Welcome to The Morning Read. At 4:30 in the afternoon. Ahem.
What a great night out last night. When the guys behind the Grindhouse Film Festival, the fine folks who run the New Beverly, and two of the craziest sumbitches from from the Alamo Drafthouse all get together to show rare exploitation madness, it should be no surprise that it ends up being movie nerd bliss. Even so, I am a little amazed at how much I enjoyed the first two films of last night’s triple bill. I had bail before the third movie, but I’m willing to bet that one rocked, too.
And, yes, last night’s late hours combined with some early morning errands have put all of today’s schedule later than normal, but I’ve got plenty to discuss so let’s take our time and get it all into the column today, eh?
I had another viewing option last night. My friend Scott Aukerman invited me to attend a screening of “Crank 2” with him and an entire group of friends at midnight in Burbank, and I considered joining them. I posted something a few weeks back when Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, and Scott all attended the midnight show of “Fast And Furious” at the Chinese, where they had the DBox seats installed, and they were Tweeting during the film about how crazy the experience was. I thought a lot of what they said during that one was very funny, and part of what made me laugh is how disruptive the DBox scenes sounded in general. It sounded like if you were anyone except the fifteen people in those DBox seats, you were in for one awful ride. And that’s not because of the people in those seats, but because of the seats themselves. It just struck me as such a collision of crazy that it was all funny.
[more after the jump]
Last night’s attempt to organize a special TwitFlix screening of “Crank 2,” where about 30 people showed up as a group to issue Tweets from inside the theater during the full running time of the film. This wasn’t a closed theater… it was the public screening at midnight in Burbank. And although the group tried to set some ground rules (everyone had to sit in the back of the theater, and if anyone complained to them, they would shut it down), the reaction was terrible…
In person, evidently, it didn’t cause any immediate trouble. Sure, there’s no way to know what anyone else in that theater thought, short of being there and asking them, but the outrage came from people who were reading the Tweets as they appeared, including both Quint and Harry at AICN and Devin over at CHUD. And then the discussion/argument/Tweet war erupted into editorials and defenses, and it’s a hubbub. For a moment. I think the intense negative reaction from many people can easily be explained in the mounting frustration over bad theatrical experiences, and I’m sure we’ve all had many of them in the past. More of the really crappy ones for me are recent, because I do think that the theater industry, as a whole, has fading regard for the complete customer experience. They just want to turn ’em over as fast as they can and they don’t really care if anyone enjoys their time there as long as they’re spending money. I think theater owners from coast-to-coast need to look at people like the New Beverly or the Alamo Drafthouse and the amazing work Tim League does, or any of a hundred local theaters and programmers I’ve had people write me about over the years. I love that there are people who get it, and I spend time and energy and money supporting those people. They deserve it. They respect the idea that there’s supposed to be something fun and special about going to see a movie. Any movie.
But I knew about the TwitFlix idea for at least a week or so prior to it happening last night. Rob Huebel wrote to us here at the site last week after I mentioned their “Fast and Furious” experiment, and he invited us to join them at their next attempt. Then I ran into Scott Aukerman in line to buy Korean tacos, of all things. And he mentioned it again and invited me. Honestly… I almost went. I was curious to see how they did it, how they affected the actual movie experience. I wouldn’t have Tweeted… I can’t even take coherent notes during a movie if I try. On the occasions I do take notes, like when I’m at a festival, and I’m seeing so many films in a week that I need notes to help remind me of things, they’re almost always useless. Just brain farts. Maybe they’ll trigger something, some reaction I had. I find that for me, if I’m watching something, I need to just watch and get lost in it. That way, when I write about it, I have the full experience to draw on, and I find I remember more that way than I would if I tried to write about it during the movie.
And I think that there are two distinct types of audiences, and instead of arguing about it, embracing that difference might be the answer. I think there’s something to be said for the idea of MuVChat. In fact, if I were the guy behind it, I’d be contacting Human Giant and flying them in for a guest appearance ASAP. It’s a perfect fit. The idea there is designed to be communal and interactive. And there are live Cinematic Titanic shows that sound absolutely great. I know that Harry hates Mystery Science Theater 3000 and what it represents, particuarly because he hates the people who then imitate the show when they’re in a theater. And I see his point. It’s all about context. I revere MST3K. I think it’s sort of genius, one of the great TV shows ever. And yet I love and respect as pure a theatrical experience as possible. I just think different things demand different audiences, and I suspect some people would really like to spend an evening with Human Giant and Mr. Show writers and LA comics just riffing on a film while they watch it, and that there’s some way that experience can happen that doesn’t mess with anyone else’s enjoyment.
And look… disruptions aren’t exclusive to movie theaters. Devin Faraci started challenging Aziz Ansari last night on what the difference was between Tweeting through a film and someone coming to a stand-up gig and Tweeting while Aziz is onstage. There’s such a different dynamic to a live performance of any kind that when someone is interrupted by a heckler or some other sort of distraction, they might just lose their shit. And it would be understandable. But just as with the struggles to redefine media distribution and copyright law and price point models, the way to victory isn’t by trying to quash something, it’s trying to figure out what need that thing is meeting, and how to better serve it. There’s a reason people loved Napster, and iTunes and other online music services have made a ton of money by figuring out what it was that people got from Napster and how much they’d be willing to pay for it. Home video is making some huge advances these days, and studios seem to be experimenting in some unexpected ways with making their film catalogs available. Right now, if I were a theater owner, I’d figure out how to make both theater talkers and theater purists happy, because there’s money in whatever that solution is.
Keidem4 in our comments section seemed concerned that I linked to stories elsewhere on HitFix as part of the Morning Read yesterday. She worried that I was “shilling” for our own site. Keidem, I can understand your concern, but one of the first things I do when I log on each day is… yes… read my own site. Because I’m not the only person who works here. I like that Melinda Newman’s writing about music, and there’s a constant stream of music news on the site now. I like that Dan Feinberg is a TV addict, because this year of “Idol” is the first where I haven’t watched a single episode, and I’m just reading his recaps instead. It’s made it a whole different kind of fun. I like the work that Greg Ellwood’s done in the past, and that he’s doing now. I wouldn’t have signed on here if I didn’t believe in the people I’m working with, and the fact that I read the site isn’t shilling… it’s the reason I’m here. There are a number of things on the site today that are worthwhile. SAG and the AMPTP may have a deal. The Pirate Bay guys were found guilty. Tomorrow is Record Store Day. I’m very curious to see what Sophia Coppola makes of “Somewhere,” her just announced film with Stephen Dorff and Elle Fanning as a father and daughter who reconnect at the Chateau Marmont in Hollywood. Sounds like there’s room for it to be a small scale human story, which is Sophia’s strength, and the synopsis is enough to interest me. And frankly, I love the news that Jennifer Jason Leigh is joining the cast of “Weeds,” a show I already really, really like.
And, of course, there are those new “Wolverine” images or that new “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” trailer…
Okay, I haven’t been the biggest “Potter” fan or critic either way, but I’ve enjoyed the films more as they’ve progressed, and in particular, I thought the last one was really promising. Sure enough, this trailer promises something we haven’t seen from this series yet, a full-blown horror movie with Harry at the heart of it. It’s interesting, because when you spend four movies promising the audience that the Devil himself is about to enter the picture, building up your villain as not just evil but EVIL, the incarnation of all things awful, the end of hope and light, then you need to deliver that when he does finally arrive, and I didn’t think “Goblet Of Fire” pulled it off. “Order Of The Phoenix” turned everything up and worked as a result, and the final Ministry of Magic sequence there is ferocious. Now, for this film, Voldemort and his followers have to be off the leash, and that’s what this trailer certainly implies. I like.
Obviously, I want the Morning Read to reflect the wide range of stuff out there that I sort through each morning as I put it together. I love geeky articles, like this one about how ILM approached the design of the new Enterprise for JJ’s “Star Trek”. Or this one about how “Star Wars” changed the world. Or just plain strange ones like this story about the recent discovery of proof of a giant sea monster’s existence.
Over at AICN, Harry’s got a great still from the short Pixar film that will be playing in front of “Up” this summer, and it’s worth a look.
Quick interruption… and this is a perfect example of why the Morning Read sometimes takes a while… I’m hanging out with Toshi, who’s in the playroom adjoining my office, and both my wife and the baby are asleep. Doorbell rings, and I rush to get it so he won’t ring again and wake anyone up. Turns out to be a package from Fox Publicity. It’s been a while, so I was sort of surprised. And inside, it’s a gift box with the logo for “My Life In Ruins” on the top. Inside, a batch of what appears to be freshly-baked baklava. Smells good. I’m sure my wife and kids will enjoy it later today. It’s like the “Star Trek” credit-card press kit thingy I get sent earlier in the week, along with some trading cards. Neat. I couldn’t get the press kit into my computer because of the way it was designed (it is too wide to fit into the indented area where my USSB ports are), but it was neat. Things like that arrive here fairly frequently, and I know that the overall intent is simply to push the film further and further into your consciousness. It worked in today’s case, because I keep forgetting “My Life In Ruins” is one of this summer’s movies, and a box of dessert is a potent reminder of a title. Will it make any difference once I sit down in the actual theater to watch the thing? No. Of course not. And any critic whose opinion is for sale for a “G.I. Joe” baseball cap is probably a terrible read to begin with. This stuff is just swag, and after 14 years of doing it, believe me… the thrill of a free keychain is hardly enough to get my pulse up. I’m curious, though, where the future of marketing is, and it’s one of the reasons I’m trying to be very aware of the fine line between enjoying a healthy relationship with the studios and just plain working for them, especially if this is true.
Anyway… where were we? Craig Phillips just published a list of ten films he desperately wants to see on DVD. He’s done this at least one or two times before, and I noticed that Jeffrey Wells is now keeping a running list down one column of his blog, a fairly new feature. I like the idea of sites reminding studios of all the gems that are in their vaults that we’d love to have access to, but I have a feeling it won’t be long before the question is moot, and we can just buy whatever we want, whever we want it.
Every day now, I read or hear about film books that I’d like to have, and today, I’m intrigued by the notion of Studio Head, a book by Jon Peters about his career in Hollywood. I hope he’s honest and that it’s a great read, because I’ve heard that he has led a legendarily crazy life. He’s gonna have to work hard, though, if he wants to write something that is crazier than this story.
And speaking of BoingBoing (they were the origin of that last link), I love their e-mail exchange with John Waters over the origin of the term “teabagging.” Funny stuff.
And on that note, I need to get cracking on my next column, and then some other things that fell between the cracks in the last 36 hours or so. See you back here Monday for the next Morning Read.
PS — we just opened the baklava. Smelled great. Too oily to really eat, though. I’m not sure Toshi cares. So Nia Vardalos just gave my son a stomachache. Yay, total disregard for parental authority!
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