21 June 2008

Another Walk-Out Idea

This is a letter I received from "The World's Best Mechanical Engineer." I wanted to pull it out as a posting in-and-of itself, instead of a comment because it bears deeper merit.


I just read your "Not Happening" Website.

I think your tactics are exactly backwards in that you're going to increase Shyamalan's ticket sales. Instead, you should be advocating that people buy tickets for other movies then go sit in the best seats of "The Happening" at the beginning. Then walk out at key moments in the so-called plot development.


This is an interesting idea. I'm the first to admit that I don't know if, when you buy a ticket and then walk out, it's credited as a ticket sale to that film, or not. What I do know, is when I walked out of mine, I was asked to sign a receipt proving something to accountants (I'm guessing that it was proof that my Happening ticket had been exchanged for a Hulk ticket and no one was stuffing money in their pockets somewhere).

Scott's concept here is more passive than mine, but it does do a couple things...

One, it makes it easier on people who may feel queasy to go up and ask for a refund in the first place. You already have a ticket for the film you want to see (guaranteeing that Shyamalan won't get credit for your purchase).

And two, it shows other people in the theater that some people do get up and walk out. [My only real complaint here is this is displaying a minor amount of social terrorism toward the people that have gone to see the film -- you take seats that the could have had. I don't have a problem with anyone that wants to see the movie and actually likes it.]

But I'm not a Hillary Clinton. I recognize camaraderie in spirit when I see it...If you like this idea better than my original one, please do it.

Thanks, Scott and all.

17 June 2008

Time to Get Even -- Have EVERYONE Walk Out of The Happening

This whole situation has got me thinking:

Here's the underlying problem I have with The Happening. The movie is terrible. It's awful and insulting. To a great extent it relies on realistically depicted suicide as entertainment.

I've seen comments by Shyamalan saying he was looking for a great B movie. Well, pal, you missed. Want a great B movie? How about Evil Dead 2, Godzilla Final Wars, Ghost Rider, The Reanimator, Dude, Where's My Car? or Detour?

And there's no way to talk to a movie studio. No way to make them listen. You could say, "boycott The Happening," and it would mean nothing. The Happening had a $30M opening weekend. Even if you get no one else to go, it means nothing. Studio execs truly could not care less about you and your opinion. Pay your price, come see whatever we dish out to you, next!

There's no form of dialog. There's no way of saying, "You know what, you big table full of stuffed shirts? What you have here is a bad idea, done badly."

According to the National Association of Theatre Owners (the other NATO), the average ticket price people are paying this year is around seven bucks. That's seven bucks after tax and before gasoline/family members/concessions. That's a lot of money to just be served out a big heaping pile of crap and then being expected to just put up with it.

And then it hit me.

Everyone should walk out of the movie. I'm not talking about something slimey like watching the whole thing and then asking for your money back. I mean, do what I did: buy a ticket, go in, see a few people jump and go out and ask to be credited for another movie. It's easy. It's simple. There's already a process set up for it.

And if enough people do it, it'll really start to make waves.

If one person does it, no one will notice. If everyone starts doing it, very quickly the studio will be duking it out amongst themselves and the theaters. Rupert Murdoch, the top-dog at Fox (the studio who brought you this abortion) is 77 years old. When you buy a ticket to a film, you're very literally putting money in his multi-billionaire pocket. Do you think he has any inkling of who you are, or even cares that you have to put up with this? Almost certainly not.

Do you think he has any understanding of the underlying potential power of the Internet? The fact that you're reading this right now? He doesn't, but some of the underlings way way down in his organization think they do.

If everyone starts walking out of one of his films, and it starts making news, do you think it will matter then? Not at first. But all it takes is for this to eventually bubble up to Murdochian levels and somewhere some type of discussion will start. It won't erase the blot that is The Happening, but it will make them think twice (or at least 1.001 times) in the future. It might make them reconsider before they bludgeon you with something else idiotic and expect you to pay for it with no dissent.

I'll talk about all these items more in the Q&A, but here's the top line of what I'm asking:

* When you go to the theatre to see anything, ask for a ticket to see The Happening. Walk out and ask for a ticket in exchange for the movie you want to see.

* If you've already seen The Happening (whether or not you have a ticket stub) send a letter asking for a refund (I've got one on the Q&A page you can use) to:

Rupert Murdoch
News Corporation
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

As Howard Beale said in Network, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore." You don't have to either.

Thank you, most sincerely, for your support.

16 June 2008

Q & A on Walking-Out of The Happening

You should read the general post about walking out of The Happening before reading the Q & A here.

Q: Why walk out of The Happening?

A: It's an awful movie that uses plants to induce people to commit suicide. The studios have spent millions of dollars hoping you will spend a few of yours to see it. Don't. By walking out you're sending a signal that it's not acceptable for the studios to assume you're an idiot who is, once again, just going to sit back and take it.

Or you could do it just to be part of a bigger experiment just to see what happens.

Q: What do you hope to gain by doing this?

A: Ultimately, it would be great to hear the studio apologize for making such a lame film. We know that's not going to happen, so the next best thing is to have a whole lot of Fox people, in a whole lot of fancy clothes, over a whole love of expensive food, mutter about the situation they're involved in because you and I refused to take any more of the crap they dish out.

Q: Do you gain personally by doing this?

A: No. I'm setting up this idea and getting the ball rolling simply because I walked out of a movie for the first time in my life.

Q: Do you actually work for Fox (or whomever) in an effort to promote the movie?

A: No. If I worked for them I would have seen if I could get the plants there to get a whole lot of people to commit suicide. Then maybe this whole thing wouldn't have happened.

Q: How should I "walk-out" on The Happening?

A: When you go to the theater say, "I'd like to buy a ticket for The Happening, but I've heard it's not very good. What's your 'money-back' or 'refund' policy?" Listen closely to what they say and do exactly as they ask so you can get a refund (you may want to set an alarm on your cell phone if their response is something like, "You can get a refund in the first 20 minutes"). It doesn't matter that you're hinting that you might walk out -- it's your money, you certainly have a right to know how it is spent and what the ramifications of spending it are.

Don't play the game close. Buy your ticket, get in, get out, get a refund/switch/whatever.

Q: What happens if my theater doesn't have a refund policy?

Some smaller theaters simply may not refund tickets. If this movement gains momentum, it's also possible that refunds for The Happening specifically won't be honored. If they tell you that say, "I refuse to buy a ticket without a refund policy."

If that's the case, when you get home, send a copy of this letter by US post to the "General Manager" of the cinema that refused the refund.

[_Use correct date_]

Dear General Manager,

I went to your cinemas this evening to attend a screening of The Happening and was informed that a refund for the film wasn't possible. I left your theater without buying tickets.

I'm disappointed that you wouldn't offer a refund, but a film with that kind of reputation isn't something I'm willing to just gamble my money to see. To be very clear, my attitude toward your cinema in the future will be to always refuse to see any movie that you're not willing to provide a refund for.


[_Sign and include your address_]

Q: I've already seen The Happening and still have the ticket stubs. What should I do?

A: If, and only if, you feel that the movie was sub-par, send the following letter via US Post.

[_Use correct date_]

Dear Mr. Murdoch,

Enclosed you will find ticket stubs from my recent viewing of The Happening. It is, without question, one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life. Considering both your studio's reputation, as well as the raw amount of money you spent on the film, I'm amazed the resulting film was as poor as it is.

Please either provide me with a full refund, or credits for a future movie, at your earliest convenience.

Thank you,

[_Sign and include a business-sized self-addressed and stamped envelope_]

Address the letter to:

Rupert Murdoch
News Corporation
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Q: I've already seen The Happening, but don't have the ticket stubs. What should I do?

A: If, and only if, you have seen the movie and you feel it was sub-par, send the following letter via US Post.

Dear Mr. Murdoch,

On [_use the proper date_], I went to [_use proper theater_] to see The Happening. For the record, it is without question, one of the worst movies I've ever seen in my life. Considering both your studio's reputation, as well as the raw amount of money you spent on the film, I'm amazed the resulting film was as poor as it is.

I threw the ticket stubs away, as I always do, and then a friend of mine suggested that I should approach you for a refund anyway. If possible, please either provide me with a full refund in the amount of [_state dollar amount_], or a credit for [_number of_] future tickets.

Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need more information,

[_Sign and include a business-sized self-addressed and stamped envelope_]

Address the letter to:

Rupert Murdoch
News Corporation
1211 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10036

Q: Will Rupert Murdoch actually read and answer my letters?

A: No way. You don't even qualify as a bug on his shoe. It'll be opened by underlings and batted around a couple of times. You'll receive an answer from someone of some type. Anything from the office of the CEO gets attention within a corporation. (And don't you just love the name of the company? That's the real name.)

Q: Why do you emphasize sending the letters by US post, rather than email or FAX?

A: When you're dealing with customer service operations (or any member of the government) an old-fashioned letter gets the most attention. Email and FAXes are both too easy to ignore.

Q: Is there a way for my letter to get even more attention?

A: Yes. For extra-special treatment you should send it by Certified Mail (this is the way I send all my "serious" letters). Certified Mail won't make your letter any more likely to get to your target, but it is trackable, and recipients always make it a point to handle Certified Mail better in all ways. The service costs three bucks or so and is worth it.

You don't need to ask for a "Return Receipt," unless you want a nice little keepsake from this escapade.

Q: Should I change the wording of your letters?

A: You certainly can change the wording if you so desire. However, the movie industry does absolutely nothing to treat you like an individual so I can't think of a good reason why you should return the favor.

Q: Aren't you being too harsh about this?

A: No. The theater, film studio and director took my money and my time, expecting me to just put up with it. The minutes I spent watching The Happening are minutes I will never again get back in my life.

Q: Aren't you fighting a losing battle? Essentially aren't you wasting even more time by doing this?

A: Honestly, by doing this, I feel like I'm making those wasted minutes all worthwhile. I'm enjoying this part of it.

Q: If I switch my ticket for another movie, will that be credited as a "return" within the system?

A: I have no idea. I seriously doubt they have a way to deal with massive walk-outs on a film. But I can tell you, with certainty, that if this starts happening, en masse, that lots and lots of people within the film industry are going to know.

I'd love to see a future when people hear the words "Shyamalan," "Fox," or "Murdoch" and think "walk-out;" in exactly the same way that when many people hear "Exxon," they think "Valdez oil spill." I consider The Happening to be a film crime. I'd like to see it linger over the responsible people/organizations as a taint that lasts for a very long time.

Q: What is the record for the number of walk-outs on a movie anyway?

A: I have no idea. I'd guess they don't even have records for that. Yet.

Q: How about if I just leave the theater and walk into another film in my multi-plex without telling the ticket people?

A: Please don't. That'll almost certainly do nothing more than show another ticket sale for The Happening. We're trying to collectively throw a wrench in the cogs here, not give the rolling stupidity tank more metal.

Q: Isn't there a chance that you'll actually bring more notoriety to the film and maybe end up increasing sales?

A: Sure. Apple wanted to have the "paperless office place" and created desktop publishing. Al Gore preaches about how important it is to be green, and yet he has four children. The underlying deal here is to stir things up and start a conversation.

Q: Are you some kind of religious right-wing nut?

A: No. Contrary to what you might infer from my answer above, politics have nothing to do with this. This has everything to do with a bad movie being pushed on the public.

Q: Aren't you ignoring the underlying green teachings of the film?

A: Maybe. It's a little hard to see around all the suicides and bad acting.

Q: M. Night Shyamalan has said that what he's trying to make here is a B movie. Are you an idiot?

A: Shyamalan can make whatever kind of movie he wants. Unfortunately whatever he makes he's then going to try and push down my throat. I don't have to accept it. As a B-movie, this film is an abortion. If you want to see a good B-movie, watch Dude, Where's my Car?, The Savages, Godzilla Final Wars or Detour.

Q: I think you're just thin skinned and haven't seen enough movies of this type. Am I right?

A: When I say I've seen 2500 films, that's probably an understatement. I even have gone so far in my life as to take film classes from Stan Brakhage -- which means I've seen a ton of movies of all types, including experimental stuff. Elephants being electrocuted, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, 50's Russian industrial films, Comin' at Ya!. I've seen 'em all without walking out. I never had to until now.

I don't say all of it to brag, I just want to show how truly low the bar is.

Q: Are you saying you're in favor of censorship?

A: No.

First, there's a fine point that, here -- only the government can "censor," individuals can't. Don't take my word for it, ask a lawyer.

Ignoring that, and assuming your question has a better intent, it's quite the opposite...I'm glad I live in a country where someone like Shyamalan can make a piece of trash like he just did.

I'm even happier that I have this ability to spout off about it and entice people into an organized form of protest.

Q: M. Night Shmyamalan was born in India. Are you just a prejudiced bastard?

A: If the question is, "am I prejudiced against Shmyamalan?" the answer is undoubtedly, "yes." I have a dislike, disdain and distrust for anyone who tries to take my money with an inferior product. It doesn't matter what their ethnic, religious or political heritage is.

It's not for me to judge whether or not I'm a bastard, but I'll bet you have an opinion on that.

Q: Is it true that you call M. Night Shyamalan, "Shyama-lama-ding-dong" when you talk to your friends?

A: I do now. You got me there. Nice one.

15 June 2008

Press Release for The Not Happening

Walk-out on “The Happening” and Make Film History

When long-time movie buff, Lou Kije, went to M. Night Shyamalan’s latest film, “The Happening,” he hated it enough that he did something he had never done before; he walked out of the screening and asked for a ticket in exchange.

As Mr. Kije tells it, “I just couldn’t believe that Shyamalan and Fox would release a movie that was truly that bad. I’m expected to pay for a multi-million dollar film that has a plodding and dull plot which also uses suicide as a form of entertainment? I won’t do it. But even though I got my ticket exchange, I thought, ‘How can I do more here and let Fox know that this just isn’t acceptable?’ and that’s when I came out with the idea of a mass walk out.”

Mr. Kije’s logic is that boycotting a movie does nothing. The film has already had a US$30M opening weekend. If you encourage everyone to simply not go, nothing happens. But if you encourage people to go, then walk out of a movie and ask for a refund, people will take notice.

Mr. Kije is asking all film goers, even people who have no interest in seeing “The Happening,” to get a ticket, find out what the theater’s return policy is, and then follow the letter to return the tickets and ask for a refund. Mr. Kije explains, “Let’s say you want to see ‘The Hulk.’ You should find a time that works for you, but instead of buying a ‘Hulk’ ticket, buy a ticket for, and see the start of, ‘The Happening.’ Once the movie starts, walk out and ask the box office for your exchange ticket. I call this event, ‘The Not Happening.’”

He also suggests that anyone who has already seen the film, and didn’t like it, to send their ticket stubs to Rupert Murdoch and ask for a refund. Mr. Kije has created the Web site (TheNotHappening.com) giving names, addresses and even sample letters that can be used as part of the refund process.

Mr. Kije explains what he’s hoping to gain, “In a perfect world, I’d like to see Fox come out and apologize for the film. We all know that’s not going to happen. So I’d like to see the next best thing...so many people walk out of the film that the company’s accounting gets weird, and a bunch of people who usually take the customer for granted take notice. Then maybe someone, somewhere, will think twice before releasing such an amazing piece of trash to the public. In the 1960’s protestors often attended ‘happenings.’ Here in the twenty first century, I think it’s time for a ‘not happening.’”

Whether you have a problem with the movie, or even if you simply want to be part of a large social experiment, everyone is invited to join the protest at TheNotHappening.com

14 June 2008

The Day The Happening Cracked Me

(WARNING: Contains Spoilers)

Last Friday, at the prompting of a close friend, I tagged along to see a showing of The Happening at my local AMC multi-plex (a theater I like very much). I was only vaguely familiar with the movie, having seen a trailer a few weeks ago that didn't really "stick" with me.

No matter, I'd seen a couple of M. Night Shyamalan's movies...I thought The Sixth Sense was overrated but interesting; I loved Unbreakable (even if it had the normally ham-fisted Bruce Willis at the forefront). I figured the worst I could get from the time spent was a movie that was "pretty bad," and there was a dim possibility that a good flick lurking just inside the theater door.

Unfortunately, I didn't set my sights low enough.

After several minutes of propagandistic fluff in the form of commercials and trailers, the movie starts in earnest. Rather than talk in through the synopsis of the film in narrative, which is dull and not really my main argument, I'll give you bullets of what happens. (The order may not be precisely correct, but it's close -- and taken as a whole, really doesn't matter anyway. If you already know the movie, you can just skip ahead to my next posting.)

* Two women are seated in Central Park. Surrounding people stop in their tracks, some start moving backwards. One asks the other if she sees what's happening, but rather than answer, she commits suicide by sticking her chopstick hairpin through her own throat. {So far, I have no problem with this movie.}

* Cut to NYC construction workers telling a dirty joke. WHAM! One of their colleagues has just fallen off the top of the building, we get a ground-level view. While calling for help, WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Several more bodies fall. Pan up to see, that's right, yet more bodies falling. {Okay, I get it. Do we have to drop an egg crate's worth of people here? And it's really reminiscent of 9/11. Cloverfield can pull off this comparison because they're dropping impersonal buildings. It's quite another to have someone named Danny crunch four feet from the camera.}

* Cut to Mark Wahlberg, science teacher in Philadelphia. People here believe NYC is under terrorist attack and they decide to close the school for good measure. Mark and his pals hop a train out of Dodge. {If you need to get from Point A to Point B to make things happen, that's fine by me.}

* Cut to police helping with ensuing traffic jams. The wind blows. Cop pulls out a gun and shoots himself. Then a cabbie gets out, picks up the gun and shoots himself. A lady walks across the street to do the same thing. {Uh, we're getting quite a body count here, but no real reasons.}

* Cut to Wahlberg and pals on the train. Someone sends a YouTube link to a well-placed iPhone showing a lion ripping the arms off a zoo keeper, ala Monty Python. Train stops in Nowheresville, PA. Why? "We can't get in touch with anyone." So they do what I'd do, go to a diner and eat. Except they listen to the news and discover the entire northeast of the US is being attacked but something biological and maybe not terrorist. {Reminds me of the OK City bombing. First the government said, "it's terrorists," then a few hours later "oh, it's hillbillies." This was back in the day when "terrorists" meant "Arabs" and not anyone the government just happened to hate at the moment, like say, a 5 year-old taking a sucker from the local Safeway.} Everyone decides to head west, out of the attack zone; except for a math teacher who decides he needs to save his wife at Princeton. {For science guys, they're not very good thinkers. Oh, and what the hell is causing all this?}

* Wahlberg and sub-Co get together with a hot-dog loving horticulturalist. That guy's convinced it's the plants causing this. {Okay, so I've got a feel for this now. The horticulturalist will turn out being right, of course. This is an evil plant movie. But evil plants can't strangle people very easily, I guess, so we have to write a movie in such a way that people kill themselves. Repeatedly. In front of the camera. That's right, this is suicide as suspense/entertainment film. Did I say "repeatedly?"}

* The math teacher instructs people in the Jeep their riding in to try and keep the air from outside out. People are starting to freak inside the car. This gets worse when they come across a lawn crew that have hung themselves. {I'd guess Princeton probably isn't the place to be right now.} Cut to Jeep stopping in the street. Now it accellerates full blast into a tree, throwing most occupants through windshield. Math guy gets out and sits in the street. Oh look, there's some glass, this is a good time to cut my wrists. {Let's see, we've had suicide by: needle, jumping, shooting, hanging, mauling, cutting your wrist with glass. The body count is around 15, (mostly) not-spurty-blood gruesome, but all very suggestively graphic and close. And it's the plants doing it. Why am I watching this? People killing themselves. All because of evil plants? Wait a minute, I could walk outta here. If I see one more body/suicide/whatever without any noticeable plot advance, I'm leaving. For the first time in my life, after something like 2500 movies, I will walk out of a cinema.}

* Cut to horticulturist. "Are those animals in the road?" {No, they're people. I'm gone. My friend apologizes for the movie as I walk past.}

I go out to guest services in the lobby, "I just saw The Happening, it's terrible. Have you seen it? It's terrible." I'm babbling. "I don't want my money back, I just want to see something decent. Please gimme a ticket to the next Hulk" and they do.

Hulk isn't great, which means it's about 40 steps above The Happening.

Maybe I missed something? I call my pal later that night.

"What did I miss?" I ask.

"Nothing much. It is the plants. Marky Mark tries apologizing to a plant that turns out to be fake. And they decide they need to outrun the wind. And some kids die and a crazy old woman. It seems like the attack is over, it's a warning to all of mankind, but then it shows up in France. The end."

So I didn't miss anything.

I'm hating this movie more than any movie I've ever hated. Ever. And I've seen a ton of stuff.

This is gonna bug me for awhile.

{And believe me, I'm making this sound much more funny/better than it actually is. The movie crawls, it makes no sense and it snuffs.}