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The Brits are Coming … But Don’t Tell

September 15th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

Of the new shows this Fall, three are American adaptations of British originals: The X-Factor, Free Agents, and Prime Suspect. What I find interesting, though, is that the promos don’t seem keen to admit to their origins.

It’s not as thought any of them are actively obscuring their origins. The trailer for Free Agents at YouTube, uploaded by NBC, explains below that it’s based off the “cult UK series,” for instance. But none of the three shows’ webpages advertise the fact, nor do any of the trailers themselves. The Brits, in other words, are good enough to copy from, but clearly FOX and NBC don’t feel it’s wise to build the success of the British originals into the promotions for the American shows. Read more…

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Banking on One Pony: The New Girl, Last Man Standing, Ringer, Whitney

September 13th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

Four of the new shows’ advertising, promos, and paratexts have been pretty much dedicated to a simple message: our show stars this one person. It’s a risky move, since you’re banking on the audience caring about that star, and you’re going all-in on the hope that he or she is enough enticement for enough people to watch the show. Compare, for instance, with Person of Interest, which mixes Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, which is a pretty decent pairing – Christ and Ben Linus! – but its publicity has been quite keen to let us know its creator, too, namely Dark Knight’s Jonathan Nolan.

So which are these shows that think they only need the one star, and what can we say about their chances?

Neatly, they divide into two groups of two: the two that are bringing back television stars of yesteryear (even if that yesteryear is just 8 years ago) – Last Man Standing and Ringer – and the two that are working with relatively new talents – The New Girl and Whitney. Read more…

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Bringing Down the Imperial Walker, and Other Protest Signs

February 20th, 2011 | Jonathan Gray

In case you don’t know, there’s been a whole lotta protestin’ goin’ on in Wisconsin. Saturday was day five for me. For more on what’s behind all this, see these posts here at Antenna.

Here, though, I want to discuss the many pop culture-related signs I’ve seen at the protests, with an eye towards then thinking through what we’re to make of them. To some, they might seem frivolous, a refusal to take the event and issue seriously, and hence no better than the doofuses holding up pro-pot signs at the rally. I disagree.

But first, the signs (and costumes): Read more…

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Why Was Beautiful Life Cancelled, and is Brothers Next?

September 30th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

A brief pause from reviews to discuss the passing of Beautiful Life, and the low ratings of Brothers. Both cases illustrate how much the extratextuals matter. After the fold …
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How to Sell a Guilty Pleasure: The CW and Its Posters

September 20th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

As I wait for more new shows this week to review, and as I find myself with little to say about the Emmy winners, largely because I agree with or can accept almost all victories (especially Michael Emerson. yay! About bloody time), let’s take a time out to look at some of the extratextuals surrounding the new shows:

I’ve been intrigued by the degree to which, in the wake of Gossip Girl’s past success, The CW has pounced upon the guilty pleasure label as being a great one with which to sell (and, of course, design) a show. Consider the following posters, for GG, Melrose Place, and The Beautiful Life, starting with GG. Analysis after the fold…
gg Read more…

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Links and News

April 17th, 2009 | Jonathan Gray

1. Jacqueline Vickery has a neat piece on Flow about a memorial site and a Facebook page that FOX put up following Kal Penn’s character’s suicide on House, M.D.  It’s a really smart discussion of what’s in it for FOX, especially since they don’t plaster the screen with ads.

2. YouTube has signed a deal with Sony, Lionsgate, and others to make films and television available. How they plan to do so, and with what costs to YouTube and its community, we’ll wait to see.

3. Several journalistic outlets have reported on this US Dept of Justic memo from within the Bush Administration that allowed certain forms of torture, including “walling,” “facial hold,” “cramped confinement,” sleep deprivation, and others. Mind you, the Obama Administration should be roundly condemned for its own lax policy on torture, moving Gitmo to Loews and AMCs around the nation, and by allowing exposure to the equally heinous The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and The Hanna Montana Movie. May God save their souls.

waterboard1

4. I’ve been remiss in announcing that the Internet Movie Poster Awards site of which I’m a fan has its 2008 award winners up. Best Poster went to this one from The Dark Knight, which also won the Best Poster to Display in a Bus Shelter award:

dark_knight_ver4

Bringing up the rear, with Worst Movie Poster was Bangkok Dangerous, about which IMPAwards had this to say:

Now, the only thing that could possibly make sense with this poster is if he just suffered some kind of seizure (causing his right hand to cramp up) and is reaching for his medication (which he unfortunately dropped down his sleeve) with his other hand. In the meantime, he is being shot at and slowly melting in a pit of lava.

Bangkok Dangerous

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The Best of 2008, 3: Film and Film Posters

December 31st, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Somehow I went a full year without seeing many films, so the competition wasn’t all that steep, though I’m still relatively happy with most of my top picks. Remember that they count if I saw them in 2008, hence some of the 2007 entries.

Movies

10. Enchanted. Silly but fun, and ideal for the second 9 hour leg of a trip to Malawi.

9. Sweeney Todd. I like Tim Burton’s aesthetic. Odd, dark, kinda cool.

8. The Bourne Ultimatum. If only I could move and fight like Bourne, my subway commute would be so much less of a hassle.

7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Admittedly, in other years, the movie that gifted the phrase “nuking the fridge” to movie criticism wouldn’t make the list, but it was fun, and it was great to see Harrison back in action. I spent a lot of playtime trying to be him as a kid, so he has a long leash.

6. Quantum of Solace. Not quite Casino Royale, but I’m intrigued by the decision to serialize the Bond films, and Daniel Craig is still easily the best Bond.

5. There Will Be Blood. By the time Daniel Day Lewis was drinking from the other dude’s milkshake, I was a little tired, since I also saw this on the way to Malawi, but it was gripping stuff. I wish I could’ve seen it on the big screen.

4. Cloverfield. A great ride. My sense is that New Yorkers liked this film more than others. I loved it. Wouldn’t want to own it or see it without a full theatre, but I really liked it.

3. No Country for Old Men. I have a real weak spot for totally dark, badass villains, so this movie hit all the right chords with me. And I love the Coen Bros. stuff.

2. Iron Man. Like Batman Begins, Iron Man has a brilliant first two acts, then falls quite flat. But its first two acts were really fun.

1. The Dark Knight. I know I’m not supposed to like it, because hype is bad, right? Well, much of Dark Knight‘s hype was really bad (a Gotham pepperoni pizza from Domino’s? Come on!). I think much of its marketing sucked. To the point that I was ready to dislike the film, and especially Heath Ledger’s performance. Instead, I really liked it. The IMAX screen helped, no doubt. But it was great fun. Let the haters hate, but I won’t. I’m even one of the only people I know who actually likes Christian Bale’s Batman voice.

Now for movie posters after the fold. Yes, I get to the extratextuals eventually …

Read more…

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Sarah Marshall

April 6th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Sarah Marshall poster Every time I set foot in the city, I tend to walk into another film or television show. By which I don’t mean that I see a lot of filming: I mean that the storyworlds of multiple films and shows are forever poaching on New York.

Recently, it’s the cool viral campaign for Forgetting Sarah Marshall that’s everywhere. Taxis announce “You DO look fat in those jeans, Sarah Marshall,” “My mom never liked you, Sarah Marshall,” and “I am SO over you, Sarah Marshall,” as do the sides of buses. Bus stands, meanwhile, add to the mix, large posters stating simply, “You suck, Sarah Marshall.”

It’s a really effective ad campaign, since it seems to capture the central mood of the film. The dire need to perform one’s dislike post-breakup, and to announce it to the world, so clearly labels itself as protesting too much, as a sad ploy of the broken heart. Moreover, while Sarah Marshall’s name needs to get into all the ads so that people will know what the ads are referring to, the repetition of her name has the side effect of sounding like an incantation from a guy who just can’t stop thinking about Sarah. It’s a cringe-worthy campaign, since it shows us Jason Segel’s character as hopelessly still in love and unable to deal with it maturely, yet we’ve all probably been there, right? All that’s different here is the scale, which invokes the other salient aspect of the film: that Sarah Marshall is a star. Telling all your friends that your ex sucks is one thing, but if she’s a star, so goes the rationale, you need to use taxis, bus stands, and so forth to get the message across. Meanwhile, that scale just blows up the emotion ten-fold for us, promising us a very identifiable emotional base to the film, but also a level of exaggeration and excess that will allow comfortable comic distance and cathartic pleasure.

My lone complaint, though, is that I sort of wish they would up the ante a bit and start tagging Sarah Marshall slogans in public places. In some sense, after all, it would all be more in-frame if the Segel character’s messages were scrawled in public washrooms, on building sides, etched into subway car windows, etc., than on expensive ads. Mind you, if Time Warner can get done for being would-be terrorists, I guess Universal might want to avoid being labeled as vandals.

I’m also intrigued that the film has a restricted trailer (in addition to a general one), thereby being one of the first films I’ve heard of to realize this loophole in the MPAA censorship of trailers.

Finally, too, it should be noted, the film has a strong blog entourage, with one supposedly from the Jason Segel character, another from a supposed fan defending Sarah Marshall, and – quite amusingly – it seems as though a real-life Sarah Marshall out there has tired of the site traffic to her www.sarahmarshall.com, and has thus dropped whatever else was there, replacing it with a photocopy of her (?) ass, and a counter acknowledging that I was the 18468th person to hate Sarah Marshall.

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A Week of Movie Posters, VI: King Kong

February 16th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Sorry — missed two days there. Business was calling. Anyways, a short one:

King Kong Poster

Another great spoiler poster, since it actually shows us Kong. Spoiler posters too often just give us logos (Superman Returns), or even when excellent, as with the Dark Knight teaser-poster shown here, still play possum in not giving us a good look at whatever it is that we want to see. But this poster boldly and confidently suggests that the film has way more to it than simply the joy of seeing Kong, and thus it offers a huge close-up. In doing so, it plays a neat game of convincing you that whereas you may’ve been interested to see how Kong looked, the movie itself contains way more of visual note (alluded to in the big cut he has: how’d he get this? we’re meant to ask).

And this week of posters ends here. Feel free to nominate a deserving poster for your own Day Seven

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A Week of Movie Posters, V: The Phantom Menace

February 13th, 2008 | Jonathan Gray

Star Wars: Phantom Menace poster

This is a fantastic teaser poster. First off, though, let’s realize the odd context surrounding its release. The world had many Star Wars fans, who had been living without Star Wars on film since 1983. We’d grown older and watched the originals again and again, often raising them to the status of religious texts. So, running with that analogy, a new trilogy evoked mixed feelings, as if you were told a new book of a religious text was about to be written—on one hand, there was the excitement and anticipation, and on the other the fear of blasphemy and sacrilege. So the poster needed to appeal to the former impulse while also giving some evidence that the sacred text had not been profaned. And succeed this one did. It’s remarkably simple, not too busy (as are most Star Wars posters, by contrast), and uses the icon that is Darth Vader wonderfully. Return of the Jedi’s ewoks had already concerned some of the faithful about the degree to which Lucas had gone all kiddy (and boy would Jar-Jar later prove them right!), but the idea of the Vader within the boy is dark and interesting, not at all kiddy. And, as an added bonus, we’ve clearly returned to Tatooine, and what Star Wars fan didn’t imagine themselves fighting stormtroopers, Jaba, Boba Fett, and others in the sands of Tatooine? Young Anakin’s home also looks somewhat moon-like (“that’s no moon, it’s a space station”), nicely merging Anakin’s first and last homes.

For this poster simply not to suck was an achievement, but to be this good was, as Vader might say, impressive, most impressive.

Tomorrow: King Kong

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