Random Mid-July Musings

July 14, 2005
A thought by James Berardinelli

As a critic, sometimes I think it's good idea to take off the month of August. The dog days, indeed. What can one say when the biggest cinematic event of the month is the release of The Dukes of Hazzard? Hollywood's cannibalization of their small-screen past has become sickening. I am now awaiting movie versions of soap operas.

The Price of Magic will be posted beginning on August 1 and concluding on August 31. It's 34 chapters, so that means doubling up on three days (likely August 1, 2, and 31). Thanks to those who sent e-mails about The Price of the Crown. If I didn't reply, don't take it personally. I read every one of them, and took all of the contstrutive criticism in the vein it was intended. More on The Price of Magic in an introduction I will post here on either July 31 or August 1. Overall, I think the story is weaker, but the conclusion is stronger.

Another reason to hate the PG-13 rating... Published reports say that Scarlett Johansson wanted to be topless during her sex scene in The Island. (She didn't like the bra she had been given.) Director Michael Bay nixed the idea because he didn't want to run afoul of the MPAA. What he should have done is obvious: film the scene with Johansson topless, then carefully edit out any nude "peeks" in the cutting room, preserving the PG-13 rating. The unedited version could have been released on an unrated DVD extended edition. More money all around. Surprisingly, greed didn't win out on this one.

Speaking of salacious topics, I received an e-mail from someone with a mild complaint that the sex scenes in The Price of the Crown were too explicit. This surprised me, since they were intended to be tame. I am capable of writing a graphic sex scene, and it isn't anything like what appears in that book. Perhaps he was expecting the coyness of David Eddings, whose approach to romance is cute the first time or two, then grows tiresome (like much of Eddings).

I can't figure out the popularity of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. I disliked the film as a child and am no more fond of it now that I'm an adult. I think the appeal must have something with the idea of all that candy. But the movie itself isn't good (except as a trigger for nostalgia), especially when compared with the new, more faithful version. Give me cheesy stuff like King Kong and Xanadu any day.

The drop-off in ReelThoughts posts is a direct result of added outdoor work (mowing the lawn, whacking weeds, trimming shrubs, and vacuuming the pool bottom) and spending more hours working on my day job. This kind of thing is cyclical, so there will be peaks and valleys in ReelThoughts frequency, but it will not go back into hibernation again.

I'm wondering if there's going to be a record attendance at this year's Toronto Film Festival. I typically make my plane and hotel reservations in early July. This year, the hotel I have stayed in for the last seven years was booked. So I ended up reserving a room at a place that's a lot closer to the theaters, but also about $50 more per night. I can afford it, but I was surprised to discover that it's already becoming difficult to find a room. (The first three hotels I tried were booked solid for the entire week.)

Speaking of hotels, I marvel at how a simple change can make life easier. When I first started covering film festivals (1997), it was a pain in the neck to get anything posted. It required that I temporarily subscribe to a dial-up service with a local number in Ontario (usually Compuserve), then set everything up before leaving. Half the time, I had a problem upon arrival, and the transfer rate usually sucked. These days, most hotels have broadband available, which makes things quicker and more convenient. Any time I plan to bring my laptop, I make sure beforehand that I'm staying someplace that can offer this high-speed service. (The only recent hotel I stayed in that didn't offer broadband was in Bermuda, but I didn't bring a computer with me on my honeymoon.)

Tomorrow, I'll have something to write about the sudden increase in the popularity of theatrical documentaries.