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Greg Wright

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    Writer / Teacher
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    If I were a character actor, Farnsworth or Dennehy is who I'd want to be.

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  1. I just signed a contract today with Christian Cinema to move PtP to their venue. They'll be hosting, promoting, and syndicating ptpopcorn.com's content in exchange for my services as a weekly columnist. I'll be focusing primarily on DVD releases, but Jeff Walls is going to come back on board for theatrical releases. We'll actually be getting better exposure and traffic with CC than we did with Gospelcom. So PtP is back, doing exactly what we had been doing, but as a strictly two-man show. (Though I imagine Jeff will be doing five or six reviews a week anyway!) New content will start showing up in a couple of weeks. As of December, Past the Popcorn will be using its registered URL, ptpopcorn.com. past-the-popcorn.gospelcom.net will redirect.
  2. Thanks, Jeff. It was a lot of fun being able to exactly what we wanted to do with reviewing. But we really did end up feeling a little bit held hostage by the ongoing Opening Day saga. You know, it occurred to me yesterday that in fostering an overweening commitment to delivering the "What Happens Next" fix to the moviegoing public, Hollywood's process of delivery has itself become a "What Happens Next" metaphor -- and the moviegoing public is as addicted to the process as it is the movies themselves.
  3. Actually, as of today, we've ceased publication. In talking through options for relocating and/or reformulating our vision for PtP, Jenn and I have decided that's it's simply time to wrap it up and pack it in. Ah, well.
  4. Past the Popcorn will be looking for a new "home" soon. If anyone's got a lead on a site that's looking for a body of film reviews to spice up their content, please direct them my way!
  5. Okay... the early returns are in, and my first impression was correct: I am in the vast minority on this one, and that with a "good but not great" opinion. The stupid junket made me think that I wasn't an alien. Ah, well. Party on!
  6. Heh. That argument doesn't cut the "mustard" here, Overstreet. Is anyone attacking critics who give the film positive reviews?
  7. Oh, my gosh... The Buy N Large site link to the Buy N Large Store is actually functional, and takes you to a Zazzle store. You can actually buy BnL logoed items. Wunner who gets the proceeds?
  8. Not that I noticed -- and I'm pretty thorough about going through those things, though I certainly could have missed it. There was certainly no mention of the site during the press conferences, while I was in the hospitality suite, or by other journalists.
  9. No -- I hadn't seen it! It's a hoot. Is there a link to this from the WALL-E site?
  10. Ha! Very little actually sticks in my mind. I actually have to go through lists of what I've seen to jog my memory!
  11. Excellent point, Peter, and apt comparison. I've used Koyaanisqatsi as a teaching tool precisely because of its self-awareness. I'd never think of using WALL-E in the same fashion, precisely because of the lack of self-awareness. I agree, Nate with your point about the irrelevancy of a filmmaker's hypocrisy -- to a point. But you'll remember, as you were sitting next to me, I had a pretty strong reaction to the film itself. My reaction wasn't shaped by what happened the following day -- which you missed, I'll note, though were actually on the premises earlier in the morning. The filmmakers and the studio had every opportunity in the world to temper negative reactions, or to turn negative reactions to their advantage -- and they failed spectacularly. My opinion of the film as a film would been the same -- but I could have come away singing a different tune, something like: "The movie itself didn't enthrall me; but I see their point, and it seems they are taking it to heart." Instead, they're just dodging an issue that their film not only brings up incidentally, but makes a major issue -- and one that's very very relevant and on the mark. So if it's relevant and on the mark, why the backpedaling? Why the shying away? The elephant is in the room, and you put it there. Deal with it.
  12. Yes. And that remains to be seen, in a commercial sense. My guess is that it won't be a significant factor because the public appetite for PIXAR is so huge. But I don't think it will get the repeat business other PIXAR films have. And who knows how it will affect the general appetite for PIXAR's films? And as I mentioned to Nate after the screening, I really did expect my reaction to be in the vast minority -- and not because minority opinions are superior. I was very surprised that the press corps the next day was so generally expressive of similar concerns. Well, I'm not calling on the filmmakers to do anything. I'm talking about what would have made it all go down easier for me. Good notes on the business elements. But when you remark, "I am quite sure they could not have gone so far as to block the revenue streams of ancillary products as you suggest they should have," I will point out that sometimes foregoing revenue streams can buy you the kind of publicity and shaping of public opinion that such revenue couldn't possibly generate. The very same movie, coupled with a really progressive pro-consumer-consciousness shift within corporate Disney, could have huge downstream economic impact. It would be risky, of course. Good points -- but remember that PIXAR made that film while a completely separate business entity, and while they were moving toward dissolution of their distribution deal with Disney. Disney's response was a competitive one. WALL-E also went into production during that period, and then PIXAR became absorbed into the Object of Critique prior to its release. So it's plausible to wonder, as you note at the end of your post: is the critique now being muzzled, or at least tempered? Instead of being as daring as they might have been, are they pulling back a bit, and shying away from what, three or so years ago, looked like a valid and pointed social critique backstory? Definitely. But how does this happen unless people bring it up? And why not bring it up when the movie itself brings it up? Why shy away from it? Certainly. But I don't subscribe to the notion (or even myth) that PIXAR is all about art. They're about art AND business. They just know that there's a market for very artistic entertainment also designed for broad appeal. And they happen to be very good at it.
  13. I agree with Darrel that this has not been a stellar year thus far. This year's theatrical releases (that I've seen) with notable achievements: How She Move, U2 3D, 4 Months, The Counterfeiters, Horton, CJ7, Snow Angels, Young @ Heart, The Visitor, Forbidden Kingdom, S.O.P., Graduation, The Fall, Surfwise, War Inc., Lord Save Us From Your Followers, Reprise, Mongol, WALL-E. Of this group, though, relatively few I thoroughly enjoyed: Snow Angels, Young @ Heart, The Visitor, Forbidden Kingdom, Surfwise, War Inc., Lord Save Us, Reprise And only two that I think will stick in my mind as really excellent films of their type: Surfwise and War Inc. Oops! Signficant omission: Iron Man in all three categories.
  14. Oh, yes, certainly -- and there was no question that Stanton had been pressed on such issues prior to the junket press conference. Ben Burtt explicitly said that such questions had come up regularly at test screenings. So Stanton was sensitive to skewing and biases, and was definitely in spin-control mode. But that sort of confirms that there's something problematic really there, and not just imagined -- doesn't it? If you're regularly getting questioned about what seems like corporate hypocrisy, isn't it time to start talking about the film you actually made rather than the film you intended to make? fwiw, though, I didn't get the impression from the press conference that anyone in the press corps was operating from an unbalanced perspective. Everyone seemed to have seen the same film; reactions just varied in matters of degrees. WDYT? Excellent question, Mr. G (among others... but worth answering first, I think). First, I'll just reiterate that I don't really have any complaints about the movie as it is -- other than that the way humans were presented prevented me from actually enjoying the film. But I don't require a film to please me in order to be a good... There are lots of Great Films that I don't much enjoy. So: Yeah: I think if things had worked out a little different on the Axiom, I actually would have been able to enjoy that part of the storyline. As it is, though, the film struck me as being in the Mac vs. PC commercial mold: there's the enlightened and the superior, and there's the inferior, and never the twain shall meet... oh, and by the way, this is what the inferior look like. So to other questions: No, I don't think critics should avoid seeing trailers. I do think objectivity, to whatever extent it can be imperfectly achieved, is a goal. And whatever a critic can do to do a better job in that regard is commendable. Given that we all have different weak spots, personal strategies would differ. (For me, not seeing trailers isn't even a strategy. I rarely watch TV, and I rarely see commercial screening of movies, so the only way I would get to see trailers is to seek them out... and that's not how I elect to spend me online time. But I've found it does help tremendously.) One of my weak spots, though, is speculative argumentation -- as anyone who knows me well could easily guess. So one specific strategy I have is avoid A&F threads on specific movies until I've actually seen the movie. No, I'm "not that man" when it comes to merchandising. I think I'm actually more in tune with the business considerations of filmmaking than the vast majority of people I know, and I'm also a realist. So I can't recall the specter of merchandising ever having affected my impression of a film. Unless, possibly, it was Bratz. (But I didn't have to write the review on that one. Whew!) I do, however, remember remarking to another critic at the junket (can't recall who) that having been at the Kit Kittredge junket the previous week affected my response to WALL-E. So in this case (as in most), I'm definitely an exponent of Warshow-via-Ebert! As Nate can attest, also, the allegory that is Presto also affected my reading of WALL-E. And I'm not sure that's entirely valid, objectively speaking -- even though PIXAR elected to pair those up. All good points on the challenging nature of the film. No quibble there; full agreement, in fact. Would an inaccessible $120 million animated art film be effective? No, not at all. It wouldn't have gotten made. But for the social message conveyed by WALL-E, I'd say... not worth including, unless you really want to talk about it (which Stanton doesn't) or unless you want to back it up corporately (which Disney/PIXAR is not). (If PIXAR is having a positive impact on Disney culture, as Stanton mentioned to JO, that's great -- but I doubt the film itself is doing that.) No, that really challenging art film about commodification and waste management has already been made; it's Manufactured Landscapes. And it would be a great pairing with WALL-E. Oh -- another note: I knew I wouldn't be writing a review of WALL-E, so I wasn't guarding my objectivity as much I would have had I been reviewing the film.
  15. You've completely missed my point, bowen. I'm not suggesting they should have softened the satire; I'm suggesting they should have been really brave and made it a little self-critical. Or, on the back end, admit it was pointed satire, and not dodge it as secondary and irrelevant. Or be really bold and cancel merchandising plans. But as it is, the fingers are all being pointed elsewhere. So... I was there. I see the filmmakers in front of me. I see that (with the notable exception of Jeff Garlin) they don't resemble the humans in the movie at all. I sure do know people who resemble WALL-E's humans, though; and they love to plop down in with their cokes and popcorn and watch PIXAR films. Just like I do. Given the problems of bone density in prolonged space travel, it's not a necessary extrapolation that loss of bone density = corpulent obesity. This was a filmmaker's choice -- and I think Stanton's original idea (the jello blobs) was actually stronger and bolder. So I agree with Stanton that he softened the satire; and I find that the satire, as it stands, takes potshots at easy targets -- without offering any cognizance of his own company's complicity in the problem. Please point to something I've said somewhere that indicates that I don't think the basic cultural critique is on the mark.
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