Friday, September 26, 2008

Movie Embargoes and Debates

As an amateur (I hope in the best sense of the word) film critic, I sometimes find amusing some of my colleagues' concerns over studio "embargoes"--requests (or, in some cases demands) that critics not post reviews until a film has actually opened nationwide (or in some instances someplace else; or, in some instances, wherever they are).

A studio, of course, can't tell a critic when to print anymore than what to print, but it can refuse advance screening or access to stars for critics who don't toe the line. (That those sorts of junkets or interviews are more marketing than analysis, making it an idle threat--the studio wants exposure--seems moot.)

Anyhow, I've only ever been to two advanced screenings as an invited critic for a publishing venue, so that's usually not a problem. And it's not really what I want to talk about, anyway. What I want to talk about is John McCain winning Friday night's debate.

Now I'm sure that a bunch of you pansy, left-leaning, liberal pig-hating, lipstick-smearing liberals are probably complaining out there that as of this moment, the debate has not actually happened. Heck, some of you may be complaining that we don't know for sure if McCain will actually show up for Friday night's debate. But, unlike Obama, he doesn't have to show up to win. Because like the studios that want to do embargoes, the GOP knows that you don't need for the debate to actually happen before you declare yourself a winner any more than you need your film to open in order to declare it a hit.

Why am I reminded of the time I was assigned to do a review of Sky High and found a marketing website that reported I had given it three stars...before I actually wrote the review? Why am I feeling like, in spite of the GOP attack ads calling Obama a "celebrity" that it is John McCain who is the one being marketed like a movie...right down to the embargo?

I can almost hear the, spinning their logic: "We don't want anyone to write about the performance before hand so that people can make up their own minds...and so that we can have a monopoly, until the performance opens, on talking about it and shaping public opinion."

P.S. I take some comfort in the fact that in my experience, the more insistent a studio is about an embargo before a nation-wide opening, the more likely that the film is a dog. Senator McCain's stunt is good politics, though. If, as expected, he does poorly in the debate, he (and his lap dogs) can cite distraction, poor preparation, and patriotism (I didn't want to do it, but my opponent cared more about the campaign than the work). If he does better than expected, then he can say, "Hey, I knew I was going to win and was still willing to give up doing it...see what a patriot I am." If one low-balls expectations enough, any opening at all is a hit.

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