This Week You Will Contemplate Better:
- film distribution
- critic aggregation
- World War II soundtracks
- CEO succession plans
- artist protections
- rock stars
Thanks to scb0212, Simon del Monte, and Caspar for contributing this week. Send articles throughout the next week to ploughmanplods [at] gmail, post articles from the past week below for discussion, and Have a Happy Friday!
At The Ringer, Adam Nayman looks into the phenomenon of “stray movies”:
Meanwhile, somewhere in the background of this whole noisy paradigm shift, an entire cycle of American movies has come and gone without anybody really noticing. They’re less a victim of Barbenheimer hijacking the collective consciousness—which absolutely is a factor—than of their own strange, hapless ephemerality. For the most part, they’re the cinematic equivalent of trees falling in some empty, faraway forest. Or maybe a Haunted Mansion: You could be forgiven for thinking that Justin Simien’s $150 million (!) family comedy—with its theme park IP and cast picked seemingly out of a hat—was some kind of Disney deepfake. The phenomenon goes deeper: For instance, did you know that in March, an original sci-fi movie starring Adam Driver—maybe the most crucial American leading man of the 21st century—laying waste to a series of CGI dinosaurs opened at a theater near you? Or that between March and April, yesterday’s next big thing Guy Ritchie directed two different genre films—a spy comedy and a military thriller—that both had wide distribution? Have you actually seen the Ben Affleck vehicle Hypnotic, about a detective unraveling a vast mind-control conspiracy, but can’t remember it because somebody brainwashed you into believing otherwise? If the over/under on 2023 movies featuring Dracula as a key character was 1.5, what would you bet? And is it possible that this Friday, an R-rated comedy featuring Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx as the voices of naughty live-action dogs will play in front of at least a few live-action human beings?
Vulture‘s Lane Brown gives a detailed explanation about how review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes gets gamed by studios and small-time publicity companies alike:
Between October 2018 and January 2019, Rotten Tomatoes added eight reviews to Ophelia’s score. Seven were favorable, and most came from critics who have reviewed at least one other Bunker 15 movie. The writer of a negative review says that Bunker 15 lobbied them to change it; if the critic wanted to “give it a (barely) overall positive then I do know the editors at Rotten Tomatoes and can get it switched,” a Bunker 15 employee wrote. I also discovered another negative review of Ophelia from this period that was not counted by Rotten Tomatoes, by a writer whose positive reviews of other Bunker 15 films have been recorded by the aggregator. Ophelia climbed the Tomatometer to 62 percent, flipping from rotten to “fresh.” The next month, the distributor IFC Films announced that it had acquired Ophelia for release in the U.S. […] “The studios didn’t invent Rotten Tomatoes, and most of them don’t like it,” says the filmmaker Paul Schrader. “But the system is broken. Audiences are dumber. Normal people don’t go through reviews like they used to. Rotten Tomatoes is something the studios can game. So they do.”
The Reveal‘s Keith Phipps reports on the “cult film in search of cult” that juxtaposed Beatles covers with World War II footage:
Though bad from start to finish, the film’s worst moments come early. A clip of Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) skeptically receiving the news of Neville Chamberlain’s “Peace in our time” declaration in the 1939 film City in Darkness gives way to a cover of “Magical Mystery Tour” by ’70s soft-rock giants Ambrosia. Accompanying the song: footage of swastika banners, German soldiers marching in formation, and a climactic appearance from a smiling Adolf Hitler, by implication the organizer of the “mystery tour” that was World War II.
Constructed from interviews with 25 people close to the situation, CNBC‘s Alex Sherman details the Succession-like chaos behind the scenes at Disney:
There’s no company in the world more associated with storytelling than Disney; its most famous movies are modern versions of timeless fables. The story of the Chapek era is timeless in its own way. It’s a tale of how good intentions clashed with hubris and ego to erode one of the most famous organizations in the world — a case study in corporate dysfunction and succession gone wrong. As Iger and the Disney board resume their search for a successor, a critical question looms: Have they learned the moral of the story?
The saga of the unceremonious firing of the creators of the celebrated RPG Disco Elysium offer a lesson in creative worker solidarity over IP protections, says Ambria Taylor in Jacobin:
IP rights are usually uncritically accepted as the way artists with good ideas maintain control over how those ideas are used and the value they produce. Kurvitz leased IP to ZA/UM for the making of the game, and yet it is he who stands accused of intending to steal IP from the company. Even if Kurvitz wins his day in court, IP rights did not protect him. The reason is twofold. First, IP as a concept has never actually been about protecting workers. In fact, today it’s mostly used to do things like copyright species of corn to extract money from indigenous South Americans, or making sure no one else can replicate patented lifesaving vaccines. Second, IP fights drag struggle out of the workplace, where things actually happen, and into the courts, where amends for things that already happened are made or are not made.
And last but definitely not least, Niko Stratis writes in Paste about the far reaching coverage of rock star transphobia and its distinct lack of usefulness to the cause of trans rights (Technically outside the one week requirement, but The FAR will acquiesce to the requests of its human readers):
When Stereogum published the interview, for their “I’ve Got a File On You” series, they highlighted this section in their social media marketing. The big takeaway from the career retrospective of Alice Cooper is that he doesn’t like the whole “woke transgender thing”. All the other major music outlets hoarded these pull quotes, turned quick news hits around about the transphobia of Alice Cooper and trust me that I have counted the number of these stories written by trans people and walked away with a zero sum. We are the subject of this story, as we are the subject of many of these stories, but are invisible within it. So often in these stories, trans people are the idea of something potentially real, often potentially harmful. We are trickster gods, barbed and poisonous, waiting to rip the seams of the tender fabric of this gentle world. But we are never the interviewer, never the storyteller, rarely the writer and seldom real. We are always the topic, rarely the voice.