Friday, November 15, 2013

DIALOGUES: SPOILER ALERT

Warning... this post may contain spoilers about spoilers...


Herein myself and a fellow film scholar will discuss a certain topic in relation to cinema. The possibilities are limitless. This time Jeremy Ridnor and I had a chat about spoilers...



J.S.: Spoiler Alert! That was the name of the short film that you directed and cast me in a few months back, the tragic tale of two co-workers whose water cooler chit-chat teeters dangerously close to "spoiler territory" for the one who did not see the latest Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad. Tell me, how much of this was inspired by real life?    


Jeremy:  I consider myself a cinephile and television aficionado. A tremendous pet-peeve I have is when people spoil a show or movie for me. I am all about the cinematic experience. Even if I am watching an episodic television show at home I still try to emulate the experience of being in a theater. I dim the lights and sit back and enjoy. I will admit I am kind of on the extreme side when it comes to spoilers. Even if I do not think I will watch something I still will not want it spoiled, just on the off chance that I will some day. I like to watch films with fresh eyes. Sometimes I feel that trailers give way too much away. This is of course an effort to draw people into the theater. They typically show the best parts of the movie in the trailer, which in a word "spoils" the cinematic experience in my opinion. I try to avoid certain trailer or will only watch part of them if they are movies that I am excited about. This is kind of ironic since I work for a movie trailer company.

The other phenomena that has made spoiling a sport is the invention of social media. Any time a movie or TV show comes out, immediately there is an online dialogue about said media. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy discussing film and television shows quite a bit, in fact it is one of my favorite topics. However, it becomes a problem when I have not seen the content yet. I am baffled by people’s obsession with ruining other people's experience. When I confront people for spoiling something, a lot of the time there are justifications. They might say, "that movie came out three years ago" or perhaps "that happens in the first 20 minutes." Sometimes depending on the movie I don't even want a synopsis of it because it might take away the surprise and or wonderment I might experience on my first viewing.

Now I am about to break my own rule, but if someone were to tell me, in Breaking Bad Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who gets lung cancer and then decides to sell meth, I would be slightly upset. Even though all this description happens in the first episode, I still lose that first experience of starting my journey. I saw Breaking Bad without knowing a thing about it and everything from him getting cancer, to teaming up with a former student to cook meth was new to me. This made it more exciting and enjoyable. I am so extreme at times with specific movies or shows I do not even like speculating with others what the ending might be. I know you and many others have had theories about how Breaking Bad will end. Even though that is technically not a spoiler, I still do not like that. The reason being is on the off chance that one of your theories is right. I wanted to be a 100% surprise. This generation specifically in America is all about instant gratification, but just knowing what happens in a TV show or a movie is not the same as seeing it played out. I can tell you that everyone dies at the end of Hamlet, but is that as satisfying as seeing it? To me I do not think so.


J.S.: Great, now we have to say at the start that this post contains some spoilers ;) It's safe to say you are on an extreme side in the spectrum of spoiler tolerance, the right side in my opinion, but extreme nonetheless.

You've touched on a lot of the important points already. One's virgin viewing of a film or show (or book or play or game) can be a very sacred experience between an individual and a narrative and ought to be treated as such. In the very least you'd think we could respect the spoiler tolerance of others. Providing "spoiler alerts" in conversation (online and offline) should be seen a form of  etiquette, the "please and thank you"s of our pop culture relations. Have we adopted a new form of table manners for our media-heavy diet? Though it ought to go both ways. If someone gets upset with me for discussing some plot points in my film review (which someone recently has) then I have very little sympathy. You should have avoided reading reviews in the first place if you wanted to know nothing. There's the argument that reviews are for people trying to decide if a film is worth seeing. Sure, that's one big reason for their existence. But If you want to read 500-1000 words about a specific film and expect them to avoid discussing plot, character motivations and quite surely the inciting incident, you are sorely mistaken.

I'm annoyed when people say in their reviews or previews that they won't get into "spoiler territory." The only way to not go there is to say nothing about the work. Spoilers are in the eye of the beholder. Who are any of us to declare what is and is not a spoiler for someone else. If anything we need to acknowledge a "hierarchy of spoilers." Among its most basic tenants would be "the further in the plot the bigger the spoiler," but even that can be misleading. Several movies come to mind where something shocking occurs at the very beginning and it would be a shame to ruin that moment for first-time viewers. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this issue. Like all people and all narratives it should be adjusted on a case by case basis.

As you've illustrated, it's a shame we now have to avoid Twitter or look away from trailers these days just to keep ourselves unspoiled. What would you say are codes of conduct people should adhere to when discussing film, TV, etc?


Jeremy: You bring up a good point about what is considered a spoiler and I agree it is in the eye of the beholder. I also agree with you that when reviewing a movie, either written or verbal, that the reviewer should be allowed to spoil anything, as long as he or she warns their reader prior. In order to dissect a movie, one should be able to discuss the entirety of the film. However, if a critic is on a site like Rotten Tomatoes then that person should limit what they reveal, because that is a site that is designed to inform the viewers whether or not a movie is good. I believe that when one is writing about film in an academic sense, that one should not be censored in any way, shape or form. What bothers me is when people spoil movies in a social media setting, like Twitter, Facebook, etc. The reason why this is insulting, whether intentional or not, is because that person is forcing everyone of their online friends to have something spoiled for them, whether he or she wants it spoiled. I wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech, but there are laws against disturbing the peace. Now this might be an extreme example, but the reason I bring it up is because there are no repercussions for spoiling something, especially in a social media platform.

I am not saying that there should be punishment, but I do feel that this creates a lack of responsibility. The reason why so many people are rude in chat rooms or in the comment sections at the end of a blog or YouTube video is because they can spoil something or say something hurtful without facing any consequences. Everything starts becoming fair game that would not be considered "kosher" in the real world. One can be racist, sexist, and down right bully other people and why not? They will never meet that person in real life. All I am saying is that people should have the same etiquette on a social platforming site that they would in real life. Be aware of your surroundings. Respect someone if they do not want their favorite show spoiled. I think the reason a lot of people do not think spoiling a show is that big of deal any more is because there is so much content out there. In the past if you wanted to watch a show you had to watch it live. Now a days we binge-watch shows and we record shows on our DVR. Also, there is much more variety. The same goes for movies. We do not have to see the movies in theaters, we could watch them on Netflix, or on HBO, etc. There really is no expiration date on spoiling something anymore, because virtually everything is accessible.


J.S.: Perhaps in a utopic cinephile realm people would be fined or banished for spoiling movies in a public square, but (fortunately/unfortunately) we’ll likely have nothing like that. One can change their ways if they realize they are spoiling it for the rest of us or we can otherwise strive to ignore, block to un-friend the culprit(s). I remember this bastard in my high school who came to school with a shirt saying that so-and-so dies on page such-and-such in a popular book series at the time. There’s a special place in storytelling hell for guys like him.

Amen to there being no expiration dates on spoiling something. I don’t care if its The Sixth Sense or Citizen Kane, nothing’s open season for you to reveal any and all details. People spoil and talk about things so willy-nilly because so many years have passed. That doesn't matter. You never know the age or the diet of your potential audience. We all simply need to be more sensitive, about what we say/type and we about what we watch/listen/read. It’s not going to be perfect and we’ll learn more than we wanted to every now and again (often from the trailers themselves), but there is a better way.

Thanks for reading Dialogues: Spoiler Alert, a discussion between myself and Jeremy Ridnor. We’d hate to see the conversation end here. Please share your mind regarding spoilers and the act of spoiling in the comments below.



POLL: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE ARONOFSKY FILM?


Yesterday the trailer for Noah was released causing many to consider the filmography of Darren Aronofsky and where he's come since his feature-length debut 15 years ago, Pi. In preparation for an upcoming auteur piece on this American director I wanted to poll The Film Tome readers as to their favorite of his five released films. Full disclosure, I voted for The Wrestler but The Fountain was not far behind. Chuck, can you please show everyone where they can locate the poll and vote for themselves.


That's right, to the right my fine-feathered friends. Thanks Chuck.


Last year somebody cut together an impressive mashup entitled "Sounds of Aronofsky," which reminded of the incredible sound design Darren Aronofsky has featured and demonstrated in his films thus far. (And that on top of the usually tremendous Clint Mansell score.)

So vote away folks and feel free to explain yourselves in the comments below.

TRAILER ROUND-UP: NOAH

Plot Synopsis (courtesy of IMDb):
"The Biblical Noah suffers visions of an apocalyptic deluge and takes measures to protect his family from the coming flood."
This morning the anticipated first trailer for Darren Aronofsky's Noah was unleashed. It's been a long time in the making, Aronofsky first discussed the project back in 2007 and in recent months has been reportedly struggling with Paramount over final cut after mixed reactions at test screenings. Why can't they just leave the proven auteur alone? Paramount has a lot riding on this $130 million epic, not to mention the attached sensitivity of adapting what many call "the word of God." The casting is worth exploring: Russell Crowe stars in the titular role with Jennifer Connelly playing Naameh, Noah's wife. Emma Watson and Logan Lerman play Noah's kin while Ray Winstone plays Tubal-cain, a leader of the hardened people who oppose Noah's new hobby in ship-building. Anthony Hopkins has never looked older as Methuselah, Noah's grandfather, and Aronofsky-favorite Mark Margolis (you may know him best as Uncle Hector in Breaking Bad) plays a fallen angel known as Samyaza. Ryan and I did an Instant Trailer Review for the trailer which you can see below:
My feelings remain rather torn on Noah, which was easily my most anticipated film of 2014 until I saw an egregious leaked trailer for it a few weeks ago. They've cleaned it up significantly since then, including replacing an unbearable Celine Dion-type song to drive the spiritual sentimentality all the way home, though maybe not enough (see that Garden of Eden dream sequence). What remains looks like a Judeo-Christian converted Peter Jackson's adaptation of the Genesis story. Which isn't a problem until you take into consideration it's Aronofsky at the helm with Ari Handel aboard as co-writer and collaborator. A graphic novel (Noah: For the Cruelty of Men) was created in preparation for this film, showcasing how many liberties they would actually be making in their big screen adaptation. This may best be summed up in a (hilarious) quote of Producer Scott Franklin speaking with Entertainment Weekly, "Noah is a very short section of the Bible with a lot of gaps, so we definitely had to take some creative expression in it. But I think we stayed very true to the story and didn't really deviate from the Bible, despite the six-armed angels."
Notice, there are no six-armed angels in the trailer. How many audiences of faith would be up in arms (sorry) at the inclusion of such in what they consider sacred? How many audiences of would be ecstatic at the inclusion of these creatures and whatever else they could throw into the mix? And will the latter be sorely disappointed if/when it ends up being a faith-affirming epic that ultimately plays things safe? Because that looks like what this may be. This film is so large in scale that it feels like a polar opposite of Aronofsky's previous Biblical-tied The Fountain, which boasted certain practical effects over giving into CGI wherever possible. There's not a single real animal to be found in all of Noah, which is completely understandable when you take into account there are supposed to be two of each coming aboard, but I cannot help feeling how much this feels like a studio tentpole and not the mad vision of a filmmaker I have come to deeply admire. How else can you tell the story of Noah?
Noah hits theaters on March 28th, 2014. Are you excited to see it? Did this trailer change your expectations at all? Who do you think this movie is for? Feel free to address these questions or anything else on your mind in the comments below.

TRAILER ROUND-UP: MALEFICENT



The trailer for Maleficent dropped on Wednesday and has everybody raving about Angelina Jolie in the lead role and remembering the 1959 Disney classic, Sleeping Beauty. This is darker re-telling of the fantasy-filled tale in the vein of recent films like Oz: The Great and Powerful and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. You may think Burton was behind this one too but it's actually first time director / long time filmmaker Robert Stromberg's name you need remember. Seriously, this guy has one of the most impressive resumes I've seen coming into a debut. To highlight just a few choice jobs from his filmography: Production designer on Avatar and the aforementioned Alice in Wonderland and Oz : The Great and Powerful (he won Oscars for those first two and will surely be nominated for the latter) and he worked on visual effects for everything from Cast Away, There Will Be Blood, and last year's spectacular Life of Pi. Exciting to see him the fill the shoes of a director now, though it's a mighty different role his experience should aid him well in what looks to be a both set-heavy and CGI-laden motion picture. Fun Fact: Jolie's daughter, Vivienne Jolie-Pitt, plays "Toddler Princess Aurora" in the film. More thoughts on the trailer itself in this Instant Trailer Review I sat in on with Fraisa: 



How would you describe the trailer for Maleficent in a single word? Or take several words, what do I care. Anything goes in the comments below. Maleficent hits theaters on May 30, 2014.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

FROM THE CASTLE IN THE SKY: HI-HO HAYAO


Curator's Note: It's my ecstatic pleasure to introduce the newest permanent branch of The (ever-growing) Film Tome, "From The Castle In The Sky." This segment is meant to be a way to keep tabs on all things Studio Ghibli, a more focused extension of The Film Tome Report. As the self-declared "world's biggest fan of Studio Ghibli" on my Twitter bio I know I need to prove my claim, or at least work for it. Seldom a week goes by without a fascinating Ghibli offering or related bit of news. And with each I long to comment and document on the Tome. Thus, a new series is born. I intend for this to be friendly reading for the newcomers and hardcore Ghibli fans alike and will therefore strife to be explanatory and breezy, traits Ghibli's animation have always demonstrated. The legendary studio's first feature film was (Laputa) The Castle in the Sky in 1986 and so I have decided to name this series after it. I'm looking from atop where they started to where they are now and to where they may be going. I hope that you too may enjoy the view.


Meet Hayao. Hayao Miyazaki. His name is just as world-renowned as the studio (Studio Ghibli) he co-founded with Isao Takahata back in June of 1985. He's directed the majority of the studio's 18 feature animated films from their very first, The Castle in the Sky, to their latest, The Wind Rises. A couple months ago Miyazaki announced his retirement, telling some 600 reporters at a press conference in Tokyo that "This time, I am serious." Miyazaki had faux-retired before, but each time it was merely a hiatus, a season of inspirational rest only to return to what he does best (and better than any other artist I know of): telling stories through hand-drawn animation.


In September I was dismissive of the news, but it gathered more traction than any previous time. Still, I tried to ignore it. I was in denial about the whole thing until I saw The Wind Rises last weekend, which is a directorial farewell if I've ever seen one. Still, I would not be all that surprised if he comes back to write/direct another film for the Studio, which Takahata and Hayao's son, Goro, are running full-steam ahead. Telling stories (through word and image) are so engrained to every fiber of Miyazaki's being that it would simply be impossible for him to continue living and not take part, which is why some recent statements  of those closest to him only brought a smile to my face.


Last Thursday Takahata commented on the man's retirement, "[Miyazaki] said, 'This time, I am serious,' but I think there is a decent chance that may change. I think so, since I've known him a long time. Don't be at all surprised if that happens." On Saturday, when appearing on one of those Japanese variety programs, Toshio Suzuki (a producer at Ghibli) guessed that Miyazaki would be doing next, "I think he will serialize a manga. From the beginning, he likes drawing about his favorite things. That's his stress relief." The host pressed whether Miyazaki liked drawing samurai sword-fighting to which Suzuki revealed, "That's what he is drawing now. He'll get angry if I talk too much. Let's stop talking about this." Goro's next film happens to be a samurai period piece. You cannot come back from retirement if you never left right?


At the risk of starting this series by spinning a potential rumor mill I ensure you that I only dive into these matters as a form of expressing my deep adoration for Hayao Miyazaki's work. If anyone deserves retirement, it's him, but if there's anyone on the good Earth that I would love to keep filmmaking (other than Werner Herzog), it's him. Whether he's casually sketching, aiding Goro's quest, starting a new manga, or maybe eating his words and preparing another film of his own, all I can say (to quote a masterpiece of Walt Disney's, our closest Western equivalent of Miyazaki) is, "Hi-ho! Hi-ho! it's off to work we go!" Hi-ho Hayao.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

PET SEMATARY - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #31)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we posted a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. For our final Day of Halloween Bill and Sam reviewed Pet Sematary:



Or did they? They actually did but it turned out we did not have the clips for the film like we did for the previous thirty and decided to just go out with a bang instead...

I have yet to see Pet Sematary, one of the more talked about adaptations of a Stephen King novel and the sole reason I still have problems spelling "cemetery." A lot of people appeared to have seen this film when they were a child and the vivid visuals scarred them life. I'm eager to see what kind of an effect it would have on me as an adult.

JU-ON: THE GRUDGE - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #30)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we posted a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. This time myself and Andy reviewed Ju-On: The Grudge



THREE... EXTREMES - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #29)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we posted a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. This time Jeremy and I reviewed Three... Extremes.


Monday, November 11, 2013

THOR: THE DARK WORLD - VIDEO REVIEW

Today at MOVIECLIPS we began a new series, Monday Morning Reviews. We (consisting of myself and Jimmy) kicked things off with a discussion/review of Thor: The Dark World

SCREAM 2 - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #28)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we posted a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. This time Jess and Ryan review Scream 2



Having yet to see any of the Scream series I have nothing to add here except embarrassment and shame.

DRACULA - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HORROR #27)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we posted a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. Here we have Fraisa and Jeff reviewing Dracula



I've yet to see Todd Browning's horror classic with Bela Lugosi in the titular role. However, I recently acquired this lust-worthy collection and will be catching up with it sometime soon.

BLACK CHRISTMAS - REVIEW

Black Christmas
October 11, 1974 (Canada)
98 min
Canada (English)

Directed by Bob Clark
Written by Roy Moore


Films do not get much creepier than Bob Clark's Black Christmas, a celebrated horror classic by some but mostly overlooked by others.

For my 31 Days of Horror I borrowed recommendations from the libraries of fellow cinephiles. Guest curator Bill Mullan lent a stack to the cause and while we're already in November I'm still trying to get through them all. This last week I watch Black Christmas, a film I had not heard a thing about in all my listening years of film circles. It's clear the film is (criminally) underrated and needs all the word of mouth it can get, yet I also cannot stress enough of how grand an experience it is to go in know nothing more than its name and that it is a horror film. If you're wanting that, read no further and seek it out.

Still reading then? Well, I'll keep this brief in any case. Black Christmas begins during a Christmas party at a sorority house, specifically outside the house with the use of a type of "predator vision," embraced and utilized by the likes of Hitchcock and De Palma and to ultimate effect in this year's Maniac remake. It's an unnerving effect, aided by breathing coming from our side of the camera, which unsettles the audience and adds to the mystery of who the sorority stalker and slasher is. 

During the party and in the days to follow the girls receive phone calls from an unknown man who cries, moans, groans, cackles and talks most dirtily to the college-aged women. Each call is more creepy than the last and guessing the proximity of the man on the other line makes it all the more sinister. It doesn't matter if the sun's up or the house is full of people, the house has been targeted and its occupants seem destined to become victims. 

The highlight performance of the girls is Jess, played by Olivia Hussey. The filmmaker's acquired her not long after her breakthrough in Romeo and Juliet. Jess confides in her boyfriend (he's played by Keir Dullea) that she's pregnant and is seriously considering an abortion. He is adamant that she reconsider. The men in Black Christmas think they know what's best for the women and how to "save" them, from one of the girl's father to the frequently-involved police. Nobody seems likely or capable to stop the terror that is right under above their noses.

Full disclosure, Black Christmas is one of the scariest films I have ever seen. It came out some four years before John Carpenter's Halloween and deserves just as much, if not more, recognition and appreciation for being a poster child of independent horror and resurrecting the slasher picture post-Psycho. See it, and I won't judge you if you leave the lights on.


"No Claire, it's the Mormon Tabernacle Choir making their annual obscene phone call."
- Barb Coard


★★★★½
CONTENT: bloody violence, disturbing and scary images, strong sexual dialogue

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

THE CONJURING - REVIEW (31 DAYS OF HALLOWEEN #26)

In addition to my personal 31 Days of Horror (movie marathon) I am part of a 31 Days of Halloween (horror movie review series) with my job at MOVIECLIPS. Each day during the month of October we posted a two-man conversation/review of a different horror movie. Yours truly will be featured in a few of these. This time Bill and I reviewed James Wan's The Conjuring, released in theaters earlier this year:

CLASSIC TRAILER ROUND-UP: THE MANSTER

Curator's Note: As part of my job for MOVIECLIPS I help curate the Old Hollywood Trailers channel on YouTube. It's meant to be a source for trailers before the online HD video revolution of recent years. While there's still a load of 21st Century offerings there's a rich archive of earlier films which we only hope to further expand. Throughout the month of October I was exclusively looking to upload horror films both new and old.


The trailer for The Manster feels like it's backwards. The beginning has the shrilling soundtrack with possessed-font title cards informing us of the terror at hand. Do they know that "a terrifying creature killer" makes it sound like the titular beast is killing creatures? We're then handed over to an energetic  narrator who tries to convey the excitement that the images onscreen do not. The worst offense of this trailer is that half of it is so dark (in terms of lighting) and you cannot tell what the heck is going on. An American reporter in Japan has become The Manster and we'll know what havoc he causes if we bother seeing it.