Short Clips

February 24, 2008
A thought by James Berardinelli

Not much in the mailbag this week about advertising or the site redesign. There is one question I want to address, then I'll move on to other things. When I recently mentioned that I intended to "cap" ads, what did I mean? Simply, that the number of ads per page will remain at the level where they are now, and that no new ad "spaces" will be created. It does not mean, as a few people have assumed, that I will not entertain new advertisers, just that any new ads will occupy currently existing spaces. In working on the new design, I have kept this cap firmly in mind; there will not be an increase in ads when I move to "ReelViews 2.0." If revenue from the existing ads jumps significantly, that would allow me to pare back on space devoted to advertising, which would be a desirable development. But I believe the site has reached the maximum number of ads it can support without the commercial space beginning to overwhelm the content. (Some feel this tipping point has already been passed.) As always, the success of the advertising approach is determined largely by how readers respond to the ads.

One e-mailer pleaded for fewer reviews of movies like The Hottie & the Nottie and more reviews of obscure fare. His assertion was that no one would read The Hottie & the Nottie review anyway. That's incorrect. Based on stat tracking, it's possible that more people read the review than saw the movie. I have readers who enjoy perusing reviews of movies they have heard about but don't intend to see. When it comes to choosing which films to review, I have to balance personal preference against commercial appeal. Reviews for The Band's Visit and Romulus, My Father (both of which will be posted this week) won't generate much in terms of reader interest or advertising revenue. (About 5000 people will read each.) So be it. But the site can't be all about smaller movies or my audience would plummet. So it admittedly skews toward multiplex movies. That's what the majority of the readership is interested in. So, while I did not experience Hannah Montana (mainly because it is unseemly for a 40-year old man to sit in a theater full of pre-teen girls, even if he's not wearing a raincoat), I will take one for my readers and see Horton Hears a Who. Also, don't make the assumption that because I don't review something, I haven't seen it. In a typical year, I watch about 100 movies that I don't write about.

A number of readers have asked if my stance regarding the Academy Awards - a mixture of boredom and indifference - is how I actually feel or whether it's a position I have taken to make me seem more contrary. Unfortunately, it's reflective of my genuine view. I didn't always dislike the Oscars. In fact, back in the early years of this site I used to do "live" updates throughout the telecast. I think the incident that severed any affection I had for the Academy Awards was the victory of Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan. That taught me a lesson about the value (or lack thereof) associated with winning an award. After that, I stopped caring who won or lost, and when you don't care about the winners, what's left to be interested in? So I started focusing on other things, and became aware of how dull, dragged-out, and self-indulgent the program is. It's a curious situation for a film critic to be in because I am expected to write about the Oscars and I have a speaking engagement this week to provide an autopsy. So I wait in hope that some year someone will attempt "Oscar telecast reform," although ratings will probably have to dip significantly before such a thing is contemplated.

Finally, I was asked if I had seen the Lindsay Lohan faux Marilyn Monroe nude photographs. Yes, and I think it's some of the best work she has done in a while. I have read opinions that this might hurt her career, but I'm trying to imagine how a series of tastefully done, artistic semi-nude photographs can possibly do more damage to her than her drug and alcohol induced period of self-destruction. The paparazzi have already taken far more explicit pictures of her, so anyone who wants to see certain portions of her anatomy doesn't have to search far or wide. This is an opportunity for her to get naked on her terms and assert some control. The paparazzi don't care if their subjects look good, but professional photo spreads make an effort to present the most flattering images possible. Why is it that ex-starlets and pop singers pose for Playboy when trying to make a comeback? There are two reasons: Playboy shoots still generate buzz even though the magazine is fast becoming irrelevant in the Internet age, and the photos are digitally altered to make the actress/singer/whatever look better than she ever could in real life. This might not work for a modest individual or someone with a virginal reputation but for someone with fewer inhibitions, the "tasteful nude" approach can be an excellent way to re-align a career. For Lohan, it allows all those ugly, unintentionally scandalous images to be replaced by professionally-shot photos. It shifts public perception, if only slightly. And it allows her assert her sexuality in a positive way.