Monday, June 16, 2014

The Spoiler Experiment pt. 3: observations

Part 1: Draft Day
Part 2: Million Dollar Arm
the post that inspired this experiment

So after watching both Draft Day and Million Dollar Arm under the unusual (for me) conditions I set out - watching the former without spoilers and the latter with them - I feel like the results weren't that surprising. I thought both films were enjoyable enough. They both achieved what they set out to do. They were entertaining without being terribly challenging, and to my mind, at least, neither one was quite as mediocre as their respective Rotten Tomatoes scores made them out to be. 

Both finished about even on that score - a 62 for Draft Day and a 61 for MDA (54 and 56, respectively, on Metacritic) - and those sound just about appropriate. Although normally, I try not to take too much stock in reviews, for the purposes of this experiment, reviews did play an important factor.

Draft Day surprised me in a pleasant way, because had I depended on reviews alone, I probably would've skipped it - especially since there were several indie movies during this time that I ended up passing on that I probably would've seen instead of this. (Limited funds, can't see everything, blah blah blah.) As for MDA, knowing everything in advance made little difference in the end due to the formulaic nature of the story, which I could've predicted from the trailer alone. Still, it had charm to spare despite its Unfortunate Implications.

During the period of this experiment, I also looked for film news stories and editorials related to the concept of spoilers. Perhaps the biggest was the leaking of Quentin Tarantino's Hateful Eight script and his subsequent lawsuit against Gawker, the site that allegedly leaked it. It seems to have ended up relatively well for the writer-director; after shelving plans to film it, he's changed his mind

When I addressed the leak back in February, I questioned which was more important: the perceived responsibility to Fandom Assembled to reveal privileged information shared in confidence, or the actual responsibility to the creator to keep it under one's hat? This sort of thing only happens with certain directors with rabid fan bases; for all the success and fame of, say, a Ron Howard or a Woody Allen, one struggles mightily to imagine a similar scenario happening to either of them, and that's significant. 

QT fans are different. I think it's fair to say that they feel a connection to him that's unlike, say, the one Allen's fans feel with him, even though both are successful, multi-talented writer-directors who have won Oscars and have specific, unique visions that they've been pursuing through their art for decades - and perhaps this difference is what leads QT fans to do things like leak an unfilmed script of his. Maybe it's because QT, unlike Woody, comes across as "one of us," a perception QT has fostered over the years, and maybe that rapport has its drawbacks.

Another thing I've learned is that studios know now that if a fanbase is determined enough, they'll find a way to acquire, and then share, advance information. Character designs of the forthcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot were leaked months ago, for instance, and Paramount responded by trying to stop the flow of images on Twitter. Again, it's important to emphasize that it's certain specific fanbases that inspire this sort of thing. No one tried to get the lowdown on the costume designs for Lincoln before they were publicly known. But we know this. We've always known this.

Then there's the role critics play regarding spoilers. The matter of whether or not to reveal spoilers in a given review is a subject no two critics agree on. Serialized television, in combination with social media, seems to have created a new level of spoiler culture, one the studios are now trying to control through the critics, but that only goes so far, it seems. Live-tweeting a TV show as it's in progress means spoiler-y information is harder to avoid than ever; indeed, some programs now rely on live-tweeting to build and maintain their fanbase. Does that undermine the role of the critic?

In my post on MDA, I noted that whatever enthusiasm I had in searching for MDA spoilers didn't compare at all to that which I had for movies I care about. Even I have been, and still am to a degree, susceptible to the demand for advance knowledge, and I guess that's what it comes down to in the end: passion. Some films, some filmmakers, inspire more of it in fans than others, and in this online, media-savvy age, the younger generation has the will and the capability to take an active part in how they experience their favorite movies and TV shows. The former was always there, but the latter has been made easier and easier - or do you not think that Star Wars fans wouldn't have swarmed the Internet for news about Empire if the Internet had existed in its present form in 1980?

As for the studios, well, it looks like they're gonna have to find a way to adapt. The increase in superhero, sci-fi, fantasy and young adult movies will mean a greater, more intense demand for advance knowledge, and if they don't want Fandom Assembled to get too far ahead of the curve, then I'd say it's incumbent on them to meet the demand somehow, in a way that's mutually beneficial.

And as for me, I'm gonna stick with avoiding spoilers as much as I can because I find it more satisfying. In addition to Draft Day, I recently saw a Polish movie called Ida, without knowing anything about it but what I saw from the trailer, and I liked it a lot. Purely a spur-of-the-moment decision, but it paid off in a big way. I wouldn't wanna do that all the time, but I do think every movie fan should try it once in awhile. You might get a great movie; you might get a turkey, but I believe it's necessary to shake up your expectations once in awhile and take a chance on something.

Thoughts? (I realize much of this won't come across as news.)


  1. I've always considered myself passionate about the shows I like, but feel like a piker when I check out internet comments. When it comes to TV program spoilers, I even avoid "scenes from next week's show". Perhaps it is a generational thing.

    When it comes to movie trailers, I'm a quick judge. It's an immediate "yea" or "nay". Later, I have sometimes seen that my snap judgment was rash, but I'm a stubborn woman and it takes years to get me to change my mind. It's been done, but it takes years!

  2. You sound a lot like me in this regard.


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