Cinematic Slant

Let’s Play Two Trailer: Part Pearl Jam Concert Film, Part 2016 Cubs Documentary

The opening shot of the trailer for Let’s Play Two tells you everything you need to know about what is ostensibly a Pearl Jam concert film. Instead of showing the band on-stage or preparing for the show, we see the first base-side grandstands of Wrigley Field, dusk falling heavily in the sky, and a microphone with guitar picks placed for easy access in the forefront.

Let’s Play Two is a document of Pearl Jam’s two-night stint playing the Friendly Confines in August of 2016, the height of what would go on to be a magical season for the Chicago Cubs. At this point in the year, postseason play was all but assured and talk of not only a World Series appearance but a win had turned from speculative to confident. That made it a notable time for the band, helmed by noted Cubs fan Eddie Vedder, to play the stadium.

As the trailer begins we hear members of the band talk about how playing Wrigley was beyond any of their dreams. More traditional shots of the band backstage quickly give way to archive footage from an old Cubs game (looks like the 80s but it’s too quick for me to get a bead on the player) and then back to Vedder and the band. That formula – a little band, a little baseball – continues throughout the rest of the trailer as we see shots of not only the performance that was captured but also 2016 Cubs players in action. There are also scenes of Vedder reveling in the team’s accomplishments as a fan, albeit one who’s allowed to hug and celebrate with owners and players on the field.

I don’t know what the Venn Diagram overlap of “Pearl Jam fans” and “Cubs fans” look like. This film, which will screen at Chicago’s Metro for PJ fans before being shown in theaters, on TV and then be available on home video, is being sold as a memento for both. It’s not just a marker of what by all accounts was an incredible and very emotional couple of nights for the band but as a memorial of a historic and very emotional baseball season. Vedder is no fair weather fan, having grown up a Cubs fan and sticking with the team through thick and thin. This is hardly his first overt nod toward that fandom. Instead, it’s his – and the band’s – way of solidifying those connections with the city and the team.

If the trailer is any indication, Let’s Play Two could be a solid choice whether you’re looking for an archive of a powerful performance from one of rock’s foremost bands or a snapshot of a baseball season Cubs fans like Vedder (and myself) waited over a century for.

An Obi-Wan Movie Could Work…From a Certain Point of View

News broke last week that that Disney was beginning to move forward with yet another installment in the “Story” arm of the Star Wars films, this time a stand-alone movie for Obi-Wan Kenobi. There are no details as to the story because there’s no script yet, only early conversations with a candidate to direct the film, though the lack of details like that hasn’t stopped Disney or other studios from announcing release dates and more in the past.

Kenobi is, of course, no newcomer to the big screen. In the original Star Wars trilogy he was played by Alec Guinness as the wise mentor who helped Luke Skywalker learn more about his Jedi abilities and, reluctantly, his true parentage. In the prequel trilogy Ewan Mcgregor played Obi-Wan in his early years, growing from a sometimes brash young Jedi apprentice into a roguish General during The Clone Wars.

With so much of Kenobi’s story already told, what gaps are there to fill in?

The Tatooine Years

This is the era most people seem to be focused on and guessing the story will come from but to me it’s the least interesting of the available options.

Based on where Obi-Wan is left at the end of Revenge of the Sith and where we find him in A New Hope, he’s spent the intervening years hiding out in his simple hut on Tatooine, living a hermit’s life. It’s this era that is represented by a new Sideshow Collectibles statue that shows a grizzled Kenobi who’s older than Revenge but not yet as old as in Hope carrying a pack and obviously braced for survival on Tatooine’s unforgiving wastelands.

The problem I have with this approach is that it necessarily throws the premise that Ben has remained undetected all those years into question. Anything interesting enough to warrant our attention would, it would seem, also be enough to make the Empire take a look and completely blow his cover. Yes, he sliced a guy’s arm off in the cantina, but he was heading off-world and knew the end was near, so was throwing caution to the wind. It’s hard to believe word of a lightsaber-wielding old man wouldn’t stay confined to Mos Eisley if he were doing this all the time. And any adventures that took him off-world would mean he was essentially abandoning Luke, which doesn’t fit with anything we know about the character.

That’s why I’m just not that interested in this period. This is a span of years that’s alright being left unexplored because we know more or less what he was up to. Going beyond that risks upending some basic character and story points.

The Padawan Years

This seems like much more fertile ground to me. The Obi-Wan that we meet in The Phantom Menace is at the same time completely devoted to the Jedi Order and to his master Qui-Gon. But even there we get the sense he’s a bit of a rogue, someone willing to go to the boundaries of what the Jedi will allow while not breaking the letter of the code, even if the spirit of the guidelines is a bit bruised. That also fits with the evolution of the character through “The Clone Wars” animated series and both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

So how did that begin? What was he like while training with Yoda? What kind of hell did he raise with the other Younglings? Going back to the days of the teenage Obi-Wan and seeing him learn the extents of the Force and what it meant to be a Jedi, including maybe being scolded and brought back into line, would show us where he began.

Not only that but it doesn’t provide as many opportunities for cheap nods to the Original Trilogy. There’s no chance of referencing Vader or anything like that because we’re still in the years of the Republic, when everything was good and pure and the Jedi were the shining guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. The character can be shown aspiring to being part of that noble order, not making throwaway comments that allude to his eventual fate that are meant only to make the audience knowingly chuckle.

How about you. What do you want to see in a standalone Obi-Wan movie?

Terminator 2: Judgement Day – Flashback Marketing

Later this week Terminator 2: Judgement Day returns to select AMC Theaters locations, a re-release to mark and celebrate a new 4K 3D restoration of the film that was supervised by director James Cameron, taking time away from working on the seven Avatar sequels he’s planning. Unlike some other filmmakers, though, he’s done very little tweaking of the original, finding it sufficient to improve the master print as a way to make the film accessible on the big screen to a whole new generation of fans.

I’m old enough to remember the first theatrical release, though, and how controversial and notable it was that the film had a production budget of over $100 million, at the time an unheard of sum. Now $100 million is table stakes for anything above a title like The Big Sick. While I wasn’t a die hard fan of the 1984 original, I still stood in line for the sequel, not wanting to miss out on what was being hyped and discussed as the most essential film the summer of 1991 had to offer.

The movie picks up several years after the events of the original. Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) is in a psychiatric ward because of her insistence that the rise of the machines was coming and that humanity’s days were numbered. Because of her incarceration her son John (Edward Furlong), now 10, has bounced around the foster system and is kind of a punk. One day a Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) that’s identical to the one who hunted Sarah down 10 years prior shows up but this time its mission is to protect John from the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). That new, more advanced machine is made of a living, liquid metal that can take any form it wants and is even more unstoppable than the earlier model. Sarah and John, with the Terminator’s aid, try to find the man responsible for the creation of Skynet and get him to stop before he can build the AI that will cause nuclear annihilation on what in the future is known as Judgement Day.

At first it may not seem like there’s a lot going on with the theatrical poster. It doesn’t include any hints or copy that would allude to the story outlined above. It doesn’t feature anyone but Schwarzenegger, who sits astride a motorcycle while holding an imposing shotgun. The only copy here outside of the title, credits and release date is “It’s nothing personal,” which even with the advantage of hindsight doesn’t seem to be super-applicable to the story.

What the poster does convey, though, is the look. That cool, dark blue. The reflection of street lights off the leather jacket. The matte black of the gun. Those are all the key visual elements of the movie, particularly as the story moves toward its climax. Not only does it focus on the presence of the star, by then the biggest movie star in the world, but it also shares an essential color palate with the audience, setting up the expectation for the tone of the movie they’re being asked to see.

The trailer starts out by catching us up on what’s happening and setting the idea that the Terminator we saw from the first movie is back with a very different mission. We see the Terminator find and work to protect John Conner, the new machine the whole team is up against, the interplay between the Terminator and John and more. The narration over the action talks repeatedly about how the action is even bigger and more intense than before, promising at the end that “He’s back….for good.” which is a much better tagline than what’s on the poster.

It’s surprising how much of the story is actually shown in this trailer. You get a pretty good sense of what’s happening and why here, though the emphasis is certainly on the visual. Not just the action set pieces but the T-1000’s liquid transformations in particular. Those were the big draw, the subject of countless press stories at the time, held up as the next big leap forward in computer-aided visual effects.

That really presents a portion of the campaign that can’t adequately be captured here. Remember that this was only Cameron’s fourth major directorial outing, including the original Terminator. While his reputation was certainly well known, particularly in the sci-fi genre, he was still pretty green. So the focus was, at the time, on the special effects, which were pretty mind-blowing. This was still very much the early days of computer animation, with Toy Story still four years away and only 10 years removed from TRON and Star Trek II. So the innovations coming out of Cameron’s workshop were not only groundbreaking but also a substantial audience draw in and of themselves.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day would go on to enormous box office success, cementing Cameron’s place as a top-tier director (though he’d only helm three more movies over the years) and establishing The Terminator as a legitimate franchise, albeit one that’s had a few spotty subsequent entries without Cameron’s involvement. Still, this campaign stands as a testament to the power of selling the audience on a movie based on the presence of a familiar star and a continued story that was bigger and better than the original.

Steven Soderbergh – Director Overview

This week Logan Lucky hits theaters, marking director Steven Soderbergh’s return to feature films after a self-imposed five-year hiatus. That makes it a good opportunity to look back at how the previous films he’s directed have been sold via trailers.

Soderbergh, like the Coen Bros., is a tough nut to crack when trying to identify a grand unifying theory of his work. Instead of one overall theme that clearly stands out, it’s evident that he bounces from one genre and approach and story type to the next. That’s in part, it seems, to keep himself engaged and fresh and in part to satisfy all his various instincts and career desires. With that being said, there are a handful of genres his various films fall into that help bring Soderbergh’s approach to cinema into somewhat clear focus.

Read More

Logan Lucky – Marketing Recap

Brothers Jimmy and Clyde Logan (Channing Tatum and Adam Driver, respectively) come from a long line of losers in the new movie Logan Lucky, directed by Steven Soderbergh. They decide they’re going to turn things around, though, and set out to reverse their fortunes by robbing the Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Coca-Cola 600.

The problem is they don’t exactly have the smarts to pull off such an elaborate heist. So they enlist the services of a convicted thief named Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) to help them out. Between the three of them and with the reluctant help of Logan’s sister Mellie (Riley Keough), they execute their scheme. But will they actually get away with it?

Read More

9 Elvis Presley Movie Trailers

It’s been 40 years today since the death of Elvis Presley to mark the occasion we’re going to look back at the trailers for just some of the movies he starred in as he worked to leverage his success with music into a Hollywood acting career. To make the selection process easier I’m using this list from Variety of what it identifies as 10 of The King’s best feature films,

The Trouble With Girls (1969)

In his second-to-last film role Elvis plays the boss of a traveling medicine show filled with lecturers, motivational-speakers, quick cure salesmen and more. When the show lands in Chautauqua things get complicated as Walter Hale (Presley) and his crew become involved in the investigation into a murder and other problems. That trailer doesn’t get to that murder plot until halfway through its running time, though, and even then only gives it a small amount of attention. Instead the focus is on Elvis singing and balancing a steady stream of women all eager to fall into his arms if they’re not getting on his last nerve.

Kid Galahad (1962)

Elvis famously was drafted into the Army in 1958, serving two years, largely in Germany. Kid Galahad reflects some of that as Presley plays Walter Gulick, who returns to his small New York hometown after leaving the Army. Despite wanting to make an honest living, his boxing prowess leads him to a professional fighting career. We see in the trailer him as a fighter and getting into trouble outside the ring as well. From there on out it’s the usual combination of singing, dancing, romance and more that are common themes in selling most of Presley’s films, including him taking a moral stance against someone who’s asking him to compromise his ideals.

Love Me Tender (1956)

Elvis’ film debut casts him as Clint Reno, whose older brother went to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War. When that brother comes back, Clint has married Vance’s old girlfriend. Clint gets caught up in Vance’s involvement with the theft of Union money, money he now wants to return. “Here he comes” we’re told as the trailer opens with a shot of Elvis singing and dancing. The story is positioned as a dramatic love triangle between Clint, Vance and Cathy, while working hard to introduce Elvis to theatrical audiences. It’s notable how he’s not the focus here, despite the presence of the title track and an ending that features a handful of other songs. It’s playing off his brand while not hanging success entirely on his unproven shoulders.

Wild In the Country (1961)

Once more Elvis is cast here as a “troubled young man.” This time he plays Glen Tyler, a ruffian from the backwoods who comes under the wing of counselor Irene Sperry (Hope Lange), who encourages him to develop some obvious writing talents. The trailer starts out by promising “songs of love” for the audience to enjoy, with him performing those songs, often directly to one girl or another. There’s trouble with some locals, though that’s never really explained. It never really gets into the story of him being nudged in a productive direction by Sperry, instead making the appeal mostly about the music and the romance.

Flaming Star (1960)

One of two movies on this list set in the years following the Civil War, this one has Elvis playing Pacer Burton, the mixed-race son of a white man and Native American woman. (woof with the lack of actual representation). Because of his mixed heritage, Pacer may be the only one capable of establishing peace between the native residents and the White settlers intruding on their land. There’s lots of shirtless-Presley in the trailer, which shows him fighting with a Native American, threatening white men who he feels are responsible for the death of someone he loved and more. Two conflicts are sold here, the one between the two sides of Pacer’s heritage and the other between the two women he must choose between.

Blue Hawaii (1961)

Another movie that ties into Elvis’ history in the Army, this time he plays Chad Gates, who’s returned to Hawaii after serving his time. Not content to follow his parents’ wished and help run the family farm, he becomes a tour guide at an agency run by his girlfriend Maile (Joan Blackman). There’s not much of that story in the trailer, which is instead devoted to making the primary selling point Elvis engaging in romantic and other hijinks in the exotic location of the Hawaiian islands.

Jailhouse Rock (1957)

With that hair and those dance moves , Elvis was seen as a bad influence by the older generation during his time. So it makes sense that Jailhouse Rock would position him as a bad boy, though one who’s trying to reform. Presley plays Vince Everett, who decides to try and make a living in the music business after he gets out of jail, where he’s serving time for manslaughter, eventually going on to great success. That bad boy image is the first we see and hear about as the trailer opens, introducing Vince as a tough kid learning a hard lesson in prison. When he’s out, though, it’s all about music and girls, though it’s clear he’s still got a temper that can flare when provoked. This is the movie that would define Elvis’ public persona in a major way and it’s clear the marketing played a big role in writing that creation myth.

Viva Las Vegas (1964)

It’s interesting how relatively early in Presley’s career this came out considering so much of his later reputation would be centered around a glitzy Vegas-driven schtick. Here he plays race car driver Lucky Jackson who works as a waiter in Vegas to help earn money to upgrade his car. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have time for a little romance, though, this time with Rusty Martin, played memorably by Ann-Margaret. The trailer kicks off with the title song and establishes the setting. The romance between Jackson and Martin is very much positioned as a match of equal wits and sensuality, her rebuffing him and holding her own against his game. In fact Ann-Margaret is every bit Elvis’ equal in terms of billing and attention on all fronts, with plenty of shots of her singing and dancing.

King Creole (1958)

Here Presley plays Danny Fisher, an aspiring singer and musician who performs in a nightclub to support himself and his unemployed father. While the club he frequents is on the up-and-up, he can’t escape the influence and reach of Maxie Fields (Walter Matthau), a crime boss who controls much of the other area entertainment. The trailer makes it clear we’re catching Elvis at “the top of his career,” with this being a turn for the dramatic. So we’re sold a story of a rough young youth who wants to make a decent living in a crooked system while also being torn between two available female love interests.

It’s remarkable the kinds of common elements that present themselves when you look at these trailer in quick succession. There was certainly a formula that most of the stories followed to play on Presley’s reputation, including:

  • He’s a kid from the wrong side of the tracks who just wants to do the right thing and make an honest living, a goal that often brings him into conflict with a shady figure of some sort
  • He’s a headstrong individual who refuses to be buttoned in by the expectations someone else has for him, opting to strike out on his own
  • He almost always has to choose between two potential love interests
  • He’s a little too headstrong and temperamental for his own good, often resorting to punching someone
  • The kid, whatever his circumstances, can sing

I’m pretty confident if we looked at trailers for the other movies in Elvis’ filmography we’d find those patterns repeating themselves with some regularity. So you certainly can’t say Hollywood didn’t know what to do with him, it just kept doing variations on the same thing over and over again.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard – Marketing Recap

In the new movie The Hitman’s Bodyguard Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a high-end bodyguard who’s available for hire by well-off clients seeking protection. One day he’s contracted Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson), a notorious assassin who’s scheduled to testify against one of his former bosses.

That should be a simple enough assignment but for one thing: Bryce and Kincaid have history that’s included the latter trying to kill the former on multiple occasions. Still, Bryce has a job to do and so the two have to not only get along but work together as the forces of those Kincaid is meant to testify against try to kill both of them.

The Posters

The first poster tells us exactly what we can expect from the tone of the movie. The image of Reynolds carrying Jackson, as well as the color palate of the image, the style used for the title treatment and cast name as well as the copy on the left are all pulled directly from the poster for the 1992 Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston vehicle The Bodyguard. That’s pretty funny and a nice little wink, even if it does come a bit too close to selling this movie as a parody instead of its own thing.

Two character posters followed, one showing The Hitman (Jackson) and one showing The Bodyguard (Reynolds) in a monochromatic design, each with guns drawn and each featuring the “Get triggered” copy that seems a tad insensitive. Those two were brought together into what seems to be a theatrical poster.

Another series of posters took a more old-school approach, with visual styles that harkened back to the era of movies like The French Connection and others. One is a black-and-white image of the two leads, both with guns drawn, seemingly entering a scene, a target taking aim at the pair. Another has the two of them taking aim themselves at something off-screen. A third is similar but has them standing more still in the frame and asks “Who’s protecting who?”

The Trailers

The first trailer, a red-band version, starts off by introducing us to Reynolds’ high-end bodyguard. He’s been hired to protect a hitman (Jackson) but things get violent quickly. Much of the action, of which there is plenty, is presented while Reynolds vents to a newspaper kiosk salesman about what a bad time he’s having on this particular assignment. It’s full of foul-language and ridiculous action.

The trailer is so unconcerned with selling the story it’s crazy. Instead it’s just about seeing the MFs that are dropped by Jackson and the sly subversion of action movie tropes like jumping into the garbage bin from a rooftop. Like the poster the studio is having fun with the title association, playing Whitney Houston’s version of “I Will Always Love You” over much of the footage.

An all-ages, non-restricted trailer was released about a month later that hits many of the same beats, just with half the running time and no curse words. This one’s more about selling the outrageous situations the unlikely pair find themselves in and the strange bond that forms between them.

The official trailer opens with Bryce taking one of his other clients out of a potentially dangerous situation. We see that a dictator is on trial and that his friends are trying to kill a key witness in those proceedings. So Bryce is assigned to protect Kincaid, but we see they have a history that’s not super-pleasant. Still, it’s his job and so despite his reticence he does what he needs to do to keep his charge from being blown up or otherwise killed.

It’s a much better trailer in that it actually lays out the story, not just relying on the charm and chemistry of Reynolds and Jackson. That comedy may still be the biggest selling point, but at least this one explains why they’re stuck with each other and why Reynolds’ character isn’t thrilled with the assignment, something that was lacking from the teaser.

Another short trailer came out that wasn’t new in most regards, just serving to reinforce the interplay between the two leads. One more trailer, just as lighthearted and focused on curse words and over-the-top as the others, was created to mark Romance Awareness Month.

Online and Social

The theatrical key art is displayed on the landing page of the movie’s official website as the content of the site loads. After that you can choose between sides, one for Bryce, one for Kincaid. Doing so just takes you to a short video clip featuring that character that you’re encouraged to share on social networks. There’s a prompt to “Get Tickets” in the upper right and links to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles in the lower right.

There’s also a quiz you’re encouraged to take to see if you have what it takes to join AAA Executive Protection Agency, the group Bryce apparently belongs to. And if you click the icon in the center of the top of the page you get a gallery of GIFs and images that have copy and a silly little animated character, apparently an effort to keep things light.

Moving on to the site’s actual content, the first option in the drop-down menu at the top of the page is “About,” which is where you’ll find a pretty good synopsis of the shenanigans the two characters get into. After that is “Videos” which houses the trailers, a featurette and a clip of the two meeting for the first time under new circumstances. The “Gallery” has a handful of stills and “Posters” has all the one-sheets.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

TV spots like this one started running a few weeks out from release that gave the barest outline of the story in favor of lots of action and a continued emphasis on the bickering relationship between the two violent professionals.

Online and outdoor ads used the various key art and social ads used the trailers as they were released.

Media and Publicity

The two leads were interviewed together, continuing the emphasis the campaign has placed on the dynamic between Jackson and Reynolds. In that interview they talked about bonding during filming, how they got involved in the project and lots more.

Other solo interviews had the pair, as well as costar Salma Hayek, talking about the story and all the usual anecdotes about filming and how much fun it was to be involved in something so silly. They also did the talk show rounds on TV to engage in hijinks with late night hosts and talk about the film.

Overall

As should be overwhelmingly evident from what I’ve laid out above, the main appeal the studio is conveying is the charm of and chemistry between the two leads. That’s why the story is often either missing or pushed way into the background of the trailers and other marketing elements in favor of Reynolds and Jackson getting on each other’s nerves, quipping and otherwise making it clear they’re not getting along as characters but certainly having a great time as actors.

The question then becomes whether that’s enough. The movie certainly looks like fun. Everything about it is the kind of big, silly action comedy that used to be pervasive in the late 80s and early 90s, but it’s unclear if that formula holds the same appeal these days. This looks more and more like a movie that will have an amusing campaign that leans on the likability of the two leads but which fades into obscurity quickly. A year from now someone will post on Twitter saying “Remember when a movie called The Hitman’s Bodyguard actually happened?”j

The Scrutinty Applied to Netflix is About Format

It’s been a notable couple of weeks for Netflix. In quick succession stories broke that the company would be losing Disney’s library (though there’s still some wiggle room there apparently), that it had acquired the rights to Millarworld’s various characters and IP and that it had signed a deal with TV powerhouse producer Shonda Rhimes. All this comes just a few months after the controversy over whether or not Okja, from director Bong Jung Ho, should be allowed to screen at Cannes if it wasn’t going to be released in theaters. And it’s all in the midst of continued hand-wringing over how the company is positioned in the entertainment industry, exemplified most recently by a cover story in Variety that asks the following question:

The story itself is a bit more evenhanded, going into popular topics that always swirl around Netflix, including debt loads, the quality of its original movies and more. But the main focus is the relationship the company has with the studios and networks who, to date, have licensed their shows and movies to the streaming service. Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos admits in the piece that he worries those sources will, for one reason or another, stop signing those licensing deals. That’s why, he says, the company has ramped up its efforts to produce original movies and programming, though the costs for doing so are pretty high.

There’s one thing that’s always bugged me about the angle stories like this have taken over the years and it’s related directly to the hand-wringing around Okja’s Cannes presentation:

We wouldn’t be having this conversation if Netflix just put movies in theaters.

I firmly believe that to be true. The reason Netflix keeps having shade thrown at it by the companies it gets content from is because it’s not playing by that rule. Specifically, it’s not playing by that one rule at a time when theatrical distribution is more important than it has been in decades to the entertainment industry. If DVDs and Blu-rays were still selling like hot cakes in retail, we’re not having this conversation because Netflix would just be another outlet and studios would still be raking in home video cash. But that’s not the case.

That’s why we keep being asked if Netflix is friend or enemy to the traditional Hollywood system while similar stories aren’t asked about Amazon. That company plays by the rules and puts their original productions in theaters six months or so before they come to the streaming service. It plays the same game on other areas, including licensing TV shows from networks and movies from studios and is producing its own slate of original TV-esque programming. The one differentiator is the theatrical distribution model and it’s that one tactic that brings Netflix in for more criticism from the industry.

Sarandos worries that networks will stop giving Netflix their TV shows, but that’s a concern that’s shared across many players. Over the last couple decades networks have increased the percentage of shows it produces through their own studios and stopped buying shows from others. That way they get to keep more of the profits, a system that is even more beneficial when it sells syndication rights to another channel or network owned by the same company.

That’s the game Netflix is playing, producing its own shows for its own platform. It’s the same game CBS is playing with “The Good Fight,” the upcoming “Star Trek: Discovery” and more that will be exclusive to the network’s own streaming service. It’s the game everyone is playing.

Netflix is providing a service to film and TV fans just like any other studio by giving creators a voice in a way they may not have otherwise had. Who knows if Okja would have been picked up by a major studio, and what kind of marketing and release it would have received if it had been. Who knows if a cable network would have been interested in “Ozark.” We know we wouldn’t have “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” without Netflix because NBC punted on it so many times the show had a permanent dent from the network’s shoe.

What we do know is that Netflix is continually praised by those who create original material for it. Director Ava DuVernay recently said the company gets the need for diversity in voices. David Ayer, who directed the Will Smith-starring Bright that’s coming later this year talked about relishing the artistic freedom he was given. Similar comments have been made about Amazon Studios, showing again the similarity between the two production houses.

There may be a conversation to have about the role Netflix plays in the entertainment industry, but it’s one that’s mostly centered around its upending of one particular tradition. I’m as big a fan of seeing movies in theaters as anyone else, but I believe a world where more creators are able to make movies/shows that are then available to a large audience – including those not close to the dozen theaters many smaller movies are often limited to – is one that benefits everyone.

Patti Cake$ – Marketing Recap

Danielle Macdonald plays Patti in the new movie Patti Cake$, hitting limited theaters this week. Patti is stuck in the lower-class suburbs of New Jersey but aspires to fame and fortune as a rapper. That goal is met with resistance by her mother Barb (Bridget Everett) but her friends, including Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay), think Patti has a future.

So the movie follows her struggling against the assumptions of others and the belief that she can succeed and rise above her working-class background. The movie comes from writer/director Geremy Jasper, making his feature debut after a career to date in commercials and music videos.

The Posters

The first poster is pretty simple, just a photo of Patti leaning up against the hood of a car that has a vanity license plate for her. She’s decked out and is clearly throwing attitude with the smile on her face but that’s about all the character development or explanation we get. There’s no copy, just a few quotes of praise from early reviews, to flesh out or add context to what we’re seeing.

A second poster pulls its image from one of the scenes that would become a focal point of the marketing, that of Patti and her friend Jheri hanging out around her car trading rhymes. Two big positive quotes are at the top, just above icons showing it screened at Sundance and Cannes.

The Trailers

We meet Patti in the first trailer as she glides down a pharmacy store aisle. Her aspirations as a rapper are in stark contrast to the drudgery of her real life, which is full of mundane jobs and people who don’t believe in her. She gets a shot to record a rap album and with the support of a few friends begins to achieve her dream of rapping.

It’s…it’s really good. There are a lot of bad directions this could have gone in but it keeps the focus on Patti and her desire to do what she wants with her life without compromises. That’s an inspirational story we can all relate to. Thankfully, the “overweight white girl trying to rap” premise isn’t played for laughs anywhere in this spot, otherwise the emotional impact would be undercut immediately.

Online and Social

The movie’s official website takes a while to load, a process you can track as the title is filled in. Once it finishes a “Lyric Video” plays that takes a scene between Patti and her friend Jheri trading freestyle lyrics. Close that and the landing page features the same photo of Patti that was shown on the first poster alongside critic quotes and links to the movie’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

The first section of content is “Cast,” which offers photos from the movie with each actor along with a brief quote from them about the story. “Filmmakers” does the same for director Jasper.

“Story” has a brief synopsis of the story, “Photos” has a half-dozen stills from the movie and “Videos” has both the official trailer and the Lyric Video that opened the site.

Advertising and Cross-Promotions

What amounted to an extended TV spot can be seen here. We get the basic idea of Patti’s journey to become a famous rapper and some of the hurdles she faces while on that path. Mostly it’s selling the attitude of the story, which there’s plenty of.

More traditional TV spots like this one summed up the story pretty well and explained what it is the audience can expect from the movie.

Media and Publicity

The movie’s Sundance screening lead to Macdonald being pegged as a breakout star after years of false-starts in Hollywood. It was eventually picked up by Fox Searchlight after garnering impressively positive word-of-mouth.

Macdonald was the subject of a bit of press from Sundance through release as she continued to be hailed as the breakout performance in the movie. Those interviews and features talked about how she prepared for the role and more.

There was also a profile of Jaspar where he talked about not only what drove him to make the movie but also the experience of having it debut at Sundance and the bidding war that followed. Another interview with him had him talking about similar topics as well as the quick and dirty way he had to shoot the film because of budget and other factors.

Overall

As should be clear from everything that’s been laid out above, the focus of the campaign is on Macdonald, who has been the subject of much of the press coverage and is the biggest part of the posters and trailers. That makes sense considering how much she was mentioned as such an up-and-coming star at Sundance and in the press since then, but it also means there isn’t that identifiable and recognizable face in the campaign for the audience to latch on to.

Instead the primary appeal is the story, which is sold here as, “overweight working class woman goes against type to achieve fame as a rap star.” That might sound crass, but that’s the basest description of the message being sent here. The campaign relies on the audience being intrigued by the visual disconnect between the type of person we’re watching and the activities she’s engaged in. If you can get on board with that then you might be interested in seeing the movie, Fox Searchlight is hoping.

Stay Tuned (25th Anniversary Flashback Marketing)

Back in 1992 comedies were still being written and marketed for adults, not just for kids and teenagers. That allowed for something like Stay Tuned to be produced that was definitely meant to appeal to an older audience. So with the movie celebrating its 25th anniversary today, it’s a good time to look back at how it was sold to audiences at the time.

The movie follows Roy and Helen Knable (John Ritter and Pam Dawber), a married couple that’s still happy but definitely having issues, especially around how much TV he watches on a daily basis. After she smashes the family TV in frustration a mysterious figure named Spike (Jeffrey Jones) appears and offers Roy a brand new, high-end unit. He takes it but the couple are quickly sucked into the set, forced to bounce from one hellish, twisted program to the next. Escaping, of course, brings them closer together, but they have to get past Spike and the devilish contract Roy signed first.

Right off the bat you can see a concept that has far more resonance for older audiences than it does for kids. It goes without saying that both Ritter and Dawber were major TV stars on classic shows, so putting them in a story that revolves around the world of television generates some knowing chuckles in and of itself.

The theatrical poster sells the premise in great fashion, still on the “artistic” side of the key art design divide that was opening at the top. So the painted image shows the Knables sitting in some sort of contraption, clearly in peril within the confines of the television set and looking panicked. Their kids – as well as the family dog – are on the outside looking in and just as worried.

There’s quite a bit of copy on the poster. That starts at the top with “Something weird’s on the air.” Next is “The Knables signed up for a cable system that’s out of this world.” Finally, at the bottom we’re told the movie is “A comedy on the wrong side of the screen.” All that combines to clearly tell the audience that the story will involve the world of television in some way that’s kooky and unexpected, a message that’s hammered home by the presence of Dawber and Ritter.

The trailer starts well into the story, skipping much of the setup of the relationship between Roy and Helen. Instead, we join it as Spike is delivering the TV to Roy. After some initial shock, it cuts to the main selling point, which is the crazy, homicidal shows that are broadcast on this particular TV, a world that Helen and Roy soon find themselves in the middle of. That includes variations of “Wayne’s World,” exercise programs, popular movies and more. It’s explained that Spike is basically the devil and this is part of his plan to claim their souls and that the Knables’ kids are trying to keep track of them from the real world. All the craziness ends with one of the more obvious jokes, where Ritter’s Roy winds up in a show that looks suspiciously like “Three’s Company,” allowing him to poke a little fun at himself.

What’s surprising in retrospect is how heavily the trailer leans on the premise, particularly the spoofs of the various shows, and not the stars. Neither Ritter nor Dawber were established as movie stars, though, so their casting was kind of “stunt” in nature, TV stars in a movie that revolves around TV. Now, years after his passing, Ritter is widely lauded as a comedy genius and this could have been a big turning point for Dawber though it didn’t turn out like that. Still, the focus is so squarely on the concept and the various goofiness of the demonic TV land the couple finds themselves in, there’s little room for either actor’s charm and charisma to come through.

Even more than that, the trailer shows where pop culture was in 1992 by highlighting the kind of programming that gets spoofed. “Wayne’s World,” Driving Miss Daisy, Jane Fonda-esque exercise programs, “Tom and Jerry” cartoons…that’s what the studio felt would resonate with audiences. That didn’t necessarily pan out as it only made about $10m at the box-office, but it lives on as a movie that, even if it hasn’t quite achieved “cult” status, is still fondly remembered by those of us who saw it back then.