Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Powerhouse Performance! "Chicago Ex-Patriate" Has Never Been Better!

In a way, this essay is a continuation of the theme of my last full post. I'm still going with "Ramblings About Films That Opened Two Weeks Ago That I Probably Won't Actually See." This was supposed to be up awhile back, but traveling and planning got in the way. Film advertising and promotions are the primary focus today, in relation to the maddening television spots for the film Swing Vote.

TV commercials have, especially in the past ten years (based on my own developmental awareness), been a double-edged sword. On one side, you can't help but keep in mind that ads have only one goal: to generate revenues for the given company. Yes, this is an obvious declaration, but no matter how witty or inventive a given ad can be, the company presenting it wants the viewer to buy something. I'll leave the necessary outrage and outcries against corporate greed to other bloggers, but I don't want to come across as someone who can be consistently driven to buy something based on a commercial. On the other side, everyone of us has, at least once, seen the opening of a familiar commercial, turned to the person sitting next to us, and said "Oh/Oh God, this commercial is great/awful."

Over a month ago, I saw the first commercial for Swing Vote. Kelsey Grammer, portraying a political candidate, walks with a group of gay Americans, stating assuredly that gays deserve equal treatment and rights. This ad works on two levels. One, it's not something that a real candidate would normally say, and two, it's clever. It doesn't say what the film's plot is, and it leaves the viewer wondering: "What is this movie really about? Is it about an equality-driven, honest candidate? Is it tongue in cheek? Is there more to it?"

A few weeks later, full ads for the film started to run. The curiosity was still there, but the intended effect totally backfired. More characters were introduced: Kevin Costner, Dennis Hopper, Stanley Tucci, and Nathan Lane. The spot reinforced that Swing Vote is a political comedy (more specifically, an election comedy), but there was no indication of what the film is actually about. By this time, it was infuriating. It was only after watching the theatrical trailer online and reading the review in The Seattle Times that I found out the plot--Costner's character has the lone vote to elect the next President, with the two candidates played by Grammer and Hopper. As of this writing, I've read three reviews of the film, all of them marking the film as mediocre at best. The advertisers started off well with the original Kelsey Grammer spot, but the follow-up trailer brought it down, all due to the lack of a tidy, easy summary.

The aforementioned ad nearly led me to devote a full essay to the Quote Whores--the Earl Dittmans and Gene Shalits who slap hilariously rave quotes on posters and trailers for awful movies. However, the Quote Whores (I feel they deserve undeserved capitalization, just like the movies they promote) have already been properly lambasted by everyone from Jim Emerson of The Chicago Sun-Times to Stephen King in Entertainment Weekly. However, despite their incompetence and lack of film knowledge, they have gotten lazy in their hyperbole. I did not catch the name of the reviewer who said, about Swing Vote, that it's a movie that "will make you stand up and cheer!" I can only hope that the quote came from a Q.W., because respected film writers should certainly know better. I've seen many, many great films, but I've never, ever been compelled to stand up and cheer. The same goes for my fellow audience members. The closest I've ever come to that kind of emotional display was when Haley Joel Osment's character died in Pay It Forward, only because it was a horrible film.

Am I just a lethargic movie-goer? Do I sit with medicated audiences? If anyone has ever stood up to cheer during a film, I'd love to hear the story. I also welcome sarcastic ones as well.

1 comment:

Michael Peterson said...

The audience that I saw "Iron Man" with was up on their feet at the end, hooting. As much as I loved that film, I wasn't quite so exuberant - however, I very pointedly rose at the ending credits of "Adaptation," to the consternation of my then-girlfriend and her friends, who hated it.