So Good You Can’t Even Tell

Warner Bros logoI finally got around to watching The Dark Knight on DVD last night. Fairly impressive, but I’m not here to write about the film itself.

I was struck by a promotional video that ran before the feature, right after the god-awful reworking of Casablanca into a warning not to pirate movies (Shame on you, Ilsa).

The promo featured big, impressive, immersive shots from some big Warner Bros. movies, including A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Goodfellas, V for Vendetta, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Batman Begins. For the most part, these were shots intended to make the audience go “oooh,” like Neo stopping a barrage of bullets (ooh), or the Houses of Parliament exploding (ooh).

The voice-over that went with these big visuals went as follows:

Something has come along that changes our movies.

It changes the way you see them, hear them, feel them.

It changes the experience.

It opens our eyes to something new.

We invite you to dig deeper, to find things that you’ve never experienced before.

This is the difference between watching our movies and living them.

Experience our movies on Blu-ray.

This is how our movies are meant to be… lived

Blu-ray logoOK. It was a promo for the glory, the splendor and the majesty that is Blu-ray. Fine. But it raised a few questions for me.

As I’ve already mentioned, these were big, impressive images. I was watching on a standard DVD, on an eye of hell that’s neither HD, plasma, giant, or even flat, with the sound running through a stereo that’s about 30 years old — well, the speakers are only about 10, but there are only two of them. And I got the message that I was supposed to be impressed by these images.

So if I’m impressed, how are they supposed to sell me on ditching all of my equipment and getting a Blu-ray setup? Obviously, they can’t show me how a Blu-ray image is better than what I’ve got if they’re showing it to me via what I’ve got. Maybe they should have lowered the quality of the images they showed me, like I was watching on a pitiful portable picnic player, as little Alex might point out. Then they could have told me that if I wanted to experience the true gorgeousness and gorgeosity of the pictures and properly hear the angel trumpets and devil trombones, I’d best upgrade.

Or I suppose they might have added a few lines to the voice-over (I think it might have been Kiefer Sutherland, using his “this is America” Bank of America voice rather than his “tell me now or you’re dead” 24 voice, by the way), like

Do these scenes look good to you? Then you’re an idiot. This stuff is pure crap. You can’t see how good these scenes really are, because your hardware is shit.

There needs to be some comparison if I’m to be convinced that what I don’t have is better than what I have. Remember the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati? The first few bars were engineered to sound like AM radio, and then it opened up to something fuller, so even though you were listening to the whole thing through a tiny, tinny monaural speaker, you could hear the difference. You got the message that AM radio sounds like KRaP.

And there’s that last line in the promo: This is how our movies are meant to be… lived.

Is it really? Have they forgotten about movie theatres, many of which still have bigger screens and better sound systems than the average living room? Are they suggesting that this is what the filmmakers had in mind?

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Killin’ Terrist Comix

I never got into comic books as a kid. I bought a dozen or so issues of Heavy Metal in my teens, but that’s different: it was French, it was arty, and it had bare breasts. When I was about 10 my maternal grandfather gave me a Flash Gordon (king of impossible) comic, and while it didn’t thrill me, I still had it somewhere in my desk when I was in high school — probably because of my father’s story of owning the original Superman, which his mother threw away while he was in college. Oops. Of course, if that hadn’t happened to thousands of guys his age, the remaining ones wouldn’t be so valuable. I’m actually not so sure that story’s true, anyway, as my father would have been three years old when the comic came out.

Then there are graphic novels and underground stuff. I’ve got Maus and a couple of issues of Raw, and my little brother, during his dead head days, had lots of issues of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and similarly themed hippie crap.

comic book frame

I’ve never seen anything like this, though. Northrup Grumman have put out a series of comic books promoting advanced weapons systems. In this one, the Murcans stop the evil terrorists by bombing the bejeesus out of their hidden camp through the use of (hurrah!) Nothrup Grumman technology.

I guess you can’t make a lot of judgments about propaganda. It’s propaganda, so of course it’s not likely to employ a lot of subtlety. But look at the frame I’ve got here. Bad Swarthy Arabian Fellow #2 says, “Those Americans have foiled our evil plan to rule the world.” Are they kidding? Using the word “foiled,” as in “Curses! Foiled again!” is bad enough, but “our evil plan”? That’s just astonishingly stupid. Even if we think these people are evil, and I know many of us do, only simpletons like Bush think that they think they’re evil.

Stephen Trimble, the original poster, writes,

I am withholding judgment, except to just wonder aloud who they think is the target audience for this (… surely not the Pentagon’s weapons buyers, right?)?

Nope. This was written for people who are stupid enough to believe that somebody like Mussolini would wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and exclaim, “Good morning, you beautiful evil-doer!

Tip o’ the hat to the fine folks at Boing Boing.

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