Author Archives: Jonathan Morris
So I was asked last night if I wanted to go see the new movie Super 8 today…and my answer, surprising as it may seem to someone who knows me and knows what I like…was “nah.” It’s not that I don’t want to see it – I actually do, and I’m sure when I do see it I’ll at least like it, and for all I know I might even love it. But with all of the movies that have come out the past few weeks and due to come out during the next few, I’m just not excited enough to go out and see it right away. Now there are a few minor reasons that contribute to my comparative lethargy: J.J. Abrams has never blown my mind as much as he has others, and though I love movies I have no desire to live in a theater like I have been lately. But the fairly glowing reviews would normally be enough to offset that hesitancy…there had to be more.
Really, the reason for me is actually kind of simple: I really just don’t get this movie’s marketing. And let’s be honest, marketing is as important as anything when it comes to why we see a movie. A bad trailer can kill excitement for a movie that’s actually really good, and a good trailer can make us excited to see absolute junk. So my relative lack of excitement about Super 8 made me think about what can personally drive someone to want to see a movie, and the nexus that exists between expectation and desire in film marketing.
The marketing (which, to specify, I see as including actual movie marketing and overall publicity – I haven’t watched anything viral or sought out spoilers) for Super 8 seems to want to work on two levels, as intrigue and as nostalgia. I’m going to start with the intrigue. What is Super 8 about? I honestly have no idea. I have suspicions, but very little in actual knowledge…and I assume that’s precisely how the marketers want me to feel. Now, I get that, and part of me understands why that happens and part of me approves of it. Movies can often be too predictable…on the one hand, it’s why we find them to be be entertaining, because in the end, that’s part of the comfort of going to movies. For a moment, they make us feel okay; they give us a false sense that no matter how out of control things get, most everything will turn out all right in the end (provided another sequel isn’t coming along in the next 12-18 months). But on the other, it obviously can make things overly repetitive and over time, fairly bland and boring. So, certainly, part of me is happy when a movie wants to deny people’s expectations too much, and leave us with a large question mark lingering over us that prevents us from describing a movie in 25 words or less.
But this time? I’m not really intrigued, and it makes me curious to see how well Super 8 will do in its opening weekend. I’m suspecting fairly well, and at $45 million or so, even with marketing costs, this film doesn’t likely have to set major records to be insanely profitable. But among an extremely crowded summer marketplace and in an economy where entertainment is more budgeted than ever before, I question the wisdom of denying people the comfort of expectations. I know, for me personally, lacking that frame of reference makes me less intrigued to actually see it – if I’m going to spend money on something these days (especially when I’m spending money on so many other movies at this time of year), I prefer it not to be on an enigma, and I doubt I’m alone. And even if the film manages to deliver on the intrigue that it creates, in the modern internet era, where one could probably type two words into google and find out what the film is actually about (which I won’t be doing, but the point remains), is that going to sustain a film like this? If I’m not encouraged to see it this weekend, sadly, I’ll probably already have learned by the time I get around to it, which in and of itself won’t discourage me, but might discourage others.
Then there’s the issue of nostalgia, which the publicity surrounding the film has especially endorsed, most clearly in evoking the early work of Steven Spielberg (the film’s advertised producer and a central figure, along with Abrams, in its marketing). From what I’ve seen, this is certainly what has struck the loudest chord I know with people who want to see the movie. Now again, personally, I don’t get it. Now don’t misunderstand me…I’m not a Spielberg hater that some others are these days are (though only a complete fanboy wouldn’t admit his work hasn’t fallen off in recent years), and as a movie buff who grew up in the eighties and into the nineties, Spielberg was a huge part of my childhood. The first movie I ever saw in a theater was a Spielberg movie (“saw” being relative to the fact I spent half the movie hiding from the little alien who thought was going to eat me). When I see the trailers for Super 8, I can pick out the obvious references to ET, Jaws, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind fairly easily. But, in the end…so what?
Honestly, Spielberg’s work, with obvious exceptions of films like Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and Raiders of the Ark, just feels so archaic these days…like relics of a bygone era we really just can’t go back to, nor should we want to. They evoke a more naive period in history, at least for me. And at the risk of sounding almost snobbish (sorry…), Spielberg movies are just something we eventually outgrow and only rarely look back, and when we do, it’s rarely with the sense of wonderment we had as children during that era. Instead, we see the obvious schmaltz and ceaseless optimism, and feel the manipulation going on. And that leads back to the idea of intrigue…knowing what to expect from a Spielberg movie, or, in this case, a postmodern recreation of one, you kind of ultimately know where it’s going to go. I remember years ago, when War of the Worlds was released in 2005, the director made all sorts of comments about how his attitude changed in the wake of September 11. But as the movie ended, it was just the same ludicrously upbeat ending that has undermined much of his work. So something tells me that whatever Super 8 is about, it’s going to have that same Spielbergian happy ending.
And you know, it will probably be fine. I’m fairly certain that it will be a good movie, given all the impressions. But in the end, the promise of quality isn’t always as important as the promise of something more. Or at least something else.
So, trying something less ambitious…
I’ve just finished the next-to-final draft of my abstract for my mostly still unwritten paper “It’s Not Funny Until It Hurts: The Great Recession and Modern R-Rated Comedy,” which I’ll be submitting for acceptance to the Mid-Atlantic Popular and American Culture Association (or MAPACA, not to be confused with the Alpaca-breeding organization) Conference being held in Philadelphia this fall. I’ve had very strong showings the past two years so I’m strongly optimistic about my chances at attending again. Since my aspirations of going any farther in academic circles has been completely blunted due to the apparently very poor standing I had with my former professors, I see this really as little more than an opportunity to flex my intellectual muscles somewhat and hopefully just have some fun with other down to Earth intellectuals.
Last year’s conference weekend was really one of the lone highlights of what may have, overall, been the worst year of my life, and though it would be impossible for this year’s to top last year’s (since I’m guessing Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will NOT be hosting another “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” let alone holding it in Philly), I’m going to try to go three in a row for well-received papers.
Below is the my present Abstract, which had to be limited to 150 words.
“This paper’s purpose is to analyze how the Great Recession has influenced two of the more significant and successful film comedies of recent years, The Hangover (2009) and Bridesmaids (2011). Each film demonstrates a marked trend in mainstream comedy toward darker, deglamorized humor derived from humiliation, abjection, failure, and sufferings both emotional and physical. Subverting the phrase ‘laugh until it hurts,’ the films reflect in their content the disillusionment, frustration, and cynicism currently prevalent in society at large in the wake of a stagnant economy. The Hangover, about amnesiac groomsmen taking stock after showing atrociously bad judgment, and Bridesmaids, detailing a woman ‘running out of rope’ while her more successful friend is getting married, embody a certain comedic tone generated by this particular moment in history – one based on an empathetic variation on jouissance: where the audience’s pleasure derives from their own perceived pain being reflected back at them. ”
The good news is, this means I get to read up on my Žižek. The bad news is…it also means I have to read up on my Lacan. C’est la vie…
What a colossal waste of time this is turning into. So I tried to undertake what I hoped would be a pretty insightful look at the new X-Men movie, and no two ways about it, it goes terribly, terribly wrong. I don’t know if it’s the knock on the head I took the other day or if I frankly just suck at writing now, but it came out disastrously. My organization was messed up, I was slipping far too often into academic doublespeak (really hard to untrain yourself from that, apparently), and I just kept writing and writing under the assumption that if I wrote more it would somehow come out all right. Well, it didn’t. But I figured I’d put it up anyway, so I wouldn’t feel as if my efforts were completely in vain. But, of course, WordPress makes nothing easy, so my formatting is screwed up, it’s not letting me add pictures like I want to, and the end result is just an ocean of pretty underwhelming text. But I throw it up anyway, thinking, “What the hell, it’s a maiden effort. I know what’s wrong with it, but maybe someone might find it’d good ideas (of which I do feel the are some) insightful.”
You’d think I kicked the Pope or something.
I started this blog for two very simple reasons: practice and discipline. You know, if nothing else, writing what I did, disastrous though it was, I still managed to force myself into bringing something to completion, and nowadays that’s important to me. It was also a way for me to say the things that I want to say, because there’s few places for me to say them. That’s why it’s antiscribe – it’s antithetical by nature. I’m not honestly not even looking for an audience. I’m just looking to speak, because I’ve felt voiceless for far too long.
But just getting slapped around and flamed so thoroughly within just twenty mintutes of posting, with one person even accusing me – erroneously I certainly feel – of plagiarism – the worst thing a writer can be accused of – I wasn’t looking for this, especially not right now. I can’t find a job, any job, let alone a worthwhile one that will let me make anything approaching a living so I can finally get my own place again. I’m still living with the crushing disappointment of having spent years and what essentially was my inheritance going for a Masters degree that’s not worth the frame I put it in. Thanks to how I was treated in my last relationship, I don’t even much enjoy talking to people anymore, let alone dating anyone. I have no desire to put myself out there so others could step on me just to make themselves feel all sorts of pedantic. I’ve always made it a point to never criticize someone’s writing unless they’ve asked me too. I personally feel it’s violating. I have a novel I’m working on, and it’s sometimes just difficult finding the will to write it based on how nothing in my life ever seems to be worth the journey in the end. Nevertheless, I could have and should have spent the last two days working on that, instead of the monstrosity I wrote for this blog, and I frankly hate myself now for having done this instead.
Which leaves me wondering precisely what the point of this is going forward. Clearly, I need to rethink this endeavor. And I’m not sure I’m just talking about the blog.
Welcome to my Blog…often requested, never completed…until now. Just to explain the name in case people don’t understand it: I’m not anti-writers, since I consider myself one. An antiscribe is like an antihero, someone whose desires, aims, strategies, and methods run contrarion to what is expected and even encouraged. The nomenclature stems from my long history of being unable to conform to the standards of others in my own writing, in ways both professional and personal. Therefore, I never consider myself a scribe…but an antiscribe. And this is my blog, which will likely contain reviews, rants, and various asundry of deep and not so deep thoughs on the many things that interest me, which run the gamut from high art to comic books and from international politics to personal observations about things in my daily life. So enjoy, share if you feel so compelled, and comment freely.