Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott send memos to film studios

In The New York Times (2 May 2014) Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott send their annual summer memos to Hollywood. Many interesting remarks, all sharp, such as:

Manohla Dargis to Paramount Pictures: "In January Paramount Pictures became the first major studio to stop releasing movies on film in the United States. The other majors are expected to follow suit soon, now that they’ve forced most theaters in the country to go digital because of its nominal ease of use and cost. For many viewers, this may not be a big deal because, for them, a movie is a movie is a movie, whether film or digital. And the history of home video rental suggests that a lot of people are perfectly happy to watch degraded imagery as long as they like the story. For some of us, though, the changeover is an unfolding tragedy and an unnecessary one. Because this isn’t about a superior technology; this is about the industry’s greed and continued shortsightedness. Banishing film to the dustbin of history may not change cinema — unless of course it does."

A. O. Scott to the Internet: "SUBJECT: Stop confusing quantity with quality. Stop hyping the revolutionary potential of “data,” “innovation” and other empty abstractions. Stop trying to fix things that weren’t broken and breaking things that you can’t fix. Just stop." - "This message has no content."

Manohla Dargis to Directors: "Do you know that, increasingly, your labor of love — the movie you spent months and probably years of your life on — is being reviewed by critics who are watching it on their computers? For years, the cost of striking and shipping film prints as well as renting theaters for press screenings led cash-strapped companies to simply supply DVDs to reviewers. Some reviewers have been happy to comply, and of course, the blurring between the big- and small-screen viewing, and the closing of theatrical windows, hasn’t helped. After all, if a movie is being released in theaters and on demand the same day, why bother watching it on the big screen — or so the bottom-line thinking goes."

"These days, though, some companies don’t even bother to send critics DVDs: They’re only supplying Internet links that often have the reviewer’s name watermarked on the crummy-looking image, and even come with distracting time codes. So that moody shot that you and your director of photography anguished over for hours and hours? It may look beautiful, but there are critics who will never know, which certainly encourages them to pay more attention to the plot than the visuals. Viewers who bypass the theatrical experience and prefer watching movies on their televisions and tablets may not mind. Some directors, especially those whose talking heads and two shots look better on small screens, also won’t care; others just want their work seen however, wherever. But I bet there are directors who would freak if they knew how some critics were watching their movies."


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