Harry Potter movie just a “trailer” for the book?

Janet Batchler at Quoth the Maven says Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is “a disappointment” as a movie with a story to tell but “a complete triumph” as a trailer for the book.

Among her observations:

If one were to translate the 850 page book into screenplay form without any but the most obvious of cuts, my guess is the screenplay would run about 1200 pages. That’s a 20 hour movie. So if you want, think of Order of the Phoenix-The Movie as a trailer for that 20 hour movie we’ll never see.

FWIW, I have always said that the Harry Potter books ought to be adapted as a TV series — or as a series of mini-series. Each book spans a full school year, and that’s about the same as a regular season on television, right? And a regular season of American television typically lasts about 20 episodes, right?

British seasons — or “series” as they call them — tend to be shorter, as few as six episodes each. But even if each Harry Potter story was compressed to that length, it would probably still allow more time to savour the character moments that are consistently cut from the film versions of these increasingly complex tales.

True, adapting Harry Potter for television would probably be less lucrative and less spectacular — no IMAX screenings — and each installment would be less of an “event”, but letting the stories unfold this way would be truer to the spirit of the books, I think.

Chicago film critics vs. 20th Century Fox

The Chicago Film Critics Association is fed up with 20th Century Fox, the studio that has of late been refusing to show movies to critics until the last possible minute — assuming it bothers to let critics see those movies at all. Now the critics are boycotting the studio’s films — to a point, at least. Radar Online reports:

According to the Chicago Film Critics Association, 20th Century Fox has instituted a policy of favoritism in the Windy City, providing special treatment to select film reviewers. Others, it is charged, are not given adequate time to craft stories between seeing a movie and its release—or are shut out of screenings entirely. . . .

In response CFCA has instituted a boycott against Fox releases, vowing to write nothing but reviews for its movies, withholding the more coveted coverage in features, profiles, and interviews. And they’re calling on their film critic brethren to join in. “We’ve hit a common nerve among all critics’ organizations who are suffering under the same kind of tyrannical rule,” [CFCA president Dann] Gire told Radar. “We have had amazing support from all over the country.”

Fox, you may recall, is also the studio that threatened to withhold its movies from Canada because of alleged piracy concerns.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere gives his two bits.

JUL 18 UPDATE: Fox isn’t exactly happy with Jeffrey Wells.

JUL 19 UPDATE: Now David Poland at The Hot Blog offers his take.

UPPERDATE: Jeffrey Wells responds to David Poland’s piece, and he notes that Fox has suddenly and mysteriously cancelled its promotional appearances at Comic-Con next week.

In the words of one of Wells’s anonymous colleagues:

“Fox has declared war. We’ve been on the receiving end of this for a few years, and no one gave a shit because it was just us. Now that Fox is widening their attitude to everyone, people are now paying attention. Fox hates critics. Fox hates the press. Fox hates their audience. That is the truth.”

He forgot to mention that Fox hates Canada, too.

UPPESTDATE: Chris at Movie Marketing Madness chimes in.

JUL 20 UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times and The Reeler cover the ongoing saga, and Jeffrey Wells has a few more thoughts.

It’s sad that Fox Searchlight is getting caught up in this and that its PR efforts on behalf of Sunshine etc. are being boycotted, since they have actually been very, very, very good about letting critics like me into screenings. Their publicists are completely separate from the publicists who work for “Big Fox” — the term Jeffrey Wells has used for the larger, more mainstream branch of the studio.

UPPERDATE: David Poland posts the Chicago film critics’ e-mail to Fox in its entirety, and criticizes the “antics” of Dann Gire.

UPPESTDATE: Jeffrey Wells reports that the “war” is now “over”.

JUL 25 UPDATE: Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily posts a letter from Gire to his fellow critics, alleging inaccuracies in the Los Angeles Times story. Jeffrey Wells also has an update.

UPPERDATE: David Poland also posts the letter, with comments.

JUL 27 UPDATE: The Los Angeles Times prints a correction — but take it from me, there is nothing “alleged” about 20th Century Fox’s discrimination against online critics. I say this as one who was actually uninvited to a screening this week after I was invited — and all because the publicists discovered that I have a blog.

Canadian box-office stats — July 15

Here are the figures for the past weekend, arranged from those that owe the highest percentage of their take to the Canadian box office to those that owe the lowest.

Sicko — CDN $1,640,000 — N.AM $15,830,046 — 10.4%
Knocked Up — CDN $12,810,000 — N.AM $138,217,270 — 9.3%
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix — CDN $12,170,000 — N.AM $139,715,157 — 8.7%

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — CDN $26,410,000 — N.AM $304,454,423 — 8.7%
Live Free or Die Hard — CDN $8,570,000 — N.AM $103,322,580 — 8.3%
Transformers — CDN $18,460,000 — N.AM $224,009,583 — 8.2%
1408 — CDN $4,390,000 — N.AM $62,127,222 — 7.1%
Ratatouille — CDN $8,940,000 — N.AM $142,997,082 — 6.3%
License to Wed — CDN $1,730,000 — N.AM $30,379,749 — 5.7%
Evan Almighty — CDN $4,980,000 — N.AM $87,790,505 — 5.7%

A couple of discrepancies: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was #7 on the Canadian chart (it was #13 in North America as a whole), while Ocean’s Thirteen was #10 on the North American chart.

Pregnancy at the movies redux

Brett McCracken has written an excellent commentary for CT Movies on the recent trend in pro-life themes at the movies — focusing not only on Waitress and Knocked Up, the hot topics du jour, but looking back at Children of Men and looking ahead to Bella, and even comparing and contrasting the rise in these themes with the recent box-office failure of ultraviolent films like Hostel Part II and Captivity, the latter of which couldn’t even crack the top ten when it opened in North America last week.

Michael Moore vs. the tenacious Canadians

If you are anywhere near Vancouver and have any interest in the effect that Michael Moore’s films have had on the state of current documentaries and/or political discourse, then make a point of catching Manufacturing Dissent at the VanCity Theatre while you still can, i.e. before its final performance Wednesday night.

The film, directed by Debbie Melnyk (seen above with Moore) and Rick Caine, is not perfect by any stretch, but it is an absolutely necessary critique of Michael Moore and the effect, both positive and negative, that he has had on the public perception of documentary films and various other issues besides. And what makes the film especially potent is that it is produced by a couple of left-leaning Canadians who actually share Moore’s politics, but find that his paranoid egomania and his shallow handling of complex political issues consistently get in the way of any actual dialogue that might otherwise be taking place in his country.

No matter what your politics, there is a very human story that comes through in this film, and that is a story about a man who has turned his back on friends and allies time and again, mocking them and making a hash out of what was supposed to be their common struggles. Even if you don’t share the agenda behind those struggles, you have to feel at least a little sympathy for the people who feel that their causes were hijacked and marginalized and ultimately disparaged, all because Moore wanted to be a celebrity.

One of the most damning revelations — though it’s not entirely new — is that Moore actually interviewed Roger Smith, the General Motors CEO who was supposedly impossible to reach when Moore made his first feature film, Roger & Me (1989). The whole premise of the film was that Moore couldn’t get the interview, but according to activist James Musselman — and Smith himself — Moore did get the interview but left it on the cutting-room floor because the movie was more entertaining without it.

Moore disputed this claim last month, telling the Associated Press that “Anybody who says that is a (expletive) liar.” But, well, hmmm. Who should we trust, Musselman or Moore? John Pierson, who helped make Moore the multimillionaire celebrity that he is now by selling Roger & Me to Warner Brothers for $3 million back in 1989, definitely trusts Musselman. And so do I.

The film includes video footage of Moore sharing the stage with Musselman and other activists in the mid-1980s, and then denying he had any affiliation with those same people a few years later when Phil Donahue, of all people, recites their names during an appearance by Moore on his show. In this and other scenes, Moore proves himself to be a dishonest and disloyal person. It may be that Musselman and Smith are no better than Moore — I wouldn’t know, as I have never met any of them myself — but as it stands right now, the evidence does not tilt in Moore’s favour.

Among other things, the film also touches on Moore’s short-lived stint as the editor of Mother Jones in 1986. Apparently Moore left the magazine — or was forced out — partly because he and his publishers clashed over an article that was critical of the Sandinistas. One of the film’s interviewees says Moore couldn’t see how people on the Left could be critical of both Ronald Reagan and the Sandinistas; opposition to one required loyalty to the other. Presumably some liberals will share that attitude when it comes to Manufacturing Dissent; they will think that opposition to Bush and the like requires loyalty to Moore and thus a boycott of this film. But I sincerely hope that those liberals are in the minority, and that films like Manufacturing Dissent will encourage greater honesty and skepticism and discussion and even, yes, compassion for those whose beliefs do not match our own.

I might write more on this later, especially if I get around to seeing Sicko — a film that, based on the reviews I’ve read, seems to perpetuate a number of the problems that have afflicted Moore’s other films. I wonder if Melnyk and Caine will provide any updates on that film when they put their own film out on DVD.

Yet another movie not screened for critics?

It used to be that, if a movie wasn’t screened for critics until the night before the movie opened, it probably meant the movie sucked. Now, it might just mean that the movie was made by 20th Century Fox. The latest case in point: The Simpsons Movie.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Some critics won’t get a look at “The Simpsons Movie” until three days before it opens nationally, a strategy Twentieth Century Fox is using to preserve the film’s plot from Internet pirates and scoop-hungry movie bloggers.

The film, which “Simpsons” fans have awaited for years, is set to premiere in Westwood on July 24 with a wide release on July 27. Fox is hosting screenings for most critics and reporters on July 24, 25 and 26.

The late screening has prompted speculation that “The Simpsons Movie” isn’t all that its gargantuan marketing campaign has promised. A Fox spokeswoman denied those rumors Thursday.

“Anybody who’s needed to see the film has already seen it,” said the spokeswoman, who asked that her name not be used. “We’re not concerned about audience response to the film. The audience response has been overwhelming.” . . .

Of course, as readers of this blog will know, Fox didn’t cook this strategy up just for The Simpsons Movie. The last few Fox films — including Pathfinder, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Live Free or Die Hard — have all been screened for the media as late as possible, and in Vancouver, the only press screenings I know about have all been either cancelled or held back until the night before the movie opens (i.e. until a few hours before the public can buy tickets to midnight and/or matinee screenings). And as we all know, evening-before screenings “don’t count.”

I have not yet heard about any Vancouver-area screenings for The Simpsons Movie, but a colleague of mine in the Washington, D.C. area says he won’t get a chance to see the movie until June 26, i.e. the night before it opens. I have no idea which cities, apart from L.A., are getting the two- and three-nights-before screenings.

JUL 19 UPDATE: Wow, I just heard that there will, in fact, be a press screening for The Simpsons Movie in Vancouver — and it will happen at least two days before the movie’s release date. Fox has been behaving very strangely lately, but at least in this respect, in my home town, they are finally doing something right.

JUL 24 UPDATE: I take back the compliment. After spending a few days scrounging around for a babysitter — a task that was trickier than usual this week, thanks to a music class that my twins are enrolled in, an hour’s drive from home — I RSVP’ed for the press screening today, and then the publicist got back to me and said, in effect, “Whoops, you have a blog, don’t you? We shouldn’t have invited you to the Wednesday-morning screening. Fox wants critics with blogs to go to the Thursday-night screening, the night before the movie opens, only.” And after I had already arranged the babysitting? “Sorry about that, maybe Fox will change its policy by the time their next film comes out.” Unbelievable.