August 1, 2002

On Full Frontal and the opening of Hollywood's kimono

The reviews of Full Frontal are coming in, and it's not sounding good. Here's a broad cross-section from the global media: New York Press ("Even a bad Steven Soderbergh movie is worth seeing, and Full Frontal is worth seeing."); New Yorker ("...perhaps the most naÔvely awful movie I've seen from the hand of a major director."); the New York Observer("...reminds me how new movies like Full Frontal bring out all the Old Hollywood in me. Still, I liked seeing all the major stars." [Andrew Sarris, apparently channeling a 13-year old girl]); and The New York Times (Quoting Soderbergh's own footnote back at him: "'This is exactly the kind of onanistic, self-referential game-playing the author insisted would be absent from this book. So is this.' And so is Full Frontal." "Full Frontal is rated R. It includes much swearing, two scenes of sexuality and the violent dismemberment of narrative continuity.")

Is this just typical overheated advance hype giving way to inevitably unmet expectations? I'm skeptical. With Full Frontal, there's a specific kind of advance hype, "Making Of " hype. Soderbergh is "getting back to his indie roots"; an 18-day bootstrap production with DV; Julia Roberts driving herself and doing her own makeup (!!). It included a tech-heavy feature on Apple.com and a hothouse "production diary" website.

Generating & satisfying interest in "how'd they do that?" is a tried & true buzz tactic at a film's release, or when it's released on DVD (where studios are learning how to cash in with war story-filled commentary tracks and carefully selected outtakes). Full Frontal. Stolen Summer. Goldeneye. Is it inevitable that heavy pre-film process promotion will yield a sucky film?

But no one's shown how to successfully capitalize on the meta- aspects of filmmaking in the early stages of the cycle. The interest is clearly there, at least for films with pre-identified fan bases (e.g., franchises, name directors, star vehicles); sites like The Force.net, Harry Knowles' AICN, and Kevin Smith's View Askew, as well as the remora-like programming of E! et al attest to that. Even as visionary newcomers seek the right balance between process and product, when studios show us how they make the sausage, the result (so far) is pretty unappetizing.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: August 1, 2002.

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