The future’s gloomy

Published

Lewis Porteous

Given the staggeringly low cost of buying DVDs online and the increasing ease with which upcoming films can be illegally downloaded well in advance of their domestic release, one would expect our nation’s cinemas not to torture and alienate their regular patrons.

Purists often claim that the experience of going to see a film on the big screen far surpasses that of watching its digital, disc-stored counterpart at home on a tiny TV amidst a sea of unwashed dishes and biscuit crumbs. They may have a point; it is better to go out than to be a lonely recluse. Still, at what price does social reformation come?

The Orange cinema ads have been entertaining audiences for years, with their irreverent and predictable brand of humour. In the post-Larry Sanders celebrity world, ‘knowing,’ self-referential, ‘as themselves’ appearances are rightly considered the last refuge of the scoundrel. The Orange ads, however, stand firmly as the one true exception to this rule. After all, through what other medium can heroes mortgage their hard earned reputations while endorsing a telephone service provider?

The ads revolve around a group of financial backers, so eager to promote their phone service that they frequently propose drastic changes be made to the scripts celebrities pitch to them. Originally, the joke lay in the fact that these stars were attempting to break type, presenting the board with radical, often ambitious proposals that contrasted markedly with their public personas. In attempting to incorporate product placement into the films, the oblivious backers would reduce the celebrity’s prospects to whatever themes, plotlines and characters they are best known for, and the performers’ artistic impulses would go ‘hilariously’ unsatisfied.

It’s frustrating enough that these adverts, none of which are specific to the time period during which they were conceived, aren’t shown on a rotating basis; the most recent one airing solidly for months at a time. Indeed, after I’d the sat through the ad ten or so times, I found myself launching an aggressive letter-bombing campaign on anyone who so much as raised a smile at the “waiter, we’ll have a round of hugs for Miss Huston,” line, having purposefully sneezed on those who giggled at the nervous/soul singing dog skit which usually preceded it.

What is especially irritating about the adverts in themselves is the fact that they appear to have completely lost touch with their original formula, as celebrities are now shown hawking scripts that are completely plausible, or otherwise simply dreadful ideas. As it stands, audiences, having paid admission, must endure reminders of Hollywood’s current dearth of ideas, as well as the fact that the main feature they are about to view has probably been dumbed down by behind the scenes politics and tainted by product placement. So while I wasn’t expecting much from Bride Wars, those orange ads certainly killed my buzz.