New Articles for the Week of November 18th: Penultimate Listageddon Edition

Theater waters are being thoroughly chummed with Oscar bait, and there doesn’t seem to be much anything good on TV anymore, so you know what that means: time for year-end awards! Yes it’s the most, liscticle tiiiiiiiiime of the yeeeeeeeeeeear. It’s been a slow month for me in terms of actually producing new content, as prep for click-mongering Top 10s and Best Ofs has had me busy catching up on a lot of programming I failed to get around to earlier. So let’s call this month’s post a practice round as I present Woolf On Film’s: Top 5 Pieces of Content from November!!!!!! (Feel free to flick your light switches a bunch and make some wooshing noises between each entry for added dramatic effect)

5) Interview with Gavin Hood On Ender’s Game: So this was pretty fucking crazy, seeing as A) I’ve never interviewed anyone in my life, let alone an Oscar-winning director, and B) it was held at a Trump Hotel, and I’ve never stepped foot in anything much nicer than a Marriot. I expected to get bounced the second I walked in, which would have been something of a relief. Yeah, I was nervous as all hell about spending 15 minutes talking with a guy I’ve never met, seeing as who exactly the fuck am I? I can barely make it through watching interviews hosted by actual professionals, so the prospect of doing one myself was more than a little terrifying. The artificiality of it always just weirds me out: actors and creatives giving the same canned answers to the same questions they’re going to get 20 times from a revolving door of press correspondents sounds just horribly awkward no matter how you cut it.

So my primary goal going in was to at no point stoop to something like “SO WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH HARRISON FORD?!?! YOUR MOVIE IS SET IN SPACE, AND HE WAS THAT GUY IN THAT MOVIE SET IN SPACE!!!” But the more I thought about it, the more I came to the conclusion that it seems preeeetty unlikely I’ll be able to just walk into this thing and totally reinvent the rules of movie publicity. At the end of the day, this sort of thing is just a transaction: we get content, they get to pimp out their project. It’s all part of the marketing game –and it’s a game that lets me meet an Oscar-winner in person, and maybe snag a couple Trump coasters while I’m at it. Not bad, all told. 

It was no small relief then that when I actually sat down with Mr. Hood, he answered my questions with an energy and verbosity that not only made my job easier, but also actually gave me first hand evidence of what an interview can be useful for. Gavin’s passion and excitement when speaking about the film was really quite inspiring, and I hope it translates into the written version. The guy has a background in acting originally, so yeah, part of me is still suspicious as to how much of that enthusiasm is legitimate. Again, the whole point of the press tour is to get people hyped for his movie, and you’re not going to do that unless you can look them in the eye and say without hesitation their next big project it’s is better than sliced bread.

But dammit, I wanted to believe him by the end of it –not so much his confidence in the finished product, which even he was modest about, but in the idea that people are making these giant, $150 million movies because they want to share something they feel passionately about with the world, and not just because the studio thinks they’ve got a shot at cashing in on a known property. After all, this is the adaptation of a 30 year-old sci-fi novel by an author who’s spent the last 30 years proving he’s a complete fucking wacko, so it’s not like this thing was gonna be a calk walk.

4) Ender’s Game Review: Did I mention Orson Scott Card is a piece of shit? Sorry, let me rephrase: Orson Scott Card is a colossally homophobic, ginormously bigoted, 12-piece bucket-sized piece of shit. But I still liked the movie they made out his book. Despite how positively my interview with Gavin Hood shaped my opinion of Ender’s Game’s director, it didn’t make me feel more confident that the movie itself was going to be anything but a massive flop. How big a bomb it’ll be once all is said and done is still up in the air, but its soft launch was hardly surprising.

Part of the reason: the book’s reputation was poisoned, then stabbed, then beaten to an inch of its life and left bleeding at the side of the road by its author, Orson Scott Card, every time he opened his mouth, and discussed his views on religion, sexuality, government –pretty much anything that doesn’t have to do with the book he wrote. This was a huge problem for the film adaptation to get from screenplay to screen, seeing as people understandably might not want to have their money going into the pocket of a giant asshole. Granted, if we aired all of Hollywood’s dirty laundry, I doubt you’d ever be able to see a movie and have a clean conscience about where your money’s going. But Card’s been open about his opinions, and in a way, I respect him for not hiding them, no matter how hateful. At least this way, I knew I wouldn’t want to pay to see a movie that has an asshole scoring points on the backend.

Or so it seemed. Despite Summit Entertainment spending more time distancing the project from Card than actually promoting it, the last minute announcement upon its release that Card wouldn’t be getting residuals off of ticket sales hinted at the toxic word of mouth the film was premiering to. I was happy about this, as having seen the film a week earlier, and having generally enjoyed it, I felt more comfortable in being able to recommend people purchasing tickets for the film, instead of just recommending the film itself.

That all bears out in the review, in which I caught some flack for overly emphasizing my dislike for Card. In my defence, all the extratextual discussion is presented up front, and meant to establish my conflicted position: my opinion of the film wasn’t influenced by my opinion of who came up with it, but considering the large population of viewers who probably wouldn’t want to give money to this guy, I figured it was important to address the controversy directly. Whether or not that was effective I’ll leave up to you, and in the future, I’ll try to use a defter hand the next time a complete dickbag has me feeling conflicted about whether or not I can recommend a movie to someone. But hey, I got a positive review on Existimatum, the site that reviews reviews. So that’s something.

3) Dallas Buyers Club Review: Here’s a movie I saw that I gave the same rating as Ender’s Game, and caused far less grief. It’s quite good. You should see it. Matthew McConaughey has a really great mustache in it, and I really should be reviewing more of his movies, if for no other reason than because I should probably have figured out how to spell his name properly at this point.

2) Thor: The Dark World Review: Oh shit, more ratings kerfuffles! I really, really wish we as a culture, as a people, and as a species could just do away with review scores. I totally get why they exist, seeing as our need to codify and categorize entertainment for convenience sake only gets more pressing the more entertainment there is to be labeled and listed, but seriously, if your viewing habits are dictated solely by IMDB star ratings and a rotten tomatoes score, you're doing it wrong.

So yeah, when I gave Thor: The Dark World a 3 out of 5, and an ever so slightly rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I knew I was going to get in some shit from Marvel die hards. Sure enough, haters did hate, as is their wont, though when it comes to criticizing my criticism, I generally don’t respond to comments that are attacking me, or the existence of my review, as opposed to what I’m trying to say about the movie. Which can be hard! It’s incredibly tempting to jump down in the comment section muck and articulate as politely as possible why it is someone is a fucking idiot. But getting involved only fans the flames of outrage sparked by those insecure enough to take a star-rating on a movie they haven’t seen as an attack on their being, so I do what I can to stay out. Still, when you don’t get a ton of feedback on your work, it always sucks to go through the thought process of “oh hey, someone left a comment! Lemme just take a look and –oh god, what did I do to these people to offend them so personally?!”

So when I did come back to that Thor review a whiles later, and saw two -heroes? Yeah, I’ll call them heroes- basically saying exactly what I would have said myself...well goshdarnit if that didn’t just set my cockles to max heat. I actually almost wish the comments sections were full of nothing but the non-stop hate, so that that way I could always just ignore them. Instead though, people who might themselves disagree with my opinions on a movie, but acknowledge the right for them to exist, are out there fighting the good fight on my behalf. And I thank them for that. 

1)   Under the Dome Boxset Review: And coming in at number one with a Price is Right fail trombone is my final word on Under the Dome. Why did I take this assignment after spending the better part of 3 months complaining about this show? Good question, shitty answer. See, the special addition comes packaged with its own dome. Way I saw it, it'd be an excuse to try a boxset review, which I'd never done, and I'd get a trophy out of it. Also it was free, so that was a big motivator. Buuuuuuuut then they didn’t send me the special edition, just the regular one, which doesn't come in its own tiny plastic dome so why in God's name would anyone ever want to own it? Needless to say, I was heartbroken. Hard as it was to believe, Under the Dome found a way to disappoint me one last time. It’s almost poetic.

That’s all for now. Got a couple movie reviews slated for later in the month, but it’s mostly gonna be a whole lotta TV writing for the rest of 2013. I’ll be doing an official top 10 list elsewhere, but might do something a bit more extensive and free flow here later down the road.