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November 27th, 2013 AP KRYZA | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

AP Film Studies: Art Of The Sale

Decoding the real meaning of prestige picture ads.

movies_streepfighter_4004IMAGE: Deadplace / CC 2.0
It’s prestige picture time, that magical time of year for middlebrow film snobs, when the sounds of gigantic robots and Adam Sandler farts fall silent, replaced by gentle string music and Meryl Streep speaking in some weird accent.

ILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall
Awards season is also a transitional period for advertising. In the summer, all a PR agency needs to do to get asses in seats is slap “Marvel,” “Michael Bay” or “Part II” on a poster. Middlebrow audiences need more careful nudging, but that’s not to say they’re smarter. Here’s a glossary to help you decode the sneaky ad rhetoric. 


“[INSERT NAME] gives a tour de force performance”: Some actor did really well in a middling movie. See: Robert Redford in All Is Lost. 

Argo”: As in, “Not since Argo….” This is classic bait-and-switch. It typically means a movie is going to suck, but as a distraction, the studio wants you to be thinking of a film that swept previous awards.

“Meryl Streep”: These words result in a collective “Goddamnit” among other actresses and ensure a decent box-office return because every filmgoer over 40 would pay to watch Streep nap. 

“Tom Hanks’ best performance since…”: We’ll see this on every Hanks film, since it’s always his best performance since something. Especially since Larry Crowne. That Hanks charm could even elevate a film about a tobacco-free, Jew-lovin’ Walt Disney into a contender.

“A bold, new vision”: A big blockbuster that critics also liked. Alfonso Cuarón should probably get this tattooed on the small of his back. 

“The inspiring true story”: A good person will suffer terribly—12 Years a Slave or Dallas Buyers Club, anyone?—and for some reason you will be inspired by said suffering. 

“From the visionary director of…”: Something psychedelic and psychosexual this way comes. Or something quirky. As if Darren Aronofsky, Charlie Kaufman and Zooey Deschanel had a three-way. Actually, I’d watch that. Someone call Lars von Trier.


Also Showing: 

  • Speaking of psychosexuality, how has Secretary not become a late-blooming mommy porn hit? Oh, that’s right…because it’s smart. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Wednesday, Nov 27.
  • With Eddie Vedder and company rolling into town this weekend, now’s the perfect time for Cameron Crowe’s Pearl Jam Twenty, an intimate look at the best band spawned in the ’90s. Clinton Street Theater. 7:30 pm Wednesday, Nov. 27.
  • Fun fact: Famous feminist Gloria Steinem led a boycott of the book American Psycho. A few years later, her stepson Christian Bale hacked up hookers in Mary Harron’s brilliant adaptation. 5th Avenue Cinema. 7 and 9:30 pm Friday-Saturday and 3 pm Sunday, Nov 29-Dec 1.
  • In a bit of universal wish fulfillment, B-Movie Bingo returns with Zero Tolerance, in which the question “What would happen if the T-1000 got into a fistfight with a ponytail-sporting Mick Fleetwood?” is finally answered. Hollywood Theatre. 7:30 pm Tuesday, Dec 3.
 
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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