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We've been seeing a steady influx of trailers for the summer movie season, and a couple of oddball outliers for pictures coming up later in the year and beyond. So here's a quick rundown of some of the notable trailers and teasers that have popped up since January. All links below lead to Trailer Addict.

Annie - The reactions to the new "Annie" coming up for the holiday season have been decidedly mixed, especially Cameron Diaz's new take on Miss Hannigan. Still, Quvenzhané Wallis looks like she's going to make a great Annie, and Jamie Foxx is in rare form as Will Stacks, the new Daddy Warbucks figure. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't hear more of the music, though, and that the trailer decided to emphasize the humor instead.

Hercules - So much cheese on display. I'm getting flashbacks to "Conan: The Barbarian" here. Best case scenario is that we get a completely pulpy, silly B-movie Hercules and Duane Johnson's considerable charms don't get buried under too many CGI effects. I'm not sold based on the action and the spectacle alone, and this trailer really could have used a little more spark and personality. Unfortunately this comes off as pretty generic-looking.

Chef - It's nice to see Jon Favreau taking a break from big summer blockbusters and trying his hand at a foodie comedy. And it doesn't hurt that he apparently decided to have an "Iron Man 2" cast reunion at the same time. Being released in the middle of May, "Chef" is clearly a personal project being served up as counterprogramming, and looks like a perfectly sweet, feel-good alternative to the superheroes and Adam Sandler. They don't make enough of them like this anymore.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - A very brief look at the new designs for the Ninja Turtles confirms that they're way too humanized, to the point of being a little off-putting. The rest of the trailer is following the exact same template as the "Transformers" films, especially with the presence of Megan Fox as April O'Neil. I don't have high hopes for this, but I've learned not to underestimate Michael Bay and toy aisle nostalgia. Proceed at your own risk.

Tammy - Melissa McCarthy has worked her way up the ranks over the past few years to the rare position of female comedy headliner - and when was the last time we legitimately had one of those? The trailer for "Tammy" makes it very clear that this is a major starring vehicle for her. I've found McCarthy's previous efforts very hit-or-miss, and I don't know how well she's going to work as a lead, but this teaser with her stumbling through a robbery routine did make me smile. I wish her all the best.

The Giver - Confession time. Despite being recommended the book by every English teacher in junior high, I've never read Lois Lowry's beloved dystopian YA novel, "The Giver." I figured this could be a plus, allowing me a different perspective on the film version than I've had with other, similar adaptations. So far, the trailer is pretty bland, trying too hard to make itself look like every other teen action franchise out there. The appearance of Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges is intriguing though.

Peanuts - This isn't coming out until November of 2015, but it provides a crucial first look at the visual style that's going to be used for the new "Peanuts" movie from 20th Century Fox and Blue Sky Studios, best known for the "Ice Age" movies but steadily getting more ambitious with recent features like "Epic." It looks like they've done a good job of capturing the iconic look of the Charles Schultz drawings with CGI. However, getting the story and humor right will also be crucial.

Edge of Tomorrow - I thought this was a spring release, but apparently the latest Tom Cruise science-fiction action film is coming in June. Cruise has proven to be a good fit for this kind of material, and I'll watch Emily Blunt in just about anything. Based on a Japanese novel and manga called "All You Need is Kill," this looks to have a lot in common with "Source Code," except much more action-oriented. Also, having Doug Liman and Christopher McQuarrie onboard doesn't hurt.

Guardians of the Galaxy - And finally, we come to my favorite trailer of the batch, which introduces us to the motley crew who will be starring in the next Marvel Universe film. I think what makes this work is really John C. Reilly as the audience surrogate, providing the introductions and setting the tone for how we're meant to view these characters. Frankly, I have my doubts about how the concept is going to play, but the trailer goes a long way in convincing me that they've got the tone right and the humor right, and we're in good hands.
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Funny or Die is not part of my usual media consumption rotation. Sure, I watch their videos occasionally when they go viral and I get linked to one. I've seen a couple of installments of "Between Two Ferns" too, the site's no-budget anti-talk show hosted by comedian Zach Galifianakis where interviewer and interviewee exchange insults with each other in stark contrast to the love-fests that most celebrity interviews have become. Actually, I've seen more memes spawned by the show than the actual show, particularly the one with Jennifer Lawrence mocking Galifianakis's weight.

And then yesterday, President Obama (identified as a "Community Organizer") showed up and took a seat between the ferns and everyone went nuts. He was plugging the Affordable Healthcare Act and Healthcare.gov, of course, and specifically targeting the young internet-loving demographic that comprises Funny Or Die's core audience. And the great thing was, he was in on the joke. He and Galifianakis lobbed some relative softballs at each other, but there were still a few zingers on sore subjects - birth certificates, basketball, and "Hangover 3" among them. The tone was right, the comedy wasn't compromised, and both the site and the president came away from the outing looking great.

Here I should add all the usual disclaimers that though I voted for Obama last time around, I do not agree with all of his positions and policies, the actions of his administration, and certainly not his approach to handling some very serious issues. As a campaigner, however, he's rarely made a wrong step. From a marketing standpoint the "Between Two Ferns" appearance was a shrewd move, right up there with Richard Nixon's cameo on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In." There aren't many other politicians I can imagine going toe to toe with Galifianakis. When they do feature in comedy bits like this, it's usually something like Stephen Colbert unleashing absurdity on a member of Congress in a "Better Know a District" segment of "the Colbert Report," where the politician plays the straight man (or woman). Or Ali G. maneuvering poor Pat Buchanan into making an idiot of himself.

This also signals a big moment for new media. Sure, Twitter has become a default talking point, and a Reddit IAMA session has become a regular stop on press tours, but you rarely see the mainstream really participate in the internet culture of viral videos and mash-up parodies made way outside the bounds of the traditional production system except to point it out or comment on it. Funny or Die might be considered a borderline case, as it has many famous contributors and backers, employs a professional writing staff, and recently partnered with HBO briefly to produce a short-lived sketch. However, by and large it has remained largely a web-based phenomenon that follows the anarchic, DIY, bare-bones aesthetic of most user-generated web content. In fact, the last time I checked the site, a good chunk of the Funny or Die website's content was still user submitted.

I'm right at the upper age limit of the intended target audience here, so I can appreciate what Funny or Die is doing while recognizing how alien the approach is to outsiders. The rules and the expectations of web content are very different. The set of "Between Two Ferns" consists of the two ferns, a few chairs, and a table, and the graphics package that looks like a relic of the early '80s, purposefully evoking the feel of an old public access show. The celebrities who appear don't behave they would on a regular talk show, engaging in ironic self-mockery with the understanding that they're playing to a very different audience. We're starting to see the same kind of humor appear on late night talk shows and in commercials, but there's still a significant divide between web culture and the mainstream media. That divide got a whole lot smaller when Obama dropped in for an interview. The President of the United States is about as mainstream as it gets, and exudes legitimacy.

It's been fascinating to look at the reactions to the appearance. Right wing pundits have been predictably outraged, though past presidents have employed similar tactics in the past. Capitol Hill stalwarts have been confused and worried about whether the appearance was appropriate or the best use of Obama's time, considering everything else that's going on in the world right now. The general public doesn't seem to care all that much one way or the other, and many remain completely unaware that the POTUS deigned to grace a lowly comedy website with his presence. However, the results are clear. Healthcare.gov got a healthy boost in traffic thanks to the "Ferns" interview after millions of people watched it on Funny or Die, and some of the visitors signed up for plans.

I have to wonder if a traditional marketing campaign would have been remotely as successful.

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I've sidestepped talking about a lot of major media-related news items that have been circulating lately. For instance, I didn't bother writing a Superbowl post this year because I didn't see the game. I did go online afterwards and watch all the ads, but I didn't see much that was worth writing about. The movie spots in particular were lackluster, and none of them were for films I had much interest in seeing. Not many big summer films made an appearance. The biggest exceptions were "The Amazing Spider-man 2," which gave us a two-part look at one of the action sequences and "Transformers: Age of Extinction," which confirmed that Mark Wahlberg is indeed taking over hero duties from Shia LaBeouf. Neither were all that interesting.

So may bigger titles failed to make appearances, there's no point listing them all. Most of the movie ads were for spring releases like the new "Robocop" and "Captain America," and smaller action films like "Need for Speed," "3 Days to Kill," and "Pompeii." The most successful of them was for "Muppets Most Wanted," which had some funny digs at quote mining and Twitter users. Nobody was really using the Superbowl to launch a campaign or to show off anything really new. As a result there wasn't much buzz about any of these spots online after the game, the way there was about the 360 shot in the Superbowl ad for "The Avengers," for instance, or that one for "Independence Day" back in 1996 where Roland Emmerich sent a UFO to blow up the White House. Still remember that, don't you?

So why didn't Hollywood come out to play this year? Well, you just have to look at the premier of the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" trailer yesterday on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Within an hour of broadcast it was all over the internet and the buzz for the movie went through the roof. Consider that the asking price for a 30 second Superbowl spot this year was $4 million. Consider that the new "Guardians of the Galaxy" trailer ran well over two minutes and likely didn't cost anything to air, because Marvel and ABC, which airs Kimmel's late night show, are both owned by Disney. Consider that though Kimmel's audience is only a fraction of the audience for the Superbowl, the trailer has since been seen by exponentially larger numbers since it has gone viral on the internet.

Many marketers have decided that instead of piggybacking off of a bigger media event like the Superbowl or an awards show, they are better off being an event all by themselves. The internet has opened up marketing possibilities in recent years, and many film enthusiasts are more likely to see a new trailer online before they see it in theaters or before the ads appear on television. Not all films have the clout to do this, but when you're highly anticipated tentpole like a new Marvel movie, then the benefits of reaching the Superbowl audience may not be worth paying a premium for, especially as the price tag continues to climb higher every year.

Also when you're a movie with unfamiliar characters, a high concept premise, and a very particular sensibility like "Guardians," you need more than 30 seconds, or even a full minute to sell it to a broad audience. if you look at the new trailer, it spends the bulk of the time having John C. Reilly carefully introduce the five main characters. I suspect this is also why upcoming May releases "X-Men: Days of Future Past" and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" sat out this year's Superbowl. They're franchise films, but potentially too narratively complicated to get their pitches across so quickly. With "Spider-man" and "Transformers," all you really need is action shots and explosions.

A few weeks ago I wrote about movie theaters cracking down on lengthy trailers, where guidelines were put forward that suggest trailers shouldn't run longer than two minutes. I don't think there are many previews that need to be longer, but you could make a case for some of them. Despite its length, the "Guardians of the Galaxy" trailer is all intro and has no spoilers to speak of. However, you could edit it down to two minutes easily enough and keep the longer version online for those who are curious to see more. Extended internet-only previews are already fairly common. "Cloud Atlas," for example, released one that was nearly six minutes.

In short, the internet has had a big effect on the way movies are releasing new footage, and I expect that it will continue to. As marketing costs go up, television and theatrical previews will still be important, but they're being supplemented in a big way by internet previews, which may end up overtaking them in the long run. We'll always see some movies willing to pay for Superbowl ad space, but there are other ways to make a similarly big splash these days.

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Thanks to a Superbowl yogurt commercial that reunites the three male stars of "Full House," Bob Saget, Dave Coulier, and John Stamos, there's been wave of nostalgia for the '80s family sitcom that ran for eight years on ABC. Jimmy Kimmel had the trio on a few nights ago for a "Full House" themed sketch. Morning show appearances, interviews, and all the usual media stops have followed. And personally, I'm doing my best to ignore it all. I hated "Full House."

You watch a lot of television as a kid for no better reason than it's on and your parents don't mind that you're watching it. Somehow, "Full House" was ubiquitous in my household, even though I wasn't very fond of it and I distinctly remember that my father couldn't sit through five minutes of any episode without rolling his eyes. For those of you unfamiliar with the program, "Full House" was a sitcom about a recently widowed father, Danny Tanner (Saget), left to raise three young daughters by himself, one of them an infant. So he did the sensible thing and recruited two down-on-their-luck male friends, Uncle Jesse (Stamos) and Uncle Joey (Coulier) to move in with him and help out. And to make sure this situation didn't seem too strange, Danny's co-worker Becky (Lori Loughlin) was always around in some capacity, eventually becoming Uncle Jesse's girlfriend and then spouse. Plots were typical things like trying to save a bad Thanksgiving and the guys trying to balance their love lives with parenting obligations.

"Full House" was the anchor of ABC's TGIF family viewing block, and was meant to be watched by children with their parents, so the stories were always simple, the humor repetitive, and the every story ended with some wholesome family bonding and a pat moral, usually delivered by Danny Tanner to the same "serious moment" musical cue in every single episode. I credit "Full House" for being the show where the schmaltzy formula was so obvious and so lazy that it was the first one that I could identify as being a Bad Show and point out a lot of recurring schtick. Nonetheless, I watched it for years and I remember the plots of many episodes and the names of all the main characters. I wish I remembered so much about "The Cosby Show" or "Family Ties," which I know I was watching in roughly the same time frame. But no, it was "Full House" that somehow stuck.

I can certainly understand the nostalgia that some people have for it. "Full House" was a ratings monster for years and it seemed impossible to avoid. Every kid in school watched it if their parents let them watch television, though I never met anyone who really seemed to be a fan. If there was any comment on it at all among my friends, it was usually to complain that there were too many episodes centered around the youngest daughter Michelle (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen), which were the ones that got really saccharine. I haven't seen the show in years and I'm sure it would probably be totally unwatchable to me now the same way that TGIF's successors, the Disney Channel originals are.

Pop culture seems to have mostly forgotten about "Full House" too, up until this point. John Stamos, Bob Saget, and the Olsen twins have stayed fairly visible in the industry, but avoided sitcom work. Saget has notably become notorious for very adult comedy routines that are a complete 180 from his years as on "Full House" and as the goofy host of "America's Funniest Home Videos." When the show does come up now, it's usually as a target for ridicule, often pretty meanspirited. Despite not liking "Full House," I bear no real ill will towards it. The series was a product of its time, well-meaning in its aims, and pretty harmless. So I don't get much out of the mockery. I'd rather just forget the show existed.

I have seen the Dannon Oikos Greek yogurt ad, which joking alludes to the unorthodox "Full House" living situation, hinting that the trio's "bromance" was more serious than the show lead on. I fail to see how this brief reunion is worthy of all the media attention, but whatever. It seems like every half-forgotten bit of '80s detritus requires some kind of cast reunion these days, and this is at least more amusing than last year's "Ferris Bueller" car ad. And at least they didn't drag the kids into this - Candace Cameron Bure sure doesn't need any more attention. I don't think she'd appreciate the gay-friendly overtones anyway.

But between this and the "Boy Meets World' spinoff, it looks like the nostalgia wave is hitting the TGIF generation full force. I guess we'd better brace ourselves for the inevitable return of "Mr. Belvedere," "Perfect Strangers," "Step By Step," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" and - gulp - Urkel.
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It's high time I caught up with the influx of new trailers for next year's biggest box office hopefuls, which have been showing up regularly throughout the fall. I've chosen to highlight a mix of mainstream spring and summer titles in this post, though by far the best trailer I've seen in recent months has been the one for Wes Anderson's latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's so delightfully Wes Anderson-y, I really have little else to say about it. But the trailers linked below leave bigger question marks, so let's get started. All links below lead to Trailer Addict.

The Amazing Spider-man 2 - I didn't see the first "Amazing Spider-man" back in 2012, but the new teaser for the sequel is making a great sales pitch. It's got Emma Stone! And Dane DeHaan as a much more interesting-looking Harry Osborne! New villains Rhino and Electro are on screen far too briefly to make much of an impression, but the further delving into Peter Parker's family legacy looks very promising. I might just skip the previous movie and watch this one next.

X-Men Days of Future Past - Dark, somber, and hardly shows anything, but it does nicely present the fundamentals of the premise: time travel, different versions of familiar characters meeting, and hints of the apocalyptic future they're all trying to avoid. Also, there's the fun viral video The Bent Bullet currently in circulation, which suggests Magneto killed JFK in the films' alternate history. Fox's marketing has certainly improved this time out. Let's hope they deliver on the movie too.

Boxtrolls - This one doesn't reach theaters until September, but the marketing has been well underway for months. I love the approach here, showing off LAIKA's painstaking behind-the-scenes efforts to create an animated stop-motion world inhabited by friendly, funny trolls who live in boxes, and have adopted the film's human hero into their ranks. LAIKA's track record has been fantastic so far, with "Coraline" and "Paranorman," so "Boxtrolls" has a spot very high on my to-see list.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier - Humorous banter establishes that we're in the Marvel universe, but it quickly gives way to a more coldly militaristic thriller narrative where Robert Redford makes sinister, morally complicated pronouncements. It'll be interesting to see the patriotic Cap grapple with the dark side of the modern military industrial complex. I have some serious doubts about the villain though, who just looks silly in the more realistic environs.

Noah - The Biblical epic is back! Well, at least that's what Paramount is hoping for with Darren Aronofsky's latest, an ambitious, big-budget take on the Noah's Ark story that promises lots of IMAX-worthy spectacle. There have been reports of the filmmaker and studio battling over final cut of the film, and it's easy to see why. With the caliber of the talent involved," Noah" looks like it could be a big crowd-pleasing event picture, but Aronofsky's work tends to skew more challenging and unorthodox.

Maleficent - It's far too early to say if Disney's attempt to tell "Sleeping Beauty" from the villain's point of view is going to be successful, but the teaser sells us on two key points. One, that Elle Fanning makes for a lovely Disney princess, and two, that Angelina Jolie is picture perfect as Maleficent. Now, if those two are going to get a move that actually makes use of that potential is the real question. The first time director gives me pause, but hey! Paul Dini co-wrote the script!

Jupiter Ascending - The Wachowskis are back with another ambitious-looking science fiction parable, this time about some kind of interstellar soldier played by Channing Tatum in elf ears protecting Mila Kunis, who is some kind of secret royal MacGuffin. It's hard to work out the details from the trailer, but the whole thing looks spectacularly campy and weird and full of good possibilities. This one may turn out to be a mess, but I expect that it'll at least be an interesting mess.

Godzilla - Yep, the big guy is back for more monster mayhem. This teaser was just released today, and while it doesn't show much of Godzilla himself (Herself? Itself?), the movie already looks considerably better than the last attempt to revive the "Godzilla" franchise back in 1998. I think this is going to be a lot of silly fun, but then I'm a fan of kaiju and giant monsters. I don't know how well the new "Godzilla" is going to go over with mainstream audiences, especially after the performance of "Pacific Rim" last year.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 - And finally, a brief reminder of this teaser, which premiered over the summer. I like that it doesn't say a thing about story or plot, but just gives you a glimpse of Hiccup and Toothless doing what they do best. It's only at the very end that they clue you in that there have been some changes since we saw the pair last. This is going to be the film to beat this summer, and I can't wait to see it.

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Two of the films I've been anticipating this year are Bong Joon-Ho's science-fiction action film, "Snowpiercer," and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's fantasy romance "Mood Indigo." They've already both been released in their home countries, South Korea and France. As is the norm with foreign features, they won't reach theaters in the U.S. for some time, probably not until next year. "Mood Indigo" doesn't have a U.S. distributor yet. However, recent announcements have just vastly lengthened that wait time by several months at least, and maybe more. "Snowpiercer" is being distributed by the Weinstein Company, which sent around a press release a few weeks ago revealing that they would remove roughly twenty minutes from the 125 minute running time. Australia's Vendetta Films, which is handling "Mood Indigo," recently followed suit, announcing an international version of the film trimmed from 130 minutes to just 94.

Sadly, this isn't rare. Over the course of film history, many films have been pared down due to studio demands, often resulting in multiple versions. And it has to be acknowledged that sometimes the shorter cuts are better than the longer ones. The most famous examples is "Cinema Paradiso," where Harvey Weinstein trimmed over fifty minutes and the film became a critical darling, racking up awards and praise. However, just as often we end up with something like the American version of "Shaolin Soccer," also distributed by the Weinsteins, which lost over twenty minutes and came out a garish mess. Harvey Weinstein has cultivated a reputation for his editing policies over the years, earning him the nickname Harvey Scissorhands. His edits and other changes, such as simplified subtitles and voice-overs, have been met with outcry and resistance every time. And he's ignored them all, because he knows he can get away with it. Most Americans simply don't pay enough attention to foreign films to care, and his tactics have proven to be effective at attracting audiences.

But can he and Vendetta Films get away with this with two of the most high profile international films being released this year? What's especially galling about the "Snowpiercer" situation is that the film is already very U.S.-friendly. It's mostly English language with a whole passel of recognizable Western stars like Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris. It's gotten some excellent reviews already, including a rave from Variety, and is a box office smash in South Korea. And the running time is barely over two hours, not remotely overlong compared to some of the bloated American blockbusters in theaters this summer. There's no artistic eye behind this decision. These aren't even going to be content cuts to secure a lower rating. Interviews with director Bong Joon-ho have revealed the cuts will mostly be to character development scenes, and voice-over narration will be added. This is a hack job intended to make sure the film "will be understood by audiences in Iowa ... and Oklahoma." Or as Twitchfilm put it, Weinstein Thinks You are Too Dumb for "Snowpiercer."

One thing to keep in mind is that the Weinsteins haven't tried such a high-profile stunt in a while, and the movie landscape has changed. More importantly, the marketing landscape has changed and the way that people find out information about new films has changed. The internet and social media have become a major force, and it's difficult to keep negative information under wraps. I've seen other attempts at localizations of foreign media go terribly wrong before, especially when there's an existing base of fans ready to provide comparisons to the original versions. Bong Joon-Ho may not be well-known in the U.S., but he has some passionate supporters thanks to cult movies like "The Host." Harvey Weinstein has done a wonderful job of alienating these fans so far, and he's not going to be able to escape a storm of controversy when "Snowpiercer" makes its American debut. Usually controversy is good for Weinstein films, but this time it may not be good for Weinstein. There's another variable to consider, which is how much easier internet piracy of movies has become. If Weinstein's not going to make the hotly anticipated, highly lauded original version of "Snowpiercer" available to the American public, in all likelihood the internet will.

Foreign film fans who still have some scruples can take heart that the original versions of "Snowpiercer" and "Mood Indigo" will eventually be made available in the U.S. Original versions of edited films are often released as "Director's Cuts" after the initial home media releases have come and gone. However, they rarely receive their own theatrical releases, and the default versions that you see on television and available through streaming services tend to be the edited ones. I've been lucky enough to be in a position where I have been able to access former Weinstein victIms like "Hero" and "Shaolin Soccer" through Chinese language distribution channels, but unless I resort to imports (which I might), I expect a long wait before I can see "Snowpiercer" and "Mood Indigo" as intended.
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Online ads being tailored to the individual user have been prevalent for a while. I've never stopped feeling vaguely creeped out that online trackers use my browsing history to decide which ads I see, but I have gotten used to it to some extent. I try to minimize the effects on my personal computer, installing all kinds of tracker-killing aps on my browsers, but I have no control over the settings for my work computer, and my job requires a lot of online research, so some of my personal data inevitably gets around.

The information these programs are looking for tends to be fairly specific and fairly benign. They want basic demographic information, and they want to know the kinds of products you're shopping for, in order to better predict the kinds of products that you might consider buying. The latter tend to be less noticeable and less troubling to me than the former. For instance, I got a huge boost in wedding-related ads last year when I got married, and they've figured out I've been doing home improvements lately, so I've been seeing a lot of related marketing. I also usually get the higher-end entertainment ads instead of the more obnoxious celebrity gossip blurbs.

On the other hand, one example of customization I found extremely unnerving was the sign-in page for Microsoft Outlook, which one day showed me picture of a female Asian user. The page then proceeded to cycle through pictures of mostly Asian users for a few weeks, which felt a little more sinister every time I saw it. Because Asians aren't prevalent at all in Western media and advertising, it was obvious that I was only seeing these graphics was because the trackers knew that I was Asian. Someone was watching. Recently the sign-in page pictures went back to users with a mix of different backgrounds, probably because the racially targeted pictures were just too blatant.

Then again, there are those times when the personalized ads are completely wrong. Right now, the A.V. Club article I have open in another window features a Special K breakfast cereal ad banner with text in Spanish. I haven't eaten breakfast cereal in years and I don't speak Spanish. Over the past few days, I've also noticed that I've been getting a slew of clothing ads for plus-sized women. On the one hand, it's a nice change of pace from the stick-thin models I usually see in clothing ads. On the other, it's a little bizarre because I'm not plus-sized. I've been wracking my brains trying to figure out what search I might have conducted or what product I might have looked at to give the internet the idea that I'm in the market for plus-sized clothing. I can't think of anything I've been looking at that is related to dieting or my physical state in general. The closest thing I can think of is that I read a Slate expose of the "One Weird Trick" ads that often involve fat-burning tips, but I think the plus-sized ads started coming before I read that piece.

There's also the possibility that I happen to fit the profile of someone who would need plus-sized clothing. We know that companies are increasingly turning to this kind of potential customer profiling in order to better target their marketing efforts. The New York Times ran a story about a year ago, How Companies Learn Your Secrets, detailing how Targe identified the buying patterns of women who were likely to be in the early stages of pregnancy. Maybe the traits that the trackers have gleaned from my browsing habits are more typical of a larger woman. Maybe larger women tend to like the movies I like, buy the furniture I buy, and research the subjects I research. Maybe this is a sign that I need to be more careful about my eating habits, since I may be more susceptible to weight gain.

This all becomes much scarier when you consider what's going on with the NSA, and that these benign-seeming marketing tactics are very similar to what law enforcement uses to target potential terrorists. All it took was Google searching pressure cookers and backpacks for the police to pay a visit to a couple in New York, looking for potential bombers. Does the fact that I just searched those two terms together in order to bring up that article mean I have something to worry about? I look at those tasteful ads following me around the internet, and I have to wonder. If my browsing habits point to me being plus-sized, could it also suggest that I'm up to no good? I know I don't have anything to hide, but in light of everything that's going on, I strongly feel the need to be more careful online.

And I should probably start skipping dessert.
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Video ads. They're inserting fifteen-second video ads into Facebook newsfeeds soon, a plan that is expected to cause such a backlash among the user base, that the implementation has been delayed twice already. Currently, the expected launch date is sometime in early fall. And yet, Facebook is moving forward with this idea, the latest of many recent attempts to monetize the social networking service. Apparently the money being offered by advertisers is just too good, and the pressure to generate more revenue from Facebook is just too great. Bloomberg reports they're charging $2.5 million per ad.

Facebook is already inundated in ads, particularly if you've impulsively been clicking those little "Like" widget buttons for various products and services. Some of those buttons automatically subscribe you to official feeds for those products and services that will send you ads and offers unsolicited. I've often looked at the little messages telling me that one of my girlfriends has "liked" a particular restaurant or book and wondered if they really meant to broadcast that "like" to every minor acquaintance on their friends list. There are already plenty of complaints about the volume on ads on Facebook, and nobody ever appreciates that they're all tailored especially for each particular user. Not a day goes by that I haven't heard more reminders about checking privacy settings or someone suggesting Adblock.

Of course, Facebook's continued existence depends on those who are tolerant enough of those ads not to automatically change their settings or seek work-arounds. I expect that number is likely going to shrink dramatically when the video ads start going, because video ads are about the most intrusive form of marketing there is. Video eats up bandwidth, it's much more difficult to ignore, and the targeting is much more obvious. The Facebook ads will play automatically, but without sound until the user clicks on them. They will also be limited to only three appearances a day for any user - at first. It's easy to imagine those numbers and the length of the ads creeping up over time, until we're looking at full television-length ads popping up right between cute pictures of our cousins' kids and our old college roommates' selfies.

Now I understand the ad revenue is vital long term to keep our favorite social media sites going. It's a hassle, but it may be necessary to keep these services afloat. However, I worry that this may be a step too far for Facebook. They've managed to keep from losing many user to competitors like Google Plus, but they aren't expanding at nearly the rate they used to and that botched IPO really hurt their standing. Moreover, the general consensus seems to be that Facebook is losing the interest of the users that it already has. Sure, some people consider it a necessity for social interaction, and it's certainly useful for keeping in contact with a large number of people, but I don't know many people who actively spend a lot of time on the site anymore. Blogging and Tweeting and Instagramming, sure, but updating Facebook? Is anyone really checking that feed more than twice a day?

I still maintain a Facebook page but I find that I'm not on the site very often. I log in there maybe once a week to respond to an alert that someone sent me a friend request, or to follow up on something that was posted to my wall. There was a brief fling with the Candy Crush Saga game a while ago, a fling that abruptly ended when I reached the end of the free levels and discovered that the option to bother three friends to keep playing didn't seem to be available to me, and I wasn't willing to pay actual money to continue. So that was that. I have a lot of friends and family who are fairly active on the site though, and there's nothing except very general information in my own profile, so I'm happy to keep it active and keep neglecting it.

Would I watch a video ad every time I visit to be able to maintain that Facebook profile, though? I'm not sure. I would for LinkedIn, and I would have in order to keep Google Reader, which I miss terribly, especially because I made the mistake of jumping to The Old Reader as a replacement, which collapsed in spectacular fashion a few days ago. Facebook, though, is not really a priority. Since I'm there so infrequently, I think the answer would be yes, ironically, because watching the ads would be rare enough for me that it wouldn't bother me much. For people use Facebook frequently, though, the answer may be very different. The worry is that the ad-averse are going to leave the site for some alternative, install filters, or reduce their activity until they become much more casual users like me.

I can just see the headlines now: "Video Killed the Internet Star."
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"Pacific Rim" opens in a few days, and the Warners executives are in a bit of a panic. According to Variety, about a month ago early tracking showed that the film isn't generating the kind of interest they were hoping for. "Grown Ups 2," the Adam Sandler comedy, has been getting more buzz. So there has been a big marketing push for "Pacific Rim" in recent weeks, trying to turn the tide and avoid a costly flop. Specifically, they've released several commercials and trailers highlighting the more human side of the movie, avoiding the spectacle of the giant mecha fighting giant monsters, in favor of the humor and characters. Apparently, audiences hadn't been responding well to the earlier promos that solely focused on the towering CGI spectacle, similar to the imagery that made the "Transformers" movies into such huge hits.

This raises the question as to whether we're seeing the beginning of what I'm going to call CGI fatigue. CGI special effects have advanced to the point where we can do pretty much anything with them. In fantasy action movies like "Pacific Rim," "World War Z," and many other summer blockbusters, this has meant being able enlarge the scope of the action and destruction to previously unthinkable extremes. Superman can have a fight that levels a city. Brad Pitt isn't limited to fighting only a few dozen zombie extras, but thousands of them generated by sophisticated computer programs. The trouble is, some filmmakers have become overly reliant on the spectacle to sell the movie. "Pacific Rim" was supposed to be a draw because of its big giant CGI fight scenes, but the marketers soon discovered that the audience wasn't impressed.

I don't think the problem is that people are tired of CGI, exactly. Two of the biggest successes of this summer are CGI animated films "Despicable Me 2" and "Monsters University," and CGI-heavy superhero films like "Iron Man 3" and "Man of Steel" are still going strong. However, the CGI by itself is no longer enough to get the audience into theaters, especially after a summer that has been continuously bombarded by ever-greater amounts of digital carnage. It feels like every big action movie this summer has been trying to one-up the big battle sequence from "The Avengers," just piling on one gargantuan set piece after another at the expense of everything else. Audiences tend to get burned out on these types of action films by late summer, but we're still squarely in the middle of the season, with several more tentpoles to go. It could get really ugly if moviegoing audiences decide that they've had enough of the onslaught and they're done with the CGI spectaculars for the rest of July and August.

Honestly, I think we all knew this was coming. There's always going to be one fundamental problem with the business of spectacle: the novelty wears off. Time and again we've seen some new innovation come to film, be it sound or color or widescreen or 3D. People flock to see it, and quickly become acclimated to it. And then, unless you have filmmakers who do creative and interesting things with that innovation, it's just yesterday's gimmick. What we're looking at now is a public that has decided that CGI spectacle is no longer a novelty, no matter how big and how fancy it is. CGI has kept improving and improving over the last few decades to the point where it's hard to see how much better it could possibly get. The use of CGI so ingrained into modern filmmaking that it's in no danger of ever going out of style, but I'm guessing that we're getting to a point where quality is going to start counting for a little more, and the size of the explosions, a little less.

Fortunately Warner Brothers has some options in promoting "Pacific Rim" - it's been getting good reviews, director Guillermo Del Toro has a loyal fanbase, and several celebrities have come out of the woodwork to praise the film. However, it's clear to see where "Pacific Rim" also cut corners. There are no major stars in the movie, the generic title was somehow never changed to anything more exciting, and it's hard to escape the feeling that it has copied bits and pieces from so many other blockbusters that came before it. Or maybe it was just that the lousy early trailers were so hellbent on emphasizing those parts, trying to get us to associate the movie with previous hits.

Ultimately, I view this as a potential positive. Maybe it'll mean fewer ill-considered mediocrities like "Jack the Giant Slayer" and "Gulliver's Travels." Maybe it'll get Hollywood to spend less time bankrupting effects houses and more time on the scripts - or any time on the scripts at all. Maybe they'll realize there is a difference between a Michael Bay CGI spectacular and one directed by Ang Lee. Maybe they'll stop cutting all the trailers the same frickin' way. Sure, it's wishful thinking, but I'm clearly not the only one getting tired of the movies that are all flash and no bang.
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And now for something completely different.

For fun, I've put together a Youtube playlist of various television and movie (and related) clips. These are mostly just odds and ends that don't really have anything in common except that they all have a strong music element. Some are parts of ad campaigns, some are nostalgic oddities from my childhood, and some are unclassifiable ephemera that wouldn't be showing up on this blog except in a form like this. However, I find them all very entertaining, and worth pointing out for recommendation. Hopefully, you'll find something in the mix that tickles your fancy too.

Daicon 4 - In 1983, a group of young Japanese animators came together to create a special tribute video for a science fiction convention called Daicon. They'd done a more rudimentary short a few years earlier, called "Daicon 3," but nobody was expecting the massive leap in quality of "Daicon 4," still considered one of the most beloved touchstones of 80s anime fans and the otaku culture. And the animators who made it? They would go on to form Studio GAINAX, the creators of "Neon Genesis Evangelion" and "Tengan Toppa Gurren Lagaan."

You and Me - Alice Cooper singing a love ballad duet with a bird puppet, from his appearance on "The Muppet Show" back in 1978. It was part of a string of appearances that were aiming to put the controversial rocker in settings that were incongruous with his dark rocker persona. The clip omits the punchline of the scene, but I don't think it needs it.

Angle Dance - "Square One Television" was a late 80s PBS children's show designed to teach math concepts. Using a combination of comedy sketches and video segments, "Square One" patterned itself after MTV. They made several parody music videos like this one. "Angle Dance," however, from my own recollection, had by far the most nerdy math puns.

Blood on the Coal - As every "Spinal Tap" fan knows, the members of that beloved parody heavy metal band are played by Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. However, the trio also appear occasionally as an entirely different musical group, The Folksmen, who originated in a 1984 SNL sketch and went on to feature in 2003's folk music mockumentary, "A Mighty Wind." Here’s their appearance on "Mad TV" promoting the movie. As with their appearances as Spinal Tap, it's hard to tell that these guys aren't the real thing.

Paranoia Agent OP - Satoshi Kon's 2003 anime is still one of the trippiest things I've ever seen. This extends to the exhilaratingly weird and appropriate opening credits sequence.

Portrait d'Un Robot - An old "Sesame Street" film short, set to Janko Nilovic's "Portrait d'Un Robot," featuring old wind-up toys, (then) modern robots, space shuttles, and satellites.

I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me - From Brian DePalma's "Carrie," this is the happiest moment in a movie better remembered for its bloody horrors – Carrie's first dance at the prom. In addition to the technically impressive spinning shot, Sissy Spacek and William Katt are at their most lovable. The song playing is "I Never Dreamed Someone Like You Could Love Someone Like Me," sung by Katie Irving.

Discombobulate - A quick and charmingly unpolished music video put together for the soundtrack of the 2009 "Sherlock Holmes" movie. I love that we not only get to see composer Hans Zimmer at work, but many of the musicians behind the scenes who contributed to the score.

Le Café - A morbidly funny French animated short from Stephanie Marguerite & Emilie Tarascou about a man who has a little problem with drinking too much coffee. The song is by Oldelaf & Mr D.

Why Do You Let Me Stay Here? - Another little oddball bit of marketing material, a music video from the director and leads of "(500) Days of Summer," for a song written and sung by Zooey Deschanel as part of the "She & Him" indie duo. Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt keep popping up together in various little one-off projects like this, but "Why Do You Let Me Stay Here" is my favorite of their collaborations. I even like it better than "(500) Days of Summer."

Holy Motors Entracte - Accordion act breaks should happen more often in real life.

Take This Waltz Amusement Ride - Sarah Polley's "Take This Waltz" was one of the more overlooked films of 2012, probably because of its difficult subject matter. The film has a lot of flaws, but then it also has moments like this, where Michelle Willaims and Luke Kirby's characters go to an amusement park. This may be the best use of The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" ever.
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Boy, Will Smith is having a rough week. I haven't seen so much vitriol aimed a a mainstream movie since "John Carter" came out. Everyone in the media seemed to be falling over themselves to pronounce Smith latest, "After Earth," a bomb, well before any actual box office numbers came in. Reviews were largely negative, but they weren't "worst movie ever" bad, as I saw some Twitter users claiming over the weekend. Few people were talking about the actual content of the movie, but plenty were talking about the Smith family being Scientologists (which they've denied), M. Night Shyamalan being a hack, and the obvious nepotism of giving Jaden Smith such a large role in the movie. It seems a lot of people have beef with the Smith family, and they've been taking the opportunity to vent their spleen.

From a business standpoint the important part is that "After Earth" will likely spell the end of Will Smith's unprecedented box office streak that made him the king of summer blockbusters for more than a decade. Since 1996, every summer film he's starred in has made over $100 million domestically. However, Smith has been noticeably slowing down lately. Since 2008, he's only done one other film, "Men in Black 3" which brought in a decent, but unimpressive $170 million. His next will be Akiva Goldsmith's "A Winter's Tale," a smaller project where he only has a supporting role. Smith doesn't have any other big blockbuster-type films confirmed at the moment, and the worry is that if he doesn't put in more appearances at the top of the box office charts soon, his star wattage is going to take a serious hit.

Will Smith is one of the last of the real A-listers, the Hollywood leading men who can be counted on to open a picture. He still commands a big paycheck and has a lot of clout on his projects because people will still go to see a movie solely because he's in it. "After Earth" would not have been made without him, and certainly not with such a sizable budget. I think it's easy to see what went wrong here. Columbia, figured that lots of special effects and Smith's presence would be enough to convince moviegoers to show up, and some of them did. However, they didn't count on the negative effects of the movie also starring Jaden Smith, who audiences have never really warmed up to despite his high profile. Then there was director M. Night Shyamalan, whose name wasn't in any of the marketing, making it look like the studio was trying to hide his involvement. Worst of all, Smith wasn't playing a typical wisecracking, charismatic Will Smith character, but a dead serious authoritarian figure.

The audience had a lot of doubts from the reactions I saw to the trailers, doubts that were never adequately addressed. When the bad reviews started coming in, suddenly it was an excuse for everyone who ever had any complaint with the Smiths or Shyamalan or Scientology to start pushing back against the marketing hype. We had multiple articles with conspiracy nuts looking for Scientology messages in "After Earth" (none of them very convincing), dissections of Shyamalan's career woes, and endless speculation about Will Smith's parenting skills. It's doubtful that audiences are going to trust a Will Smith movie to be synonymous with a good time after this. "After Earth" may be the equivalent of Tom Cruise's couch-jumping moment on "Oprah" all those years ago, when the facade cracked and we started seeing the actor as a fallible human being instead of our favorite movie star.

Of course, Tom Cruise movies still do very well, and his career has been fine. "Oblivion" had a similar science-fiction premise to "After Earth," and it did decent business. However, Cruise's name doesn't have the same cachet that it once did, which is why the marketing department had to work a little harder, and they made sure that Morgan Freeman and all the spiffy CGI were featured in the trailers too. I don't think Smith should have any trouble getting back on track. He's only 44, and has a lot of photogenic years left. Another "Bad Boys" sequel ought to fix things right up. Also, the biggest complaint with "After Earth" in the end seemed to be the nepotism, which may be obnoxious, but much more understandable than Cruise's couch-jumping anti-mental health care antics.

Then again, we have to ask whether Smith wants to keep being king of the summer box office. He came up with the story for "After Earth," and we can probably assume that his character, Cypher Rage, is the kind of part that he's more interested in playing these days - darker, cooler, and more mature. It might be time for him to move on to another stage of his career and start looking at more diverse material. Personally, I'd be happy to see him making smaller, riskier movies like "Six Degrees of Separation" again, which I still think is best performance. Or maybe he's happier off the screen these days than on it.

But I don't see any reason to worry about him. All the biggest movie stars have had a few flops in them, and there are probably going to be far worse ones this summer. Stay tuned.
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The Merida makeover kerfuffle has mostly blown over, but I wanted to put in my two cents, not just on this particular controversy, but the existence of the Disney Princess brand in general. During my last trip to the Disneyland theme park, it was hard to escape the princesses. Everywhere you looked, there were little girls dressed up as Merida from "Brave," Rapunzel from "Tangled," Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog," and a smattering of Belles and Ariels and Jasmines. I caught a glimpse of the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique near Sleeping Beauty's Castle, a salon where girls could be transformed into their favorite princess for the day. (Contrary to a recent episode of "The Big Bang Theory," grown ups aren't allowed to wander the park in costume, for fear of confusing the kids).

The cynical part of me thought that all the little girls in their color-coded princess gowns were awfully generic looking. Sure, they were obviously having fun and they looked adorable, but it reinforced for me that the bulk of this whole Disney Princess branding business is tied to selling traditionally gender-coded merchandise for girls like dresses and accessories and dolls. And the shinier and sparklier, the better, which is why Princess Merida was redesigned with a fancier gown, better groomed hair, and it looks like she's wearing eye make-up. If you look at the other princess characters, you'll notice that they've all been redesigned like this to an extent. However, Merida's makeover is especially jarring because it's so contrary to her character. PIXAR did a great job of creating a princess who valued her individuality over tradition, and was more interested in adventuring than being cooped up at home, learning to be a proper lady. In one scene, she rips her way out of the constraining, pretty dress that her mother has stuffed her into, in order to win an archery tournament.

I don't have any issues with the individual Disney Princesses as role models. I think this generation's Merida and Tiana and Rapunzel are great examples of well-rounded, interesting animated heroines. Even the older, more traditional princesses like Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Cinderella have their good points. However, the Disney Princess branding insists on presenting all of them as these slightly differentiated variations on a very generic, ideal princess type, where the emphasis is all on looks and clothes. It's notable that the more action-oriented heroines who are part of the Princess brand, Mulan and Pocahontas, don't appear nearly as often as their more passive contemporary, Princess Jasmine. If you like Merida because she broke a lot of the rules, it's very strange to see her being shoehorned back into the role of the pretty princess character who is being used to sell more dresses and dolls. Fortunately, there's plenty of "Brave" merchandise that features the more recognizable Merida, with her messy hair, bow and arrows, and plainer clothes - even action figures and some toy weapons! However, they don't appear under the Disney Princess label.

Was making Merida a Disney Princess a mistake? Adding Merida to the lineup might have been viewed as a positive decision if you see it as an attempt to shake up the princess image a bit, and try to broaden what being a Disney princess means. However, when Disney started right off by giving Merida a glittery redesign to make her fit in with the other princesses, it was apparent that this wasn't the case at all. No, Merida became the eleventh official Disney princess because she's popular, she appeals to the same audience, and she makes for good crossover synergy with the PIXAR brands. And it's no wonder that the decision ended up becoming a perfect flashpoint for all the criticisms that have been levied against the Disney Princess brand in the last few years - chiefly that it promotes problematic gender roles and perpetuates all the regressive, shallow, antiquated ideas associated with princesshood. Concerned parents can try to keep their girls away from the princess merchandise, but the brand is so pervasive, that it can be difficult.

For the record, Belle was always my favorite Disney heroine, but not because of the pretty yellow dress. I liked her because she was a bookworm and a social oddball. Also, "Beauty and the Beast" coming out when I was still in the target audience for animated kids' film probably had a lot to do with it. The Disney Princess brand wasn't around in my day, and I wonder if that would have made any difference. It wasn't until the year 2000 that Disney started treating their princesses as a collective entity, and created this incredibly lucrative brand that now moves everything from bedding and toys to consumer electronics. So the Disney Princesses are not going away any time soon, but surely there's room to improve the message a bit. They have this wonderful set of characters that they aren't really using to their full potential. I'd love to see Disney make some adjustments to help the princesses be a little less Barbie and little more Dora the Explorer or American Girl.

After all, there's no reason you can't put an emphasis on good role models and good stories, and still hawk plenty of pastel-colored merchandise at the same time.
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The media has a major impact on certain parts of our lives in the way that it sets expectations and standards for our experiences. I ran across a show on TLC the other day that is a perfect example of this: "Say Yes to the Dress," a half-hour reality show about brides picking their wedding dresses. At first it looks harmless enough, akin to paging through a bridal magazine. Brides come in for appointments to try on dresses, model for the cameras, get advice from boutique employees on hand, and eventually comes the big moment: saying "yes" to a dress.

However, the further I got into the show, the more it made my blood boil. The featured fittings on these shows always become events, fraught with emotion and drama. Most of the brides drag large numbers of family and friends into the boutique with them. The unspoken assumption is that they can't settle for any old dress, but they need the perfect dress to make their big day truly special. Sure, lip service is paid to financial considerations, but all the dresses we see still cost thousands and thousands of dollars, and are treated as the most important item on the bride's shopping list. The wedding dress acquires a holy mystique, with the ability to inspire all kinds of familial strife and tensions. The episode I saw had a bride and groom clashing over the style of the gown. She wanted something form-fitting. He wanted a poofy princess dress. Their clashing visions were played up to ridiculous extremes, and spun by the show as an early test of the couple's ability to compromise.

Now, I fully understand that the choice of wedding dress is very important to a lot of brides, and picking one is a valued part of the whole experience of putting a wedding together. And I also appreciate that weddings are big, momentous events that tend to attract lots and lots of drama. However, all the wedding shows I've seen, including "Say Yes to the Dress," treat the weddings like life or death experiences that require months of planning, ridiculous budgets, and a list of things that you absolutely, positively have to do in order to have the best experience possible. Sure, you can go get married at City Hall in a pantsuit, but that would be denying yourself the opportunity for the perfect fairy-tale day that you'll cherish for years and years to come. It's the message we've all been fed since we were kids: a wedding means the white dress, the dapper suits, the bouquet, the rings, the big venue, the reception, the showers, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the dancing, the alcohol, and the multi-tiered cake.

A show like "Say Yes to the Dress" is another insidious piece of marketing, adding another stop on the way to the wedding. Now the wedding dress boutique appointment has become another oh-so-special event that a bride-to-be shouldn't deny herself. It becomes yet another focal point for potential disappointments. It becomes something else to worry about when you already have too many things to worry about. The show hit a nerve with me personally because I got married last year and encountered a huge amount of pressure to conform to the typical wedding narrative. The scary part was, a lot of the pressure was coming from me, from my own internalized ideas of what a wedding should be. It took some significant time and effort to figure out what I actually did and didn't want to do, and I ended up foregoing many things that people running these wedding shows would have been aghast that I had skipped.

And the dress? I don't like traditional white wedding dresses, but I decided to get one in order to look nice for the pictures that would be circulated among all of my relatives for the next few decades. I visited exactly one boutique, without an appointment, before deciding this approach wasn't for me. Instead, I went to a dress outlet store with some girlfriends, tried on the five styles of wedding dress that were available, and picked one. The process took an hour, and the dress cost me $200, including the dry-cleaning. I spent more on hair and makeup. I spent more on the flowers. The dress was not the perfect dress, but it did what I wanted it to, which was to make me look like a typical bride for a few hours that everyone could take pictures with. I'd have rented the dress if I could have, because now all it's doing is taking up closet space.

I'm not saying that nobody should buy an expensive wedding dress, or that you shouldn't enjoy wedding shows. I'm pointing out that nobody is obliged to say yes to the wedding dress experience that TLC is pushing or even any wedding dress at all. And I'm suggesting that it's a good idea to ask yourself why you really want something before spending thousands of dollars to make it happen.
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I grew up in Southern California, so I've been to Disneyland many times, but it's been about a decade since the last trip, and I'd never set foot in the California Adventure park. So when the opportunity came up during my latest vacation, I figured it was about time I took the plunge. And why am I writing about it in my media blog? Well, for one thing it's Disney, and the theme parks are almost impossible to separate from the media empire that they've built up over the years. All the recent properties Disney has acquired were visible the parks this week - lots of "Star Wars" merchandise, "Iron Man" suits in the Tomorrowland Innoventions exhibit, and the Muppets 3D show tucked away in a corner of California Adventure. But besides that, a theme park attraction is something of a pinnacle for a media brand, a sign that you've a big enough draw to justify being associated with an expensive real-world experience. Or as "Community" put it, you want to be the show that gets twelve seasons and a theme park.

Specifically, I want to talk about the presence of "Cars," the PIXAR franchise that kids love, but adults generally rank near the bottom of their lists of favorite PIXAR movies. It's "Cars," not "The Incredibles," and not "Toy Story," that has an entire themed land in the California Adventure park, as big as Toontown in Disneyland. It's a recreation of Radiator Springs, the little town from the 2006 "Cars" movie, comprised of a long street with themed restaurants and shops on either side, finally dead-ending at the Radiator Springs Racers, the most popular ride in the park, with the longest wait times. There are also two smaller rides, Mater's Junkyard Jamboree and Luigi's Flying Tires. The whole place is beautifully designed. The entrance to Luigi's Flying Tires looks like Luigi's tire shop from the movie, complete with the Leaning Tower of Tires out front. The Cozy Cone Motel, with its giant traffic cones, contains a series of snack stands, where you buy items served in commemorative traffic cone-shaped containers. Fillmore's organic fuel stop is now a beverage stand. Ramone's Body Shop sells clothing and merchandise. Flo's V8 Diner, of course, is a working diner.

Despite not caring much for the "Cars" movies, I thought Cars Land was a blast. There was so much work put into the place, from the mountain ranges created using forced perspective, to the talking "Cars" characters rolling down the street with a gaggle of handlers in tow, to the tons of little details incorporated into every single structure and visible item for sale. In line for the Luigi ride, where you ride around in little bumper-hover-crafts shaped like tires, I noticed that the hedges were shaped like tires, the stanchions for the lines were topped by little silver tires, and even the fencing around the greenery looked like tire treads. When I came back in the evening, many of the buildings were lit up with colorful neon signage. I found the Radiator Springs that existed in Cars Land far more engaging than the one that appeared in the movie, where many of the little businesses only registered as cute cartoon automotive gags and were quickly forgotten. Walking around the physical version, I was constantly struck by how cleverly executed the place was, and I couldn't stop looking at everything.

I'm sure that Disney's Imagineers could have made a similarly impressive locale for "Finding Nemo" or "Monsters Inc." There was also a smaller "Bug's Life" area at the park, aimed at smaller children, that had some nice touches. However, I can see how "Cars" had more potential for a variety of reasons. The movie was tied to a major outdoor location, Radiator Springs, that would be easier to recreate. Car racing was a major component of the plot, an activity that was easier to build rides around. "Cars" is also very conceptually and visually distinctive. Lots of other franchises have done insects and fish and toys and monsters before, but it's hard to think of another one involving automobiles. And then of course, I'm sure Disney was swayed by the fact that "Cars" merchandise has always done extremely well. It's almost certainly the reason why "Cars" got its sequel and a new spinoff film, "Planes," that opens later this summer. And it's why "Cars" headliner Lightning McQueen is all over the advertisements and identification banners and signs for California Adventure.

On the flip side, you really had to keep your eyes open to find any sign of "Ratatouille" or "WALL-E" at the parks. I was especially disappointed that "The Incredibles" barely had any presence at all. Now that Disney has all those Marvel superheroes to play with, I guess PIXAR's superhero family is on the outs. That's a shame, since I can think of a lot that Disney could do with the property. Remember Syndrome's secret lair? And Edna Mode's workshop? Guess I need to go buy more "Incredibles" action figures if I ever want to see them at the Disney parks.
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You've probably seen the ads for "Spring Breakers," featuring four teenage girls in colorful bikinis, including former Disney Channel moppets Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens. James Franco is on some of the posters, sporting sunglasses and dreadlocks, looking like he'll be providing the comic relief. The girls are posing and doing their best to look sexy, selling the idea that "Spring Breakers" is going to be another party movie like "Project X" or "21 & Over," where the young protagonists have fun behaving badly and getting into outrageous situations. Some of the marketing hints that the girls indulge in some criminal activity to fund their trip to Florida, giving the movie a little more edge. But surely, "Spring Breakers" would be like all the rest of these weightless, substance-free films that glorify being young and irresponsible, right? It's just more commercial fodder to reel in high school and college audiences, right?

It's easy to imagine Hollywood coming up with the kind of "Spring Breakers" movie that the trailers are selling, except that they didn't. The director and writer of "Spring Breakers" is Harmony Korine, the filmmaker behind such low-budget titles as "Gummo" and "Kids," whose work is a fixture of the American art house circuit. This is why a trailer for "Spring Breakers" premiered at Cannes, and the film had an early limited release in a few cities last week. "Spring Breakers" has also been getting mixed to positive reviews from critics, who are not treating it as disposable fluff, but the latest work from a major auteur. There's been praise in particular for the social criticism and satirical bent of "Spring Breakers" as it examines the hedonism of its young subjects, elements that are likely to go over the heads of many mainstream viewers. At first it might seem strange that Korine would pick this kind of subject matter, but most of his earlier films are also about kids behaving badly, dysfunctional communities, and the effects of warped or absent morality. The film's marketing campaign has been doing a good job of attracting attention from teenagers and young adults, but because of its art house bona fides, "Spring Breakers" has also been stirring interest among us old fogey pretentious cineastes who haven't taken a spring break in decades.

Of course as far as Hollywood is concerned, it's the kids who want to see "Spring Breakers" that matter most, which is why Korine is getting more attention this week than he has in years, on the verge of having a really substantial hit movie on his hands. By all accounts, "Spring Breakers" isn't your typical party film, but something darker and stickier that gets into the potential consequences of the partiers' behavior. Franco's character is actually a gangster named Alien, who gets the girls mixed up in some big trouble. Still, the content is reportedly racy enough that it should satisfy the moviegoers who just want to see the girls in bikinis. Honestly, I don't think the studios really care what the audiences think of the film as long as it gets them into the theaters. They regularly package some truly heinous dreck to sell to eager movie fans, especially around this time of the year. Why not do the same with an art film that would otherwise only attract a fraction of the viewers? It's hard to feel guilty about the misleading marketing in this case, when it's actually working in the favor of an interesting director and a decent film for once. Contrary to the rumors, Harmony Korine has not sold out, if the man who made "Trash Humpers" is even capable of such a thing. And the studios are doing exactly what we expect them to do - sell the movie in whatever way that it can.

It's going to be very interesting to see how the typical young adult crowd reacts to "Spring Breakers" this weekend. Will they feel that they go their money's worth? Are any of the film's satirical points going to penetrate? Are people just going to focus on the former Disney Channel stars in extremely sexualized roles? I've already heard several predictions that "Spring Breakers" is destined to become a cult film. But if it does become a hit, what then? Are we going to see other indie movies with similar pedigrees released in a similar fashion? Well A24, the distribution and finance company behind "Spring Breakers," is also handling Sofia Coppola's next movie, "The Bling Ring," which is also about a group of attractive young reprobates. From the teaser trailer they've released, it looks like they're using the same marketing tactics that they did with "Spring Breakers." There's lots of emphasis on the fun and the sex, and not so much on the actual plot of the film, based on the 2009 Hollywood Hills burglaries.

Boy, I hope they get away with this.
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I've grown to rely on Youtube, as I'm sure many people have. It's the first place I go to look for clips of half-forgotten movies, television shows, and commercials. The other day, after a couple of tries, I found the opening of CCTV's 1987 of "Dream of the Red Chamber" serial, one of the earliest pieces of media I can remember. However, the continued push to monetize Youtube has been making the site harder and harder to use.

A few weeks ago I noticed that many videos, especially older and less popular ones, weren't loading properly. The stream would stop after the first twenty seconds and then take a minute or two to resume. This happened repeatedly for a set of clips that were only a minute or two in length individually, effectively doubling the amount of time it took to watch them. Apparently this is a measure that was taken in order to reduce the load on Youtube's servers, which I understand the reasoning for, but why apply it to these shorter clips where loading the entire video wouldn't have that much impact? And since last year, users have been complaining that a video won't load completely if it's paused, so I had to wait out the buffering each time.

Then you have the ads. Youtube has been experimenting with banner, overlay, and in-video ads for a long time now, similar to the kind that you find on other video services like Hulu. I don't usually find them too much of a bother, but this morning I was looking up some old trailers, and discovered I had to watch a hefty two-minute ad before I could access a one-minute teaser trailer, lengthening that wait time to ridiculous extremes. And of course, the teaser is already an ad itself, for the movie it was made for. I understand that Youtube is a business that needs to make money to pay for the servers, and I'm willing to put up with some advertisements to an extent, but this was too much. And I'm certainly not the only one who feels this way.

There have been various programs and applications floating around for a while now that let you download and save videos from Youtube, but lately we've seen the rise of various browser extensions, tweaks, and add-ons designed to skip or block Youtube ads, to increase download speeds, and add more controls. Don't like the autoplay or the automatic annotations? There are scripts out there that can turn them off for you. Youtube Options and Youtube Center seem to be the most popular all-purpose Youtube tweakers at the moment. I haven't resorted to using any of these, but it's becoming more and more tempting as Youtube keeps adding hoops to jump through for access. And if there are more and more people like me, Youtube may be in trouble.

Youtube has been trying to shed its image as a free video portal for ages. They've been slowly adding more and more pay content, like the ability to rent streaming movies, and they'll be launching premium content soon in the spring. The trouble is that the majority of its users don't associate Youtube with pay content, the way they do with Hulu or Netflix. They associate it with amateur home movies and music video collections and endless user-submitted memes. They think of it as a free media resource that becomes less valuable the more restrictions are placed on content, and the more difficult its videos become to access. Users are far more resistant to the monetization of Youtube than they are with the sites that started out as pay sites, because they're used to being able to use the site in a certain way, and can become hostile and resentful if that option is taken away.

I sympathize with Youtube, because there's clearly a lot of potential for them to grow commercially. Youtube is the third highest ranked site on the internet in terms of traffic, and has become a part of the mainstream culture the way that few other sites have. Many people use it daily, myself included. However, there's a significant risk of Youtube alienating their user base if they push monetization too hard. Last year they ran more video ads than any other digital distribution service, but it's clear that fewer and fewer users have been willing to sit through them. The most popular browser extensions are all ad blockers and script tweakers that give users more control over what they see online.

Personally, I know Youtube isn't going to last in its current form if it doesn't make money, which is the biggest thing that's keeping me from trying to game the system myself. However, I can't help feeling frustrated every time Youtube makes me sit through an inane ad, or the videos won't load properly. Surely there are better alternatives than this?
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The 2013 Superbowl ads featured Kelly Cuoco as a genie, Korean Rapper PSY dancing with pistachios, Stevie Wonder, The Flaming Lips, Clydesdales, cars, football players, beer, trucks, soft drinks, and sexy ladies. And yes, the GoDaddy ad was skeevey and the E*Trade babies were back. So who ended up on top of the pile? All links below lead to Youtube.

Ram Trucks: Farmer – Now if you're going to do one of these patriotic tributes to the American spirit, you've really got to commit. So while Jeep got Oprah to pay tribute to veterans in an utterly predictable cornball spot, Ram gave us two minutes of radio broadcaster Paul Harvey's "So God Made a Farmer" speech, played over a gorgeous montage of still photographs. And made impact.

Allstate: Forbidden Apple – A continuation of the Mayhem series, which goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden to show Mayhem playing the forbidden fruit in one of his first gigs. Then the ad barrels through human history at a breakneck pace, showing Mayhem responsible for everything from letting the Trojan Horse into Troy to starting the Great Chicago Fire. A great appearance by an odd, but terribly appealing pitch man.

Got Milk? The Mustache – Beloved action hero The Rock would love to help rescue kitties and fight crime, but he has to chase down a milk delivery truck first. After all, he just can't start the day right without a glass of the good stuff. The ad is high concept but still very simple and easy to grasp. And it's so well executed with the CGI effects and surreal universe, it reminds me of the innovative "Got Milk?" ads of the old days.

Volkswagen: Get Happy – Sparked a surprisingly serious kerfuffle for potentially being insensitive to Jamaicans. This VW ad presents a white guy at the office who is happy all the time, to the point where he speaks in a strong Jamaican accent. When he takes his uptight co-workers for a spin in his new ride, they follow suit. Fortunately the Jamaican Minister of Foreign Affairs gave his blessing, so this charmer could make it to the air

Iron Man 3 – My favorite of the summer movie previews, composed almost of entirely new footage. No beating around the bush here. The ad gets right down to business, showing Tony Stark in the middle of his latest crisis, trying to save more than a dozen people who have been swept out of a plane. And that's it. Just 30 seconds to stick the hero in a very bad situation, and you'll have to go see the movie to see what happens next.

Jack in the Box: Hot Mess – Plays on 80s nostalgia, having Jack appear as part of a hair metal band in his youth. The gimmick is just okay on its own, but the final punchline is what got me to smile. I'm not sure I'd ever go near one of the sandwiches that is being advertised here (jalapenos and onion rings?!) but the ad still did a good job of emphasizing the brand and the Jack CEO character, who ironically didn't even exist until 1995.

Hyundai: Stuck – Hyundai had several good ads this year, but this was my favorite. A driver in a new Sonata finds himself behind a series of increasingly unpleasant and hazardous vehicles, and passes them one by one. Because if you're going to have an ad for selling cars, it's a good idea to have a concept that's actually about cars and what they do, and not, oh, a planet populated entirely by babies.

Mercedez Benz: Soul – This one is on the list solely for the genius of casting Willem Dafoe as the Devil, who offers to put the ad's young hero behind the wheel of a new Benz if he signs away his soul. Kate Upton and Usher also make appearances in the fantasy lifestyle that comes with the car. I'm not so sure if trying to promote a luxury vehicle as affordable is ever a good idea, but it gets the point across.

Best Buy: Ask Amy – I like Amy Poehler, and her appearance here as the most inquisitive Bust Buy customer ever was charming enough to briefly make me forget everything I know about Best Buy and their notoriously dysfunctional business model. And kudos for the inclusion of the cute Asian sales guy for Poehler to flirt with.

Wheat Thins: Night Vision – Technically not a Superbowl ad because it ran before kickoff, but of all the absurdist ads this year, I think this is my favorite. It's silly, but it's wonderfully well crafted silly, where it's equally plausible that your next door neighbor and a yeti are after your Spicy Buffalo Wheat Thins. And I would totally try that flavor too.
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This post has been a long time in coming. I've written before how it can be tough to be a television fan when you like niche media. Television programmers are merciless and will move lower rated performers all over the schedule with hardly any notice, air episodes of a serialized program out of order, and refuse to run promotions where anyone can see them. With "Community" coming back soon, and a bunch of cancellations recently announced, there's been a good amount of grumbling. "Ben & Kate," "Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23," "Alphas," "Drop Dead Divas," and "Leverage" are recent casualties.

However, two cancellations that have caused the most outcry are Cartoon Network's "Young Justice" and "Green Lantern: The Animated Series," which we only know about because they didn't appear in the press release announcing the network's upcoming schedule. Both shows were part of the heavily hyped "DC Nation" programming block, which by all indications had good ratings, but perhaps weren't attracting the right demographics. The first sign that something was wrong was back in the fall. Both shows came back after a three month summer hiatus, but only aired two episodes before they were unceremoniously yanked from the schedule for another three months. There was lots of speculation as to what might be going on behind the scenes, but even people who worked on the shows didn't have any information. When it became apparent that the whole block was cancelled, fans gnashed their teeth, but the older ones weren't surprised. Cartoon Network is notorious for stunts like this.

The kids' channels get away with a lot more fiddling with their schedules because their young audiences are less likely to call them out on it. However, Cartoon Network's programs, particularly the action cartoons and the repurposed anime, always had a decent sized cult following among adults. This includes me. And over the years, the network has done some absolutely rotten things to their fans. Cancelling shows that ended on cliffhangers and sticking low performers in bad timeslots is just the tip of the iceberg. Cartoon Network has the frustrating habit of sitting on unaired episodes of a cancelled series for months. "Generator Rex," for instance, was an action show that lasted three seasons, and was pulled from the schedule in February of last year. Cartoon Network didn't air the last half of the season until the following December and January, and for most of the break it wasn't clear if the remaining episodes were going to air at all. This wouldn't have been so bad if "Generator Rex" was a comedy show like "Spongebob" or "Adventure Time" with interchangeable episodes, but "Rex" was a serialized adventure story with long plot arcs building up to a big series finale. Two episodes still got cut and remain MIA, probably destined for DVD premieres.

DC fans will remember similar shenanigans with the scheduling of "Justice League Unlimited," where the final episodes kept being pushed farther and farther back and eventually most frustrated fans were pirating broadcasts from the UK, where they premiered three months earlier than in the US. The same thing happened to the initial runs of "Sailor Moon," where delaying key episodes prompted many viewers to jump ship for local syndicated broadcasts. Note that these delays were not due to production issues - animation is a perilous and time-consuming process, so some delays are always expected - but fans knew the new episodes were ready because they were finding them elsewhere. Mostly Cartoon Network delays are just them finagling with the scheduling to boost ratings or stretching out the useful life of their content. Sure, all networks do this to some extent, but you can at least expect a regular network program to air twenty-some episodes a year, and they only vanish or get delayed if there's something goes seriously wrong. Moreover, these shifts are extremely well documented by the press. Nobody much cares about the cartoons except the poor schlubs who never gave up watching them, so the programming decisions are less rule-bound and much more opaque.

Then there's Cartoon Network's refusal to cancel anything. When asked why "Young Justice" and "Green Lantern" weren't on the new schedule, a Cartoon Network rep would only say that, '“Shows will run their courses, others will premiere – but we are not canceling anything, and those two series are still on our air.” Staffers who worked on the DC shows later confirmed that production had ended. The thing is that Cartoon Network never officially cancels anything. They just opt not to order more episodes. Thus, they evade ever handing down bad news, occasionally leaving shows in extended limbo and confusing their viewers. After years of dealing with the song-and-dance act, it's clear that a show is dead when they stop promoting it and when the key creative talent moves on to new projects. It's only recently that some creators have started making unofficial statements on Twitter or personal blogs, putting a halt to the speculation. Before this some unfortunate fans would hold out hope for a resurrection of their favorite show for years.

It's actually pretty rare that a cartoon show cancellation raises the amount of fuss I've been seeing around the internet for "Young Justice" and "Green Lantern," but they were pretty popular. This begs the question why would Cartoon Network cancel them at this point, after only two seasons apiece. I think the crux of the network's problems has always been that it's good at attracting older viewers, but is fundamentally a kids' network. Ratings for anyone over the age of eleven just don't count as highly, because it's not who their advertisers are interested in. I'm guessing that DC Nation just wasn't pulling the numbers with the 2-11 year olds that it needed to. I'm not kidding when I say that Cartoon Network hates me, and other fans like me, because if there are more of us watching a show than the kids they were trying to target, it means they screwed up.

Look at the new schedule, and it reflects Cartoon Network's embrace of it's biggest performers with the younger demographics - "Adventure Time" and "Regular Show." The new "Teen Titans"? Aimed much younger than either of the current DC shows. There's also a new "Batman" incarnation, because while the Caped Crusader has plenty of older fans, he's always done well with the kids too. It's always the shows that skew older that seem to cause the most trouble, but to Cartoon Network's credit, at least they're still making them occasionally. And it was their interest in the adult demographic that led to Adult Swim and the rise of more toons aimed at grown ups.

So in spite of everything, I'm glad they're still around, even if they do drive me crazy. Happy 20th Cartoon Network. And if you delay the next Fionna and Cake episode of "Adventure Time" again, there will be hell to pay.
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There's some debate over which seasons is the best season for movies, but there's no question what the worst one is: January. The kids are back in school, money's always tighter after Christmas, and the weather refuses to cooperate. Oh sure, there's the spillover of all the prestige pictures from the end of December, and a lot of titles like "Zero Dark Thirty" don't get their full rollouts until they can take full advantage of the awards buzz. After the Academy Award nominations are announced, the big contenders can look forward to a bump in admissions. However, a contributing factor is that everything else being released into theaters is pretty dire. Once you clear away the prestige stuff, what you've mostly got are dregs and leftovers from last year. If a studio movie has a January release date, it's an admission that they don't have any faith in the movie's financial or critical prospects.

So this year we have "Gangster Squad," the unfortunate Warner Brothers film that bore the brunt of the knee-jerk backlash against cinematic violence after last year's Aurora theater shooting. In a controversy-heavy awards season, the film has successfully made some money while avoiding unwanted scrutiny. And then there's "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," the gory fantasy action movie that has been delayed and delayed by Paramount Pictures, and will finally open this weekend. And oh, here's Relativity's bizarre "Movie 43," which boasts a huge ensemble cast with many famous names, who have somehow been roped into what appears to be an exceptionally vulgar sketch comedy compilation. And we have the horror movie spoof "A Haunted House," that is more or less another installment of "Scary Movie," except that the Wayans brothers seem to be operating with even less supervision than usual. Is it any wonder that many critics have been quietly farming out reviews for these movies to lesser minions, or ignoring them completely in favor of Sundance coverage, Oscar coverage, and 2012 retrospectives?

Occasionally a hit will still land in January, and not everything should be written off automatically. Horror movies have done pretty good business during the month, like last year's "The Devil Inside," a found footage film that ended up grossing over $100 million in spite of wretched reviews. So this year, we have "Texas Chainsaw 3D" and "Mama" on the slate, which both pulled in good returns. More unusual movies can also grab some attention, like the bleak Liam Neeson vehicle "The Grey" last year. No doubt the studio executives took one look at that film's existential themes and contemplative, slow burn pacing, and predicted that mainstream audiences would hate it. However, the more discerning action connoisseurs liked it, the reviews were good, and it ended up grossing a respectable $50 million and quite a bit more on home media. Other smaller scale action films and thrillers like "Contraband," "Haywire," and the last "Underworld" installment have done okay here too.

This year, late winter seems to have become a new home to our aging population of hardcore action stars. Arnold Schwarzenegger just launched a comeback bid with "The Last Stand," Jason Statham's "Parker" comes at the end of the month, and Sylvester Stallone will return in "Bullet to the Head," just one day shy of January, on February 1st. It's a clear indication of their current position in the Hollywood pecking order. Together, these guys can swing an August release date with an "Expendables" movie, but separately they have to cool their heels with the likes of Leatherface. However, a release at this time of year means they enjoy less competition and might get to hang around in theaters a little longer than they might later on in the season. Weaker and less accessible films can sometimes get a boost this way. Nobody has very high expectations for these titles, so the pressure is largely off.

I've learned to appreciate January for giving us some breathing room in the schedule. After the holiday rush, and the awards conjecture, and the year-end recapping, and all the top ten lists, I'm worn out. I've still got a few current titles to seek out before the Oscars next month, but I've been taking advantage of the slim pickings to watch older films and catch up on some TV. The industry needs the break from the new release grind too. Studios are drawing up battle plans for the rest of the year, getting things sorted and scheduled. Marketing will soon be rolled out for the big spring and summer films, and some of the match-ups look like they're going to get pretty bloody. Everyone needs these few slower weeks to regroup and prepare.

So enjoy your January, movie fans. And be happy that the new release slates won't look this bad again until the last week of August.
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It's rough being a fan of foreign films. It's a very niche product, which often means that you have to pay a premium for access, having to wait longer for access, and having to worry about things like crummy translations and eye-rolling marketing tactics. Especially with the older films, sometimes it can be tough just identifying a movie as the one you're looking for. In fact, one of the most basic issues that I've run across lately, trying to watch and catalogue foreign films, is what to do about titles.

For instance, I just watched Edward Yang's "A Brighter Summer Day," a Chinese language film about life in post-War Taiwan. "A Brighter Summer Day" is the official English title. The original Chinese title is "Gǔ lǐng jiē shàonián shārén shìjiàn," which translates directly as "The Murder Incident of the Boy on Guling Street." In this case, the choice is pretty simple. All the major film databases including IMDB and Wikipedia use "A Brighter Summer Day" as the title. When the film has its long-awaited Criterion edition release, I can expect to search for it on Amazon under the title "A Brighter Summer Day."

However, what to do about other movies where it's not clear which title is the correct one? Some foreign films don't have English translated titles, at least not ones that stuck. Federico Fellini's classic "La Strada" literally means "The Road," but everyone just calls it "La Strada." To call it "The Road" would invite confusion with at least half a dozen other films. The same is true for Fellini's "I Vitelloni," Edward Yang's "Yi Yi," and Michaelangelo Antonioni's "L'Avventura," and Satyajit Ray's "Pather Panchali." More recently, Michael Haneke's "Amour" was listed in a few places with the helpful alternate title "Love," when it was playing festivals earlier last year, but "Amour" is the title that stuck.

Then you have the titles that have been translated multiple ways. The Glauber Rocha film "Terra em Transe" proved difficult to track down until I realized that the translation of the title that I had, "Land in Anguish," isn't the commonly accepted one. I should have been looking for "Entranced Earth." Then there was Rocha's "O Dragão da Maldade contra o Santo Guerreiro," which translates to "The Dragon of Evil Against the Warrior Saint," but in the United States, it was released under the name of its main character, "Antonio Das Mortes." Children's films are especially prone to creative retitling. The French animated film, "Le Roi et l'oiseau," literally "The King and the Bird," has been known by at least five other English titles alone.

Sometimes this problem also crops up for non-foreign films, which might be released under different titles in different markets. The most famous is probably the British Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger fantasy film "A Matter of Life and Death," which was released in the Unites States as "Stairway to Heaven," because the distributor didn't want the word "Death" in the title. The 1941 version of "The Devil and Daniel Webster" was originally released as "All That Money Can Buy," and has also been known as "Mr. Scratch," "Daniel and the Devil," and "Here Is a Man." There's a lengthy Wikipedia page devoted solely to cataloging media that have different titles in the US and UK.

Attempts at correcting mistranslations don't tend to go very well. Some film historians put of a fuss a few years back that "Ladri di biciclette" should not have been translated as "The Bicycle Thief," but as "Bicycle Thieves." There's continuing debate over which is the more appropriate title of the film, though both have become accepted. Then there's "The 400 Blows," which is a correct literal translation of "Les quatre cents coups," but misses the meaning of the French idiom, which is "to raise hell." Once a title has stuck, it tends to stay stuck, and it's only in the rare case of a really odd or inappropriate title – like "The Thief and the Cobbler" becoming "Arabian Knight" – that they might revert over time.

The long and the short of it is, there's no rhyme or reason to the name game. Trying to catalog films consistently based only on one approach or another is an exercise in futility. You simply have to accept that one film from a foreign director will have a translated title, and the next one may not, depending on the whims of the distributors, the marketers, and occasionally even the audiences. Fortunately we are living in the age of the internet, and alternate titles are simple to find. Also, films with multiple titles are usually listed with AKAs to make things easier on confused viewers.

In spite of all the remaining hassles, it's much easier to be a foreign film fan now than it has ever been, and I've happily been happy to take advantage of that.


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