Thats pretty much my experience with summer blockbuster films. Im a Charlie Brown-style sucker for the hype and get all revved up to see some movie that is praised to the skies, only to end up flat on my back, wondering where my $8.50 went...
Oh, you too?
This summers stinker was Indiana Jones and the Crystal Numbskulls. Deep inside, I knew that this was going to be a cruddy, unbelievable film, on par with Indys awful Temple of Doom flick in 1984, but I took the bait. Midway through the film, a little voice in my head started whispering: You lose again, sucker.
Once upon a time, film hype actually had some value and even a kernel of truth. Jaws and Star Wars were heavily-hyped films in the late 70s, as were E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind in the 80s, but these films actually delivered the goods. I recall not wanting to see Jaws, but was drawn in by the hype and was pleasantly surprised by its aquatic thrill-ride.
But then Hollywood went overboard and started hyping every film, no matter how bad. Rocky was a great film -- but all of its ancestors were bums. I started realizing Id been had by the hype about the time Dick Tracy came out in 1990 (in which the only memorable moment was Madonna as Breathless Mahoney, singing Hankie-Spankie, by the way).
Some major bombs that were over-hyped in recent years: 1998s Godzilla remake (ho-hum), every Star Wars sequel since the 80s, Superman Returns, the first X-Files film from 1998, about half of the Batman flicks... You swallow the hype and then exit the theater feeling ripped off, with your time wasted.
But back to the future. Even the films that are pretty good, like this summers Ironman, are hyped beyond reason. Is Ironman a four-star film in the same sense as Casablanca or Gone With the Wind? It‘s a good film, but you wouldn‘t be any more “moved“ by it than you would by reading the comic book.
Even if a mainstream film isn‘t hyped to the sky, you can‘t always trust the reviews. Is Get Smart really a three-and-a-half star film, as rated by our own film critic Roger Ebert? Really? I gave it a solid two, but then I slept through half of it...
And after reading endless rave reviews of Heath Ledgers “performance-of-the-century“ as The Joker in The Dark Knight, I feel hypnotized by the hype to go see the film, even though I fear getting bat-whacked once again by a false promise.
Maybe thats why so many of us love the Traverse City Film Festival -- because its a hype-free zone. All were promised is that these are scrappy, independent films that may even look a little homemade and are unlikely to ever appear at the mall megaplex.
Some of the directors have chips on their shoulders the size of aircraft carriers (which tends to produce interesting results) and are into subjects that are as exotic as, well... the orphans of Malawi, or life at a base in Antarctica, or going to high school in Baghdad, or what its like to be an illegal immigrant trying to make it in America. And who would ever think of making a film about the Helvetica typeface?
In short, the Film Festival offers surprising, edgy stuff thats nearly impossible to lacquer with the veneer of Hollywood hype. We go to a Film Festival movie without any expectations beyond a tantalizing sense of mystery over what we may find and come out illuminated. And even when half the crowd hates the film, they cant stop talking about it. Thats the kind of community buzz the hypemasters of Hollywood will never be able to manufacture.
Hey, see you at the Film Festival.