An idle rant for a Sunday morning…

Posted by · 6:33 am · July 19th, 2009

… but one that’s been simmering inside me for some time. Who the hell are the numbskulls who select the pull quotes for DVD cover art? Do they get paid for their efforts? If so, why? And what in God’s name are they reading?

I know it’s a trivial concern, and it’s not entirely limited to the DVD side of things: there are any number of theatrical one-sheets out there with the most mind-bogglingly (pick the relevant combination) banal/inappropriate/lazy/barely creditable selection of critical endorsements graffitied over their increasingly uninspiring designs.

But it’s for DVD that the marketers involved produce their biggest headscratchers, going blindfolded as they select the most random possible quotes from the most unimpressive sources, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they’re actually trying to sell the movies to punters.

The DVD release that prompted me into this article isn’t a new one at all, but it’s one I picked up for 50p at my local cinephile-friendly charity shop: Noah Baumbach’s 2007 “Margot at the Wedding.” Not a universally popular title by any means — and of value to yours truly pretty much only for its lead performance — but one that had a number of high-profile champions in the critical community, Kenneth Turan and Lisa Schwarzbaum among them.

So what gem did the pull-quote diggers unearth for the cover? This wildly enthused blurb from Empire: “Solid performances.”

That’s it: “Solid performances.” Not an exclamation mark, even (though I’m actually in favor of reducing the number of those in the world). Is that not about the faintest praise you could damn a film with? Is that the best they could do? How long and hard did they search for that one?

You’d think the situation might improve with more lavishly acclaimed films, but no. A glance at my DVD copy of “No Country for Old Men” — a title which obviously has a bewildering array of critical valentines to choose from — serves up this lone nugget: “A Must-See,” says News of the World.

Granted, it’s considerably more enthusiastic praise than “solid performances,” but for the benefit of non-British readers, a quote from the News of the World has about as much prestige and credibility attached as a thumbs-up from the National Enquirer.

In fact, a quick trawl through my DVD collection proves that the News of the World is a popular standby for UK quote-finders: “Zodiac” and “Dogville” are also deemed “must-sees” by the Limey tabloid, which also decorates the cover of “Road to Perdition” with the assertion that it’s “the greatest gangster film since ‘The Godfather’.” (Because, yeah, “The Godfather Part II” totally sucked.)

Further winning quotes plucked from my DVD shelves include “Really Good!,” “Try Not To Miss This,” “You Will Laugh!” and this doozy: “I Would Watch It Again!” I’m not listing the attached films to spare them the embarrassment, but would you get in line based on any of those?

Have these people heard of Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes? If any of you are reading, consider that my professional tip: a helpful rounding-up of all the good reviews, many with handy pull-quotes already selected for you! Your days of poring through your yellowed copies of News of the World, Loaded and The Daily Mirror, armed with a magnifying glass and a highlighter, are over! You can thank me later.

→ 5 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

5 responses so far

  • 1 7-19-2009 at 7:27 am

    KBJr. said...

    LOL! Right on…glad I’m not the only one who glances at those quotes and wonders why they would even consider putting quotes from “American Urban Radio Networks” or “CBS-TV, New York” for the unappreciated film “The Associate” with Whoopi Goldberg…who the hell cares what the American Urban Radio Networks thinks about films? Why even bother putting such a joke on the DVD?

    On the “Multiplicity” DVD, we’re treated with quotes from “Jeff Craig, Sixty Second Preview” and “Leo Quinones, KHS-FM”( more radio!)…again, who? and who? and once again, who cares?

    I’d like to know whose job that is too, give it to me, shoot, I’ll take the money…but do a damn better job of picking quotes!

  • 2 7-19-2009 at 7:35 am

    Gustavo H.R. said...

    Jeez, the level of ridiculousness makes my heads spin. And guess what – those idiotic, simplistic quotes are translated to Portuguese here in Brazil, so we usually get the same crap you do…

  • 3 7-19-2009 at 8:37 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    My favorite is for an indie film called “Hannah Takes the Stairs”. It earned praise from esteemed critics yet they chose a hodge-podge of words from an EW review and cobbled it together in a final product that equates to complete nonsense-

    “Defines. . . Slacker-Geek Twentysomething… (a) Too-Hip-to-be-Romantic Comedy.”

  • 4 7-19-2009 at 2:45 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    How about the brilliant parody of quotes used in the Bruno trailer? That was so awesome.

  • 5 7-20-2009 at 8:54 pm

    Jameson said...

    Can marketers really go to metacritic (or the individual critics’ reviews) and just grab any quote they want? I thought I recalled a prominent film critic telling me that the quote has to be approved for use by its author — or even that pull quotes were submitted separately from the published review.