On Not Watching Trailers…

Over the past several months and even years, I’ve essentially stopped watching trailers, at least intentionally. I’ll still generally watch them in theatres, but even then there are a few I’ll cover my eyes for and try to tune out as much as possible (two years ago it was Inception, this year it’s Looper). I almost never seek them out to watch online, or even watch them when they’re posted on sites I regularly read or write for. Once in a while I point out that I’m not watching a trailer (the most recent case is the Cloud Atlas trailer, which dropped yesterday), and I’m usually greeted by a couple of responses. One, people assure me that the trailer in question doesn’t give the plot away or really tell much about the story at all. They assume that I’m not watching because I don’t want to be spoiled, which is indeed a major concern these days, as a lot of trailers get waaaaay too detailed in explaining plots. The other response is to tell me how awesome it is, how it made them really excited to see the movie, and how it would probably really appeal to me. This one assumes that I’m not watching out of indifference, and that watching the trailer would excite me about the movie more than I am, which is apparently not much, since I can’t even drum up enough interest to watch a trailer.

Neither of these is really accurate in principle (though, sure, I also don’t watch trailers known to be spoilery or trailers for movies I have zero interest in watching).

Generally, I don’t decide what movies I want to see based on studio marketing. I decide based on who’s involved in making it, primarily the director, to some extent the actors, writers, source material, etc. I decide based on buzz coming from festival and early screenings. I decide based on general critical reaction (I don’t tend to read full reviews before a movie comes out). Once in a while a trailer may whet my appetite for more, but generally by the time trailers come out, I’ve already decided whether or not I’m interested in seeing a movie. Even the exceptions, like Wreck-It Ralph, which I wasn’t interested in until I saw the trailer, I turned the trailer off as soon as I got a glimpse of what it was going to be. Once I’m sold, I don’t want to see any more.

So why am I averse to seeing them? It’s not primarily because I fear they’ll give away key plot points, though there is that fear especially on big Hollywood films. And it’s not primarily because I’m uninterested in the product they’re presenting. It’s primarily because if I want to see a film, I don’t care to have any visuals or dialogue already in my head when I go in to watch the film. Maybe others can put that out of their head when they see a movie, but I can’t. When we get to a scene in the film that was in the trailer, I instantly think “oh, this is that part that was in the trailer; I already know this part.” It’s still probably funny (or moving, or impactful, or whatever), and I still probably laugh (or cry, or feel gutted, or whatever), but for that split second, I’m out of the movie. I’m not thinking about the movie anymore, I’m thinking about the trailer.

Then I mentally check off that scene from the trailer. “Three down, five more to go.” I’m waiting for those other scenes to happen. I know they’ll come up sometime. When will they be? Oh, hey, this line that sounded like it’s all one piece in the trailer is actually cut from two different scenes. That’s interesting, but it takes me out of the movie as I re-orient myself to the movie’s script. Huh, this line reading sounds different than it did in the trailer; they must’ve used a different take for some reason – which do I like better? Hmmm, we’re getting close to the end of the film, and that one shot from the trailer hasn’t happened yet, wonder when it’s going to turn up? Oh, I bet it’s going to be right here at the climax – yep, there it is, okay, that was kind of anti-climactic since I’d already seen that shot. These are all things I actually thought while watching The Avengers for the first time. Now, granted, this isn’t necessarily a huge deal, and it probably isn’t going to ruin any movies for me – I still loved The Avengers. But I really wish I hadn’t watched the trailers first, because I would’ve liked to have experienced those moments fresh in the film. I’m learning from my indiscretions.

The Cloud Atlas trailer is almost six minutes long. Most trailers are around one and a half to two minutes long, so this one is three times longer than most trailers. Three times as much footage, three times as many visuals, three times as many shots that I’d see out of context, and be waiting to see in the movie. I won’t do that to myself. I don’t really understand why people want to see that much of a movie months before it comes out, why people want that imagery in their heads ahead of time instead of seeing it all as a whole, as it was meant to be experienced, but clearly I’m weird about it. Most people want to watch 5-10 minute clips of movies before they come out, something that’s become increasingly common for studios to release within the week or two leading up to release. And that’s fine, but I avoid those like the plague. It’s not a spoiler thing, I just don’t want them in my head, I don’t want to be waiting for them, I don’t want to be wondering when they’ll turn up. A lot of these, granted, are the opening of the film, which isn’t as big an issue (at least you’re not waiting for it to happen, because it’s right at the beginning), but still, that means when I go see the movie, I’d be seeing stuff I already saw for the first five or ten minutes, and I can’t think why I’d want to do that.

So that’s why I rarely watch trailers anymore, especially when it’s for a movie I already want to see. It rarely adds to my anticipation, it often yields distraction and mild disappointment while watching the movie, and it’s simply not worth it. I’m not that hard-core about it, and unless it’s the rare Inception or Looper where I really do want to go in totally blind, I don’t turn away from trailers in theatres. But I’m not going to seek them out or watch them online, so if you ask me “hey, did you see that awesome trailer for xyz,” the answer is probably no. And I probably don’t care to, so don’t try to convince me.

For the record, this is my favorite trailer of all time (regardless of the eventual quality of the movie):

My Movie Confessions

What’s that you say? A film survey/blogathon about those deep dark secrets we all hide about our moviegoing past and present? Yep, Nostra over at MyFilmViews has put together a nifty little quiz that’s making the rounds this week, and I figured I’d throw my own confessions out there, for better or worse.

Which classic movie don’t you like/can’t enjoy and why?

I enjoy most classic movies, at least ones that anybody cares about, so this is kind of a tough one. I would say that I don’t like Citizen Kane or The Godfather or Apocalypse Now AS MUCH as most people do, but I wouldn’t say I don’t like at all. I might go with The African Queen as one that people acclaim and I thought was pretty dull and average, which especially gets to me because I love both Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, and I was expecting to like it a lot more than I did.

Which ten classic movies haven’t you seen yet?

I’ll cheat and pull some from my Blind Spots list (which I’m woefully behind on), and fill in to replace the non-classic films on there:
The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Pandora’s Box (1929)
A Place in the Sun (1951)
Tokyo Story (1953)
Stalag 17 (1953)
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Wild Strawberries (1958)
Cool Hand Luke (1967)
Solaris (1972)
The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

Of course, this list is never-ending. :)

Have you ever sneaked into another movie at the cinema?

One time, in terms of actually doing it and watching the whole second movie, and not that long ago, either (I was such a rebel in my late twenties…) – I paid for Kick-Ass and watched it, then snuck into The Losers and watched it all the way through. I’ve walked into the back of theatres at multiplexes and watched a few seconds/minutes of things fairly often, when I get there early for my movie.

Which actor/actress do you think is overrated?

I’m gonna get raked over the coals for this, but Daniel Day-Lewis. I just can’t get into his performances at all; they’re so big and intense they pull me right out of the movie.

From which big director have you never seen any movie (and why)?

I try to hit all the big name ones, but one that’s eluded me so far is Rainer Werner Fassbinder. As far as why…no reason, really, other than the ’70 and ’80s have generally been blind spots for me – I grew up watching classics (1930s-1960s) and then added in current films in the ’90s, so getting to those ’70s and ’80s has been a slower process. Plus, I’ve never really known where to start with him, and I remember having trouble with Netflix putting his movies into perpetual “saved” mode, back when I had DVDs. So yeah. I currently have Ali: Fear Eats the Soul on my Blind Spots list, so hopefully I’ll be able to locate and watch that one this year.

Which movie do you love, but is generally hated?

Hmmm…hated is such a strong word. And so is love. Heh. Most of the movies that immediately spring to mind (Speed Racer, The Fountain, etc) have a lot of supporters as well as all the detractors. Similarly, most of the films I’d consider guilty pleasures (like Bring It On or Mystery Men) fall into the same category for a lot of other people, so I can’t really say they’re hated. I dunno. Speed Racer. :)

Have you ever been “one of those annoying people” at the cinema?

I remember one time when I was like twelve, maybe? My parents and I were on a family trip and we’d stopped at Sun Valley, Idaho. A theatre there played the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade with Sonja Henie on a constant loop, pretty much, and being a classic movie addict, I got my parents to go see it. (I also got them to stay an extra couple of days to watch a professional figure skating competition that was about to take place there, but that’s a different addiction.) The film stars John Payne, who was a pretty common leading man in 1940s programmers (his most well-known film is Miracle on 34th Street, as Maureen O’Hara’s love interest). Anyway, he’s a blander doppleganger for Robert Taylor, and since I hadn’t seen Payne in much before, I was fascinated by how much he looked like Taylor, and I loudly whispered such to my mom OVER AND OVER every time he was on-screen (which was often) until my dad finally shushed me out of respect for the two other people in the theatre. I was so chagrined I’ve barely made a peep in any theatre since then.

Did you ever watch a movie, which you knew in advance would be bad, just because a specific actor/actress was in it? Which one and why?

The entire filmography of Milla Jovovich. Why? *points up*

Did you ever not watch a specific movie because it had subtitles?

No. I may have at times delayed watching a subtitled movie in favor of a non-subtitled one depending on mood or attention span, but I’ve always returned to the subtitled one at a better time.

Are there any movies in your collection that you have had for more than five years and never watched?

I’ve had A Beautiful Mind for a very long time and haven’t watched it. I bought it in the wake of its Oscar win, because I was big on watching Oscar-winners at that time, but then sometime between buying it and watching it, I became wholly disenamoured of Ron Howard and didn’t feel like watching it. I still should at some point, I guess.

Which are the worst movies in your collection and why do you still own them?

Geez, for this I’d have to go look at the boxes I never unpacked after my last move, because I left most of the bad movies packed up. One I know for sure is Daredevil. I actually didn’t hate it when I first saw it, and picked it up from Blockbuster used for like $2 or something. I haven’t watched it all the way through since, but I saw some clips on YouTube not long ago and yeah. I don’t know what I was thinking. Anyway, the reason I still have this and several other bad movies is because I tried to sell them to a second-hand shop, and because a lot of them were rental copies before I got them on the cheap, they were too scratched up for the shop to take them. And I hate throwing things away. So there in the boxes they sit.

Do you have any confessions about your movie watching setup at home?

Well, I’m not sure I have the surround sound hooked up right. But I’m too lazy/unknowledgable to fix it. I know one of the speakers is broken because I just have them on top of DVD shelves and one fell off when I was getting everything set up. Beyond that, not really – I’ve got a pretty good set-up, at least until I can afford a projector. :)

Any other confessions you want to make?

Not really. I’ve done enough, I think.

Tunes Worth Hearing: June 2012

I‘ve kind of slacked off on listening to the music lately; part of that is that Metric’s new album was released in June, and I’ve kind of had it on repeat. The other part is just that I haven’t felt like listening to much else. In any case, I did find a few albums I thought worth mentioning this month in addition to Metric.

Metric – Synthetica

Frankly, there wasn’t much question in my mind that once Metric’s new album came out, it would leap to the top of my favorites for the month – in fact, most likely for the year. Metric is probably my favorite currently-working band, and I’ve never yet been disappointed by any of their releases. Of course, there’s a first time for everything, but this is not that time. Naming their new album Synthetica seems like a natural move – after all, the band is well-known for their throwback use of New Wave-esque synths. But that’s not all that’s going on here; frontwoman/songwriter Emily Haines has constructed an album about the blurring and distinctions between the real and artificial, embodied life and synthetic detachment. Like most of her lyrics, the power behind these is felt rather than explained, and the music, which harkens back to the entirety of the band’s past as well as pushing forward, matches the evocative lyrics beat for beat. An easy front-runner for my favorite of the year.

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Film on TV: July 16-22

Barbara Stanwyck in Illicit, playing Friday on TCM

[Every week I do a column at Row Three detailing the notable films playing on TV during the upcoming week. I will choose my top five recommendations from that list to specifically highlight here. Click through to see the full list.]

A Face in the Crowd

Wednesday at 8:00pm on TCM
A rare film role for homespun comedian Andy Griffith really shows his chops as he plays an Ozark hobo who becomes an overnight sensation on radio and TV; when the fame and power starts going to his head, the film shows the cynical dark underbelly of media sensations. One of the recently late Patricia Neal’s best roles, too, as the girl who discovers him.
1957 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau, Lee Remick.


Thursday at 11:15am on TCM
What sounds like a B-level prison exploitation film is actually a cut above, thanks to solid, if not glossy, production values and strong performances from Eleanor Parker as a naive woman hardened by her incarceration and Agnes Moorehead as the kinder-than-she-seems warden. This one surprised me with how enjoyable and nuanced it was, for little more than a B picture.
1950 USA. Director: John Cromwell. Starring: Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, Ellen Corby, Hope Emerson, Jan Sterling.

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Late Thursday/Early Friday at 12:15am on TCM
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films).
1938 USA. Directors: William Keighley & Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Una O’Connor.
Must See

Barbara Stanwyck Pre-Codes

Friday at 8:00pm on TCM
Okay, it’s stuff like this that make me regret cutting cable (yes, that’s right, I continue to do these columns even though I can’t watch any of them – it’s exquisite masochism) – four Barbara Stanwyck Pre-Codes, none of which I’ve seen. Stanwyck is one of my all-time favorite actresses, and when she’s allowed to really go all-out, as she could before the Production Code cracked down, she’s absolutely mesmerizing no matter how banal the material might be. I don’t really know much about these movies. But I don’t need to in order to be extremely jealous of people who have the ability to watch this set of films this week.
includes Shopworn, Ten Cents a Dance, Illicit, Forbidden

The Great Escape

Sunday at 8:00pm on TCM
I expected to mildly enjoy or at least get through this POW escape film. What happened was I was completely enthralled with every second of it, from failed escape attempts to planning the ultimate escape to the dangers of carrying it out. It’s like a heist film in reverse, and extremely enjoyable in pretty much every way.
1963 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald.
Must See

Scorecard: June 2012

Figured I’d try to get around to posting this before we got quite halfway through July. There’s a pretty good range on here this month, thanks to a few screenings at the LA Film Festival. I usually get to fifteen or twenty screenings there, but this year I cut it back so I wouldn’t be quite so exhausted, and only ended up at eight total, but I think it was overall a good choice. I was able to process and appreciate the ones I saw more. We’ll see if I remember that come time for AFI in November, when I also usually overschedule myself.

What I Loved

The History of Future Folk

I went into this one at the LA Film Festival fairly blind, but came out pretty much loving it. A sweet little film about an alien who comes to Earth hoping to find a place for his people to live before an approaching comet destroys his homeworld. Instead, he discovers music and settles down…until another alien is sent to kill him and continue his mission. But the film focuses on the music and the relationships rather than the sci-fi elements, though when some special effects are needed, they’re surprisingly excellent. There’s a refreshing tenderness to the script and the characters are very appealing (they’re actually a real band who have been using the alien personas as their backstory for quite some time – the movie just expands and streamlines it). A hidden gem for sure, and worth seeking out. Full review on Row Three

2012 USA. Director: John Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker. Starring: Nils d’Aulaire, Jay Klaitz, Julie Ann Emery, April L. Hernandez, Dee Snider.
Seen June 17 at the LA Film Festival, Regal LA Live.
Flickchart ranking: 437 out of 2990

Safety Not Guaranteed

When a local paper runs an ad for someone wanting a partner to travel back in time with him, a human interest magazine can’t resist going to try to find out what this guy’s all about – does he really think he’s built a working time machine? Over time, though, this sort-of time travel investigative comedy turns into a very good, very poignant drama about people and relationships. It would be almost incredibly easy to screw this up – make it too cutesy, or too weird, or too maudlin, or too cliched, but even though it’s clearly in a specific American indie genre, it avoids every pitfall and ends up being one of the standout films of the year. The more I think back on it, the more I love it, and a lot of that is thanks to a very strong script and a fantastically grounded lead performance from Aubrey Plaza, who’s quickly becoming a must-see favorite of mine.

2012 USA. Director: Colin Trevorrow. Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake M. Johnson, Karan Soni, Kristen Bell.
Seen June 16 at AMC Burbank.
Flickchart ranking: 572 out of 2990

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