Debatable: Do most moviegoers dislike art movies?

Debatable, one of our newest series piloted earlier this year with a discussion on video-on-the-go, pins CyniCritics contributors together to tackle big picture movie-related topics through back-and-forth dialogue. The latest prompt asks editors if general movie audiences dislike art movies and if so, why.

Matt: I don’t think the “general public” is opposed to art movies in general. It’s mostly about distribution and marketing. The biggest marketing tool for successful art movies is the Academy Awards. However, the taste of Oscar voters leaves out many films that don’t fit into a specific mold or go too far away from narrative convention. That taste then translates to the public, who has limited choice and is more likely to look for stars or be influenced by a memorable trailer.

Luke: I think you bring up an interesting point with the Academy Awards as a marketing tool. There are countless art movies released in the year that find little commercial success until the holiday and awards season. Once the Academy, critics and marketing push a handful of “must-see” films, they start making a lot of money at the theaters because audiences feel these are good films they shouldn’t miss out on. No one would have seen Slumdog Millionaire without the buzz. Nominations and such also translate into good DVD rentals, which explains why Netflix’s top 10 rented movies are mostly Best Picture nominated films. Before then, people just don’t know what is good or don’t know how to find what is good and are too afraid to take a chance. This might explain why it’s easier to go see Mission: Impossible over Hugo. Continue reading

The 11 Best Movie Posters of 2011

After reading a few eye-rolling best movie posters of 2011 lists and questioning the rationalities behind fans and writers picking their favorite posters, I took the time to compile our own own list, putting two years of ad school skills with a fellow designer / colleague to practice. Here is a look at some of the best that came to mind. Honorable mentions: Bridesmaids, Scream 4, The Dark Knight Rises, Shame and Weekend.

11. The Run Diary: Commercially the long-awaited Johnny Depp film was a flop and critically it still disappointed. Most of the blame goes to marketing execs, who didn’t quite know how to sell the film despite a mildly attractive trailer and this copy clever typographical poster.

10. J. Edgar: Most might argue the other way on this, claiming Leo in an unflattering, oddly cropped portrait missed the mark, however, the still demands much attention and captures the character brilliantly. The hand-written signature title at the top quiets the image to match the tone of Eastwood’s film. Continue reading

TRAILER REVIEW: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Written by: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Martin Freeman, Ian McKellan, Andy Serkis, Hugo Weaving

It’s been almost a decade since The Lord of the Rings last appeared on the big screen. A lot has changed in that period of time, especially concerning the director the studio and lawsuits and negotiations over the content. Add in budget negotiations, timetable struggles and a director backing out, The Hobbit has probably undergone one of the most difficult journey’s too get made. On Tuesday night, fans were surprised with the trailer release: proof it’s finally here. Continue reading

TRAILER REVIEW: The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises
Directed by: Christopher Nolan
Written by: Jonathon Nolan, Christopher Nolan
Starring: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

With everything at stake in the final film and conclusion to Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale’s much-venerated Batman series, The Dark Knight Rises trailer appears to address all our concerns while making us scratch for more. In the four years since its predecessor, which poised itself as the third highest domestic box office grosser of all-time and near critical masterpiece with eight Academy Award nominations, Nolan let the dust settle on the franchise, instead moving on to Inception. Needless to say, expectations for the final Batman film are considerably high. Continue reading

REVIEW: Beginners

Directed by: Mike Mills
Written by: Mike Mills
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent

It isn’t surprising that you probably haven’t seen or even heard of Beginners, one of the best-kept secrets of the year and most unlikely coming-of-age films in a long time.

Beginners, loosely based off of writer-director Mike Mills own life-changing story, follows two “beginners”, a 38 year old man named Oliver (McGregor) and his 75 year old cancer-stricken father Hal (Plummer), who just came out after his wife of four decades passed away. It turns out Hal was gay the whole time, and now wants to take on life and love with unrelenting vigor. Oliver has his own closet to come out of. Struggling with commitment, identity, failure and his father’s issues, Oliver leaves himself secluded, that is, until a gorgeous, flighty French actress Anna (Laurent) comes along provides him a challenge in life, love and time.

Continue reading

REVIEW: The Ides of March

The Ides of March
Directed by: George Clooney
Written by: George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon
Starring: George Clooney, Ryan Gosling, Evan Rachel Wood, Paul Giamatti

The fourth film by George Clooney (following Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Good Night, and Good Luck and Leatherheads) really begins to define George Clooney as a director, which is starkly similar to his reputation as an actor. Neither does Clooney the director or Clooney actor ever take brash or bold artistic risks, but instead they both seem to keep their class by maximizing their modest range.

Put more simply, he knows what he’s good at and he avoids the rest at all costs. Continue reading

ARCHIVE REVIEW: Romeo + Juliet

Romeo + Juliet
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Written by: Craig Pearce (screenplay) William Shakespeare (play)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes, John Leguizamo, Harold Perrineau

There is a wild apprehension people have towards big screen adaptations of their favorite literary works. Scratch that. There is a wild anticipation people have towards big screen adaptations of their favorite literary works, that is, until they are released. After that, they never quite seem to live up to expectations set out for them. People are always marginally disappointed when something doesn’t play out on the screen like it did in their head.

Now take something as properly defined as Shakespeare, or even better, his most iconic Romeo and Juliet. In most ways it is already perfectly visualized with no help from its theatrical medium. It’s a story everyone has read or scene— indirectly or directly if it’s fair to count the pieces it influenced— and one everyone already understands. An adaptation should be pretty straightforward, right? Continue reading

REVIEW: Crazy, Stupid, Love

Crazy Stupid Love
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra and John Rehqua
Written by: Dan Fogelman
Starring: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Kevin Bacon

Awkwardly titled, Crazy, Stupid, Love is quickly able to overcome its likely audience pandering label, genre conventions and doubt in a strange arrangement of casting. The film is short of crazy, far from stupid and talks more than enough about love.

Whatever one’s expectations of Steve Carrell’s latest comedy are, they are sure to ditch them within the first scene when Cal Weaver (Carrell) underreacts to news of his wife demanding a divorce at date night. A short time later Cal finds himself in a posh youth hang out where he watches in awe of other men scrambling up women while he sips his cranberry and vodka through a straw. His drunken antics soon draw the attention of hotshot Jacob Palmer (Gosling) who offers to turn his sad life around and get women for no other reason than to move the plot along Hitch-style. Continue reading

DEBATABLE: The New Medium

Luke: To have not noticed the changes in the movie industry lately, you’d have to be completely removed from the world. The largest rental chain, Blockbuster, has filed for bankruptcy and closed a significant portion of its stores. Regional chains have followed suit in the downsizing or closing, leaving local rental stores to either collapse completely or survive due to the lack of competition and reliance on the traditional markets that haven’t succumbed to Netflix or Redbox.

Both of these alternatives, in addition with digital downloads, pirating and other forms of new media sharing, certainly come with their issues of pricing, legality (how many computers can share a Netflix account) or lack of variation in distribution, but their benefits can’t go unnoticed.

Now more so than ever, movies are reaching further limits.  People can download, rent and take their movies to go on their computers or on their iPods and iPads. Using Internet markets like Amazon or iTunes, a trip to town is not needed. At any CVS or Wal-Mart, audiences have access to rent foreign films that couldn’t show at their local cinema. Easier access to harder to find films; however, seem to make way to more popular, in demand films like The Proposal and This Is It.

In a way the accessibility is a fascinating, new and exciting tool at hand. When abroad, Netflix wouldn’t allow me to download 300 after visiting Sparta — the service is not available yet in Greece — but iTunes allowed me to rent, download and sync the video to my iPod for watching on the go. Since, several films have accompanied my travels, making the ten minutes waiting in line at the train station here, forty minutes on a plane here go by much more enjoyably. Often my biggest complaint in life is not having enough time to watch all the films I desire.

Greater access has been glory. Netflix has spared me countless bus trips to the local video store just hoping they will have the movie I am looking for. Redbox has saved me dollar upon dollar for silly, fun films I watch with my family (or might not watch if we don’t get to it) but wouldn’t dare risk spending $5 on at Blockbuster.

The negatives are apparent, at least to those who see beyond the benefits to themselves. With the largest movie retailer in North America failing, and more following, it is impossible to track the full and part time jobs lost. Without a movie box description, video store trailers and ads, stumbling across a good foreign or indie movie usually takes back burner to the highlighted, big studio hits like Tron: Legacy.

The future only brings about more uncertainties to the once fairly stable industry — at least it has not suffered the wrath of the internet the way the music industry did, instead finding a way to coexist and profit — especially with Facebook’s Warner Bros. deal and Netflix’s price increase. Now that we can take movies anywhere, it will be interesting to see where we will take movies.

Matt: There’s no doubt that Netflix changed the movie rental business.  I would even go so far as to call them the Napster of the movie rental business.  Though their business models are vastly different (Netflix started out charging), the scope of the change they brought to this industry is astonishing.  Coupled with technology like 3G and the evolution of the smartphone, media consumers have developed a “watch it anywhere” mentality which has left companies like Blockbuster in the dust.

In my opinion, smartphones will always be better for the latest YouTube video than they will be for enjoying a film (David Lynch agrees).  I would never feel comfortable reviewing a movie I only watched on an iPod Touch precisely because I wouldn’t consider myself to have actually watched it.  Though the screens are becoming higher and higher resolution, the image and experience that we can have on a home theater system or, even better, the actual theater is unparalleled.

Presumably if you’re watching the movie on a portable device, you yourself are on the move.  Sure, 300 may be able to be digested like that, (especially if you’ve seen it before but that’s a horse of a different color) but watching a film like There Will Be Blood or 2001: A Space Odyssey on a portable device in 20 minute increments doesn’t really do justice to their complicated camera movements, gorgeous cinematography, or deliberate pacing. They were made to be seen in a single sitting.  To me, a smart phone is something you should watch internet videos on while you’re waiting in the theater for the real movie to start.