Saturday, June 21, 2008

"The Best Movie I Saw at 5:15 pm on June 13!"

How does a studio market a movie pulling a 19 percent favorability rating at RottenTomatoes and a score of 35 (out of 100) on Metacritic? Not very well, it turns out. Just a week after M Night Shyamalan’s The Happening bombed in its opening, the film is now being promoted in newspapers with this ad featuring a standard sampling of ‘rave’ pull-out quotes from critics. When flattering quotes are hard to come by, the promotional raves often wind up being from unfamiliar personalities at unfamiliar radio stations … and Larry King. This time though the quotes are from Roger Ebert, William Arnold of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Ebert’s inclusion is hardly a surprise. He likes about everything these days, and he reviewed The Happening with a growing-familiar caveat that he’ll probably be “in the minority in praising it” (translation: it sucks, but I enjoyed it anyway). Arnold I have no read on. And then there’s Whipp. His grand quote calls The Happening “genuinely enjoyable.” That’s it. That’s the quote that Fox hopes will put asses in the seats. Ouch.

Apparently this means Fox’s marketing team couldn’t convince John McCain to watch The Happening so they could coerce him into calling it “Better than my experience with the North Vietnamese!” Shyamalan’s wife must have been unavailable, too. But I’m most amazed that they didn’t find someone to call this “Shyamalan’s best film since Lady In The Water.” Because it is. It so is!

(Click to enlarge rejected ad at the top of this post.)


Mark said...

Funny, I almost sent you a separate email about this ad. I noticed it too, since I worked at the P-I and felt vicariously embarrassed to see my old paper quoted praising the worst movie of the year, or maybe my life.

I never worked directly with Arnold and don't really know him. But let's put it this way: He's not making a great argument against the trend of whacking local critics.

This was no selective edit of his review, either. He really liked it.

Poor P-I.

Craig said...

Your pull-quote made me laugh, Jason. I am surprised that the ad-meisters haven't selectively edited quotes like they have in the past. (As when "This movie is so bad it's not even funny" becomes "Funny!") Or maybe they should go the way David Lynch did once and put negative blurbs in the ad in order to lure viewers?

Richard Bellamy said...

I recently had my own overheard-conversation-about-"The Happening" in the cafe at Borders today.

First of all, there was one asshole acting really dumb about movies - saying things like "the stupid thing about "Cloverfield" is that there are these characters really acting like they believe the monster is real." Uh... what? He went on to say, "But it isn't real!"

Then he starts mispronouncing Shyamalan's name a half dozen different ways - but his buddy brings some intelligence to the conversation by saying what a great film "The Sixth Sense" is.

The asshole says, "What about that one, "Lady of the Lake"?

Buddy: You mean "Lady in the Water." It was really bad.

Asshole: What about this new one... what is it? ... (He knows)... Oh, yeah, "The Happening."

Buddy: It was really bad.

Anyway, sad commentary when conversations about films overhead in cafes are all about the Bad movies out there. We are seeing desperate times at the cinema. I am taking Cooler's advice and delving into my DVD collection. Looking for some well-done suspense after the Disaster We Do Not Speak Of, I recently watched "Minority Report." Except for the requisite Spielbergian silliness (the bouncing eyeballs that would have stuck to the ground, not rolled), it's a great film. Love the scene in the creepy greenhouse with all those futuristic plants as the inventor of Pre-crime talks about the minority report.

Now I'm watching "Magnolia." What an awesome film! Love the use of music - how the quiz kid's singing of "Carmen" dissolves into symphonic score used for the scene between John C. Reilly and Melora Walters when he is trying to get up the courage to ask her out. Walters is amazing! She deserves another great role! What great performances, music, editing - each sequence sings! Why aren't we able to see another great film like this this year?

Anyway, don't go out to the movies again until you've watched "Magnolia" again - or for the first time.

Mark said...

I love "Magnolia." We just watched it again a couple months ago; part of our collection.

Thanks, Hokahey, for all your great contributions to this blog, which has become one of my favorites.

And speaking of John C. Reilly, we just watched "Walk Hard" the other night. Fun. Did you guys see it?


Richard Bellamy said...

mm- I didn't catch "Walk Hard," but I'm a big John C. Reilly fan. He was great in "Gangs of New York" as well.

I'm ashamed to say I also haven't seen "Boogie Nights," and that includes many of P.T. Anderson's cast members from "Magnolia: Reilly, Moore, Hoffman, and Macy, but it's on my list to watch before I go out and see another bad new movie.

In writing about "Magnolia" I also wanted to mention Julianne Moore. She recently starred in "Savage Grace," and it was her strongest role in a long time after a string of bad movies and poor performances, but I must say she is a knock-out in "Magnolia" - so convincing, and perfectly cast. I love it when she tells the guys in the pharmacy to fuck off. She is intense! Anderson certainly gets the best out of his actors - as is shown in "There Will Be Blood" as well.

Jason Bellamy said...

Don't want it to look like I'm anti-tangent, but I just read this Mystery Man on Film slam of "The Happening." Old news by now, sure. But entertaining.

A sampling:

"We do not believe one single moment of this film. Not one step, not one gesture, not one plot point, and not one single damn word of on-the-nose dialogue. Every little thing rang false. Either Shymalan’s internal shit detector needs new batteries or he was unwilling to do the hard work of getting it right before filming it. I’m guessing it’s both."