'Dinner' plays mental games
By Ed Sholinsky
Daily Film Editor Fracios Pignon (Jacques Villeret) works for the tax
ministry and recreates architectural wonders out of
This summer was plagued by dull movies; movies not matchsticks. He believes that Pignon is going to publish
coming near catching the pure cinematic bliss the movies a book on his models, so he goes to his house before the
are capable of producing. So it's with great relief that pair leaves for the dinner party.
"The Dinner Game" closes out the But things have taken an odd turn before this particu-
summer and rings in the new school lar dinner. Brochant has wrenched his back and can't go
year. to the party.
Even though "The Dinner Game" The trouble is that Pignon is the idiot of a lifetime and
The Dinner is entirely in French, not even subti- insists upon taking care of Brochant after he finds him
Game ties can dilute the humor of this won- laid out at home with his wife leaving him because of his
derfully funny film. cruelty.
Instead, the physical comedy that Pignon tries to take care of Brochant, but instead he
At State is funny in any language and the makes things infinitely worse.
great spoken comedy complement "The Dinner Gatne" is a simple film about cruelty. But
each other and make "The Dinner at the same time, it plays games with the audience.
Game" unabashedly absurd and hys- At first, you sympathize with Pignon, because no mat-
terical. ter how stupid he is he doesn't deserve to be mocked by
The story is of a rich publisher a bunch of rich assholes. Then the film switches up on
who holds "idiot parties" with his you. You realize just how frustratingly stupid Pignon is.
friends where each brings the stupid- Then again, Brochant deserves what he gets for his cru-
est guest he can find and brings them to a dinner party to eIty.
make fun of the idiot. Sure it's French. Sure it's simple. But "The Dinner
And now Pierre Brochant (Thierry Lheruitte) thinks Game" is also a movie that knows how to have fun and
he's found the biggest loser in history. treats the audience to cinematic joy.
tudios paying more for TV ads
Los Angeles Times This escalation has directly affected the viewing habits in today's typical
the overall budget of movies. The household are more fragmented.
With the fall television season rapid- Motion Picture Association of The big winner has been NBC, with
ly approaching, Hollywood studios are America calculated that the average its powerful Thursday night lineup of
bracing for another year of runaway cost of marketing a major studio movie top-rated shows such as "ER" and
advertising costs. climbed 13 percent last year to S25.3 "Friends."
Knowing that television commer- million. MPAA President Jack Valenti Last year, movie ads accounted for
cials are a vital tool in their overall said the studios had no control over S36.7 million on "ER," S31.1 million
rketing campaigns, studios say they advertising costs. on "Seinfeld" and $29 million on
have no choice but to spend tens of Although studios are notoriously "Friends." according to CMR. Also
millions of dollars buying cotmmercial guarded about divulging their market- popular was "The Tonight Show With
time on such highly rated shows as ing strategies, last May's sweeps peri- Jay Leno," which raked in S22.7 mil-
"ER," "Friends,' "Ally McBeal" and od illustrates just how expensive mar- lion.
"NFL Monday Night Football." keting movies on the tube has become. Thursday night on NBC is the "last
Some studio executives, however, Universal Studios, for example, powerful moment" studios have to
complain that the networks are squeez- spent an estimated $10 million in May hype their films coming out the fol-
ing them, making spots available at the on TV ads for the Julia Roberts-Hugh lowing day, said Robert Levin, presi-
last minute on their top-rated shows Grant romantic comedy "Notting Hill" dent of worldwide marketing at Sony
but forcing the studios to pay premium and another $6 million on "The Pictures Entertainment.
Hes. The networks say it's just a Mummy" starring Brendan Fraser. But Levin noted that the days of
b'siness of supply and demand. Both films became runaway hits. relying only on major network pro-
No one disputes that the cost of mar- Where the money was spent may grams are long gone.
keting movies is soaring. have been crucial to the success of "You used to be able to look at it and
According to Competitive Media both films. The tracking firm estimat- say, 'If I buy a selection of prime-time
Reporting, a New York-based media ed that Universal spent about $1.1 mil- shows, I'd get these kind of ratings,"'
research firm that tracks advertising lion to buy comiercial time for lie said. "Now, if you want kids, you go
activity and expenditures, movie com- "Notting Hill" on the Fox network's to Nickelodeon and the Cartoon
mercials on TV cost $1.5 billion last popular legal series "Ally McBeal," Network. If you want women, you go
year - up from $1.38 billion in 1997. which has a strong female audience, to Lifetime ... You're having to be a lot
Studios and independents are now followed by $763,500 on "Friends," smarter in how you use network televi-
bwtng more commercials and paying $632,000 on "ER" and $507,400 on sion versus cable television."
o e per commercial than they did in the four-hour ABC movie "Cleopatra" Last November, with Christmas
1997, even though fewer films are As for "The Mummy," CMR esti- movies and end-of-the-year Oscar con-
being produced. Indeed, the total num- mated that the studio shelled out tenders coming out, studios scrambled
ber of movie ads on network TV alone. $650,000 on the four-hour NBC drama to buy commercial time on "ER."
rose-from 11,205 to 12,037 last year, a "Noah's Ark," $632,000 on "ER," "What really gets to be crazy - and
7.4 percent gain over the previous year. $517,000 on "Will & Grace" and it's sort of annoying - is when more
On the Big Four broadcast networks $266,300 on "The X-Files" during the than one big movie is opening on
- ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox - May sweeps. Friday," said DreamWorks marketing
Hollywood spent an average of By monitoring advertising activity chief Terry Press. "You look at NBC's
$72,908 per commercial, a 3.7 percent on TV and then calculating the ad rates Thursday night lineup and it's all
r over 1997. The average price per charged by the networks, Competitive movie ads. It's hilarious. It's like there
t::mercial on smaller networks - Media Reporting said it is able to esti- is no breathing room because everv-
UPN, WB and PAX - was $24,525, a mate how much advertisers spend. The body knows you have to be there, so
16.1 percent increase over the previous actual costs may vary, CMR noted, if everybody is there.:
ear. special deals are in place or if net- With cable channels multiplying
Overall, there were 886,735 movie works give studios substitutg air time like rabbits, studios are finding it more
ommercials that aired last year on when ratings fail to meet expectations. and more expensive to reach viewers.
etwork TV, cable TV, local TV and Hollywood's reliance on TV adver- "If the studios didn't feel it was
yndicated TV, according to CMR. The tising comes at a time of persistent worth it, they wouldn't pay it," said
verage price for those commercials erosion in network viewership. The six Michael A. Vorhaus, managing direc-
as $1,672 - a 10.2 percent jump major networks saw their viewership for at Frank N. Magid Associates, a
om the previous year. dr6p an average of 8 percent during the Los Angeles-based entertainment
e impact on studio marketing 1998-99 season. media and Internet research and con-
> ets is obvious. Last year, Disney's The ramifications for film studios sulting company. "If you've put $75
verall motion picture advertising are enormous. Where once the studios million to $100 million on a big sum-
xpenditures jumped from $293.6 mil- could count on reaching their audience mer movie bet, then you are going to
ion to $323.1 million, according to simply by taking out ads on such wide- spend that extra money to make sure
MR, while Warner Bros.' costs went ly watched NBC programs as "The you have a strong advertising cam-
rom $205 million to $268.2 million. Cosby Show," "Cheers" or "Seinfeld," paign."
ead the Daily
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The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, September 8, 1999 - 11A
Mogwai to visit Magic Stick
By Jewel Gopwani
Daily Arts Writer
An instrumental song some-
where on a great rock album is like
frosting on the cake. Take delicious
bites like "Brother Woodrow -
Closing Prayer" by the Afghan
Whigs or "(Anesthesia) - Pulling
Teeth" by Metallica. They are
proof that your favorite musicians
really know how to play their
Instead of filling their albums up
with vocals and giving fans an
instrumental tune as a treat,
Scotland's Mogwai specializes in
creating these intricate rock com-
Stopping by the Magic Stick in
Detroit, Mogwai is touring in sup-
port of its April release "Come on
Die Young." An album of intense
songs, "Come on Die Young" only
has one song with vocals. In a
recent interview, drummer Martin
Bulloch said Mogwai tends to
include vocals sparingly - only if
the band thinks the song needs
something else after rehearsing is
for a couple weeks.
"Some of the tunes just got
enough melody there to carry it
without having the extra distrac-
tion of a vocal," Bulloch said with
a staunch Scottish accent.
And that would be tracks three
through 12. The album's first song
uses a speech on punk rock by Ann
Arbor's own Iggy Pop to fulfill the
song's vocal destiny.
Being a rock 'n' roll instrumen-
tal band sets Mogwai aside from
your ordinary verse-chorus-verse-
But what also makes Mogwai
unique is the emotion exhibited on
Mogwai has the ability to intro-
duce and develop feelings, mostly
dark ones, without using words or
vocals. Instead the band utilizes
instrumental layers and minor
In "May Nothing But Happiness
Come Through your Door,"
Mogwai introduces at least three
themes that are rotated and
enhanced to create the song's ten-
sion and eventually reach some
comforting conclusion - all with-
out saying a word.
But Bulloch insists the band
doesn't contemplate each song too
much. "A lot of it is very free. We
The Scottish band Mogwai is more musical than many rock 'n' roll groups.
just let the song take its course."
Touted to be the best band of the
21st Century by none other than
Pavement's Stephen Malkmus,
Mogwai is a long awaited breath of
fresh air among armies of stodgy
lead singers exhibiting an inexplic-
able resurgence of glam in the
music industry. They're all the rage
across the Atlantic, well, if you're a
part of "the scene "
"In Britain, we're deemed as
quite a stylish band." The only
problem with that, Bulloch said, is
Mogwai shows tend to be a place to
be seen, instead of a place to listen
to music. "We've got really quiet
parts to our music a lot of people
talk over the top of it."
Bulloch said Mogwai doesn't
have that problem in the United
States., but whatever you do
tomorrow night at the Magic Stick.
get your gab out before the show.
Just not during the opening act -
another Scottish instrumental band
and friends of Mogwai - Ganger.
And to really enjoy Mogwai's
songs, silence is necessary.
Bulloch said audiences in Europe
and the U.S. are more patient with
the band. Patience and concentra-
tion are key ingredients to appreci-
ating Mogwai's latest album.
There is no reason to repudiate
lyrics and a good voice. But if
Mogwai can achieve success with
an underground following and.
some college radio airplay, the cre-
ation of musical frosting might
continue and grow in the next cen-
Will Mogwai save music. Maybe
not, but this band will probably
THE BIGGEST BACK TO SCHOOL,
1N 9 7 $