." it's my most anticipated film this year:

http://mubi.com/notebook/posts/1999
http://mubi.com/notebook/posts/1823
http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117942747.html?categoryid=31&cs=1

Kyle said...

http://filmfreakcentral.net/screenreviews/inception.htm

reading now...

Daniel said...

Strong review, Walter.

While I liked it quite a bit more than you, I'm glad we agree that the zero-g fight scene was spectacular.

Todd said...

I know that Inception is the topic du jour, but the first trailer for Fincher's The Social Network was released today, and I'm wondering if you guys have any thoughts:

http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810128131/video/20889623

I'm pretty excited, personally.

jer fairall said...

If this trailer had stopped after the first minute, it would be one of the best trailers ever.

John said...

Is anyone going to comment on Mel Gibsons career suicide? It really seems to be over for him at last.

Alex Jackson said...

On the perrenial subject of spoilers and how those critics who ignore them aren't "taking their jobs seriously enough". This is where sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic provide an invaluable service.

You can get a feel for how well a film was recieved, who disliked a popular film, and who liked an unpopular one; and you don't even need to read any reviews. Which means that you can base your decision on whether or not to see the movie based soley on the RT score.

With that out of the way, the reviews can focus on actually saying something about the movie under the assumption that you have already seen the picture and are relying on the review for discussion.

This is the way it ought to be.

I always read the reviews after I've seen a movie and I pretty much only skim them before I've seen it.

DPope said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DPope said...

@Alex
I see what you're saying. My point would be that it is just purely unprofessional for a movie critic to spoil key plot points (especially someone as well known as Rex Reed, who is known to give far too much away in his reviews) without a big bold spoiler warning at the top of the page.

Patrick said...

I would agree. Just make sure that the readers know that you assume they've seen the film and read for discussion's sake.

Bill C said...

Is anyone else *not* looking forward to THE SOCIAL NETWORK, simply because BENJAMIN BUTTON is such a synthetic, cynical piece of shit that it permanantly shattered his/her faith in Fincher?

Kyle said...

i stopped caring about spoilers when i was sixteen. knowing crucial plot details makes no difference to me. i don't expect everyone to feel the same way.

rottentomatoes and metacritic do an invaluable service of ruining the purpose of the comments section, that's about it.

Kyle said...

as for the social network, i'll probably see it, but i've never trusted fincher. each of his films, save zodiac, resembles the check that he cashed when he was hired. a total and complete lack of passion drives his films. they do not entertain or move me in the slightest.

Patrick said...

I'm not looking forward to The Social Network because I think this will be a Hollywoodized biography which means it's neither true nor willing to leave reality completely behind for the narrative, so it will end up meaning nothing, probably, and that about a phenomenon that interests me, if at all, then on a sociological level and not on a personal one.

And I never even saw Benjamin Button.

Patrick said...

I'm not looking forward to The Social Network because I think this will be a Hollywoodized biography which means it's neither true nor willing to leave reality completely behind for the narrative, so it will end up meaning nothing, probably, and that about a phenomenon that interests me, if at all, then on a sociological level and not on a personal one.

And I never even saw Benjamin Button.

The Kusabi said...

To whoever reviewed Inception - I never caught the name, I stopped reading when I saw you were dropping spoilers like sweet wrappers, with no spoiler warning. For that, you are an utter knobhead.

And two stars? Really? Way to turn around and shit on a movie that, for all your complaining about formulaic junk-food movies, seems to be a genuine effort to break out of that mould. Does the Nolan backlash begin here or something?

Anonymous said...

Kusabi, if you stopped reading the review due to spoilers then you haven't seen the movie. If you haven't seen the movie, why would you question the author's analysis of it, as he is far more informed on the subject then you. See the movie, then chime in. Deal?

Patrick said...

Yeah, Kusabi: either see the film and argue about the rating (or better yet, the review and the arguments therein) – or complain about spoilers because you don't even know yet whether it's a two-star-movie or not.

For what it's worth, I read the review ready to be spoiled, but I don't feel spoiled at all. Because even from the plot synposes I gather that the protagonist has a Dark Secret that leads him to question whether he's in a dream or not, so much so that I wish – film unseen – Nolan had solved that mystery right at the beginning instead of (probably) relying on it being a mind fuck later on. Which would be one of my criticisms for Shutter Island reproduced in the next DiCaprio flick.

Also, I wish the cast of Inception wasn't so whitewashed, and from what I've heard, one of the two women is dead and the other doesn't get to do much herself.

jacksommersby said...

Kusabi,

No, *you're* the knobhead:

-- "for all your complaining about formulaic junk-food movies, seems to be a genuine effort to break out of that mould." --

Sadly, you're of the myopic-minded sort who foolishly ascribes to the puerile belief that the mere attempt at art is to automatically achieve it. Pathetic, this.

Walter_Chaw said...

But, but, but - it's not ambitious.

At the risk of being gauche, here's me:

"It is, in other words, aggressively nothing-special"

What's ambitious about the dead-wife-guilt/father-issue plot?

Besides - no spoilers in the review - no more than in the trailers, anyhoo. So relax. I don't tell you that they're all dead and that a Christian shepherd will lead the white ones to Heaven. Oops.

Alex Jackson said...

Is anyone else *not* looking forward to THE SOCIAL NETWORK, simply because BENJAMIN BUTTON is such a synthetic, cynical piece of shit that it permanantly shattered his/her faith in Fincher?

NO!!!

I didn't think Benjamin Button was all that bad and I'm on record for at least defending it partially.

But Fincher has pretty consistently been one on/one off for quite a while. Benjamin Button followed Zodiac which followed Panic Room which followed Fight Club which followed The Game which followed Seven.

(Alien 3 is plenty good and not as empty as The Game or Panic Room, but it's not one of the great David Fincher films and while it's better than Alien Ressurection, it's not as good as Aliens which itself wasn't as good as Alien).

So I guess that he's primed for a good one again.

Sean said...

Take away the song and the one minute of Facebook imagery and you have something dull and pointless.

The Kusabi said...

Oh, I fully intend to see the movie. I will then pick this discussion up in the latest blogpost.

Also, um, jacksommersby? Your reversal of my 'knobhead' comment doesn't entirely work (i.e. I am in no way a knobhead for not appreciating spoilers, or what appeared to be spoilers) - but it does underline the petulant tone which some Film Freaks are taking with this movie.

TTFN!

jacksommersby said...

Please. I refered to you as a "knobhead" for the exact reason I stated above. Deal with that issue -- the rancid "it tries to be art so it should be given leeway" spiel. Reminds me of something Pauline Kael commented on: that "priggish" moviegoers were automatically shunning De Palma's "Carlito's Way" and embracing "Remains of the Day" just because it was another of James Ivory's historial dramas, where De Palma's film was much more lively and was excitingly staged. We all know how stuff like "Remains" is considered a "classy" art-house film-production just because it exists; while something like "Carlito" is considered a mainstream movie-production that must be inferior just because, well, it's not art-house. Wrrrrrrrong!

Plus, as any reader of FFC knows, Walter stomps on a great many mainstream movies.

Kyle said...

perfect timing, kusabi.

Jefferson Robbins said...

Matt Zoller Seitz weighs in: http://www.salon.com/entertainment/movies/2010/07/19/death_of_blockbuster

John M Osborne said...

Please do not forget their one "contribution" - the invention of the "new releases" aisle. Thus cementing the relevance of film classics to the bottom of the ocean in return for the greater availability of last summer's blockbusters.