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View Diary: Saturday Night Loser's Club, Vol. CCCLXVII: Movie Spoilers Edition (61 comments)

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  •  I'm 180 degrees away from you on this one, CCC. (3+ / 0-)

    I think every review should have spoilers.  I think not revealing the "surprise" ending is a truly stupid and counterproductive rite.  I have several reasons for feeling this way.

    1.  If I read a review, I want to know whether it's something I should bother wasting my time with.  The good will voucher of the reviewer means nothing to me.  I'd like to know what it's about.  If the whole film depends on the surprise effect of some twist without which the rest of the movie collapses, I'd rather know that in advance.

    For instance: The Crying Game.  It turns out that the love interest in The Crying Game, the chick... is not really a chick.  Big SURPRISE!  However, knowing that surprise makes the difference in whether it's a movie worth watching or not.  I'm sure a great many people, hearing that, said, "Aw fuck, I do NOT want to see that."  OTOH, it made me want to see it, where otherwise it would have sounded like another dreary British movie about the IRA.  The rest of the film depended on that, but it still stands, even after you know it.  (Or, you know you would walk out, which is fine, too).

    2. Most things that can be ruined by a spoiler are crappy story-telling and shouldn't be defended.  A detective novel, for instance, where, once you know whodunnit, you don't care anymore -- that's not a good detective story.  However, just as Little Jack Horner thought the whole purpose of the pie was that plum, there are people out there who have such a limited focus that the books and films they consume are just consumables.  Once you know whodunnit, why would you still want to see it?

    I'm using the example of the whodunnit mystery (take Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians, for example) as the worst case scenario.  A whodunnit mystery so devoid of other redeeming value that it's not worth considering once you know who did it probably isn't a very good mystery.

    Still... Ten Little Indians.  The first time you see it, it's probably more entertaining if you don't know the ending.  That makes sense.  But there is a big difference between that, the worst case scenario, and other big spoiler no-no's, like the chick in the Crying Game.  The Crying Game only really gets started once you discover that the guy's new girlfriend is transgendered.  

    3.  There are some spoilers that just don't really matter a hell of a lot because they are extraneous to the story.  Example that I gave above to Rimjob: Basic Instinct.  My argument is that you could easily have changed the ending and it would have still been the same film.  At the end, as a kind of humorous flip, it is revealed that Sharon Stone REALLY is the killer.  But it could just as well have been other people with almost no change to the film.  There was no compelling logic that required that it had to end with Sharon Stone as the killer.

    This happens more often than you may have considered:  The mystery killer in a whodunnit is somebody whose name could have been drawn out of a hat at the last minute.  Big loss of a spoiler for that.  I, for one, if I'm reading a review, would like to know if it's that kind of film.  I don't give a shit if it's Sharon Stone or not.  I just wanted to see her flash her snatch.

    I've actually got more reasons than that, but that's just for starters.  I despise people who respect spoilers in their reviews.  I feel like I've been cheated by their review.

    •  well, we agree to disagree on this one (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dumbo, RiveroftheWest, Youffraita

      Most movies, at least US movies, are plot-driven, even when the plot is lame.  Thus revealing major surprises in advance is inappropriate the overwhelming majority of the time.  If a film has other redeeming features in its craft and overall construction, those will be revealed more on repeat viewings, where plot is less of the concern.

      One recent case that may fit more with your general idea is Argo, where the movie was pretty well constructed in the manner of a thriller, even though in retrospect, given that it's nominally based on true events, the outcome isn't in doubt.  It speaks to how well Ben Affleck and his crew treated/manipulated the events in their movie that the pace is nonetheless gripping.

      "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

      by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 10:17:51 PM PDT

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      •  I'm reminded of Hitchcock's use of (3+ / 0-)

        "The MacGuffin."  The MacGuffin is whatever the thing is that the characters in one of his movies are tearing their hair out trying to get.  Hitchcock felt that it was really irrelevant what it was and he often designed his films not knowing for sure in advance what the MacGuffin would be because it didn't really matter WHAT it was.  

        A spoiler that is about a macguffin, then, is no big deal.  For instance, in Umberto Eco's, The Name of the Rose, people are killing each other over a MacGuffin that is revealed, finally, to be lost writings of Aristotle.  OOoooookay.  It could just as easily have been a nude portrait of the Pope, and probably more entertaining, but, whatever, fine.  I never read the book, only saw the film, but my reaction, upon seeing it, was, "Okay, so what?"

        Is a spoiler that reveals this spoiling the film?  You wade through the rest of the movie with the other characters wondering what it's all about.  Finally you find out.  Okay.  

        I'm going to be a little arrogant here, I guess, and say that for many less mature film goers, that is vitally important.  Knowing that it's about lost writings of Aristotle, the anxiety of the film's characters about this is no longer capable of being appreciated.  Thus they are no longer able to immerse themselves in the film.  

        I can understand that, but I don't feel like I have to respect that.  

        This is kind of like, "I don't want to hear Beethoven's Fifth again.  I already know it ends with a Triumph movement."  Yup.  If there was ever a symphony that could be spoiled by somebody telling you that it ends with a triumph or tragedy movement, that would be a symphony not to waste your time listening to.

        •  BTW, I have the book of...... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Youffraita, Dumbo, RiveroftheWest

          .....The Name of the Rose.  I haven't read it.  That aside, in comparing to music, music is different because music doesn't work in a 'narrative' sense the way as literature does, because there's no conventional story in music the same way, as a rule.  Even knowing the idea of a journey from darkness to light in a piece of music in advance isn't a big deal, because the point really isn't the end, but what happens along the way.  

          However, I'll admit that for a newbie to one particular piece of music, it would be criminal to spoil the ending in advance.  I'm thinking of Mahler 6.

          "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

          by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 10:51:12 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Dumbo has an excellent point, though. (3+ / 0-)

            "The 1812 Overture ends with cannons."

            "Well, you've just spoiled it for me!"

            -- ridiculous, no?

            In any well-crafted movie or well-written book, I don't care whether I know the ending in advance b/c I enjoy the journey.  This is why I can reread old favorites, or rewatch for that matter.

            I don't care whether I know the ending.  If I am entranced while getting to it, then it is a successful work.

            Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

            by Youffraita on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 10:58:12 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Thank you for agreeing with me, (3+ / 0-)

              although we're probably going to be in a very small minority on this.

              I take the position that it's BECAUSE we know how it's going to end that we enjoy it, even when we don't know the particulars of the ending.  

              •  the point is that for anyone's 1st experience..... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Youffraita, RiveroftheWest

                ......of a given work of art, where narrative is involved, as a general rule of thumb, do not spoil the surprises for those who don't know in advance what's coming.  Once that first experience is past, then work on the depths.

                "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                by chingchongchinaman on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 11:25:11 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I disagree with you about narrative (2+ / 0-)

                  in music, so we're at loggerheads over that.  Perhaps opera might make a hybrid analogy because it is both music and text narrative.  Knowing that Madame Butterfly's going to kill herself doesn't make the suspense of waiting for it less interesting the second time.  In fact, I can't think that the first time you see it that it could possibly be better because of the surprise.

                  I think this whole concern about spoilers is overblown.  If you don't want to hear a spoiler, don't read reviews.  Otherwise, you're forcing the rest of us to dumb down the discourse, like parents talking in code about Christmas presents.

                  •  opera is a different beast, because of the.... (0+ / 0-)

                    .....welding of music with the story, and because the story of a given opera is not the sole element in its construction.  In the context of movies, I guess we are at loggerheads (but at least we both know that) regarding spoilers, since the job of a review is to discuss the quality of the film, but without giving away the major elements of the plot.  It's like when I was discussing in BF that I was reading Les Miserables, since that made reading it a bit more of a challenge, knowing how it was going to end, and the very general plot points along the way.  What I got as surprise, besides the overall experience of the novel, was all the details that obviously didn't get into the musical, the details from the novel that I did not know in advance.

                    "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                    by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 10:02:46 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

              •  Not quite, Dumbo: (3+ / 0-)

                My opinion is slightly different from yours:

                I take the position that it's BECAUSE we know how it's going to end that we enjoy it, even when we don't know the particulars of the ending.
                Last fall I signed up with Netflix & I'm working my way through the better selections there.  One auteur I've long been interested in watching is Ang Lee, and they have some of his work.  I didn't know where /how the endings would be, but will gladly rewatch all of them b/c they are so powerful.

                Same with the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy (they have the Swedish films, subtitled).  I'd already read the books twice but wanted to see how the movies handled them.  Excellently: but I didn't love them because I knew the ending, I loved them b/c the auteur presented already-known material so wonderfully.

                "Spoilers" don't spoil anything, even in murder mysteries, if the book/movie is brilliantly crafted.  That's the impression I get about The Crying Game too: it was just so wonderfully filmed, it didn't matter whether you knew in advance (although the NYT review was careful not to reveal the surprise ending).

                D'ya see the difference?  I don't CARE if I know the ending or not, as long as the journey is spellbinding.

                Irony takes a worse beating from Republicans than Wile E. Coyote does from Acme. --Tara the Antisocial Social Worker

                by Youffraita on Sat Mar 23, 2013 at 11:40:58 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I'm rereading Diana Gabaldon's (4+ / 0-)

                  outrageously long Outlander series.  I said I was going to quit after I reread the first three (they're about a thousand pages each), but I went into OCD mode, I guess, because I started on the fourth one.  I know pretty much everything that's going to happen, but I'm enjoying it as much or more because I know "okay, this next part is going to be good."  The fourth and fifth books particular I gave a shit review of on bookflurries because the third was so good the next two were a let down.  But... ah, reading it again!  I know enough to not be let down from too high expectations and can just enjoy the flow of the story.  It's not a better book because of it, but I am enjoying it more.

                  ... And if CFK ever shows up tonight I want her to know I've got tomatoes on the vine.  I found the first ones last Sunday.  They're a little smaller than my thumb joint.

                  •  Hurrah for tomatoes...yum (4+ / 0-)

                    I crashed and burned early last night at 8:30 my time.

                    This night owl is having problems lately.  Maybe because I am a hibernating bear for a few more weeks.

                    It is 23 degrees going up to 39 later today with small chances of snow on Monday and Tuesday.  I guess a big storm is going south of us, tonight, or something, but it can snow like crazy and not show on the radar at all as we found out last Thursday.

                    But we are nearly done with March and April is usually more gentle.  

                    Best wishes!

                    Join us at Bookflurries-Bookchat on Wednesday nights 8:00 PM EST

                    by cfk on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 05:02:55 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                •  with respect, I'm afraid that spoilers..... (0+ / 0-)

                  .....do spoil something, namely the surprise inherent in what should be a suspenseful narrative, where the reader doesn't know everything in advance and has to put things together in the course of reading the book.  Otherwise, there's not much point in reading anything.  So we just have to agree to disagree here.  I am with you, though, that a really high quality thriller in terms of writing and imagination does transcend mere plot.

                  "It's only in books that the officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a mistake." (Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone)

                  by chingchongchinaman on Sun Mar 24, 2013 at 10:04:31 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

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