Friday, December 13, 2013

Why I Don't Read Film Festivals Reviews

I refuse to read film festivals reviews, which provide overenthusiastic praise for films that won't be available to the general public for a year or more.  A particularly long delay occurred with the release of All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2006 but wasn't released to theatres until 2013.  Critics are so happy to be at a festival, where they are away from their mundane routine and are privileged to see films that us regular folk can't see, and they manage in their euphoria to give films far better critiques than they deserve.  But it's hard to avoid these reviews.  A film is no sooner screened at the Telluride Film Festival then reviews of the film are published by a variety of entertainment news sources.  The same occurs when the film is exhibited at the Toronto International Film Festival, then the New York Film Festival, and then the Edinburgh International Film Festival.  The film finally finds a distributor and the distributor spends months deciding what to do with the film.  How will they market it?  What type of distribution strategy should they employ?  Sometimes, the distributor arranges for reshoots.  Harvey Weinstein expressed great optimism when he purchased the film Happy, Texas (1999), but he then ordered for most of the film to be reshot.  This is not to say that the usual reworking of these films is nearly as drastic as that.  Fox Searchlight was mostly satisfied with Napoleon Dynamite (2004) and, in the end, they did nothing more than change the film's title sequence and pay the licensing fees to juice up the soundtrack with chart-topping tunes (Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy" and Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat"). 

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Eventually, the distributor will initiate a limited test release of the film in New York and Los Angeles.  Even more reviews than before make their way into the press.  Most of these films do not earn a wide release, which means that the average entertainment consumer won't get to see the film until it turns up on DVD several months later.  It makes it extremely frustrating if, as it often turns out, the film is not worth the wait.  How many glowing reviews did I read about Ruby Sparks (2012) before I was finally able to see the film for myself and realize that it was nothing more than a dull and pretentious feminist take on Splash (1984)?

Ruby Sparks (2012)
So, please, spare me festival reviews.

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