Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Lowest Common Denominator Factor - The Official Checklist

Or The Guide To All-Too Mainstream Movies Without Any Imagination Whatsoever But Everyone Seems To Love Anyways

Unless you fancy yourself a critic, you watch movies because it's something to do on a Friday night. It's a relatively cheap way of plugging yourself into modern popular culture. From simply making you leave the house and socialize with actual people to getting your fill of the hottest new trilogy film that everyone's talking about based on a novel that everyone's reading thanks to an overzealous Hollywood marketing machine.

After all this time, you good readers may know that I try to push the more art-house envelope of film in my reviews. Sometimes I feel that watching movies that have been advertised to death are a waste of money, as though now I'm obliged to see it, just to be considered a critic worth his salt. You may have heard me complain that a particular movie has sacrificed integrity and originality in lieu of a comfortably safe and common standard of predictability. I have coined this effect the Lowest Common Denominator Factor (LCDF).

There is something positive to be said about the LCDF. It's called 'mainstream' for a reason, and these movies, though never qualifying for me as 'Film', always have something enjoyable about them to the layman, and since most people who watch film are average weekend moviegoers (laymen), most people would therefore be able to use this following checklist to see if a movie in theaters is worth seeing, since hype and public opinion are all that matter nowadays, right?

From Harry Potter to Ray, the LCDF movies have a predictable formula about them and if you want to make sure that everyone will be fine with your selection, you can consult the index below ahead of time.

This does not guarantee you or your guests will actually LIKE the film, but at least you'll be able to say, "well now I know what everyone's talking about." That way, you can't be accused of living in a cave because you've never seen The Matrix... children can be so cruel...

So next time you're the one deciding on the Friday night movie, ask yourself these questions, tally up your score, and consult the rating scale to see if it's worth it:

1.) Have you seen or heard mention of this film at least three times, regardless of the format, indirectly (television trailer, bookstore stand, internet banner [not on a film website], toys, late-night TV interview, gas station plastic cup, book at a co-worker's desk, skywriting, etc...)? 2 Points.

2.) Is it an American Hollywood-produced movie? 3 Points

3.) Can you ONLY see this in an industrial-sized corporate multi-theater complex? 1 Point

4a.) Is this part of a Trilogy or Series? 1 Point

4b.) Is this merely a sequel? -1 point

5a.) Is the book a #1 Best-seller? 1 Point

5b.) Is the book's latest edition displayed so prominently in your bookstore that avoiding it is an exercise in futility? 1 Point

6.) What was the film budget? 1 Point for every increment of $25 Million.

7a.) Are the leads the biggest blockbuster actors currently working (Tom Cruise, Halle Berry, Tom Hanks)? 2 Points

7b.) Are the leads the second-biggest blockbuster actors currently working (Harrison Ford, Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt)? 1 Point

8.) Has the director done at least 3 other Hollywood films? 1 Point (3 Points for Stephen Spielberg)

9a.) Has a famous critic given it a 'Thumbs Up'? 1 Point per critic

9b.) Has a famous critic given it a 'Thumbs Down'? -1 Point per critic, -3 Points if critic spit on said movie or gave away the ending in disgust.

10a.) Is it a Romantic Drama? -1 Point

10b.) Is it a Romantic Comedy? -2 points

11a.) Are you able to buy promotional merchandise from said film, like hats and travel mugs? 1 Point

11b.) Are you able to buy pop-culture merchandise from said film, like the video game, breakfast cereal or children's travel package? 2 Points

12.) How many weeks has this been in Box Offices? Add 1 Point for every month.

13.) How much money has this movie made already? Add 1 Point for every increment of $50 million.

14.) Will they be handing out free promotional items (plastic mugs, toys, trading cards, bar of soap with the title on it) when you leave the theater? 2 Points

After adding up all the scores, refer to the table below:


1-5 points: Are you trying to make people see obscure film on purpose?

6-10 Points: You're being half-assed in your selection, go see something else!

11-15 Points: Decent. Maybe the fact that this isn't all razzle-dazzle marketing could mean this film spent good money on integrity...

16-20 Points: There you go! A solid selection that everyone will agree to, except maybe the film snob.

21-25 Points: Look, anyone who doesn't want to see this movie has issues with something about life and could never be pleased anyways, so go enjoy this movie without them.

26 Points or more: This movie is going to be the hottest news all year. If you don't see this, you will get well-deserved swirlies for being a loser. Go back to your Mennonite commune already, you no-T.V. hippie!

Now here are a few examples of the formula in action:

The DaVinci Code: Inescapable Marketing (2) + Hollywood (3) + Mega-Cinema (1) + Hanks (2) + Director (1) + Best-selling, unavoidable Book (2) + $125 Million budget (5) + (2) thumbs up + $150 Million Gross profit (3) = 21

Mission Impossible III: Inescapable Marketing (2) + Hollywood (3) + Mega-Cinema (1) + Cruise (2) + $150 Million budget (6) + Hat (1) + Videogame (2) + (1) thumb up - (1) thumb down + $100 Million Gross profit (2) so the final tally is either 18 or 20 since you may add one for trilogy, or subtract one for sequel, the choice is yours, this clearly isn't a Bond film.

X Men III: The Last Stand: Inescapable Marketing (2) + Hollywood (3) + Mega-Cinema (1) + Berry (2) + Trilogy (1) + Director (1) + $210 Million budget (8) + Hat (1) + Videogame (2) + (2) thumbs up + $150 Million Gross profit (3) = 26!

And by the way, should you have any other criteria to add to the checklist, please leave a comment, I might just add it to the post...

This whole piece might sound like one ginormous slice of sarcasm because I do indeed fancy myself a critic, or as the Merriam-Webster definition reads: 'one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique', and film critics tend to be more, well, CRITICAL of the entertainment they watch. This hard and fast way of looking at marketing rather than doing real research about the actual story, writer and history of a given film is so much more 'lane of least resistance' and as much as I may have great disdain for this trend in society, a movie, to most people is just entertainment, and you know in the grand scheme of things, film is not that important to most people... There, I said it, now go watch movies whose only saving grace is everyone else is going to see it too. I guess there's nothing wrong with some people just preferring red wine right out of that box in the fridge...

P.S. Maybe even entertainment needs a tiny bit of legwork too...

See ya round kids...