Saturday, August 19, 2006

A Review Of A Movie I've Never Seen

I have never seen "Snakes On A Plane". I probably never will. I hate snakes and given that I'll be on a plane bound for London in October... well, let's just say I want to be able to sleep over the course of the next month. But in this post-modern age, if a person wants to review a movie he's never seen, that should be OK, because that's really the essence of post-modernism. All the rules that were written before are no more...

Except in the case of trains. Let me explain.

During our little sojourn to Chicago, on the first evening, three other heathen Beeson Pastors (Nolan, Kent, and Travis) and myself decided to skip going to the Wednesday night service at Willow Creek Community Church, and instead, go into the city for some Chicago-style pizza at city's finest pizzeria, Giordanos (here's the link - We were only minutes from the METRA station, and none of us being excited about the prospect of driving a 15-passenger van into the city, we decided to take the train. So we're on the platform, kind of wondering whether or not the train we are about to board is going the way we want it to, when I casually ask a woman, "Is this the train to Chicago". Her response..

"It is if you want it to be", she replied.

This is essentially a post-modern answer... and, by the way, also not true. For when it comes to trains, you can want the train to go to Chicago, but if Dubuque, Iowa is your destination, you are pretty much hosed. No amount of existential longing will change the situation if you are going the wrong way. Changing trains, however, will.

But this is a movie review. So in the grand vein of post-modern theory, I will write a review, because I want it to be a review... and thus it is.

I'm sure than when word leaked on a screenwriter's blog that Samuel L. Jackson signed on to be in a movie called "Snakes On A Plane", people with not enough to do and an internet connection went crazy. This scenario for a movie sounded so impossibly bad, that it was too good to be true. Folks couldn't wrap their minds around the possibilities... but they tried. More than a year ago, before the movie was even in production, people through the power of blogs and websites, started designing logos, t-shirts, composing theme music, produced possible trailers, composed possible scenes of the movie, and starting writing dialogue. The upshot of this is that for probably the first time in the history of media, a target audience shaped the course of a film totally by word of mouth. The producing studio and director even admitted that they re-opened production for five days to incorporate the ideas of fans, without any test screenings or pre-marketing study. It was simply a case of electronic populism at work.

What this means for the culture, I'm not sure, but here are a few stabs...

  • In the last month, the internet has helped shape the course of a movie and decided a primary election. Who knows what else its driving, but you can bet corporations, educational institutions, and the government are dropping mad money to tap its potential. Not since the days when the whole town got to vote on the everything has the individual become such a powerful force on the American landscape. If you've got access to broadband, a computer, an enterprising spirit, and the ability to type, you can be heard. If there are enough of you who feel the same way, you can be organized, and even have an impact. Do not underestimate the possibilities of this.. they are far reaching.
  • "The Long Tail" will begin dictating new means of production and marketing for every conceivable product you can think of. For those who don't know what "The Long Tail" is, let me poorly summarize: companies who once tried to get the masses to buy large quantities of a few things, are finding out that you can make money by selling small quantities of lots of things - particularly if they are digitized. iTunes, for example, in any given month, sells at least one copy of each of the more than a million songs it has in its catalogue. The upshot for record companies, for example, is that now they don't need to spend millions to convince us that Brittany Spears newest release is the best thing since sliced bread. Instead it can spend far less money on more artists, and then use the necessary creativity, demographic database info (someone out there knows every single place you surf, and they are selling the information), and the internet to make money selling people exactly what they want. You are about to see a revolution in production and marketing.
  • The possibilities for the church when it comes to this medium are pretty much limitless. Preachers can now find an audience world-wide, particularly if they are willing to buy the necessary demographic info to help them find their target audience... and if you don't think that's true, in the last twenty-four hours this blog was read by people in Denmark, England, Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, and the French Alps. I have loyal readers in Hawaii, Utah, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, a dozen places in the Northeast, and a variety of locales in Canada. I don't know what's more amazing - that there are people in all those places who know this thing exists, or that without being contacted I know they exist. Hence, the reach of a local church will no longer be limited by geography, but by the creativity used to disseminate their message. The world can literally be our parish, but you can bet this is going to change the way ministry gets done.

In short, the fact I knew a movie's plot, most of its most gruesome details, it's signature tag line, and its ending even before it was released is in itself surreal. That it was tailored-made to order and is making hundreds of millions of dollars off of a loyal audience that knew it existed before it knew they existed is down-right unbelievable. But that this will be the new reality for just about everything we buy (think? believe? think we believe? believe we think?), is sobering. It is "1984" in a way George Orwell never imagined.

The world is changing... faster than you can say, "Snakes on a Plane."

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