The R-Rated Comedy is here to stay

In 2007 I wrote a short paper about how film audiences might have driven a shift for a new type of comedy: the R-rated comedy. Since then I continue to find myself going back to this paper and wonder if this has now become a permanent change. Five years ago I quoted Judd Apatow as Hollywood’s new lord of LOL hits, and in 2007 “studio execs…speak of making comedy in a ‘post-Judd world.'” That’s big.

Creating blockbuster comedies like The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, Apatow has proven “there’s a certain style and tone of comedy movies that people like,” (Hollywood Reporter). This style of R-rated comedy replaces funny exaggerated stereotypical characters with more relatable actors and situations.

Some could argue that technology has given people a greater opportunity to share their stories using cheaper tools, but technology gets blamed for impacting everything. I asked myself in 2007, “has the era of Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler comedies become boring as they venture into more dramatic roles?” You can decide, or believe that these actors are reacting to an industry shift because the audience demands more raunchy, realistic humor. Now that it’s 2012, I see a slight shift in Sandler’s career, like acting in Apatow’s 2009 Funny People, which was funny but set to a very dark and serious situation. He continues to do comedy, just toned down from his days of Little Nicky and The Waterboy.

When it comes to comedy, I want to see something I can relate to. The R-rated comedy continues to be funny because directors and writers illicit a reaction from the crowd by showcasing situations we can relate to, and stays away from the stereotypical leading man/woman who exerts all that is found in a popular high school athlete or cheerleader. We, as the audience find ourselves in these same situations, and that is funny. Rolling Stone reviewed Superbad as “powered by a comedy dream team, this shit faced American Graffiti dares to show it has a heart.” These movies, and Apatow, are also becoming brand builders for actors like Seth Rogen and Steve Carell.

Not only are “raunchy-yet-resonant laughfests” (Entertainment Weekly) making us double over in hysterics, they are also very commercially viable. In a 2007 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Sony reflected on the sell-ability of these comedies: “Before then, people were afraid of these hard, R-rated comedies with really out-there subject matter, but suddenly that is a positive.” Sony reported a loss of $134.8 million loss in 2006, but a positive income of $23 million in 2007, confirming that Superbad helped move them out of the red.

Positive revenues are one way to test audience reaction, or to confirm what you already knew was a winner. In a 2007 Rolling Stone interview, Apatow reflects on his past television flops, “Maybe there’s not many people who get this – that this is a niche, like a college band.” Pressure from television producers who could not move away from the standard template, helped push Apatow to film to produce the (then) niche comedy The 40-Year Old Virgin, which ultimately “usher[ed] in a new wave of foul-mouthed R-rated comedies,” (Rolling Stone).

Back in 2007, I predicted this shift to the R-rated comedy was here to stay-which I think has proven true after five years. You can see this from revenue and just the adoption of catch phrases, the audience is continuing to demand raunchier, realistic humor.


Red Riding Hood…not a breathtaking vision of an old legend (in film or hardback)

According to Warner Brothers, Red Riding Hood is a “breathtaking vision of a 700 year old legend,” but this is so wrong. With the snowy mountain village of Daggerhorn set in Vancouver (absent of actual snow and surrounded by blurry CG mountains), the only interesting thing about the film is the print novel and multimedia e-book created alongside filming. I’m not sure how many movies do this, but it is a pretty cool trifecta, especially considering the movie had mediocre acting, effects, and is confusingly set in “medieval — or post-apocalyptic” times…or simply 700 years ago. Movie reviewer Roger Moore, from the Orlando Sentinel said it perfectly, “for all the heaving bosoms, the big-eyed flirtation and the cool fairytale hair products, it doesn’t work.”

Director Catherine Hardwicke mentions to the LA Times, “I was realizing as we were prepping for the movie that I felt sad for the back stories of these characters. I wanted to know more about those people.” So what did she do? She hired first time author Sarah Blakley-Cartwright to fill in the blanks! It’s worked for blockbusters like Harry Potter and Twilight, but those books were written before, and by established authors. I do think it’s slightly genius to realize you can create a dedicated fan base by giving them something else to do than just watch your movie…but…

In January, when the book was released, it hit No 1 on the NYT best seller’s list, but it was missing the ending! If you look at the reviews on Amazon you’ll find a whole bunch of frustrated customers. Including comments like “Rip off!” and “publishing company scams customers with incomplete product,” and “SHAME ON YOU to anyone affiliated with this con,” I’ve yet to see a response to these comments. The e-book will release what publishers call “bonus chapters” a few days after the film releases, but in actuality it’s the missing ending. This might have been a smart marketing tactic IF you told your customers you were selling them an incomplete story.

You can check out the author, director and screenwriter chatting about the novel in these video clips.

Facebook’s “Event”… stay tuned for something anticlimactic

Zuckerberg’s official rebuttal to “The Social Network” has press clamoring to learn what will be unveiled at tomorrow’s press conference. I personally roll my eyes since Facebook is riding the coat-tails of “The Social Network,” which portrays Zuckerberg as “irreparably damaging and scathing.”

TechCrunch gives a good shot at guessing what all the fuss will be about tomorrow:

  • iPad: The lack of an official Facebook iPad app has been glaring since the device launched six months ago, and while some third party apps have stepped up to the plate (and done very well financially), a Facebook app is still nowhere to be seen.
  • (More) Places: Facebook Places launched in mid-August, and it’s still missing some key features, particularly on the desktop version of the website. Likewise, we could see a much larger campaign urging local businesses to become active on Facebook Places.
  • Credits: Facebook Credits are being used in more games (they frequently came up in the gaming event last month). But what about a broader launch that lets anyone use them?
  • The Facebook Bar – Facebook has been working on a Meebo Bar clone for ages now — they even announced it at f8. Where is it?
  • The Facebook Phone: They denied it existed. Then they said it sort of does. A full launch is the next logical step, obviously.
  • Update: As has been pointed out to us about a dozen times now, the invitation also uses the word ‘Event’, which could be a hint pointing to news around Facebook Events. Or maybe Facebook just used that word because it’s, you know, an event.

I think this announcement has something to do with a partnership, rather than an actual item…possibly Google and the mountain of personal data Facebook has been sitting on? I doubt it. I tend to think the buzz has grown too much, and we won’t be rewarded. And, like in the past with privacy adjustments etc, users have not been overly accepting of changes. Tech News World prints, “anything short of the sale of Facebook to Google, or purchase of Twitter by Facebook, will be anticlimactic,” joked Paul Levinson, head of the communications department at Fordham University.

How real is the technology in Inception?

During the dawn of the iPod, in a marketing class in what seemed a thousand years ago, my team came up with a product design called the “iDream.” Its concept was to record your dreams for viewing and interpretation by either you or a third-party. Now comes Christopher Nolan’s Inception that “proves more engaging to the mind and eyes than to the heart,” but also takes moviegoers on a delightfully “twisty new thrill ride into the subconscious.”

But what about this dream technology that allows us to enter into each other’s subconscious? Warner Brother’s actually created a manual for the dream device used in the movie, aka the “PASIV Device Technical Manual” and shipped it as a marketing tool. But some “research suggests that intentional/lucid dreaming and shared dreaming are possible,” according to this article. While I’m skeptical, it says the researcher uses a device called “NovaDreamer,” a sleep mask that monitors rapid-eye-movements (REM) of dreamers and gives visible and auditory feedback cues which seeks to improve dream recall but also, like the PASIV device used … in the Inception movie, triggers lucid dreams without awakening the dream.”

For right now I think we should just stick with the mobile apps, Kindle books, or the dusty ones in your closet to keep our dreams in check. After all, if we don’t fully understand it, should we really be messing with our subconscious?


Blogging while driving…is good for the soul

Now that texting, talking on your cell and singing while driving (wait that should JUST be  me) is becoming illegal…I blogged. During my latest escape from Seattle I was asked by my good friend to cut the cord for her new blog “Itinerary Unknown.” Her goal is to create a space where women can blog about their travel experiences, I think it’s a wonderful idea!

One thing I thought about when trying to obey the traffic laws is the impact of device juggling. It’s way more distracting than chatting on the phone! Possibly because I was on a road trip and swapping from my Google maps screen, to listen to a song my Ipod just played, or quickly grabbing my Flip to video a dust tornado…but maybe I’m a consumer asking for a solution?… or someone to avoid on the freeway?

Anyways, please read my accounts of my solo trip down to the Grand Canyon through Salt Lake City then back up through Vegas and Portland. But just a quick count of all the devices I used: HTC HD2, my laptop, Flip, Canon 30D, Zune, Ipod Nano, and ALL the connectors to keep them charged over the 3,100 miles I drove!

…and the most adoring piece of technology I used sadly (being a Microsoft-ie) was my Google Maps app on my HD2, I seriously wouldn’t have gotten anywhere without it.

What Happened to Video Game Addiction?

Will people ever get over their obsession with video games? By people I mean those who’ve climbed from the depths of their nerd caves in the 80s and 90s to become somewhat cool now. It’s not that people enjoy plugging into an alternate world to escape their lives, it’s rather that people are finding a significance in how videogames are shaping our society. EEDAR analyst Jesse Divnich reported “the growth of our industry now rests more on innovation than it ever has before.” What this means is that people are looking for the next thing to conveniently fit into their lives, or to compliment their lifestyles. He mentions that the bread-and-butter is in the “non-traditional casual market,” ideally those purchasing Wii-fits and family games vs RPGs.

People used to become worried when video games became more than just a game…where are those people now? Was it the worry that frequent video use accompanied weight gain and anti-social behavior, not necessarily an addiction? So what do we think now? Are games more that just games? Kids, families and hardcore gamers are now up on their feet and socializing over the internet with other players…since this is the case do we care about the obsession anymore?

The Sassy Netflix Model

Netflix is an online service that allows you to “get DVDs by mail plus instantly watch movies… & TV episodes… online on your PC or Mac or streamed instantly from Netflix over the Internet right to your TV via a Netflix ready device.” It wasn’t long ago that heading to the movie rental store was part of a Friday night ritual. Technology has now made entertainment selection so simple; you don’t even have to leave your chair.

So we ask the question “Why is Netflix so successful?” It is the cool red branding color, the algorithm the chooses movies for you, or it is because, for a time it was the neatest thing out there? Last class we talked about this and how convenience seemed to be the key, but what are some other factors? Offering trials and guaranteeing customer satisfaction by allowing customers to choose when they receive their movies (streaming online) puts the entertainment in the customers hands. Continue reading