Thursday, October 11, 2007

Running the gamut of emotions from A to B

Apparently David Sozzlehoff is to star in 'Anaconda 3'. Like me, you probably idly wondered, 'Oh, I didn't even know they'd been optimistic enough to make Anaconda 2' but there you go: The Hoff was big enough news to feature in the Age and on channel nine's Today Show.

When Richard Wilkins sarcastically commented, "Well that's got 'Oscar' written all over it," it got me thinking about how stressed out copy writers try to wring out glowing reviews from absolutely negative ones.

I can see the poster for 'Anaconda 3: Return from Rehab' on the window of the video store now, emblazoned on the top with "This has OSCAR written all over it!" - Richard Wilkins, Today Show. With all evidence of scorn removed it may actually encourage a few mental midgets to plonk a couple of two dollar coins on the counter to see for themselves how Sozzlehoff may have merited such an accolade.

When a movie is rip-snortingly, trouser-fillingly, over-priced popcorn-inhalingly good, then the copy writer can sit back, slurp their mocha latte and rub their hands with glee. Actually, that's still quite a feat because it would be hard to sit back from the desk whilst trying to slurp your coffee hands-free (unless you have lips like Mick Jagger) because they're already occupied with rubbing themselves in glee.... but I digress.

Katharine Hepburn once received the review, "...runs the gamut of emotions from A to B," and Fred Astaire copped the now infamous note from a casting director, "Can't act. Can't sing. Can dance a little," but the movies they eventually starred in went on to become (mostly) huge hits. Not so for Pia Zadora (there's an obscure one for youse) who starred as Anne Frank in a play funded by her billionaire husband. "She's in the attic, for f***k's sake", yelled out an exasperated audience member several minutes into the debacle.

What of clunkers such as 'Howard the Duck', 'Ishtar', 'Bonfire of the Vanities', 'Gigli' and 'Glitter'? How on earth would you be able to find a positive review to slap on the poster? In actual fact if you have a go, you'll find that it's surprisingly simple, which, if given a bit of thought, is pretty well why the movie ended up being so ordinary in the first place.

For instance. Fred Nurke justifiably writes: "This movie could have been brilliant if star power was ignored in favour of genuine talent."
Desperate movie publicist writes: "......Brilliant......Star Power....Genuine Talent...."

Here's another one. Flo Blow opines: "I never thought, in my entire writing career, that such an execrable movie would end up provoking a bout of nausea, compelling me to exit the cinema after only viewing the opening credits."
Easy. Try: ".....Thought provoking.....Compelling Viewing......"

Exhibit number three: "The cast's feeble efforts to work with a complete absence of realistic storyline or intelligent comedy is made only even more by their total disregard for anything remotely resembling the staggering special effects' budget. I laughed til I cried at the sight of Sharon Stone passing herself off as the pre-drug/post-Mickey Mouse Club Britney Spears."
Ta Da: ".....Realistic storyline.....Intelligent Comedy......Staggering Special Effects....I laughed til I cried....."

I remember once seeing "....solid performances...." as the only headline featured at the top of a billboard and knew that it must have stunk worse than Pamela Anderson's dance pole after date night.

According to my Dad, writing such 'reviews' was also pretty difficult in his career as a high school teacher. He reckons that there were many times when he was reduced to writing something like:

  • "Derek's presence in the classroom provides a refreshing contribution to the lessons......" - as in he would interrupt the chemistry experiment by farting, setting fire to the papers under his desk and getting the maths nerd into a painful headlock before being subdued with a well-aimed blackboard duster;

  • "she always makes an effort..." - spray her entire body with 'Impulse' in a poor attempt to hide the tobacco smells and to wear her dress at vagina-level in order to attract the fellas with visible Adams' apples;

  • "Academically speaking, young Nathan is showing a real talent for conflagration, wood work and geometry...." - meaning that he is a mindless vandal with a compass and cigarette lighter always in hand and the intelligence of an anvil;

  • "Narelle is always prepared to help others...." - .....disguise their love bites by applying toothpaste, wearing skivvies under their summer dresses and applying cheap make up;

  • "Warren has coped admirably in settling into the set curriculum...." - because he wins the prize for being the only student in my remedial class who needs a reminder to breathe...

    Finally, here we have a contender for the Best Special Effects in a South Australian Country Town, aka The Murray Bridge Bunyip.

We may be tempted to think (or write, in my case) that: "This creature is about as realistic and horrifying as an excess of playdoh in a sheltered workshop. A real class act that is perhaps only eclipsed by Berri's 'Big Orange' which is ironically now pink in colour due to sun damage. An embarrassment that even a liquored-up mandrill must see as befitting a retarded council worker with a booger fetish."

But the town's tourism board could say: "......Realistic and horrifying......A real class act.....a must see........"


Kellyn said...

Now I'm just wondering what a bunyip is.

ashleigh said...


Don't dis the Bunyip.

If ever in Murray Bridge (ever since I was about 8... about a century ago) we go an stick our $1 in the coin hole to make Mr Bunyip appear.

He's had a couple of face-lifts over the years, and when my children were small he scared the hell out of them!

As for your selective quoting, it reminds me of a former colleague. I was asked by his prospective new employer to provide this chap with a reference. He'd been hopeless. It's hard to write a reference saying "do not employ this person, they are a hopeless dipstick". I was able to carefully craft a referee report that was damning with faint praise. THAT TOOK SOME DOING! I wish I still had it! I remember it took me hours to write a couple of paragraphs.

ashleigh said...

And for KellyN:

(From wikipedia):

The bunyip (usually translated as "devil" or "spirit"[1]) is a mythical creature from Australian folklore. Various accounts and explanations of bunyips have been given across Australia since the early days of the colonies. It has also been identified as an animal recorded in Aboriginal mythology, similar to known extinct animals.

Descriptions of bunyips vary wildly. It is usually given as a sort of lake monster. Common features in Aboriginal drawings include a horse-like tail, flippers, and walrus-like tusks or horns. According to legend they are said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds and waterholes. At night their blood-curdling cries can be heard as they devour any animal that ventures near their abodes.

davey said...

I've also pondered this after seeing a movie poster brandishing a single and unfaltering review of "hilarious". If the promotions company was to be at all honest, they would surround the word in ominous looking dottage (..) to suggest the removal of more unsavory descriptions, but as you point out, this is rarely the case.

I guess that's why reviews like these are written:

Completely unquotable. :)