Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Do we have not enough good content... or too much?

I realized this past week that I have not been motivated to go to the theatre for any new 2015 releases. There were a number of films I saw throughout January, but all of them were holdovers from 2014, as I caught up on the Oscar nominees. Since then, there hasn't been anything I've been passionate enough about to go see on the big screen.

This isn't to say that I wont see anything from these first few months of release. I recently went through and added several films to my Netflix queue, movies that I wasn't going to pay $14 for or even $8 (I often go to the early-bird cheap AMC screenings on weekends), but that I wanted to eventually have a look at. Looking at what I had consciously skipped unwittingly gave me a window into how I chose my entertainment options.

For example, I've like a lot of Michael Mann's past work. The trailer for BLACK HAT did very little for me, but had it gotten incredible reviews, I probably would have checked it out. Instead, most critics really disliked BLACK HAT and audiences stayed away. I know of a couple friends who sing its praises, but that's not enough to sell me. I try not to be a slave to reviews. If there's something really I want to see, I don't care how bad the buzz is. But if my internal gauge is apathetic, middling notices are only going to reinforce that.

The same with JUPITER ASCENDING. I really would love to support original sci-fi, but the trailers looked ridiculous to me, appearing like a YA adaptation without the pre-existing IP. You can't always count on marketing to know how to sell something that strange, but again, the word on the street seemed to be "not worth it."

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY? I'm not the audience for that. At some point, I'm sure I'll see it, but in the same manner in which I endured the TWILIGHT films - at home where I can eject the DVD or work on emails when my interest wanes.

FOCUS? I came close on this one. I want to believe Will Smith can get his mojo back, and Margot Robie's good, though it wouldn't have killed them to cast someone easy on the eyes. (Since inevitably someone will assume I'm being serious, I'll point out that's a joke.) This is another one where the tone of the trailers didn't pull me in, but I feel like the right word of mouth would have had me at the theatre same-day.

The only film I regret not going to see is THE DUFF. I thought it was pretty ridiculous to cast Mae Whitman in a role described as "ugly" and "fat." But again, the marketing was aimed at people younger than me who grew up on the book. The word of mouth on this one was pretty good, even comparing it to CLUELESS and MEAN GIRLS and the fact I haven't gone out to see this is more a reflection of bad timing than anything else.

But I realize that all of these choices boil down to "just not feeling it." We hear a lot of concern about "superhero movie fatigue" but now I wonder if we might soon approach "content proliferation fatigue." We have so many viewing options all vieying for our time and a startling amount of it is good. Back when most original content was limited to four or five major networks, it was pretty easy to run out of programming for your own individual tastes and still have plenty of time left over. Now, even if we exclude pay cable entirely, there's almost too much TV to find all the good stuff.

And lord help you if you come in late to a show. The backlog of quality only gets larger, expanding almost as rapidly as the current programming. It's like trying to run a marathon on a treadmill track that keeps getting longer. I'm mid-series in a FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS binge, have THE WIRE and THE AMERICANS sitting in my Amazon Instant Queue. I am SIX episodes behind on GOTHAM (which I think means I'm just not that into it), just finished HOUSE OF CARDS, haven't even had time to start UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT, and if I let that go too long, I'll soon fall behind on ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, VEEP and TRUE DETECTIVE. Oh, and I should probably check out FARGO too.

If you want to be part of the current cultural conversation, you need to be up on those shows. Thank God I've been able to keep current with BETTER CALL SAUL, BATES MOTEL, THE FLASH, THE GOLDBERGS, BROOKLYN NINE-NINE and a few of my other aging favorites. There's an oft-repeated claim that "TV is the new film." I don't really believe that, but looking at my apathy about film and my overwhelming list of TV options, I do believe that TV has overtaken film, at least in terms of quantity of quality hours of content. Of course, that goes both ways. One thing that's held me back from binging THE WIRE is the knowledge that it's a long haul. Doing 13 eps of HOUSE OF CARDS is a 4-day sprint I'm willing to make time for - THE WIRE is 60 hours.

So does any of this resonate with you guys? Has the bar been raised in terms of what you're willing to sit through and what is capable of separating you from your hard-earned money?


  1. I think serial programming seems to be more character driven than many of the studio features we see coming out today. I think that is why Indies and online/TV programming is taking/has taken over. I think your observation on good content options on TV is spot on.

    (FYI, tried posting using WordPress ID, but site refused. Might test that.)

    P.S. The Duff was worth the $15. Catch it where you can.

  2. "The Duff" was pretty good. Definately worth the price of admission based soley on Mae Witman's AWESOME portrayal of Bianca Piper. Wasn't really sold on her two close friends, however. They felt as if they only existed to be there when Bianca needed them.

    "Jupiter Assending" is WAAAY beter than the reviews are saying. The boots Channing Tatum's character speeds around in are worth the price of admission alone. Mila Kunis is solid too. But what "Jupiter Assending" ultimate undoing is, is its master vilians. VERY BAD job of casting there, they can't hold their own a provide a good challenge for Mila and Channing Tatum to overcome. The overall world of "Jupiter Assending" is a little stuid to. But I did like the affect of distilling people down to a formula so that the "gods" could have extended life. Very original idea there. So hats off to the Watchkowsis for that.

    Outside of those two movies nothing really excites me. Can't wait for May. Can't wait to watch the next installment of the "Road Warrior" franchise. Good or god awful, I'm definatley going to see that one.

    - E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA