Technically, doesn't a "preview" still count as a "view"? (Pt. II)

[Continued from last Thursday, Jan. 31st, waaaay past the time I said it would...]

And that is how Jen and I found ourselves sitting at a five-months-in-advance screening of the upcoming, brand-new, animated Dreamworks comedy... Kung Fu Panda.

It is exceedingly hard to enjoy oneself at an advance preview. Let me qualify that as a more personal concern: it is exceedingly hard to me to enjoy myself at an advance preview. For the bulk of the people sitting about me, they carried on like it was just any other movie on any other afternoon, chatting, joking, kicking seats, purchasing far more popcorn than they can possibly eat and far more soda than is good for them at far too hefty a price, both monetarily and physically... the usual nonsense. What mattered most was the affordability of the situation (i.e. FREE -- which I must admit appeals to me greatly as well, especially at this economically tight moment) and the exceedingly selfish and wonderful sense that you were part of an exclusive group that was allowed to see something others didn't. It's hard-wired into us to wish to gloat over that which one has done at the expense or distraction of others. It's also, on the outside of the myriad reasons, why class distinctions will never go away.

Up to this point, Jen and I had been invited to three other previews, only two of which we were able to attend. The first turned out to be a screening for Lucky You, the Curtis Hanson film about Las Vegas poker denizens fatally miscast with Eric Bana and Drew Barrymore. Actually, any movie with those two, separate or together, I would be apt to describe as "fatally miscast". Not a fan of either. Out of deference to the system, and not wishing to rip apart a film well before its eventual release (which turned out to be far, far away from the point at which we viewed, by over a year), I chose not to write about it, at least by name. It should be obvious that I did not enjoy the film, though it did have some good moments in it, though most of it was undermined by Barrymore being cast as a singer (why does this happen?) and Bana being cast as someone who is supposed to convey some slight sense of humor. Also, Robert Downey, Jr. shows up in one scene, and then his character commits suicide, but offscreen. Such a waste. In a noble attempt at adult behavior, I proclaimed I would withhold judgment until I saw the completed product... but I really have no impulse to rent the damn thing now or ever.

The second screening, just a couple of months later, was Sarah Michelle Gellar's The Return, an attempt to continue her success with The Grudge, and the sort of modern horror film to which I am completely inurred, as it pushes every overused button for cliches that I have been sick to death of since the early '90s. Gellar is decent though, and attractive as usual (especially for this Buffy fanatic), but its overall effect was one of "why are we wandering through this washed-out movie terrain once more?" Oh, and "Thanks for telegraphing every scare in the film!" I was chiefly confused by the form of the screening copy itself. Unlike Lucky You, which clearly had about half an hour of excess material wedged into its screening, The Return felt complete. They warn you at the beginning of these previews that often the editing isn't done, the proper music may not have been synced in yet, and that some scenes might feel rough or incomplete. This was true to a large extent with Lucky You, where they could have excised Bana and Barrymore altogether, and they would have been left with a decent twenty-minute short subject with all of the cameos by famous poker bigwigs like Doyle Brunson. Of course, then it would have felt like just another episode of the World Poker Tour television show.

The Return was a different matter. Where Lucky You was cut from about 2:20 (without credits) in time down to 2:04 (with credits), thereby seeming to actually use the screening process to tighten and edit the film, the Gellar creep-fest barely seems shorter in its released form than it did in the theatre. I can't really attest to any changes that may have been made, as I really don't feel a compulsion to check it out again, but its current 85-minute running length (with credits) is roughly approximate to the relatively short amount of time we sat in the theatre watching it. Also, Lucky You felt rough in spots, as they proclaimed it might, but The Return already felt as if it were any finished crappy horror film that I might have somehow talked Jen into attending simply because there was nothing else to see at the time, and I had a serious Buffy jones going. If there were any unfinished scenes, they were largely unnoticeable due to the (on purpose) herky-jerky dreamlike quality of the filmmaking. In fact, if they were unfinished in some manner, it probably actually served to enhance the effect.

As for the enjoyment factor, I just can't settle in at a preview. I am too caught up in seeing the film in its (supposed) pre-release form, which I must admit is a very cool thing to see, but I can't simply sit back and relax like I would for a normal film. Because I am going to be tested on what I see, I feel a need to remain constantly focused on the screening. I feel a compulsion to make sure that I have not been invited by mistake, to really make a difference to the film, and to help out the filmmakers in fixing it for its eventual audience (myself included). I take these responsibilities personally, and I take them seriously, even if no one else in the audience really does. I'm sure there are other movie fanatics in each crowd that feel the same way that I do about these responsibilities, but judging from the attitudes of most of the people that have surrounded us at these things, it is simply just another movie to them, albeit a free one in which they are asked of their opinion. Therefore, I do not relax (Jen says I never do anyway), and I keep my critical faculties fully charged in the name of service to my theatrical benefactors for that screening.

So, how would it feel to my unrelaxed and reluctant self seeing the upcoming, brand-new, animated Dreamworks comedy Kung-Fu Panda five months before its release?

[No procastinating this time. To be concluded sometime in the future, though possibly tomorrow... :b]

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