Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Men Who Would be King

Did you ever notice that the more they trailer a movie in the cinema the worse it in invariably turns out to be when, and if, you eventually get to see it?  The other thing I’ve found, and this is also quite consistent as well, is that the more The Sunday Times slags off a movie the more I seem to enjoy it. And why do you think this is Paul? I hear you say. Well gather around and I’ll try and explain.

My wife and I and a couple of our friends went out to the cinema a few weeks ago to see the highly rated Dogtooth and the weird thing was that all the reviewers seemed to get right was the fact that the movie was weirdDazed and Confused, the poster proclaimed, thought it just might be the best movie that the reviewer in question had ever seen, which led us all to believe that the said reviewer might just be... yes, you’ve guessed it… dazed and confused.

But the point I’m trying to make is not that The Sunday Times reviewers seem to continually get it wrong and that the Dazed and Confused reviewer might have got it wrong on this particular occasion. No, I think what I’m trying to say is that we’re all different and, yes it is a clique, but we all do have different opinions. And then the bit I’d add to that is that even with reviews, we’re all still subjected to and influenced by, the marketing machines of the big movie companies. Like, for instance, the editor or the reviewer from whichever newspaper or magazine you care to think of, realise that if they slag off a movie then there is no way they are going to get their name mentioned on the poster and adverts advertising the said movie and so they are going to miss out on a major marketing opportunity of their own.

Then from out of nowhere you’ll get a feel-good word-of-mouth movie, and it doesn’t matter how much money the movie company does or does not spend marketing the said movie it will do amazing box office.  I’m talking here about sleeper movies like Sideways, Juno, 500 Days of Summer, Lost in Translation, Dog Day Afternoon and, more recently, the totally amazing, The Secret in Their Eyes.

It’s a bit like starting a fire, how these movies get started.  My dad is brilliant at lighting a fire; he’ll get a few bits of rolled up newspaper, yes maybe even the aforementioned The Sunday Times, a few sticks of wood, two or three lumps of coal and a match and he’s away first time, every time. Whereas I’ll have all of the above, plus a pack of firelighters as well and no matter how much huffing and puffing I do my efforts will mostly fade to darkness. Again no matter how much expensive huffing and puffing the relevant record company, book publisher, or movie company do, if it’s not in the grooves, figuratively speaking, it’s never going to lift off.    

I’ve found it’s the exact same thing with bands, television shows, books, records, comedians, plays, the single most effective way to success is pure and simply word-of-mouth. Perhaps it could be argued that the various companies either think that the latest Johnny Depp - probably currently the biggest marquee name in terms of opening a movie - is going to do very well on their own thank you very much (ditto for the all mega projects in the different fields) and so the money people channel all their funds and energy into the poor cousins; the projects they have spent a lot of money on which haven’t tested well or received favourable reviews.  When the reality is it really doesn’t matter what they do or don’t do for those particular projects. If it’s a turkey it’s never going to fly and if it’s a work of considerable beauty it might be shaky at first but mostly (if enough people are exposed to the project in question) it’ll take flight.    

In my own chosen business I find that usually a project will stand a reasonable chance if the record companies only have the sense to leave it (all) to the artists.  It’s when they start to meddle and “create”, that things can, and do, go drastically wrong.  When it does work thought they’re not beyond basking in a reflected glory.  For instance the chap who just happened to be the boss of the record company involved with the current pop factory (where all music is deemed, 'product') now acts like he’s personally invented the wheel. But here’s the thing: who remembers the name of the boss of the record company at the time of the Beatles success.   Actually I do, it was Sir Joseph Lockwood, but I know his name just because when it comes to Beatle facts I’m just S-A-D and I remember reading that John Lennon invited him to manage the Beatles. But here’s another a test for you, pick your favourite movies and you’ll most probably remember the main actors, maybe even the director, and, if you’re a real anorak, maybe even the writer and if you’re an Oscar awards ceremony nut you might, just might guess the name of the producer, but you’re never ever going to guess the name of the boss of the studio at the time the movie was made. But these people, yes the very same men who would be Kings, are powerful and they do have their vanity projects, where they “create.” I suppose we’re maybe wandering off the beaten path a wee bit now, and then again, maybe not.  Such a person is quite likely to insist that we all should have an opportunity to enjoy (or be subjected to) the latest in the long line of Dogtooth type projects, which is exactly where we came in.

And now, the bit before I go.

This time I’ve seen:

Martian Child – a truly beautiful film featuring John Cusack and Bobby Coleman.

The Mystery in Their Eyes – a definite must-see film.

Solitary Man.  

And heard:

Don McLean @ The Royal Albert Hall, London – a majestic concert.

Ray Davies @ The Canal Street Theatre, Dublin – Artist, band and audience all in perfect form for a perfect concert.

Eric Bibb @ The Bloomsbury, London – a true blues legend in the making.

John Connolly & Mark Billingham @ Waterstones Bookshop, Piccadilly, London – they’re both so sharp and so genuinely entertaining they should take their (duo) show on the road.

Jackson Browne & David Lindley @ The Hampton Court Palace - a beautiful performance with perfect sound.

And read:

Popism by Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett – a revealing period Polaroid.

The Men Would Would be King by Nicole Laporte - a must read for film fans and fans of the foibles of human nature.

You Never Give Me Your Money by Peter Doggett who very subtly reveals to us how and why the Beatles were split up, when they all individually admitted they’d have been just as happy to continue making music together albeit in a less permanent format.

Until the next time,




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