The Afternoon Read (2.17.09) 'Watchmen' buzz, dueling Jane Austens, and the difference between Glenn Kenny and Kenny Glenn
I'm chasing a couple of creative projects right now, and the last few days, I find myself walking around with thoughts of Aleister Crowley and zombies and Rio and King Arthur all bouncing around, competing for headspace, and I've also been chewing on the film I saw last week that I might see again tonight that it almost too much for me to absorb completely for review. Is it any wonder this morning got away from me and we're on to an Afternoon Read now instead of a morning one?
Also, that DVD column can really eat up an evening.
This article eats up time every day as well, and it's time I'm happy to spend. When I was reading the article about Tina Brown over at The Huffington Post this morning, I was struck by this passage:
"In fact, Brown said that the essential component to an online news site is the same as that of any magazine: the 'reader' just has to admire the sensibility of the 'chooser'. Brown chooses the site content, we like Brown's choices. That's all."
[more after the jump]
That's what each of us running a blog or a website asks of you the reader, and conversely, what I think you ask of us. We are choosing what to emphasize or discuss or highlight or feature every day, and you are here because you trust that we will make choices that are worth your time and attention. The internet is different from magazines in the way we can respond to feedback from readers and the speed with which we can respond. There are certainly sites out there that refuse to cater to the requests of their readership, and their daily traffic is large enough that they can play that game, but over time, I have to believe that damages the relationship that exists between writer and reader, and that can't be a good thing. One of the reasons I pose questions in this column or in my reviews, open questions that I genuinely want an answer to, is because I know that you guys... anyone reading this... are an essential part of the equation, and that's going to become more important as the internet develops, not less important.
Even after working online for over a decade, I see this as an infant media, a form that is still figuring itself out, and there are constant growing pains. As things have shifted away from the Ain't It Cool "outlaw" model and online has become an important part of the marketing plan at every studio, the rules remain fuzzy and difficult to define, and in many cases, people just plain break or bend them to suit their own needs. Case in point right now: "Watchmen" reviews. No one is supposed to post anything. In fact, no one's even supposed to acknowledge seeing the film. Nothing. No writing about it at all. Not a "quick opinion" or a "first thought" or a "review tease." Nothing. Didn't stop "Simpsons" producer and occasional blogger Matt Selman from posting his thoughts at Time.com, though. And, yes, I know Time is owned by the same parent company as Warner Bros. Since the company is called Time/Warner, I'd have to be a moron not to know that. But that doesn't mean Selman had carte blanche. He was told, just as everyone who saw the film has been told, that there were to be no reviews and NO BLOGGING. That was communicated in person and in print to every single person invited, and since no one was allowed to bring guests, that means Selman, like everyone else, knew the drill. But there's that itch, that urge to be first, and anyone who does this for a living understands that getting out in front means traffic to your site and it also means that you help frame the conversation in a way that the 40th or the 400th person to chime in does not.
So now Selman's non-review review is out there, and you've got other sites like CHUD and ThePlaylist and RopeOfSilicon and Jeffrey Wells (who keeps going on and on and on and on and on about it without actually having seen the film or even the early footage presented) weighing in on the issue, and instead of readers actually reading about the film, the only thing out there for them to read is this sort of inside baseball wankery. And, look, I think there are legitimate issues at play here, but I don't think most people who surf the web looking for information about "Watchmen" are interested in embargo dates and who gets to go first and why. They just want to read well-written, well-considered reactions to the movie, written by both people familiar with the material and people who are new to it. So bcause Andrew Fenton in Australia is willing to flout the embargo rules, this sort of dick-teasing tap dance becomes the default "first review." And that means it's readers who lose. Period.
In the meantime, wanna win a "Watchmen" book?
I don't know if you've been following all the drama surrounding the development of Ridley Scott's "Nottingham," but for a while, the rumor was that the movie would twist the Robin Hood legend by having Russell Crowe play both Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. It appears that is no longer the case.
New York magazine just published a really well-written piece about Armond White, a film critic who seems to relish his role as one of the highest-profile contrarians on the scene today. And all of his coy demurrals that he isn't a contrarian strike me as... well... contrary. There's nothing wrong with the way he approaches film. He grew up under the spell of writers like Pauline Kael and Andrew Sarris, so I can understand what he believes the role of the film critic is, and I admire the fact that he has his particular filter on the world, one that doesn't change no matter how many people scream incoherently at him on message board forums. I find I disagree with Armond waaaaay more than I agree with him, but I am thrilled that a voice like his exists because it enriches the larger conversation about film.
Another voice I am glad is part of the conversation is Glenn Kenny, who published his weekly Foreign Region DVD report today. Please... do not confuse the great Glenn Kenny with the vile and probably retarded Kenny Glenn, who is currently being voted off the Internet and, if there is any justice, the entire planet.
And speaking of conversations on film, I love the one that The House Next Door just published about "Mulholland Drive."
Robert Harris is one of the great film preservationists working today, and as I mentioned in yesterday's "On The Shelf," the debate about what constitutes a good transfer in the world of high-definition is an active one right now. I think Harris is a voice of real authority, so I find his take on the new BluRay transfer of "The French Connection" to be one worth consideration.
Okay... there's one story that is brewing this week that may get really ugly. Over at Variety, Michael Fleming wrote about "Pride and Predator," an update of the Jane Austen classic that's going to drop alien invaders into the original text of Austen's story. Sounds innovative... except there's another project out there right now that is doing the exact same thing. "Pride and Predjudice And Zombies" is set for publication in April. It's a novel where the author has taken the original text of Jane Austen's story and inserted some zombie action to subvert the book. These two ideas won't co-exist in the marketplace... it's not that clever a conceit. And with some studios already sniffing around "P&P&Z," I'm going to guess there's a showdown coming. I think they both sound like lame "Saturday Night Live" sketches stretched to feature length, but we'll see at least one of them make it to screens, and I'm curious to see which one it'll be.
I really like the sound of "The Days Before," a project being developed by "Wanted" director Timur Bekmembatov, especially if Robert Downey Jr. signs on to star as rumored. It's a cool SF premise about a race of aliens who travel back in time, erasing Earth's history one day at a time while one man (presumably Downey) races ahead of them, having to stay one day ahead, constantly having to convince people about the coming invasion. It's a brain-bending idea that could really pay off, depending on the execution.
It's a real bummer that the iPhone app for "South Park" has been cancelled because Apple wouldn't approve the content.
Harry's got the scoop over at Ain't It Cool that Arnold Schwarzenegger will make a cameo appearance in Sylvester Stallone's next film, "The Expendables."
Tell me... do you agree with Andrew Sullivan that attitudes towards pot are generational and that it's only a matter of time until the law catches up with Hollywood? I've definitely seen a shift over the course of my lifetime in the way pot is treated on film. It used to be a big deal in any movie, something that had to be addressed with either moralizing or with a deliberately subversive spin, but now... it's just part of society, particularly for anyone under 40. Living in California means I don't live in the same legal realm as much of America, but it's just a matter of time till things go through a major paradigm shift that's already begun.
Did Anna Faris get screwed by the Academy this year? Dennis Cozzalio thinks she may have.
And speaking of Twitchfilm, they've got a piece on comic adaptations that reads like the start of a much larger conversation, one that I'm sure many people will have as they visit the new exhibition at the Skirball about the Golden Age of Comics.
And finally for today, I'd like to congratulate Pete Sciretta and the other fine folks over at /Film for being named one of the best 25 blogs of 2008. Well played, guys.
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