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Until You Stop Employing Michael Bay, This is the Best I’ve Got July 31, 2006

Posted by doctorolove in Movies.
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The studios are complaining. Apparently, when you make only 85 million dollars on a film, you get a little testy. Ticket sales are down. Crowds aren’t returning. And everybody’s a little scared because we haven’t heard or seen Michael Moore in a while. When he’s this quiet, it fills you with that same sense of dread that a parent gets when their child goes silent in the other room (You know, the one with the antique vases, your grandparent’s ashes and unresistant to crayon walls). There’s a box office slump. The reasons are being bandied about like plotlines in an Oliver Stone film. It’s the ticket prices. It’s the quality of films. It’s the once staunch moviegoer now being faced with a plethora of options. It’s the fact that they’ve started using real butter and not the salted wd-40 our arteries used to love. But I know the real reason…it’s the advent of the Special Edition DVD, and not for the reason you might quickly think.

The DVD has revolutionized the way we watch movies. It gives you the same quality you can get in a darkened theatre, provided you’ve purchase a home theatre with capital gained by selling your kidney or firstborn (Now acceptable forms of payment at Best Buy.) You can customize your movie experience by ease in fast forwarding and rewinding. Gone are the dark days of having to watch the scene play out as if everybody just downed two Red Bulls and a line of really good Dexatrim. DVD’s are portable and lightweight, meaning that the “three slasher film” movie night you planned with videos from Blockbuster will no longer give you a separated shoulder as you walk them home. The idea and technology behind the DVD was genius, but like anything that holds unlimited potential, it quickly took a left turn to Crappytown.

It started slowly, with a special feature here and an Easter Egg there. Maybe it was a cast list that featured interesting tidbits that you never knew about because nobody really cared (Brad Pitt loves Broccoli!). Maybe it was the trailer, because after seeing the film itself, one needs to relive the joy of remembering the anticipation. Then came the blooper reels. No longer did we have to subject ourselves to watching the reels over the credits, distracting the families of they third key grip who are sticking around to see their underachieving son/daughter’s name in lights. We had the blooper reels at our fingertips, to watch over and over again. Because life is made sweeter knowing there are at least fifteen minutes of Jim Carrey making silly faces and obnoxious flushing noises whenever the boom mike falls into frame. And then the commentary, hopefully by the director and the only actor that people actually knew from the film. They sit there and describe every scene in detail, just in case you were wondering why the couch in the background is pink and not purple. Yet all of these are forgivable, because the people who wanted them are the ones watching them. They weren’t asked for or created as part of the film. Nope, the DVD has killed movies because of the additions of two bonus features: the “deleted scene” and the “alternate ending.”

There was a time when a movie was made and edited and released and it was done. If Humphrey Bogart had bad hair in one scene, people would point at it and laugh and usually brand him with a silly nickname. If the editing made no sense, the plot was terrible and the ending not well received, life went on and the filmmakers usually found themselves quickly relocated to other jobs (Carhop, fruit seller, Fatty Arbuckle punching bag). But the films were judged as they were. No extra footage. No test endings. When something is left to stand on its’ own without the help of any evidence to sway opinion, logic states that somebody will do a better job. You get one shot. That doesn’t mean you fiddle with angles or play with ideas. Okay, you can, but that was usually done late at night after all the studio executives had gone home to sleep in separate beds.

Now with the DVD, you  can play around to your heart’s content. Because you know that every single thing you shoot, be it mundane, will find its’ way into someone’s consciousness. Test audiences don’t like the fact that the heroic puppy gets run over by a train representing a complex metaphor for loss and redemption. Change it and sell the original idea as a “Director’s Cut.” Movies are dying because what we expect to see is quality and are instead getting whatever was deemed the “least crappy.” It’s like what video cameras did to porn in the 1970’s, according to Boogie Nights. “You just shoot and shoot and edit out the crap later.” But as anybody who’s dealt with a bout of stomach flu knows, if you crap enough, it gets everywhere. And it lingers, even on the things it didn’t touch. Watch a deleted scene. It does nothing for the film. Maybe it tosses out a joke that didn’t pass censors, yet instead of fighting for it, the director/editor leave it out. Because IT WAS PROBABLY CRAP!

Once the addition of these extras became commonplace, directors even started filming scenes they knew they wouldn’t use, just to have something to put on the DVD. Maybe they think they’re being cute, but showing us your prowess with long takes and cool angles doesn’t detract from the fact that we all just spent 10.75 to watch a movie that looked like it was made in a basement using marionettes (And not in a cool art-house way, because you can do basement puppet theatre correctly and win a few Palme d’ors.) And as referenced by the Stomach Flu theory, we notice those things. The American movie-going public is not as dumb as you think we are (With the sole exception of the million or so people who went to see Little Man.)

So, movie making people, you have opened the Pandora’s Box and now we are responding. You can try to bring us back by trotting out quality cinema or by reining in directors. Because all of the problems that are blamed all stem from the DVD special features. Or you can continue suffering through this unprecedented drop in revenue. Think about that when you are forced to sell your Hummer and drive around in a GASP…Ford Focus. We aren’t coming back until this is fixed. At least not until Cameron Diaz does a nude scene.

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