A lot of people say one of their favorite things about going to the movies is seeing the previews, or “trailers.” I’m not one of those people. I’m a movie critic: For me, about 80 percent of previews are simply harbingers of bad things to come. It’s like being told in advance how awful your job is going to be in a month.
On a recent trip to the cinema, I saw a trailer for “Uptown Girls.” This movie stars the man-voiced Brittany Murphy as the daughter of a rock star who suddenly finds herself broke and in need of a job. So she becomes a nanny, taking care of a little girl played by Dakota Fanning, whom you will recognize if you succeeded in watching “I Am Sam” without taking your own life. From what I gather, the point is that Brittany Murphy has to become a grownup, which she does through a series of syrupy Life Lesson moments. It is my fervent wish that at some point in the film, one or both of the heroines is eaten by a shark.
There was also a trailer for “Gigli,” starring Ben Affleck and his alleged fiancee, screaming Medusa Jennifer Lopez. The trailer was approximately two minutes long, yet in this time, Jennifer Lopez was referred to as “beautiful” three times. Evidently, that is the point of this movie: That Jennifer Lopez is beautiful. Any film based on such a flawed, unbelievable premise is bound to fail, in my opinion. (As is any film starring Jennifer Lopez, really.)
Then there’s “The Fighting Temptations.” The trailer shows Cuba Gooding Jr. as a small-town boy who has grown up and forsaken his small-town ways. He returns home, though, upon the death of somebody, and he learns that he will inherit $150,000 from the dead person IF he succeeds in leading the local gospel choir to some national competition. And wouldn’t you know it, the local gospel choir is currently in a state of serious disrepair! Why, ol’ Cuba’s got his work cut out for him, don’t he?!
Here is why I already hate this movie:
— It employs the Ridiculous Posthumous Request plot device, or RPR. In this case, the RPR is that Cuba has to lead a gospel choir to success. In various episodes of stupid sitcoms and in other stupid movies, you have seen RPRs where people have to stay overnight in a haunted house to get the inheritance, or a bachelor has to hurry up and get married, or whatever. I don’t know if clauses like this are allowed in wills in real life or not. If I were a lawyer, and my client were some crazy old woman who wanted to include an RPR in her will, I would nod and say, “Yes, of course, I’ll include that in the will,” and I would probably even make exaggerated pantomime gestures indicating I was writing it down, and then I wouldn’t write it down. I would just give the money to whoever the heir was, without requiring them to jump through all the hurdles. The old woman’s dead, what does she care? I’m not big on appeasing dead people, especially when they want me to do stupid things. I’M NOT YOUR LAB RAT, GRANDMA!
— It employs Cuba Gooding Jr., and refers to him as “Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr.” Here is my theory on Cuba’s Oscar: Cuba never won any Oscar. Now, I know the books will tell you he won for “Jerry Maguire,” and some people even say they remember seeing the telecast when it happened. I admit that’s some hard evidence to refute. But look at the facts: “Chill Factor,” “Men of Honor,” “Pearl Harbor,” “Rat Race,” “Snow Dogs” and “Boat Trip.” These films all occurred after “Jerry Maguire.” Surely no Oscar-winner would appear in ANY of these, let alone ALL of them!
So my theory is that Cuba launched a propaganda campaign declaring he had won an Oscar, when in fact he had not. Eventually, the lie was perpetuated so often that everyone accepted it as truth. Many people even began having false memories of the Oscar telecast when he won, the way an urban legend will circulate about something that happened on a game show years ago, and people will even start thinking they remember seeing it, when it actually never happened. I find that explanation much more plausible than the alternative, which is that Cuba actually DID win an Oscar and simply chose, thereafter, to drop his career into a toilet and press the handle.
So that’s why I prefer to linger in the lobby until the trailers are finished, then slip quietly into a seat on the aisle when the feature begins. It’s my way of remaining unaware of what dreadful things await me. If only Ben Affleck knew what was in store for him….
I'm not sure why I hated J-Lo so much in this column, or during this period of time. I have since gotten over it, mostly.
Wishing for people to be eaten by sharks is my latest way of dealing with dull, predictable movies. Being eaten by a shark is, generally speaking, a very unpredictable, unusual development, even more so if it happens from out of nowhere and without warning. I hoped for it during "How to Deal," too, and was disappointed. During "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," there actually was a chance of it happening, so I got very excited. Then of course it didn't happen, and the movie kept being boring instead.
I wish either of my grandmothers were still alive so I could find an excuse to scream, "I'M NOT YOUR LAB RAT, GRANDMA!" at them. Well, I wish they were still alive for other reasons, too, I guess. But that's really the main one.
Three paragraphs in this column end with exclamation points. I'm pretty sure that's a record for me.
I received this e-mail at work. It's not particularly angry, as letters go, but the writer does seem to think the column was a movie review, rather than just a column about movie trailers. He therefore offers a lot of advice on how I ought to write my movie reviews, despite apparently not having read any of them. You might be able to tell by the tone of the first paragraph in particular that his e-mail address came from BYU.
Your Trailer-comments in the Sunday paper were disheartening. Is that really the way you want to be? Don't brandish your sword, clear away the overgrowth and improve our view.
Please reconsider the meaning of these words. Review, analysis vs. snide, carping. Some old Clive Barnes reviews would be helpful.
If you can see faults you should offer improvements. After all, it is analysis you are or should be engaged in. Take a film apart, element by element. Show us how each element was used, then show us how it could have been used.
That will make your job harder, but it will also make your writing more edifying. TEACH US. If you can, show us improvement.
So I guess it's not so much an angry letter as it is a misguided one.