Special Report By Casey McCabe
San Franciscans are famously tolerant people. This is a city where intolerance is simply not tolerated. Except in the odd case of coming attractions.
I've begun to believe San Franciscans go to movies in order to boo the coming attractions. It's a local release mechanism. Like the way Philadelphians go to sporting events to boo their own team. I've taken out-of-town visitors to movies in San Francisco and they're routinely shocked by the vocal displeasure that greets virtually every preview the theater throws up.
We hiss the mere sight of vaguely-aligned terrorists getting ahold of anything remotely nuclear. And groan when the scruffy plays-by-his-rules hero rappels down a skyscraper with a girl in one arm, an Uzi in the other, an unseen third arm clinging to the rope. We can be heard tut-tutting when Robert Redford - with 20 foot facial crags soft lighting can no longer spackel - is trotted out as the romantic lead for an impossibly beautiful young actress. We laugh at would be tearjerkers, moan at would-be comedies, and yes, even heckle those critically acclaimed little films from Finland, if theyíre not careful.
But are we really protesting what we suspect are yet more bad movies coming down the pike? We're already in the theater, having willingly paid to see the featured product - possibly even something we lustily jeered in previews last month. No, I think the problem is the previews themselves. A delicate craft in its own right, as foreplay is to sex, film trailers today typically forgo the tease and lunge straight for the sweaty climax.
I prefer the old days, when film trailers were quick, shameless bursts of hyperbole. When stern voiceovers warned that HEART PATIENTS, EXPECTANT MOTHERS, THE FRETFUL AND EASILY TROUBLED SHOULD NOT SIT THROUGH THE ELECTRIFYING CLIMAX OF THIS MOVIE! Or simply proclaimed that No Other Film in the History of Motion Pictures Has Matched This Epic Achievement. Everyone knew the drill. They were the masters of the dream factory and weíd have to pay to call their bluff.
But now Hollywood seems terrified that today's jaded audience might not buy it. If the studio spent $50 million to film the climactic moment when a runaway aircraft carrier crashes into the U.N. Building, you can be sure itíll get loving slow-motion play in the trailer. Worse yet, if a film actually IS an emotional roller-coaster, full of clever, suspenseful twists, the trailer is determined to prove it to us.....by giving away the entire plot.
It's amazing we go to any films after being assaulted by their trailers.
Previews are like any other form of seduction. I want to be teased, taunted, and if need be, lied to. And if it turns out Iíve been cheated, it doesnít mean I wonít come back for more. Because I like movies. I especially like seeing them in San Francisco. Where no matter how the feature turns out, at least I can revel in the joyful hostility with which we greet the coming attractions.
© 1999 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 05/26/99
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