Saturday, 27 June 2009

Of movies, trailers and revealing reviews.

I love movies. I love walking into a movie and not knowing a thing about it. I love experiencing the cinematic art form as it was meant to be experienced - seeing the plot unfold as envisioned by the writers and directors. Unfortunately, these days you're more likely than not to see half the movie plot given away in some silly trailer months before the movie is released! I believe there was a time when we could watch trailers and they would make us yearn to see the movie, without spoiling that essential element of surprise. The way trailers are made these days, you'd be lucky not to have a scene from the last 20 minutes of the movie flashed shamelessly in your face!

Who makes these things?! Surely the writer and directors can't have much input. My bet is on the big marketing machine of the studios who don't care much about the art form - it's all down to dollars and cents (or pounds and pennies as the case may be!) There are clearly many people who don't mind half the plot of a movie being given away before they see it, else this monstrous marketing exercise would've stopped by now. I have now decided to steer clear of trailers as best I can. Some of the most memorable cinematic experiences I have had occurred when I walked into a movie "blind." No prior knowledge, no review, nothing. Then again, I've had my share of howlers, when I've walked into movies I wouldn't have touched with a long pole, had I watched a few trailers! Gotta take the rough with the smooth!

How about those movie reviews? Now these are actually much, much worse than movie trailers. Is it that hard to write a review without including some pretty horrific spoilers? Would it hurt too much to place a "spoiler alert" at the top of a review, if it goes on to tell you the beginning, middle and end of a movie before recommending that you see it? Mister Critic, why bother recommending a movie to me if you've spoilt it already by giving everything away? I'm only left with a sense of loss, rueing the beautiful movie experience I will miss due to your tactless writing!

Specific examples: Seven Pounds. Awful movie? Yes. Should I have been given the opportunity to judge this for myself without undue influence? Most definitely! In the very first line of the first review I read, I basically came to understand that the guy kills himself in the end. Oops. You've all seen this one by now, right?

How about the movie "My sister's keeper". Here's an extract from a review for you: "Kid gets sick, then sicker and dies. Does this appeal to you? Then watch the movie." What???!!! Just because you thought the movie was so bad, does it mean you won't give any of us the chance to judge for ourselves? Must you chase us away in such a heartless manner?

Spoiler alert: The paragraph above will totally destroy the possibility of a proper viewing experience for the movie "My Sister's Keeper." If by some chance you have already read it, please seek the assistance of the nearest Man in Black.

While I'm ranting like this, I must give a mention to a particularly annoying situation I experienced a couple of years ago, when a certain radio reporter was interviewing a child about what was then the latest Harry Potter book. Not a movie, I know, but the principle's still the same.

Miss Reporter begins: "A major character dies at the end of the book, right?" At this point my eyebrows lift.

"Erm.. yes.." says the child hesitantly.

"You've read it all, haven't you? Who is it?" asks the infuriating reporter. My mouth drops open. This book had only been on sale for a few hours.

"Are you sure you want me to say?" says the intelligent child.

"Oh go on," says the reporter whose name and residential address I wish I knew. "It's our secret, I won't tell anyone, I promise." Shamelessly lying to an eight year old girl on a national medium of mass communication.

By this point I'm lunging for my radio, letting out a slow-motion scream: "Noooooooooo!" The name drops from the little girl's lips before I can get to the button. I'm left staring dejectedly at my radio and wondering what has become of the human race...

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Of Cinemas and Certain Deafness

I haven't been to a cinema in quite a while, and that's saying a lot. Former friends and colleagues (okay, former colleagues - my friends are still my friends) will tell you how much I love my movies! I actually used to own a Cineworld Unlimited pass, which was excellent value for money. Why have I stopped, besides the credit crunch? I can't stand the sound any more.

"What?" I hear you cry. "You must be crazy! How can't you like cinema sound? It's great!"

What planet are you living on? The modern cinema, in my unscientific opinion, is the ticket to certain deafness by the time you're 60. The volume is cranked up so loud it could wake the dead! I've been to many cinema chains in my time and I can't single out anyone for being better or worse than the others on this. Why, oh why does it have to be so loud? Is it perhaps so that the hearing-impaired can enjoy the cinema experience too? I tell you this, if this dangerous societal trend continues, we all, cinema-going people, will be hearing-impaired before long.

Now where's my TV remote control? The volume on these TV programmes are way too low these days...

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The iPhone Exploitation

I love the concept of the iPhone. The adverts draw me; the recommendations from friends are compelling. However, I remain convinced that the phone is currently priced at much higher than what it's worth. I have long passed the phase of running for the latest technology just to be able to say that I was one of the first to have it. I don't believe in being the gadget industry's guinea pig, nor do I wish to spend my hard earned pounds on a product that will drop to a fraction of its current price in the next few years (or months!) when the next big thing comes out. Already, it's being said that the new 32GB iPhone will be priced at around what the 16GB is currently priced; more interestingly, the old 8GB iPhone 3G could be sold for under £70. The truth of this remains to be seen, but what if it does happen this way? I'll be quietly sniggering to myself as I ignore the new release and buy myself a fully functional 8GB iPhone that was the toast of the town only a short while ago!

London Tube Strikes

What is it about our beloved transport for London people that makes them resort to strikes several times every year? Do they really have that much to complain about? I don't claim to be fully aware of their reasons for striking each and every time, but I can't help but remember the words to a rather expletive-ridden London Underground song: "The greedy b******s get 30k for sitting on their a** all day..."

I'm not sure the writer's anger is justified, but it's hard to believe the TFL guys have the interests of the general commuters at heart. I think greed has got the better of the Union leaders and they feel they can strike at the slightest opportunity, causing maximum carnage. I say good on the Mayor for calling their bluff this time. Perhaps if we all get on with our business and let their strikes come and go uneventfully, there will come a day when they will rediscover the value of continued dialogue.

The attack on Gordon Brown

I've been a Labour supporter for as long as I've been able to vote in Britain. I've not always liked their policies, and I've been as disappointed as the next guy over the expenses crisis. However, I was appalled by the way certain members of the Labour party, particularly some former members of the cabinet, went after Gordon Brown these last few days with their daggers fully drawn, ready to spill his political blood.

I was frankly disgusted by the pictures of Harriet Harman walking away from her office with her "rocking the boat" brooch. Does she think we've all forgotten that the real reason she had to leave government was because she was badly stung by the expenses scandal? Yes, I know there were others who did wrong and they were protected by Gordon Brown. I don't claim that the man is a saint. I just doubt the moral integrity of those who would essentially turn the consequences their own wrong-doing into a weapon to hurt their elected leader; those who would pledge full support one day and then spin round 360 degrees the very next day, because they missed out on promotions in the Cabinet reshuffle.

Do I think Gordon Brown is doing particularly well as Prime Minister? Definitely not. Do I think he will lead the Labour Party to victory in the next general elections? Extremely unlikely. Do I think anyone else can achieve this feat? No. Hence, I say let the man serve out his days. Let him do the best he can in the time he and his once-great Labour party have left, before the general election ushers in the inevitable conservative government. No amount of back-stabbing and mudslinging can save Labour now. But it's not too much to ask that they and their leader go down with a little dignity.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Susan Boyle

I dreamed a dream in time gone by. That dream did not involve programmes like "Britain's got talent." This year I managed to sit still for 10 - 15 minutes of an early life show before flicking the channel to something slightly less mundane. I don't doubt that some acts on that show have a great deal of talent but some are to me, frankly revolting.

Susan Boyle. Definitely a talented lady. Is she a particularly exceptional singer? I think not. There are many who are much better singers and much less well known. The Boyle effect was caused simply because she was a woman who did not look as if she had much to offer the world of showbusiness - and how she shocked that world! I saw that clip like the 2 million other people who logged on to Youtube to view the overnight BGT sensation. And I was moved! I instantly understood why she had become so popular, and something in me rooted for her. No, I couldn't bring myself to sit through a whole evening of that ghastly show, but I followed the news as an understandably mesmirised word awaited the 'inevitable' coronation of Susan Boyle.

Sadly, the coronation was not to be. And that is really as it should be. Susan Boyle was not, in my opinion, the most talented person on that show. The 5 seconds I saw of dance group Flawless told me that. And Diversity? Maximum respect to them. I did feel sad for Ms Boyle, as I have a soft spot for the underdog of any tale. The problem is that she lost that underdog status going into the final, due to the excessive media coverage of her journey and the unprecedented support she garnered along the way. She probably became, in the Great British public's eyes, less of the loveable church-going rising star, and more of the over-hyped diva, certain to win irrespective of merit.

Now, Susan is said to be mentally unstable. The press is dishing it out, and the people are lapping it up with predictable eagerness. How fickle the finger of fame. My heart goes out to Susan Boyle. I do hope she recovers and goes on to make a lot of money on the back of her 14 remaining minutes of fame.