Friday, January 27, 2006

I go off message in an interview

A colleague just pointed out that I was quoted extensively in an online Newsweek article about "Brokeback Mountain's" success last week. It's a little funny to realize that, like all interviewees, I wasn't incredibly disciplined about what I said, though usually I'm the one doing the interviewing, not the other way around.

I was just surprised to see myself quoted in the following way:

Fritz says that even if it does not win a best-picture Oscar, "Brokeback" is likely to become a "cultural touchstone, that we look back on in five or 10 years as an important film."

I'm pretty sure I did say that, at least in an off handed way, and I do believe it, so it's not an unfair quote. But of course I'm a box office reporter, not a film critic. So while my other two quotes derive from my authority as something of an expert, this sounds (to me) like someone talking out his ass. I guess I'm just not sure why anyone else in the world cares that Ben Fritz thinks "Brokeback Mountain" will be a cultural touchstone in 5 or 10 years.

I just hate to see myself quoted in a way that I might make fun of as a reader. I guess the lesson is that it's really hard to stay "disciplined" and "on message" as an interviewee. I guess I have a newfound respect for Scott McLellan.

Batman Begins is SO good... and other 2005 movie notes

I just re-watched "Batman Begins" and I remembered that in 2005 there were two really extraordinary films and this was one of them.

Yes, Brokeback Mountain was amazing and deserves all its acclaim. And it certainly deserves to win best picture and best director, as it probably will.

But how is Batman Begins not nominated for anything except maybe effects? How in the world is Gary Oldman not the front runner for best supporting actor? He gives what I think is far and away the best supporting performance of the year. He creates a Jim Gordon that was never there in other movies or the comics before, yet is so essentially and obviously the Jim Gordon that was always waiting to be there that I'm amazed.

The movie is so well cast (except, OK, maybe Katie Holmes) that if the SAG award for best ensemble was really for best ensemble, instead of a proxy for best picture, I think it would be a no brainer that Batman Begins should win. Everyone is great and, more importantly, perfectly cast in their roles. Especially the supporting characters. Oldman and Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson all bring a real 3-dimensionality to characters who simply never had it before in any medium (save for a few really good comics stories), but they don't change who their characters are.

And ultimately the screenplay and production design are amazing for their realism. This is how Bruce Wayne would become Batman if he were real. This is what the Batcave and Batmobile would look like if they were real. And on and on.

What's particularly awesome about that approach is it doesn't take anything away from previous incarnations. Tim Burton's fantastic film that portrays Batman as the psychopath a man dressed up as a bat might very well be still stands as a distinct and really entertaining interpretation.

My only complain about Batman Begins is that the villainous plot doesn't hold to the reality of the rest of the film. An international conspiracy to bring down cities is, well, kind of ridiculous. But when you want to connect Batman's origin in the Himalayas to a villian in Gotham City, there's just no way to do it smoothly. Batman Begins handles it as best it can and it's easy to forgive nad forget amidst so much greatness.

I suppose I could make a top 10 list of movies, but really, this is what i have to say.

-Awesome movies of 2005: Brokeback Mountain, Batman Begins

-Really good movies of 2005: Pride and Prejudice (the most down to Earth and relatable costume drama ever), In Her Shoes (sweet, involving, and so very much better than anyone would expect thanks to genius director Curtis Hanson), Match Point (a small but incredibly compelling morality tale), Sin City (the purest geek experience ever put on film), The Squid and the Whale (a small story that gets every detail right and perfectly straddles the comedy/tragedy line of real life), The Constant Gardener (a great and tragic thriller even if the politics are a bit simple), and, probably only because it was such a weak year for comedy, The 40 Year-Old Virgin (not a very well made film, but kinda funny and surprisingly compelling and heartwarming, with a shockingly great performance by Steve Carell)

-Most disappointing movies of 2005: The preposterous A History of Violence, the painfully unfunny and inert The Ice Harvest, the meandering The New World, and the wretchedly pretentious and fatuous Crash

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Peerflix: fantastic yet retarded

Peerflix is a brilliant idea for a business with one fatal flaw.

The idea is that you send DVDs you no longer want to people who do want them and get a credit in return for a DVD you do want from somebody else in the system. It's a great way to efficiently get DVDs people no longer want to those who do want them without the hassle of selling, getting cash, and then buying. And the company takes 99 cents per trade, which is utterly fair for the service they provide.

But it has one fatal flaw that boggles my mind. The system is only set up to send the DVD -- not the boxes. I had some time tonight and signed on to sell a bunch of DVDs Alicia and I have sitting around we don't want. I saw my credits piling up and was excited to get going. I clicked through to ship my first DVD and was a bit surprised that I could print out a mailer. I found it hard to believe to pieces of paper would be enough packaging to ship a full size DVD box, but I figured they must know what they are doing.

Then I printed it out and read the instructions and realized you are only supposed to insert the disc(s). Then I guess you just throw out the case. And the person on the receiving end gets a DVD with no box to put it in. So.... I guess I'm supposed to put them in a flipbook like I used to do with DVDs? I can't put the movies on the shelf in their box next to all the DVDs I bought new or used? That's utterly retarded. Everyone knows that, as with books, part of the reason to own a DVD is to display it, in the case, on the shelf. It's both easy to retrieve and a way to show visitors what movies you love. Perhaps it's shallow, but it's true.

And yes, obviously it's cheaper and easier to send a DVD without the box. But that's like buying a computer without the monitor. It's cheaper, but kind of ruins the point.

So tonight I signed up for Peerflix, listed a bunch of DVDs, agreed to send one, realized how it works and now delisted all the rest of my DVDs. I guess with the credit I got I'll be receiving one DVD I want in the mail soon. But it won't have a box. And the person who sent it to me will have thrown out the box. How utterly efficient and fantastic. Not.