Monday, June 06, 2011

IFFBoston 2011 Closing Night/Wrap-up: Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (except when reviews are embargoed)

Embargoes are a weird fact of life for the film-critic community - you see a movie early, but with the agreement that the review you write about it will be held to the day of release. For most traditional - that is to say, print - outlets, this isn't a big deal; opening weekend is when the article is most relevant for their readership. The same holds true for online outlets, though to a lesser extent; we're more easily searchable, so it's whether we get more hits for "new & relevant" than for "new" and "relevant" separately is a question best answered on a case-by-case basis.

Films being embargoed at festivals, though, is a really weird thing. Films that already have distribution play festivals to get word-of-mouth, so why try and keep that buried, especially for a film like Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, which is pretty decent? It's also a willing, insidious corruption of the press - it makes critics act a bit more like part of the distributor's publicity plan, rather than outside observers.

It also, in some ways, puts the critics, the ones who can be your best advocates - enthusiastic SQL programmers aside - at a disadvantage. I was asked to hold my review because I attended on a press pass, but by next year, it's not impossible that eFilmCritic will either cease to exist (unlikely) or the festival's standards for who they credential will rise (certainly possible). When that happens, I'll buy my own pass and then post the same sort of thing here and/or on EFC as I did before, only I won't know I'm not supposed to. I'm not exactly sure why I should be treated differently in those cases, much less effectively be trusted more as an unquestioned amateur.

(You may think this unlikely, but it's actually happened - a couple years ago, when attending the Boston Film Festival on my own dime, I saw a movie called Motherhood and wrote a review of it. This got my editor at EFC an email, asking why I was breaking embargo. He wrote back, saying basically that the screening was open to the public, so trying to keep wraps on it was pretty silly, and besides, you weren't complaining about Variety already having run a review, were you?)

As silly as this is, I'm going along with it, because I don't want to be the one that keeps other EFC guys from getting credentials or IFFBoston from being able to book movies. This does leave me without a review to run here, though, so I'll have to do something else, other than whine about not being able to run a review. So, let's bring on some graphs!

IFFBoston 2011 Review Lag Graph

There's not a whole lot to be gleaned from this graph, other than that I do, by and large, crank out reviews at a pretty steady clip, although it's obviously not quite the rate at which I see movies. Even with that in mind, though, I'm pretty ashamed at how wide the gap between the two lines gets, almost 32 days long at The Whistleblower. That's pretty bad practice; it's not close to fresh in my head. I think I did all right when you look at the reviews, for the most part; I didn't find myself punting things as is occasionally the case with Fantasia.

There are a couple of odd blips there. The one around "Shorts 3: Narratives" comes from the shorts program being the first thing I saw that day but the last thing published, as it had to wait for the blog post to be done as there really isn't a place for it on eFilmCritic. Even if its publication date were set to when I actually finished writing it, the higher slope around We Still Live Here comes from me trying to strike while the iron was hot on some things that would likely have limited runs: Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Rammbock, Queen to Play, and True Legend. There's another sharp upslope between Bellflower and Stake Land, as I write up Legend of the Fist and A Beautiful Life. The zig-zag at Sons of Perdition is me bumping it up in line to have something on EFC, at least, in time for its opening in Boston.

IFFBoston 2011 Venue chart

If you're going to max out your pass, certain parts of this are a given: 4.76% at the Coolidge, 9.52% at Stuart Street, at least 23.8% at the various Somerville rooms. The rest is just a matter of how much the Brattle takes up and how the Somerville stuff is distributed.

I am, tongue-in-cheek, a little disappointed that I spent something like a quarter of the festival in the even numbered rooms in Somerville. I like many things about that theater, but when the eccentric millionaire gives me the cash to build my own, I'll be doing my best to avoid many of the things that make the even numbered rooms, uh, "memorable". They've got center aisles, the rows are very close together, and in an attempt to squeeze as many people as possible in, the front rows are very close to the screen (that's also where the main wheelchair spaces are). If you've got a pass, you're getting in early, so getting the best seats (near the center) means people are going to be climbing over you for the next twenty minutes - many getting in, putting their stuff down, going out, and getting a beer.

It is kind of amusing that I wound up with tickets for all five screens, despite the fact that only four were being used for the festival at any given time. I'll be the ushers and projectionists got sick of hauling that Water for Elephants print around.

IFFBoston 2011 Ratings

I think I did pretty well with my time, though - as you can see, a good two-thirds of the movies I saw rated three stars or higher. I, personally, tend to consider movies 2.5 stars (out of four) and up worth seeing - I'm easy that way - so all and all, this looks like a pretty successful week (and month).

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