Jamie dis­cusses the ups and downs of screen­ing links for crit­ics.

Total Film - - Contents - Jamie will re­turn next is­sue… For more misad­ven­tures, fol­low: @jamie_­gra­ham9 on Twit­ter.



On page 84 of this very is­sue of To­tal Film, I sit down with Christo­pher Nolan to dis­cuss the glory of pre­sent­ing 2001: A Space Odyssey in 70mm on the big­gest screen pos­si­ble. Nolan, of course, is one of the loud­est pro­po­nents for cel­lu­loid and the im­mer­sive cinema ex­pe­ri­ence. His movies are screened to the press at IMAX the­atres.

Imag­ine what he’d say, then, if he saw film jour­nal­ists lean­ing into their lap­tops to scru­ti­nise fuzzy im­ages and de­ci­pher tinny di­a­logue. Not that a ma­jor stu­dio is about to send out a dig­i­tal link of their lat­est $250m block­buster so that a re­viewer can watch it at home while do­ing the iron­ing. But we do now live in an age when 10 to 20 movies hit UK cin­e­mas ev­ery Fri­day, while a del­uge of con­tent goes straight to DVD and/ or stream­ing plat­forms. What­ever the breadth of the jour­nal­ist’s good in­ten­tions or depth of ob­ses­sion, it’s no longer pos­si­ble to keep up with re­leases by ded­i­cat­ing your ev­ery evening to the screen­ing rooms of Soho. And the smaller distrib­u­tors know this, choos­ing to vie for eyes by email­ing journos their lat­est ti­tle.


These days I’ve per­fected a pretty sweet sys­tem, hook­ing my lap­top up to my TV so I at least have a de­cent-sized screen and vol­ume with oomph. I used to watch movies on the sofa with my lap­top bal­anced on my chest – I needed to be that close to hear the di­a­logue. Each time I shifted my po­si­tion, I’d re­cal­i­brate the an­gle of the screen or else lose de­tails to the murk.

Worse, my old lap­top al­ways man­aged to lose the syn­chronic­ity of sound and im­age about 10 min­utes into the movie. It left me with a choice: pause the film for a minute or so, which resynced sound and im­age, and then con­tinue for an­other 10 min­utes un­til the lag be­gan again; or watch the en­tire movie in one go with the equiv­a­lent of ter­ri­ble dub­bing.

The or­deal was es­pe­cially ab­hor­rent when watch­ing hor­ror movies: char­ac­ters lurched into the frame only for the blare on the sound­track to ar­rive a sec­ond later; axes silently embed­ded into heads with zero im­pact, the sound ef­fects guy never able to keep up with the killer.


The above brings to mind an­other prob­lem with movie links – some­times I have to watch one in the of­fice in readi­ness for an in­ter­view, and do so with head­phones firmly in place, obliv­i­ous to those walk­ing by. All Jill from mar­ket­ing wants is to col­lect a ba­nana from the kitchen, but in­stead she sees some­one mu­ti­lat­ing a bird (My Friend Dah­mer) or Shia LaBeouf go­ing at it ham­mer and tongs (Nym­pho­ma­niac).

But the worst thing about dig­i­tal links is the wa­ter­mark­ing de­signed to ward off piracy. Usu­ally the distrib­u­tors go with the jour­nal­ist’s name – trust me, few things dis­tract from a film like hav­ing your own moniker em­bla­zoned across it – and fre­quently they opt to slam it right in the mid­dle of the screen. Not be­ing able to see the pro­tag­o­nist’s eyes be­cause they’re hid­den be­hind a ruddy great ‘J’ and ‘E’ is in­fu­ri­at­ing.

Nope, Nolan would not be im­pressed. But then one of the other key ad­vo­cates of cel­lu­loid and cinema, Paul Thomas An­der­son, told me in 2014 that he watches movies on aero­planes and his phone be­cause there aren’t enough hours in the day and, well, needs must. Will film jour­nal­ists one day be sent links of the new Nolan, PTA or Tarantino movies to watch on their iPad? Prob­a­bly not, though those guys will be the first to em­brace the next wave of tech when films are zapped straight into the cere­bral cor­tex. Now that’ll be im­mer­sive.

it’s been an­other tough day at the of­fice for Jamie…

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