Great expectations

Many films are disappointing because an over-zealous studio marketing department spent so much time insisting that I love their movie that I ended up liking it less than I would have normally. So how can I avoid the feeling of “This isn’t the life-changing masterpiece I was promised”? There are three possibilities:

1) Don’t watch trailers, don’t read reviews or articles, don’t allow yourself to take in any information about the film before you see it. However this means that in order to choose which film to see you have to just turn up at the cinema and choose based on the title, the poster, and some key names mentioned on the poster. Seems a bit hit and miss to me. I’m sure there are some people who do that, but considering the price of cinema tickets these days (plus babysitter fees) I’d rather have a little more certainty beforehand that it’s going to be money well spent.

2) Read the reviews, articles, etc, but assume that it’s all wrong, and that it’ll just be another in a long line of disappointments. Some people apply this philosophy to life as a whole; presume that you’ll lead a boring, painful, unfulfilling, unlucky life, and then when things go well it’s a pleasant surprise. Again, not very workable for me. I know that there are plenty of good things in life, and pretending that I don’t just so that I can be “surprised” seems a little silly.

3) Watch films which weren’t hyped. Now obviously if a film is any good, someone somewhere will have noticed it and will tell other people. However that’s not the same as being bombarded by a multi-million dollar ad campaign. Some films are destined for a small, niche audience, and in those cases you may have to make a bit more of an effort to find them, but in my experience that effort will be repaid.

All of which is a very long-winded introduction to an “I saw a couple of films I liked” post. Neither of these films set the box office alight and were given only fair-to-middling reviews by most critics, and so were rapidly forgotten. But since my wife was in Italy this weekend and I had the evenings to myself, I popped them in the VCR (yes, we still use one – isn’t it quaint?) and gave them a try.

It’s All Gone Pete Tong (if the title means nothing to you, Pete Tong is a famous British DJ, and the phrase as a whole is rhyming slang for “It’s all gone wrong”) is the story of an enormously successful British DJ based in Ibiza. Eventually, however, his party-hard lifestyle and all those years of listening to ear-splitting house music catch up with him and the unthinkable happens: he goes deaf. I won’t spoil what happens, although the trailer below gives you some idea, but it’s funny, original, and ultimately rather uplifting. 

Solaris had a good pedigree as far as I was concerned. I like both Soderbergh and Clooney, and I’d seen the Tarkovsky version many moons ago (although I hadn’t read Stanislaw Lem’s novel). Like the Russian film, this is a slow, moody, arty exploration of grief and loss, but with additional and much-needed emotional resonance. I think it’s one of Clooney’s best performances, and there’s plenty of discussion fodder on issues related to love, how you remember someone, how you move on once they’re gone. Lovely music too.

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5 thoughts on “Great expectations

  1. Karen MEG (Pomtini) October 20, 2008 / 12:48 pm

    That first movie looks really, really good. I love finding “little’ movies. The last one I saw that was I suppose of that calibre, was “Once”, actually before it won the Oscar for best song last year.

    I’ve always wanted to watch Solaris too. I keep forgetting all these films that I should catch at the video / oh, make that DVD store. (although we do have an old school VCR still too 😉

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  2. Erik R. October 20, 2008 / 7:43 pm

    Um, isn’t Solaris a complete rip-off of Michael Crichton’s Sphere?? (which is probably a rip-off of some other nightmare manifestation horror story)

    As for your intro rambling, I often just download whatever movies have the strongest torrents at the moment without any knowledge of them beyond a quick imdb lookup. It makes for some pleasant surprises and a lot of crap. But the ticket price is right.

    And as for VCRs, I can’t believe you’re still on magnetic media. Even optical media is dead to me now. That’s why the big corporate battle over HD-DVD vs. BluRay will eventually be shown to be pointless clinging to Ye Olde Ways, since optical media is on its way out. Soon movies will be like photos and letters are now, with very very view of them actually existing in physical media form.

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  3. simonlitton October 21, 2008 / 6:29 am

    Erik: the novel on which Solaris is based was written in 1961, when Michael Crichton was still in short trousers.
    I still use tape because I have a lot of stuff on video that isn’t available on any other format (including stuff made myself) and I can’t be bothered to convert it all every five years when a new format comes out.

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  4. carlarey October 28, 2008 / 1:32 pm

    I liked Solaris, but I kind of think Soderbergh could film Clooney sorting socks for two hours and I’d watch it.

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