Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Riske Business: Spoiler Alert!

Note: We have a special guest this week on Riske Business – Doug’s long lost uncle, Dr. King Schultz! He’s rode a whole lot of miles at my request to speak to us about spoilers. Let’s make him feel welcome.

The following will spoil the endings for Like Someone in Love and The Matrix Revolutions.
Adam, prost! Please tell our mutual friend Patrick that I very much liked his Tarantino column.

My dear friends, I am probably in the minority on this one, but I LOVE spoilers. Love them. I’ll seek out a spoiler. I am a Newsie. But I know many of you poor devils take the opposite stance. You, like my good friend Django, are Gandalfs – i.e. “keep it secret, keep it safe.” I respect and understand your position on spoilers if you are a Gandalf. I, too, used to not go in for sweets. But I think you’re missing out! Do you mind hearing an opinion so ridiculous that you’ll be forced to consider it?

1) I Don’t Want To Be Surprised
Allow me to tell you a story about my friends Thomas und Klaudia. They were about to have a beautiful little baby. I asked them “What will the baby’s gender be?” Thomas und Klaudia said they knew but wanted to keep it a surprise. And here I thought I was their friend. In response, I queried “Is having a beautiful baby not enough good fortune that you feel guarding the child’s identity is necessary for me to care?” Even more frustrating is my friend Norbert. He once told me multiple twists and turns about The Sixth Sense but then wouldn’t tell me the ending because he didn’t want to spoil it. In response, I countered “My good man, did you simply get carried away with your dramatic gesture or are you going to provide me with the spoiler I am keen to acquire?” I think what my friends are forgetting is that I still will be surprised. It’s just that I will be surprised as I read or hear the spoiler as opposed to when I see the spoiler.

One of my first spoiler exercises was with The Matrix Revolutions. It was opening day. I could not wait, so I went to an Internet Saloon and found out for myself. Trinity dies!??? Neo dies!??? They’re killing off most of the heroes of this billion dollar franchise? An old woman, Col. Sanders, fake Jet Li and a little girl are going to be in the final scene on a park bench? How are they going to pull this off? This seems like a dubious proposition at best. What I am saying is I was ready to go to Mississippi prepared for the worst.

2) Most Endings are Inconsequential Anyway
I feel, more often than not, that the ending of most movies I see these days mean absolutely nothing one way or another. Does it matter how The Avengers ends? Do you think they’ll be back? Yes, yes they will absolutely be scaling the mountain once more. What does it matter who lifts the doomsday device into outer space? I will still remove my billfold and see the movie whether it is an Iron Man or a Black Widow.

3) I Don’t Have the Plot in the Way
Remember when I told Django the Broomhilda legend? It is the exact same thing. By telling that wonderful story of daring and courage to young Django, I provided him with dramatic propulsion and identity. Much like with movies. If I know the plot, I will not get bogged down with questions of "What is going to happen?" and "What is this movie supposed to be?" Instead, I can do what movie lovers do – I savor the performances, the direction, the dialogue and the stylistic choices like a mug of cold beer. Conversely, when I saw The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring or The Master, I did not read any spoilers and in turn never found my foundation upon first viewing. My experience was greatly enhanced the second time when I had a base for what was going to happen and could keep it all straight. I needed a Venn Diagram (literally) to understand Inception! It is not the story; it is how it is told that is important.

4) I Can Save Myself From a Movie Temper Tantrum
Recently I rode Fritz down to Southport Avenue in Chicago and saw the movie Like Someone in Love spoiler-free at the Music Box. It is a nice movie about a young girl going through some hard times but finding solace in a friendship with an elderly man. For 3/4 of the movie, Fritz and I were positively charmed. Then director Abbas Kiarostami (Certified Copy) ends the movie with the old man being shot dead through a window by the girl’s jealous boyfriend, who is presumably on his way up to kill the young girl. Even worse, the movie goes right to the credits as the beautiful song "Like Someone in Love" by Ella Fitzgerald ironically plays over the end credits. The curtain goes down; I look at the rest of the audience baffled and Fritz nays "What the fuck was that?" It’s as if Mister Candie bashed Broomhilda’s skull in front of Django and me and that woman playing the harp goes right into "Mama Said" by the Shirelles. My point being, if I knew Like Someone in Love was to end as it ended, I could have saved myself and Fritz from riding up Clark St. yelling at Wrigleyville bar patrons "Do you have any idea what’s happening on Southport!"

Coming back to The Matrix Revolutions, I knew the movie would have a terrible ending and it became a case study of what happens when you kill off most of your heroes in a hero’s journey. I was not up in arms, saying that they ruined MY TRILOGY because I already knew what was to happen.

Thanks you F-Heads for your time and candor! Perhaps I will return at some other time. I have to leave now to visit my colleague Doc Hollywood.

In the odd chance there are any other spoiler aficionados amongst us here, my North Stars are Wikipedia, and The Movie Please leave a comment if you have any others you use yourself.

Auf Wiedersehen!

P.S. Before I forget, I never wish to see another Abbas Kiarostami movie. To them I say "Goodbye!"


  1. I'm not exactly sure who I'm talking to here, but I stand by my belief that anyone who for some reason doesn't care about spoilers, let alone actually SEEKS THEM OUT, is suffering from some sort of mental deficiency. I guess this reference doesn't work for the author, but it's like trying to find your Christmas presents before Christmas - hold on to your butt, wait for Christmas and ACT LIKE A MAN!

    I can rewatch movies with the best of them and yes, a lot of times I do feel more free to enjoy some of the finer points with knowledge of the plot out of the way, but for me nothing beats that first time seeing a really great movie, especially ones with interesting twists. I would argue that that "feeling" is a major part of the artists' intent and to spoil it is even worse than messing with the original aspect ratio or colour-timing or other such details movie nerds like to fret about.

    1. Your first sentence is the worst. The rest is funny and insightful. Maybe my feelings about spoiler have to do with not getting Christmas?

  2. Nice column Adam. I have co-workers at the office with whom I discuss movies, and it frustrates me when the youngest of them (the one that has seen the least movies) immediately jumps on IMDB or the web to look for pictures, plot summaries and whatnot of the unseen-by-her movies we're talking about. I wish she'd stop doing that so she can experience the thrill of a movie's big reveals/shocks/twists completely unaware, walking into something new not even hinting at what's about to hit her.

    I practically had to beg this person not to read anything or look for pictures about "Sleepaway Camp" before she borrowed my DVD copy, and voilà: she liked it and didn't see the train that ran her over at the end. To me just the plot summary and name of that lead character on a Google search can totally kill the spell of a first-time "SC" viewing, and luckily that didn't happen this time by the sheer force of my refusal to let her do it. Now, though she still searches for info online, she gestures at me to quiet when talking about a movie she hasn't seen and is interested in because she doesn't want it spoiled. Success!

    But I can't do this with every movie we discuss, and as you mentioned, luckily most movies don't need a spoiler-free zone about what will happen. I mean, any mystery on whether a Kate Hudson romcom will end with her finding true love? Or whether James Bond will return at the end of his latest installment? On the other hand some folks just don't have the personality or they don't value cinephile instincts to preserve the sanctity of a first-time viewing experience (i.e. movies don't mean that much to them), or are such diehard fans of an actor/director/genre/franchise, that the spoilers industry is practically made for them. They can have it, I'm content with knowing as little as possible before a movie so the full impact of the train when it hits me (good or bad, depending on whether the locomotive reaches 88 mph ;-P) is fully felt, for better or for worse.

    Speaking of sanctity of first-time viewings, my NEW-TO-ME TRILOGY plus a few extra reviews I picked along the way for a future rainy day:

    4/13/13: Suddenly I feel like watching "The Weather Man," I wonder why. Gore Verbinski's amazing PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL (2003) on Blu-ray.

    Seriously, listen to the first 3:40 min. of THIS MUSIC and tell me you don't want to join me in pillaging and raiding Patrick's basement right now! :-P Verbinski's insanely awesome POTC: DEAD MAN'S CHEST (2006) on Blu-ray.

    SFX overkill or a warehouse full of kitchen sinks? Up to the (Ragetti's?) eye of the beholder in Verbinski's POTC: AT WORLD'S END (2007) on Blu-ray.

    I wonder if Joan of Arc would have been a 'BELIEBER'. :-O Jacques Rivette's JEANNE LA PUCELLE I - LES BATAILLES (1994) in 35mm at NYC's Anthology Film Archives.

    Wait, why didn't Joan scream 'Let them eat cake' before the aliens rescued her from the laser firing squadron? Rivette's JEANNE LA PUCELLE II - LES PRISONS (1994) in 35mm at NYC's Anthology Film Archives.

    Every year Hollywood makes hundreds of movies. This ISN'T one of them. BIRDEMIC 2: THE RESURRECTION (2013, MIDNIGHT SCREENING) IN THEATERS.



  3. While I don't seek out "spoilers" I've never understood why people get as upset as they do.

    We knew Spock dies in "Wrath of Khan" before it opened and that Luke and Leia were siblings before "Return of the Jedi" (thanks to David Prowse) and I doubt people stayed away.

    I've had to argue with people who say that there was no point in them seeing "Titanic" because they "knew how it ended". To which I'd say, "Yeah, and is watching 'Gone With The Wind' a waste of time since we know how the Civil War turned out?" Was there any point to making this upcoming version of "The Great Gatsby" since most of us had to read it in school?

    The opposite of this is this refusal of Paramount to say who the villain of "Star Trek: Into Darkness" really is - it's getting tiresome. They've shown us in the trailers that he blows up London, pulls a "Godfather III" on a Starfleet meeting, destroys the Enterprise (with a ship that looks like it's from the TNG era) and knows the Klingons...but somehow not knowing who he really is will make ALL the difference?

  4. For the most part I am with Dr Schultz on this one. Spoilers don't bother me for the most part in movies (I know the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park aren't going to eat everybody but I don't care because they are cool and the people they are trying to eat are really awesome too!) The only time I don't like having everything spoiled for me is when the movie has a good M. Nightian "twist" at the end, something he did real well at the beginning of his career.

    Also slight spoiler for the David Fincher movie Seven, I am so glad I didn't know "What's in the box?!" the first time I saw that movie it gave me that extra punch to the gut. For the most part though I think I fall somewhere in the neutral category, I dont seek them out but if I catch some it doesnt ruin the movie for me

  5. This is an unusual perspective on movies but one that I'm suprisingly open to.

    One of the common criticisms about movies based on real life events (e.g. Argo, Valkyrie) is that they are arguably "ruined" by knowing the ending - but this has never really bothered me.

    I agree with the second point about most movie endings - it's more about how they pull it off rather than what it is. After all, I expect a movie to play by the rules that it establishes at the start so inevitably there are a finite number of ways a plot could end after a given point. It's more about whether I care about those particular characters to invest in the ending and that's more down to the writing of the characters, the framing of the plot points and the overall direction of the film.

    I suppose that's one way movies are different to books. I get really cranky when the ending of a book is spoiled, but not so much with movies.

  6. As long as the movie doesn't have a crazy or unexpected twist to it...I don't mind small spoilers here and there. It doesn't ruin the watching experience for me. Unlike a sporting event that I DVR'd. When scores /outcomes get spoiled, it bothers me WAYYYY more than a movie spoiler and ruins the watching experience.