Letters

Letters 12-05-2016

Trump going back on promises I’m beginning to suspect that we’ve been conned by our new president. He’s backpedaling on nearly every campaign promise he made to us...

This Christmas, think before you speak Now that Trump has won the election, a lot of folks who call themselves Christians seem to believe they have a mandate to force their beliefs on the rest of us. Think about doing this before you start yelling about people saying “happy holidays,” whining about Starbucks coffee cup image(s), complaining about other’s lifestyles…

First Amendment protects prayer (Re: Atheist Gary Singer’s contribution to the Crossed column titled “What will it take to make America great again?” in the Nov. 21 edition of Northern Express.) Mr. Singer, the First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”

Evidence of global warming Two basic facts underlay climate science: first, carbon dioxide was known to be a heat-trapping gas as early as 1850; and second, humans are significantly increasing the amount of CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and other activities. We are in fact well on our way to doubling the CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere...

Other community backpack programs I just read your article in the Nov. 28 issue titled “Beneficial backpacks: Two local programs help children.” It is a good article, but there are at least two other such programs in the Traverse City area that I am aware of...

A ‘fox’ in the schoolhouse Trump’s proposed secretary of education, Betsy DeVos (“the fox” in Dutch), is a right-wing billionaire; relentless promoter of unlimited, unregulated charter schools and vouchers; and enemy of public schooling...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · A hype-free zone
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A hype-free zone

Robert Downes - July 28th, 2008
Just about everyone knows the famous “Peanuts” cartoon where Lucy is holding a football in position for Charlie Brown to deliver the kick-off. Charlie fears that Lucy will pull the ball away, just like she has 100 times before -- but Lucy promises that she won’t -- she’ll let him make the kick. Sure enough, Charlie Brown tries to kick the ball and winds up flat on his back because Lucy has jerked it away at the last second.
That’s pretty much my experience with summer blockbuster films. I’m 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 summer’s 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 Indy’s 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 I’d 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: 1998’s 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 summer’s 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 Ledger’s “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 that’s why so many of us love the Traverse City Film Festival -- because it’s a hype-free zone. All we’re 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 it’s 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 that’s 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 can’t stop talking about it. That’s the kind of community buzz the hypemasters of Hollywood will never be able to manufacture.
Hey, see you at the Film Festival.
 
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