38 (un) special

I made the mistake
of arriving 15 minutes early to Saturday's screening of Lincoln. Aside from
some surprising historical inaccuracies in the film (i.e. Radical
Reconstructionist Thaddeus Stevens depicted as a hero?; Lincoln portrayed as
physically enfeebled?; etc.), my issues weren't with the movie but, rather, with
the interminable, 38-minute-long advertising assault on my senses PRIOR to the
flick's showing.

It began with non-stop ads for such upcoming TV swill as
'Cougartown'. That was followed by scores and score of 15- to 30-second TV
spots for everything from video game headphones to breakfast cereal.

My wife was appalled, and grew increasingly agitated with
each successive sales pitch. 'I can't believe this!' she said. I could. I told her
the movie theatre is one of advertising's few, remaining refuges.

Unlike television, which affords us the gleeful (Glee was
yet another bogus TV show that was hyped in the pre-movie assault, btw), option
to TIVO or DVR our way past mindless commercials, movie aficionados are a
captive audience.   

And, after we were done being pummeled by a full
20-minutes of TV spots, the packed theatre was next assaulted with trailers
from no fewer than 12 or 13 upcoming films. These ranged from a series of uber
violent Westerns that would make Sam Peckinpaugh blush to three successive
upcoming Disney rehashings of time worn material (i.e. The Wizard of Oz, etc.).

I checked my watch. A full 38-minutes had passed since
we'd first settled into our comfy seats. That's nearly three-quarters of an
hour that advertisers had stolen from my life. That may not seem like much to
you, but it's precious to me.

Movie theaters are one of the few remaining refuges for
advertising. Billboards, airports and the space above urinals are three others.
And, the only reason these remain effective is because we, consumers, are a
captive audience. We have no fast forward button in which to either speed past
or, better yet, erase completely, the dreck in these venues.

Advertising will die. It's just a matter of when. What
amazes me is the hundreds of millions of dollars marketers still pour into a
medium that no one, and I mean, no one enjoys.

I'll save some of the other, glaring historical  inaccuracies in Lincoln for a future blog,
but here are a just a few to whet your appetite:

– The actor portraying Grant looked about 20 years older
than the actual figure did in 1865.

– Despite Grant's diminutive  5'7" frame in real life, he stood
eye-to-eye with the movie's Lincoln (a 6' 3" giant for his time).

– Secretary of War Edwin Stanton was relegated to a few,
brief, supporting roles that did the entire movie a disservice.

– While Lincoln's assassination is depicted, the movie
glosses over the horrific attack made that very same night on Secretary of
State Seward (who, for some reason, is given a major role up until that seismic

– Finally, the average, U.S. history-challenged viewer is
given the impression that Lincoln's plans for reconstructing the South were
willingly implemented by a mourning, fawning administration. Try telling that
to the Jim Crow South, the KKK, and legions of blacks who had to endure another
100 of oppression, etc.

Some scriptwriter clearly didn't read, 'Team of Rivals' (upon which the movie is based). I think a suitable punishment would be to
force him (or her) to sit through the 38-minute barrage of ads, commercials and
trailers that precede Lincoln's showing. In that case, the punishment would fit
the crime. 

6 thoughts on “38 (un) special

  1. The New Yorker features an interesting review (http://nyr.kr/WKAV7I)of a biography of Seward by Walter Stahr, titled “Seward: Lincoln’s Indispensable Man.” The book describes a very close and unlikely relationship between Lincoln and his secretary of state. Lincoln was reserved and without vice while Seward was the drinking, smoking life of the party. After a rocky start, they got on quite famously on both personal and professionals levels, though. Significantly, they shared a distaste for slavery, and they collaborated to engineer the passage of the 13th Amendment. I suspect that is why Seward played an outsized role in the movie.

  2. Nice, Julie. Very nice. I knew I recognized the Grant character, but didn’t place him as the ill-fated CFO of Sterling Cooper, et al. I do intend to see Hitch shortly. And, you’re right about Spader. Along with Tommy Lee Jones and his Christ-like interpretation of Thaddeus Stevens, the duo nearly stole the flick from right underneath Day-Lewis and Field.

  3. Spielberg missed the mark with “Lincoln.” Wonderful performances by Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field (with some nice scene-stealing by James Spader), but, overall, the film was way too long and too talky without enough action.
    The British actor portraying Ulysses S. Grant is Jared Harris (who recently played ad man Lane Pryce in “Mad Men” — the embezzler who hanged himself in the agency’s office).
    I suggest those who are interested in seeing “Lincoln” should opt for “Hitchcock” instead.
    I also sat through more than a half-hour of commercials in the AMC theater before the feature presentation was finally shown.

  4. Excellent point, Gaetano. We saw Lincoln at one of the few, remaining multiplex cinemas in our ‘hood. Not sure who owns it, but the commercialization of the movie-going experience is just abysmal.

  5. Looks like the major movie houses cut some huge deals in the spring…the local non affliated movie houses do not bombard you with all the ads. I gather AMC and Regal think people will keep coming to see first run movies and they can profit from the ad revenue’s.