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SPOILERS! How Do You Feel About? Can films actually be "spoiled"? [Talking Images]

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St. Gloede
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SPOILERS! How Do You Feel About? Can films actually be "spoiled"? [Talking Images]

#1

Post by St. Gloede » June 10th, 2020, 4:59 pm

Hi all,

How do you feel about spoilers?

Can they actually hurt your viewing experience?

Does even knowing a film has something "spoilable" about them have the potential to affect you?

What lengths (if any) do you go to in order to avoid spoilers?

Should you even avoid reading up on films before watching them, or can films also be hurt by going into them them "blind"?

We cover these topic and more in our latest episode of Talking Images, "They Spoil Pictures Don't They?". Listen here:

Spotify - https://open.spotify.com/show/3GhRXnb6OzOnfae2Uvkvus
Sounder - https://talkingimages.sounder.fm/show/talking-images

We are also really happy to introduce Adam (Blocho) as a first-time co-host.

Note: We end the episode on an indepth, spoiler-ridden discussion of The Crying Game, which 3 of us just watched, two for the first time, allowing us to dive into just how knowing about spoilers affects a film experience.

-

So, let's discuss spoilers.

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#2

Post by kongs_speech » June 10th, 2020, 5:19 pm

I think spoilers can hurt the viewing experience, definitely.

Now, of course, there's no reason why the classic endings everyone knows should be put under spoiler tags. Rosebud is the sled. Leo dies. Bruce was dead the whole time. Everybody knows that stuff. But for newer films or lesser known ones, I think it's a dick move to ruin important plot elements for people. You've got to be careful with the IMDb and Letterboxd plot summaries. Some of them reveal way too much information. Ghost, for instance. I wish I hadn't known going in that
SpoilerShow
Tony Goldwyn is the bad guy
. Still, I gave the film five stars. So I guess it doesn't hurt the quality of a film, but it can make it less fun.
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#3

Post by blocho » June 10th, 2020, 5:44 pm

I remember reading some article about the history of trailers that mentioned Gone in 60 Seconds as a movie whose trailer had changed industry practices. I can't find that article, but here's the trailer. It is unusual:



Trailers are their own genre, and I love the good ones, like the trailer for The Social Network, which I think is really better than the movie itself. It's also a great example of the "use of creepy-sounding cover of popular song" trope in trailers:



Here's a good article for anyone who wants to learn more.

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#4

Post by blocho » June 10th, 2020, 5:47 pm

kongs_speech wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 5:19 pm
I think spoilers can hurt the viewing experience, definitely.

Now, of course, there's no reason why the classic endings everyone knows should be put under spoiler tags. Rosebud is the sled. Leo dies. Bruce was dead the whole time. Everybody knows that stuff. But for newer films or lesser known ones, I think it's a dick move to ruin important plot elements for people. You've got to be careful with the IMDb and Letterboxd plot summaries. Some of them reveal way too much information. Ghost, for instance. I wish I hadn't known going in that
SpoilerShow
Tony Goldwyn is the bad guy
. Still, I gave the film five stars. So I guess it doesn't hurt the quality of a film, but it can make it less fun.
You spoiled three other movies, but didn't want to spoil Ghost?

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#5

Post by kongs_speech » June 10th, 2020, 6:08 pm

blocho wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 5:47 pm
kongs_speech wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 5:19 pm
I think spoilers can hurt the viewing experience, definitely.

Now, of course, there's no reason why the classic endings everyone knows should be put under spoiler tags. Rosebud is the sled. Leo dies. Bruce was dead the whole time. Everybody knows that stuff. But for newer films or lesser known ones, I think it's a dick move to ruin important plot elements for people. You've got to be careful with the IMDb and Letterboxd plot summaries. Some of them reveal way too much information. Ghost, for instance. I wish I hadn't known going in that
SpoilerShow
Tony Goldwyn is the bad guy
. Still, I gave the film five stars. So I guess it doesn't hurt the quality of a film, but it can make it less fun.
You spoiled three other movies, but didn't want to spoil Ghost?
A fair point, but I would consider Ghost to be lesser known than those three. It was a big hit when it came out, but that was 30 years ago, and it's not so iconic that everyone knows what happens.
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#6

Post by clemmetarey » June 10th, 2020, 6:43 pm

Ghost is another film I haven't seen and so far I somehow managed to avoid its spoilers, so thanks for the spoiler tags.

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#7

Post by 3eyes » June 10th, 2020, 9:25 pm

I think back to the first time I saw Psycho
SpoilerShow
in the theater - we got out around midnight and my companion's cat was stuck under the car and the undertaker next door was waiting for us to leave so they could bring in the stiff
I remember that the ending wasn't a total surprise, it had been carefully built up to so it just pushed the viewer over the edge into scream mode. Without the buildup it wouldn't have been nearly as effective. But I've watched it several times since, knowing what was going to happen, and with just as much enjoyment; maybe the memory of that first time added to the pleasure of seeing it again, and I suppose it was rewatches that made me conscious of the buildup.

I must say that since I've been on ICM my understanding of movies has grown so much that when I rewatch things I saw decades ago I marvel at how much I didn't get on earlier viewings.
:run: STILL the Gaffer!

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#8

Post by Onderhond » June 10th, 2020, 9:44 pm

I really dislike spoilers. I rarely read anything about a film up front, neither do I watch a trailer or look up promo material, unless I want to quickly verify the baseline quality of a film. This mostly happens with modern horror films, which can often feature decent posters and a couple of well-picked screencaps, not reflective of the amateurish crap that is the actual film.

I'm not quite certain where this comes from though, because generally speaking I don't care much for the plot of a movie, so I would actually expect to not be bothered by plot spoiler. Maybe it's the fact that going in blind makes the entire film one big exploration. Even when many films end up being quite predictable, the fact that you can give a film the benefit of the doubt is certainly helpful starting a film.

It's not just the plot though, spoilers can be annoying for comedies (when the best jokes are in the trailer), horror films (when they spoil creature designs for example), sci-fi (when they spoil the designs) or even just attractive-looking films (showing the best shots in trailers). Ultimately, I prefer to discover everything as closely as the director intended it. In that regard, it's quite sad to hear that often directors aren't even part of the trailer process. I remember seeing the trailer for Dave Made a Maze after the film, but simply showing the nature of the maze pretty much ruins the entire setup (i.e. the first 20 minutes) of the film. I understand that it's going to draw a certain crowd that gets triggered by seeing the good bits, but as someone with a rather big dinner plate I can take a gamble once in a while, so trailers really serve no purpose for me.

So yeah, no spoilers for me, which extends even beyond the typical narrative spoilers.

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#9

Post by frbrown » June 10th, 2020, 10:10 pm

blocho wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 5:44 pm
I remember reading some article about the history of trailers that mentioned Gone in 60 Seconds as a movie whose trailer had changed industry practices. I can't find that article

Do you remember if the article explained in what way that trailer changed industry practices?

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#10

Post by blocho » June 11th, 2020, 12:54 am

frbrown wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 10:10 pm
blocho wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 5:44 pm
I remember reading some article about the history of trailers that mentioned Gone in 60 Seconds as a movie whose trailer had changed industry practices. I can't find that article

Do you remember if the article explained in what way that trailer changed industry practices?
I don't. I'll make another effort to find it, but I've had no luck so far.

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#11

Post by pitchorneirda » June 11th, 2020, 9:29 am

blocho wrote:
June 11th, 2020, 12:54 am
frbrown wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 10:10 pm
blocho wrote:
June 10th, 2020, 5:44 pm
I remember reading some article about the history of trailers that mentioned Gone in 60 Seconds as a movie whose trailer had changed industry practices. I can't find that article

Do you remember if the article explained in what way that trailer changed industry practices?
I don't. I'll make another effort to find it, but I've had no luck so far.
I think it was because the trailer featured a female voice and apparently it was (is?) not common at that time.

EDIT : I found this to support my statement
"One woman who has begun to break down barriers is actress and voice-over artist Melissa Disney. In 2000, she narrated her first trailer, the action movie Gone in 60 Seconds, which is widely credited as one of the first major movies to employ a female voice. She’s gone on to voice trailers for Bridesmaids, Unstoppable and Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close, among others. She has also done voice-over work for the Academy Awards, Emmys and Billboard Music Awards."
(Extract from this article: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ ... sks-602872)

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#12

Post by Onderhond » June 11th, 2020, 9:43 am

In a World... by Lake Bell is a film about that topic. Not sure if it references the same woman though.

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#13

Post by cinewest » June 11th, 2020, 1:43 pm

The conversation moved along well again in #6, with just a few minor glitches in terms of what synced up and what didn't (it's a little tricky knowing what to cut and what not to, especially if something is then referenced by the next speaker.
Have noticed that the conclusions of the tape delay just suddenly cut out mid sentence, which is not a bad way to go if you fade out in the process (as though the conversation is continuing). I'm guessing this was not intended, though.

As for the content, I thought the conversation was most lively and illuminating around The Crying Game, probably because at least 3 had seen it just prior to the podcast, and everything was still fresh. Thought everyone brought up good points about the film, though I do think that the hook (the first part of the film, where Whitaker and Rhea bond the way adversaries can), and the Spoiler (the second hook, in a way) were essential, and very well done.
Sol made some very good points about the main character's crisis of identity being central to the second half of the film, but like others I feel this is where the film began to have problems, and it might have worked better to lengthen and slow the pace of this section (in order to really take hold of us and what the couple is struggling with as well as avoiding) before the reemergence of Rhea's past.
Knowing that Dil was transgender beforehand would have robbed the film of its setup and initial shock, and in general I try to avoid knowing too much about a film before I see it, but if I am not familiar with the filmmaker, especially with some of the newer indie, international, and arthouse stuff, I count on a combination of festival prizes won, reviews by people I trust who don't go very far into the movie (Chris's reference of Transit, here, is apropos), my finely tuned antenna (40+ years of being a film nut), and the "dreaded" trailers that everyone seems to hate.

Trailers can be very useful when they are able to transmit something about the look and feel of a film, and I can often glean quite a lot about other aspects that either encourage or discourage me from seeing it. When I go to film festivals, there is often not much to go on prior to making a selection, aside from a very short blurb saying what it's about, and I find trailers very useful in this context.

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#14

Post by Lonewolf2003 » June 19th, 2020, 2:18 pm

It was an interesting podcast again with a lively discussion, because there were some different opinions and views on the subject. Adam was a good addition in that way, who took the contra-position in some discussion to make it more an open debate with different views. His defending of trailers was a good example of this, but also that he purposefully picked the pros against having some knowledge about a film cause he assumed all other would mostly focus on the cons.

I myself am not very sensitive about spoilers. Of course if I was going to see brand new movie X with a plottwist this weekend I wouldn't like if somebody revealed that plottwist to me today. But generally the narrative is only a small part of the reasons for me to enjoy a movie, so knowing some details about the plot, movie or even a twist won't spoil a movie tremendously for me. In fact if I would f.e. read a review here about a movie with details about the plot and twist, I would be surprised if I would actively remember it if I see it f.e. months or even years later.

A comment about the importance of having some knowledge beforehand about a movie. Now I haven't seen Transit yet, but I would argue that if a setting of a movie is not understandable from the movie an sich and you have to read about it (beforehand) to get it, that director is doing a poor job of setting his movie up. If the setting of Transit is that modern day France is still under nazi rule (if I understand correctly) a viewer has to get that from the movie and not from the blur on his dvd-box. This is something different than assuming a viewer has some general (historical) knowledge to get the background about a movie, f.e. a movie set in 1930s Germany, cause that isn't information that comes from the movie itself.

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#15

Post by AdamH » June 19th, 2020, 3:21 pm

Thanks for the feedback Lonewolf! Adam is blocho, not me in case anyone is wondering although I probably should pretend it was me as I thought he contributed very well.

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#16

Post by St. Gloede » June 22nd, 2020, 4:51 pm

Lonewolf2003 wrote:
June 19th, 2020, 2:18 pm
A comment about the importance of having some knowledge beforehand about a movie. Now I haven't seen Transit yet, but I would argue that if a setting of a movie is not understandable from the movie an sich and you have to read about it (beforehand) to get it, that director is doing a poor job of setting his movie up. If the setting of Transit is that modern day France is still under nazi rule (if I understand correctly) a viewer has to get that from the movie and not from the blur on his dvd-box. This is something different than assuming a viewer has some general (historical) knowledge to get the background about a movie, f.e. a movie set in 1930s Germany, cause that isn't information that comes from the movie itself.
Oh no, it is not the case that the Nazis are still occupying France, rather the Germans have recently invaded and we follow people as they attempt to leave. You can get everything you need from the surface level, however, whether or not people understand the direct parallels to the 1940s depends on how closely they pay attention (and how much they know). It could in other words be possible for an unattentive viewer to think it is a sci-fi, etc. and not consider the parallel at all - so knowing it is an adaptation of a book set in WW2, with no alterations, from the start, making it easier to see it as a whole - though I think most people will quickly see the parallel's - Petzold did quite a good job in my opinion.

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#17

Post by OldAle1 » June 22nd, 2020, 5:07 pm

Ooh, I just noticed I hadn't commented here. I listened to this one soon after it was posted. I generally prefer not knowing spoilers but I do think their importance is quite often over-stated. My favorite critic has an interesting piece on this:

https://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2018/ ... -spoilers/

It's a little overdone I think but his central point that caring about spoilers the way we do is a sign that we privilege story/plot/narrative over everything else is a good one. On the opposite side of the spectrum from JR, I had a good friend who went absolutely crazy over spoilers - he was very, very upset for example that he found out before seeing it that Jarmusch's Dead Man was in b/w and a western. He actually was one of those people who would cover his eyes - and blare music on his walkman through headphones - to avoid seeing or hearing previews when in a theater. And he made the point to me that JR makes about The Wizard of Oz, that's it's a terrible spoiler to know that it turns to color. The problem, as JR writes, is that you can't really be a critic, can't really discuss an art form like cinema without discussing what happens - and if you extend that into wanting not to know anything at all about the work, then there's nothing to write or talk about at all.

Of course then the question becomes, if you don't want to know anything at all about a film before seeing it (or a novel before reading it, etc), then how do you even decide what to see? My friend also was upset that he know Rosenbaum's rating of Dead Man - but he was already a Jarmusch fan so of course he wanted to see the film regardless. But that only works for a known quantity - I like most/all of what I've seen from x director/writer/actor, so I'll see the next thing without knowing anything about it. When it comes to brand-new works from unknowns, there has to be *something* that gets you into that theater, or to buy or rent that DVD or sign up for that streaming service. So the idea that we can utterly avoid all spoilers is rather silly - we have to at least know enough to be able to decide, this looks worth paying for, or this choice looks more interesting than the other choice.

I try pretty hard not to give away too much of the plots in most of the reviews I write - just enough to help the reader decide whether or not it looks interesting enough to waste a couple of hours on, really; but since I'm really writing mostly for myself, it's more of a memory-jog than anything else: oh, yeah, that was the Naruse film where that happened, ok, now I remember why I didn't like it as much as the other one that came out that year with the same actor. That kind of thing. My memory for plot details is rather poor, so even on re-watching I often feel like I can come to the film relatively fresh, and I'd rather not know too much.

Loved Transit by the way and didn't know anything whatsoever about it going in, which in this case I think was hugely positive - but to someone with zero knowledge of European history of the last century it might be an impediment to go in blind.

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#18

Post by Lonewolf2003 » June 23rd, 2020, 11:29 am

OldAle1 wrote:
June 22nd, 2020, 5:07 pm
Ooh, I just noticed I hadn't commented here. I listened to this one soon after it was posted. I generally prefer not knowing spoilers but I do think their importance is quite often over-stated. My favorite critic has an interesting piece on this:

https://www.jonathanrosenbaum.net/2018/ ... -spoilers/

It's a little overdone I think but his central point that caring about spoilers the way we do is a sign that we privilege story/plot/narrative over everything else is a good one. On the opposite side of the spectrum from JR, I had a good friend who went absolutely crazy over spoilers - he was very, very upset for example that he found out before seeing it that Jarmusch's Dead Man was in b/w and a western. He actually was one of those people who would cover his eyes - and blare music on his walkman through headphones - to avoid seeing or hearing previews when in a theater. And he made the point to me that JR makes about The Wizard of Oz, that's it's a terrible spoiler to know that it turns to color. The problem, as JR writes, is that you can't really be a critic, can't really discuss an art form like cinema without discussing what happens - and if you extend that into wanting not to know anything at all about the work, then there's nothing to write or talk about at all.

Of course then the question becomes, if you don't want to know anything at all about a film before seeing it (or a novel before reading it, etc), then how do you even decide what to see? My friend also was upset that he know Rosenbaum's rating of Dead Man - but he was already a Jarmusch fan so of course he wanted to see the film regardless. But that only works for a known quantity - I like most/all of what I've seen from x director/writer/actor, so I'll see the next thing without knowing anything about it. When it comes to brand-new works from unknowns, there has to be *something* that gets you into that theater, or to buy or rent that DVD or sign up for that streaming service. So the idea that we can utterly avoid all spoilers is rather silly - we have to at least know enough to be able to decide, this looks worth paying for, or this choice looks more interesting than the other choice.

I try pretty hard not to give away too much of the plots in most of the reviews I write - just enough to help the reader decide whether or not it looks interesting enough to waste a couple of hours on, really; but since I'm really writing mostly for myself, it's more of a memory-jog than anything else: oh, yeah, that was the Naruse film where that happened, ok, now I remember why I didn't like it as much as the other one that came out that year with the same actor. That kind of thing. My memory for plot details is rather poor, so even on re-watching I often feel like I can come to the film relatively fresh, and I'd rather not know too much.

Loved Transit by the way and didn't know anything whatsoever about it going in, which in this case I think was hugely positive - but to someone with zero knowledge of European history of the last century it might be an impediment to go in blind.
Which was the point I was trying to make, when I said after the first few episodes the hosts of the podcast shouldn't be too affraid of spoilers. Cause than you can't really discuss anything (in depth).

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#19

Post by Onderhond » June 23rd, 2020, 11:53 am

OldAle1 wrote:
June 22nd, 2020, 5:07 pm
It's a little overdone I think but his central point that caring about spoilers the way we do is a sign that we privilege story/plot/narrative over everything else is a good one.
That's a bit of a semantic discussion maybe, but I don't think spoilers are necessarily limited to plot/narrative. But most people talking about spoilers will use it like that, so still fair I guess.
OldAle1 wrote:
June 22nd, 2020, 5:07 pm
Of course then the question becomes, if you don't want to know anything at all about a film before seeing it (or a novel before reading it, etc), then how do you even decide what to see? My friend also was upset that he know Rosenbaum's rating of Dead Man - but he was already a Jarmusch fan so of course he wanted to see the film regardless. But that only works for a known quantity - I like most/all of what I've seen from x director/writer/actor, so I'll see the next thing without knowing anything about it. When it comes to brand-new works from unknowns, there has to be *something* that gets you into that theater, or to buy or rent that DVD or sign up for that streaming service. So the idea that we can utterly avoid all spoilers is rather silly - we have to at least know enough to be able to decide, this looks worth paying for, or this choice looks more interesting than the other choice.
This all sounds a bit theoretical though. If you want to go on a vacation, picking a cabin in the Alps or a five star hotel in Jamaica already gives you a pretty good idea what to expect. You don't need to Google Earth the exact location and go to TripAdvisor to see 400 pics made by previous guests to get an idea. That's the level of abstraction most people are going for I think. Genre + poster + key themes is often enough.

As for what a critic writes about, that's really the critic's problem. It also depends what outlet he writes for. If he's writing for a news paper with the intention of drawing people to a movie theater, better keep the spoilers out and the actual critique to a minimum. If he's doing a piece for S&S or a dedicated film magazine/website to talk about a specific film, go crazy with the spoiler. It's probably a bit annoying since they used to be able to cross over between those two worlds much easier, but those times are gone?

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