This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

From The Mouths Of Movie-goers...

As a writer, I often observe and listen.  Secretly, I've always wanted to be a spy.  If I were a true spy, however,  I wouldn't be able to tell anyone that I was a spy and what fun is there in that?[unless I get to play-act in my own rendition of Burn After Reading.] So, instead I'm an eavesdropper, sometimes a sleuth, and a writer.  

Quite often, I get to listen and observe moviegoers.  Here in L.A., there are people with clipboards that watch audience reactions to previews and movies and then they jot down little notes-- where the laughs were, what sequences fell flat, if a preview worked or flopped, and the demographics of the people sitting in the seats: age, race, gender.... In a sense, they're movie spies and [not surprisingly]  they're employed by the studios.  

I also enjoy watching several audiences and noting how they react to the same movie.  What I've learned is that it's true what they say: Every single audience is different.  A movie like Four Christmases that makes one woman howl with laughter may be only mildly amusing to the couple sitting in the next showing.

When it comes to a movie being a success or a flop, moviegoers have more clout than they get credit for-- [sorry critics.]  

Here are a few reactions and/or things I've overheard about some of the biggest films this year:

On Rachel Getting Married:

" It's too shaky... I can't take it.  How can they even call that a movie?"
(From a forty-something who needed a glass of ice water to get over her Rachel-induced motion sickness)

"Now, that's the kind of wedding I'd like to have!"
(One twenty-something girl to another upon exiting the theatre.)

On Towelhead:

Upon exiting the theatre:  Silence.

On Synedoche, New York

"What's with that burning house?"
( A question posed to Charlie Kaufman at a Q&A at Arclight Hollywood.  Kaufman skirted the question brilliantly and answered exactly: Nothing.)

"It's so depressing... I want to shoot myself."
(A thirty-something guy talking to his buddy.)

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button
(not released yet)

"I think it'll capture peoples' attention with its sentimentality... and it'll garner award noms, no doubt.  Brad Pitt's a shoe-in.
( An unidentified Nielsen employee)

"THIS is a job..."
( The courier lugging Benjamin Button's many, many reels after the theatre's elevator went out) 

Note: Benjamin Button has a run-time of 2 hours and 55 minutes and David Fincher is probably still working on his director's cut which could very well have a run time double that!

Slumdog Millionaire

"I've seen the ending so many times, but I'm gonna go watch it again..."
(A studio publicity person at a Q&A screening with Danny Boyle.)

"Where can I get the soundtrack to Slumdog?"
(An out-of-breath woman in the theatre gift shop.)

"That is how movies are supposed to be."
(An older gentleman to his friend after exiting a late-night screening.)

Observation:  Two Indian women in the middle of the theatre crying softly as Jamal and Latika reunite.  They stay for the entire credits and walk out of the theatre slowly... in utter silence.

"Slumdog's got a chance for Best Picture.  This is a good year for it..."

On Milk

"I wasn't interested in the subject matter at first, but when I saw it, Sean Penn pulled me in.  His performance was outstanding.  It's easily one of the best films of the year..."
(An unidentified Nielsen employee at a test screening for an upcoming film.)

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