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“The Truman Show” Didn’t Just Predict Our Future, But Also the Future of How Movies Would Be Sold…

More than twenty years after its release, it feels like everything that might be said about The Truman Show has already been said.

The Truman Show is that rare Hollywood blockbuster that feels somehow simultaneously timeless, timely and prescient. It speaks to anxieties that resonate throughout history, fears that were very particular to the cusp of the millennium, and to nightmares that were yet to come. It belongs at once to that age-old anxiety that the world is an illusion and human comprehension is insufficient, to the difficult-to-articulate existential uncertainty of the so-called “end of history”, to a future in which everybody would willingly become the star of their own Truman Show.

Indeed, The Truman Show seems to say so much about the world outside itself and the human condition that it’s possible to miss the film itself. Peter Weir’s late nineties blockbuster is a surreal slice of history itself, a relatively big budget mainstream release starring one of the most famous people on the planet, built around a rather abstract high concept. Not only was the film a massive critical success, it also managed to survive and prosper against a heated summer season.

While its actual themes and contents might be dystopian, The Truman Show itself offers an optimistic glimpse of a kind of blockbuster that seems increasingly unlikely.

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Matthew Broderick’s Day Off…

Part of me would love to watch the Super Bowl. Not for the American football, of course – I could make less sense of that than I can of soccer. For the advertisements. With a huge audience and incredibly expensive airtime, those investing in advertising spots tend to bring their “a-game.” This year, for instance, we have the below clip, which sees Matthew Broderick effectively re-living his most iconic role, skipping work. Of course, the Honda CR-V isn’t nearly as cool as Cameron’s father’s convertible, but we’ll chalk that up to suspension of disbelief, right?

I love the way that they actually use Yell-O’s Oh Yeah.

And it’s worth remembering last year’s stand-out spot, the famous Darth Vader commercial, which is only now airing in Irish cinemas. Yes, it’s taken us a year to receive the cast-offs of last year’s football.

A Polar-ising Ad Campaign…

I don’t know if our American readers are aware, but Willem Dafoe has been appointed as the voice of a BirdsEye advertising campaign. Basically, the advertisements see customers open the freezer to find a stuffed polar bear offering them advice. In Willem Dafoe’s voice. He praises BirdsEye and then warns threatens lets them know he’ll be watching. How this is not the stuff of nightmares, I will never know.

In fairness, Hollywood actors advertising overseas is a bit of a tradition (in fact, it’s the whole basis of Lost in Translation) and most are incredibly banal (Benecio Del Toro selling ice cream? Please!), but this one I thought was worth a mention just for the surrealness. Willem Dafoe scaring people into buying his brand of produce is well worth comment.

Trailer Talk: Views on Previews…

I love a good film story. Not necessarily a story about the inner workings of Hollywood or who is starring in what, more a story about how the film industry is working, relating to regular folks, engaging with audiences and about how the experience of going to the cinema may or may not change. So things like complaints about popcorn or iPhone movie apps excite me as much as pondering the true meaning of Inception or discussing the ending of Shutter Island. So, a particular story grabbed my attention over the weekend. Apparently a woman in China is suing cinemas for wasting her time with pointless advertisements. It’s certainly a story which grabbed my attention: 

Chen Xiaomei, a lawyer in Shaanxi Province, filed the lawsuit arguing that audiences were given no warning or indication on the ticket that ads before the film would run on for 20 minutes. That’s like almost an entire sitcom episode… of ads. Not only did this waste movie goers’ time, it also “violated their right to know and to choose.” 

I can certainly sympathise. 

Some of these ads can be quite (pop)corn-y...

 

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Internet Advertising…

I love it when movies make an effort to embrace new technology. It can be something as careful and precise as the carefully orchestrated internet campaign of The Dark Knight (“I believe in Harvey Dent”) or the slow and steady burn of Tron Legacy over two years, or it can even be more direct than that. I thought I might share two of the more wonderfully internet-specific trailers I’ve ever seen, released within a week of each other. These are pretty much ways of publicising a movie that could only work on-line. The first is the interactive Scott Pilgrim trailer. As if we needed more reason to get excited about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

A game changer? (click to view)

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Non-Review Review: The Joneses

The Joneses is a sharply observed, perfectly timed, more than a little cynical examination of American suburbia. Trust me when I say that it’s hard not to leave the movie thinking of American Beauty, I mean that in the most flattering way possible. Yes, I bought what it is the Joneses were selling.

Sometimes you can choose your family...

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Why the Pacific Belongs on Sky Movies

Sky caused a bit of a kerfuffle (it’s a word!) when they announced that The Pacific, the really rather excellent Second World War miniseries, would be airing on Sky Movies instead of Sky One – their television station. Queue the sounds of protest from various sources decrying the event as a television show which belongs on Sky’s primary television station – Sky One. However, Sky responded with the argument that Sky One simply isn’t equipped to broadcast a show like The Pacific, designed to air unedited and uninterrupted without overlays or advertisements. I’m going to take the unpopular path and argue that Sky were right: having watched the first two episodes, The Pacific should air on Sky Movies.

War over The Pacific?

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$400,000 won’t buy you a good review from Variety, but it will kill a bad one…

Far be it for us to gloat over the misfortune of a major industry publication, but this story of Oscar ‘payola’ caught my eye. Basically Variety has been accused of pulping a bad review for a film which provided the magazine with $400,000 worth of advertising revenue. The film is Iron Cross – don’t worry that you haven’t heard of the would-be Oscar contender. It’s only really claim to awards prestige is that it offered the last performance of Roy Schneider. However, that $400,000 has gone along way – a lot of film nerds now know all about the film, which wasn’t on the radar last week.

Variety sold

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Does Hype Ruin Good Films?

So, how was Avatar Day for you?

The word so far has been a resounding ‘meh‘, but still a somewhat enthusiastic one. Still, it’s nothing compared to the hype that has built up around the movie. A ‘game changer’, Avatar was rumoured to redefine movies themselves – ushering in the golden era of three-dimensional filmmaking. How does a film live up to that hype? In fairness, most of the comments on the preview footage have been relatively positive, but most seem a little disappointed. So, has the Hollywood hype machine spoiled a perfectly good movie?

Is James Cameron still king of the world?

Is James Cameron still king of the world?

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Great Film Adverts Are Even Better…

I’m a sucker for great cinema. I’m an even greater sucker for ways of paying tribute to great cinema. Turner Classic Movies have launched their Summer Under the Stars season (where stars like Cary Grant and Sidney Poitier get a whole day dedicated to their classics over the month of August) with a variety of teaser posters which treat these movies as if they were brand spanking new. I have my own favourites of the collection after the jump, but it got me thinking about other great ways of advertising films. Not particular films, but cinema in general or classics. As an amazing experience.

I’ve come up with some great examples that I’ve been taken with lately.

If they showed these ads in cinemas, I'd be happy...

If they showed these ads in cinemas, I'd be happy...

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