Eric D. Snider

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Archive for May 19th, 2006

The Friday movie roundup and diatribe

Friday, May 19th, 2006

Since other cool kids like Sean Means and Dawn Taylor do Friday roundups, I figured I should, too. If the cool kids don’t like it, they are welcome to beat me up, as always.

Three wide releases this week:

- “The Da Vinci Code,” which is large and serious and not nearly as mindlessly entertaining as the book.

- “Over the Hedge,” a delightful surprise that puts you in the mind of Pixar and not “Shrek.”

- “See No Evil,” starring a professional wrestler named Kane as a psycho killer.

“See No Evil” wasn’t screened for critics, of course. But there was a promo screening last night at 10 p.m., so I went.

It was a double feature for me and the aforementioned Dawn Taylor and her indefatigable husband Patrick, as we saw “The Da Vinci Code” immediately before it (see the diatribe below for more on that). Between “Da Vinci Code” and “See No Evil,” which did I enjoy more? Well, “See No Evil” is an hour shorter….

The crowd for “See No Evil” was ugly and unruly, and I mean that to apply to their behavior as well as their physical appearance. Consider who’s going to come to this: people who like vicious, bloody horror films, and wrestling fans. At least two women had their toddler-age children with them (at 10 p.m., for a gruesome slasher flick). Somewhere in Portland, a trailer park was empty.

One young man was missing two fingers on his hand, the result not of misadventure but of a birth defect. This made him the life of the party among his friends before the movie started, as he cracked one coarse joke after another about his missing fingers, getting boisterous belly laughs each time. I think I was actually a little jealous of how much his audience was eating up his every word. But mostly I was annoyed to realize he was just making the same basic joke (“My left hand is incomplete!”) over and over again. I said to Dawn, “I wish I were missing some fingers, so I could be really popular.”

The reviews are all here on the site, of course, as well as in “In the Dark,” the e-zine that you really should subscribe to so you can have reviews, DVD releases and other important movie stuff e-mailed to you every week. I’m just sayin’.

* * * * * * * *

Now for that diatribe.

The A-list press — daily papers and significant weeklies — got to see “The Da Vinci Code” either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, depending on the market. Everyone else — read: online critics — had to wait until Thursday night, at a chaotic public screening where the P.R. agency in charge wouldn’t even let the on-site rep tape off seats for us. (That’s a basic courtesy provided by, oh, pretty much every other P.R. agency in the country. But anyway.)

Online critics have a bad reputation, primarily because of Harry Knowles and his Ain’t It Cool News site, a garish, sloppy outlet that prides itself on posting reviews and spoilers as early as possible.

Studios don’t like that. Studios like it when reviews are printed the day the movie is released, in regular daily newspapers. Studios, run mostly by wealthy conservative older white men, aren’t comfortable with this whole “Internet” thing. They’re suspicious and untrusting of it, again largely because of barnacles like Knowles and his ilk, who give the rest of us a bad name.

And so when there’s a movie that’s high-profile but not very good (like “Da Vinci Code”) or that they want to keep under wraps for purposes of marketing or suspense, they hide it from the online press. The print press is OK, because they’re good about not publishing things before opening day. But online guys?! You can’t stop those mavericks!!

(This attitude is backwards, by the way. Who are most movies marketed toward? Young people. And where do young people get their information? I’ll give you a hint: It’s not from newspapers. The movie studios should be embracing online news and entertainment outlets, not eyeing them disdainfully.)

It’s also stupid that the “no online press” rule is applied so uniformly. In every market, there are P.R. agencies that handle the local screenings and publicity. For Portland, it’s a Seattle-based company called Janet Wainwright Public Relations, Inc., that deals with all Sony films, including “Da Vinci Code.” Now, the people at these agencies are supposedly up-to-date on what the critics are writing and when they’re publishing it. We’re told to send them clips or URLs every week. So how hard would it be, when a situation like “Da Vinci Code” comes up, to say: “OK, this critic never posts his reviews until opening day, and his site doesn’t reveal spoilers. He’s proven himself to be trustworthy. So he’s OK.”

Instead, the studios assume that ALL online critics are renegades who post reviews early and are not to be trusted, and they instruct their agencies in the local markets to act accordingly. The studios issue national decrees, when it would be very easy to handle it locally.

So only print critics got to see “Da Vinci Code” in a timely fashion, Tuesday and Wednesday. And guess what? As of Wednesday night, the following print outlets had posted their “Da Vinci Code” reviews online:

Time, Entertainment Weekly, the Atlanta Constitution-Journal, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, the New York Post, the Arizona Republic, USA Today, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Salt Lake Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Los Angeles Times.

By the time I left to go watch the film Thursday night, another 20 print outlets had joined them, for a total of at least 34 reviews that were posted early. And that’s just the ones linked from Rotten Tomatoes.

So … if the newspaper and magazine critics were posting their reviews early anyway … tell me again why the online critics weren’t invited?

Sigh. My people have been oppressed for centuries.

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