Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Does raising movie ticket prices mean a better moviegoing experience?


Variety reports about a disconcerning development in the future of our entertainment: Ticket prices. If you are like me, that is, a movie fan who can't stand going to the movies anymore, there's reason to pay attention.

The movie business is changing, and so are the economics. The advent of technology and the greed of the movie studios means they want to expand on any possible ways to keep fattening their wallets, by justifying the ticket price hike with "added value and improved experience".

Let's examine what this is supposed to mean.

As if sitting through half and hour of previews and commercials isn't enough, now they plan on offering "premium seating" and other incentives to cover the cost of their bottom line: Digital Projection. Pretty soon, Digital projection will become the standard, as the increased cost of movie prints and exhibition facilitate this need. Someone has to pay for this, and the movie studios want the theater chains to do so. They reached a compromise, which is genius: Raise the ticket prices. Makes perfect business sense.

IMAX and 3-D has become a juicy revenue stream for the studios, and they'll keep pumping product to facilitate that stream. The success of films like Beowulf gave them the go ahead to expand and 3-D will be the next gimmick to get butts in seats. Despite the recession and their screams that attendance is down, what explains the continued smashing of opening week records? attendance turnout in record numbers to see the latest overblown special effects spectacle.

Yes folks, economics is what it's all about. It's always been what it's all about. But what does it mean to you and me?

Face it, the modern moviegoing experience is flawed at best. On top of the shitty product, we've got twenty minutes of ads, cell phones ringing, people kicking your chair, babies at inappropriate showings, and an absent projectionist who doesn't keep the screen in focus. THESE ARE THE REAL REASONS you and me wait for the DVD, or better yet: download.

The average movie ticket costs $11 dollars in cities like new york, $17 dollars for Imax or 3-D presentations. You pay an average of 12 dollars for popcorn and soda, add in transportation, and that's an average of 50 or 60 bucks for a night out with your sweetheart.

Now. Let's say they raise ticket prices to $15 bucks a pop, plus concession prices. Going to see Wedding Crashers III will become a lot harder to enjoy.

So I have a list of suggestions to remedy the situation:

1) Make better movies and they will come.
Seriously, Drillbit Taylor?

2) Hire 300 pound convicts (preferably african american) to eject anyone talking or texting throughout the movie.
I'll help with the selection process, I live in harlem.

3) Ban homosexuals from any movie with Meryl Streep.
Cross that. Ban anyone from the ghetto at any movie with special effects, period.

4) Ban parents from taking their little children to see see Hostel, part 17 or Superbad 4.
The most distressing time i've had at the movies was seeing Superbad and during the penis drawing scene I overhear a young girl's voice: "Mommy, can I watch now?". Repulsive.

5) Make films downloadable the same day they open for the same fee.
That way they can make more money and I have the option of watching it at home, like pay per view.

That evens out the score.


As long as theater chains maintain a lax policy towards cell phone ban and rude patrons, things will not improve. People go to the movies to be entertained, but this past generation is nothing but an army of assholes with attention deficit disorder. They, the price of tickets, and the quality of the product are the main reasons piracy runs rampart, and waiting for the DVD three months later the better option.

Thing is, you can charge all the money in the world and people will still go to the movies to watch whatever you feed them. The public are like dogs of consumption: they are used to repitition.

You can the article here:

A primer on Film Editing

It always worries me when I work with people who think they understand what film editing is. Most directors I know don't can't tell what a match cut is to a three point editing of a sequence, just that they want it to feel like something they've seen.

Film Editing is a fucking skill best served to those who study and practice it. It is the skill any aspiring filmmaker must understand, because films are made and broken in the editing room. I'm self taught, and studied and practiced the craft for the better half of my life, and it's only now that I've matured that I'm beginning to see how valuable knowing it is.

These are some of the most revered and acclaimed film editors in the industry, along with sequences that display the best the craft has to offer. Roll tape.

Walter Murch.

Coppola's editor, and an innovator of sound and montage. Remember Apocalypse Now's opening? he cut that. Murch is widely acknowledged as the person who coined the term Sound Designer, and helped develop the current standard film sound format, the 5.1 channel array, helping to elevate the art and impact of film sound to a new level. His contributions in both editing and sound design are invaluable, the work speaks for itself.

Apocalypse Now (1978).

Note: The editing of Apocalypse Now was handled jointly by Richard Marks, Jerry Greenberg, and Walter Murch. Walter cut the montage sequences and was the sound mixer / designer, he won an Oscar for his efforts.

Thelma Schoonmaker.

Martin Scorssese's secret weapon, and the recipient of two academy awards. Her innovations in the work of Scorsesse revolutionized and became the synthesis of modern film editing. I think Casino, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull are among the best edited films i've seen, and work precisely because they're edited so brilliant.

Indeed, many of the editorial greats have been women. It's a little known fact in an industry where women only accounted for 16 percent of all editors working on the top 250 films of 2004, and 80 percent of the films had absolutely no females on their editing teams at all, the golden age of hollywood (1940's to 50's) employed roughly 40% females as editors or editing assistants. Many of the many of the editorial greats have been women: Dede Allen, Verna Fields, Thelma Schoonmaker, Anne V. Coates and Dorothy Spencer rank as the most celebrated and respected among their peers.

Casino (1995)

Michael Khan.

Probably the most skilled editor there is, he is responsable for giving Spielberg's films a sense of geometry. This man has brought that editorial sense of unity to the films he's cut, and I think he's unmatched in terms of rhythmn and pacing. Anyone remembers all the memorable setpieces in Spielberg's films will attest to that.

Look at Schindler's list for example, he's a master of pacing, credit should be given when credit is due.

Check out this sequence from Saving Private Ryan so you see what I mean. I study him alot.

Anne V Coates.

In a career that spans over 50 years, she's still going strong. The woman was born in 1925 for chrisssakes!

She cut films by David lean (Lawrence of Arabia) as well as Steven Soderberg's. I'd be happy to go on as long as she has.

Out of sight (1998).

The next generation.

Children of men.

Dir Alfonso Cuaron was one of the editors of the film, it's notable because the long takes are spliced together from multiple sources to appear seamless.

The Matrix.

Ed: Zack Staenberg.

Amother great film editorially is The Matrix. Every visual effect shot has a setup, and that's a reason the film holds up so well.

Monday, March 3, 2008

There will be blood: Overdone by indulgence or moments of brilliance?

Paul Thomas Anderson should have his final cut card...Revoked.

This is the end result: Directorial overindulgence.

TWBB has it's legions of serious movie fans, who workship it's maker. It's a film to admire more than enjoy. I dunno what the big deal was.

I love Paul Thomas Anderson, admire his talent, admire his films. TWBB is uncompromising, but not in a good way. This is a film that does not earn it's running time. The running time for Magnolia is justified, given how much ground and characters that film covered. I think TWBB has flawed structural problems, all are apparent upon first viewing. This is not a great film, a film that is stylistically well made is not the same as a film that earns it's stripes. It's been hailed as a masterpiece by mainstream critics who overpraise his work, and that becomes the widely accepted merit. The fact that the other film won the awards doesn't lessen it's achievement, instead it invites critical analysis of it's themes.

It's universally agreed that DDL and the technical craft makes this film what it is, it's also worth considering how PTA's decision to focus on such an unredeemable character resulted in a disbalanced, and ultimately unrewarding story. The set up, and execution of the story gives the promise that the conclusion falls short delivering on. It should've been worth the sum of it's parts, instead the last act just flies off the handle, and loses it's focus. Scenes play out too long, with music setting up emotions that don't come. As if the audience is supposed to catch the drift of molasses slow pacing, nothing emotional is earned in slow motion if what is happening doesn't have a sense of momentum. And don't get me started on that ridiculous ending. That whole third act feels like a DVD deleted scene, pulling the movie into an awkward, over the top direction that negates the pact it made with the viewer.

If this was the intention, it didn't work for me. We have no one to pull to, it's themes are vague instead of satisfying because the story has 0 involvement with the audience. It's art alright, but hollow art.

It's okay that Daniel Plainview is a bastard, but his universe and the secondary characters in the story feel so lifeless the emotional pull is one of coldness Paul Dano is fine in his early scenes, once he goes toe to toe with DDL during the last act it becomes a screaming match, the scene in the bowling alley is awkwardly staged and edited. I don't think it's supposed to be funny, yet it was hilarious. The acting is pretty bad, reducing DDL's performance to over the top hysterics. It negates the careful subtleties that preceeded it.

It's problems like these that make me wonder what's so great about the movie. NCFOM had tighter direction and involved the viewer in ways this does not with a plot that moved forward. Here it's just indulgent direction redeemedd by a spectacular central performance and period details.

I'll wrap it up saying that with tighter focus on it's themes the film could have been more rewarding.
I can image it's maker intended it for himself, because he refused to cut a frame from it. Mind that i'm not saying the film should've adhered to hollywood conventions (happy ending, predictability) to be any satisfying, but the hallmark of a great film is to take the whole of it's parts to a satisfying conclution.

If you ask so much from the audience why do give it so little? some will like the journey some will not.
I can't recall a movie with so much going for it yet offers so little. A new american classic it is not.

Overdone by indulgence.