Well, since today was the last day in which I’ll ever be paid to cut up (and therefore, to read) the Lawrence Journal-World, I wanted to take a moment to say that I think they should fire their entertainment section editor (Jon Niccum) and replace him with me. My reasons for this range from the usual (I very often don’t agree with his reviews) to the obscure (I think he may be a bit egotistical, judging from the in-house interviews he gave about his prominence and importance as the leader of the Kansas City Critics circle earlier this year) to the journalistic. Let’s focus on the last, which is also a charge against many, many newspapers and magazines across the country: If you advertise a “summer preview” or “fall preview” or any kind of seasonal preview, and then only provide a list of upcoming big-studio pictures with promotional photos and summaries taken straight from the movies’ press kits, you’re no longer reporting: you’re advertising.
Today, the LJ-World (not the LiveJournal World, the Lawrence Journal-World — though how fun would that first publication be?) did exactly that by printing a story called “The Summer Movie Factory,” written by Mr. Niccum. There’s a 4-5 paragraph intro that focuses mostly on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and then there are summaries provided for 17 films due out between now and August 26. The summaries start off with a little bit of info — some speculation about War of the Worlds and the career of Martin Lawrence, for instance, but eventually dissolve into press release crap. For instance, I think, perhaps, that New Line Cinemas could have written this about The Wedding Crashers: “‘Life’s a party. Crash it,’ boasts the tagline of this buddy comedy. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson play a pair of skirt chasers who sneak into weddings to take advantage of the women aroused by the thought of marriage. The game gets more complicated when Wilson becomes smitten with a beautiful bridesmaid (Rachel McAdams).”
Not only do I have a problem with the fact that this little capsule confuses a character name with an actor name (is Owen Wilson playing himself? Is he playing someone else named Wilson?), but quoting a tagline for a movie is like writing a story about McDonald’s that starts with “I’m Lovin’ It.” LAME.
Or, for instance, this clip about The Fantastic Four: “Marvel is hoping for another “X-Men” or “Spider-Man” and wishing to avoid an “Elektra” or “Blade: Trinity.” Although it features a no-name cast and a director (Tim Story) whose last movie was the comedic bomb “Taxi,” “Fantastic Four” does sport a smokin’ trailer. Flame on!”
It sports a smokin’ trailer? Wow, that’s absolutely BREAKING news, and I bet it’s extremely indicative of how the actual movie will play out. I’m so glad I have the newspaper to tell me about that, in case I don’t own a television of my own and/or haven’t been to the movies recently. And I’m fascinated to learn that a movie production company is hoping that its newest feature will make money; I had always thought that they were simply in it for the good of the children.
I can’t understand why a newspaper that finds room to dedicate one-third of its local section front every Saturday to The Column That Never Ends (by Dolph Simons, Jr., editor and publisher since 1962) can’t manage to find the space for an actual movie preview section, where, perhaps, some enterprising person (let’s call her a “reporter”) would figure out which movies will be playing locally for the next six weeks or so, and then do something we’ll call “research” to figure out a little bit more about each of the offerings (including the independent films) that’s coming up. That way, there’d be sound information — things like, this director’s past work includes, or the script was written by X, who also did such-and-such movie, or preview screenings have left audiences with a favorable/mediocre/vengeful feelings about this movie — which I’ll call “a story” for people, we’ll call them “readers,” to look at. It would be like… news AND entertainment! It’d be a NEWSPAPER ENTERTAINMENT FEATURE. And it would be less likely to make my head explode.