Why The Cinema Experience Needs to Change [repost]

Via: zizzybaloobah on flickr

This is a repost from November 2010 but a recent post by Mark Mayerson over on his blog brought it back to my attention. In it, Mark points out that the distribution models for movies is about to rapidly change, and not necessarily for the better as far as cinemas go:

Just like record stores have mostly disappeared and physical bookstores are suffering, movie theatres may be next.  While they won’t vanish entirely, we could be looking at a drastic reduction in the number of theatres.

It sounds scary, but it’s not unavoidable, below is my post where I outline how cinemas can improve their business, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of effort either.

Almost as if on cue, Brad Bird also tweeted this morning about the current design of cinemas and his distaste for their bland design:

[blackbirdpie url=”http://twitter.com/BradBirdA113/status/248420923210878976″]

What do you think? Does the cinema/movie theatre experience need to change? Leave a comment with your thoughts!

 —

The other night I went to see Harry Potter (which contained a surprise animated sequence). It was a rather unique experience because we didn’t go to our usual cinema. Sadly, the 7 o’clock showing was all sold out there (and likely overrun with rowdy teenagers to boot), so instead we had to find somewhere else.Thankfully, The Senator Theatre was re-opened just in time and it turned out to be about the same distance away from the house too!

All in all, it was a great evening and the film was fantastic to boot. Normally we drive up, park, get gouged when we buy our tickets, get gouged again when we buy the popcorn and then have the pleasure of watching 20 minutes of commercial content followed by another 20 minutes of advertising before the film finally starts.

At The Senator, we got our tickets online for less than usual with the popcorn being slightly cheaper as well, and there was no beating about the bush when the lights went down. We got a rating certificate and then the film. I hadn’t seen start that quick since I was at a sneak preview for The Simpsons Movie!

Throughout the evening, what struck me most was how much different it was from our usual cinematic expeditions. It was more like a special event, an occasion even. Granted, it was Harry Potter, so things were slightly more electrified than normal although that did not cloud the overall experience.

All of this got me thinking and it made me a wee bit sad to think that going to the cinema is no longer treated as something special. It is now a run-of-the-mill chore that is forgotten as soon as we leave the building. How did things become so bland and mundane? Let’s take a look back.

The Golden Age of Hollywood between the 20s and the early 50s was also the greatest era for cinematic entertainment in this country. New cinemas were popping up all over the country and changed the face of evening entertainment in the US.

The cinema owners knew this and realised that the best way to earn business was to have people come to their cinemas, and come often. They achieved this through competition, either in size, features, luxury or price. Often it was a combination of them all. Yeah, the studios may have block-booked timeslots and owned the cinema chains but they still had each other to contend with.

There was a time when you could go to dinner at the theatre and then go upstairs to watch the show. You might have even been able to enjoy a drink at the bar afterwards and your movie ticket would have been all of 25 cents. Even adjusted for inflation, this is cheap by today’s standards.

The point is that owners made going to the cinema an experience. They wanted attendees to feel special, that they were being offered a glimpse into the Hollywood glamour; customers responded in kind by dressing up for the evening. The result of all of this is that they came back, again and again and again. In 1930, attendance was 80 million people, or 65% of the entire population! Since then, audience numbers have declined to the point that barely 3% of the population visits the cinema on a weekly basis.

Why is this? Television certainly has its role to play. Why indeed would you drive all the way to the cinema, cough up your kids college fund and then watch a film with a guy on the left who can’t stop farting and a woman on the right conducting a live directors commentary, not to mention the kid behind you kicking your seat. When you think about it, you really would be much more comfortable at home on your own couch, maybe even in your underwear and being all the happier for it.

The point here is that today, cinema owners and movie studios are under a number of illusions when it comes to why people go to the cinema, which I will now dissect:

  • “People want to see it first” – I can download it at home before it even comes out (legality aside)
  • “People want to see it on a big screen” – I’ve got a 50″ plasma screen with surround sound at home and I don’t have to worry about someone blocking the view
  • “It’s affordable entertainment” – YouTube is affordable entertainment
  • “Its 3-D” – This is a tricky one, because I cannot see things in 3-D (bad right eye) and the third dimension has been bandied about twice in the past without success.

As you can see, there is actually very few reasons why any of us should go to the cinema. It’s normally an expensive, cold, noisy hour and a half with very little to show for it in the end. I haven’t even touched on the strip searches some chains have implemented to catch “pirates”. Talk about pissing off the people who are handing over their hard-earned cash.

Compare that to the golden era when customers were treated like royalty. The expansive architecture (check out Uncle Eddie’s Theory Corner and his comparison post if you don’t believe me) , the awe-inspiring theatre chamber, the men’s lounge (seriously, the Senator has a men’s lounge you pass through on the way to the bathroom) and the feeling that you are doing much more with your evening than watching a film.

That way of thinking has been lost in this country. Today, cinema-goers are treated like cattle, “get them in, get them out” is the order of the day. Patrons somehow “owe” the cinema the pleasure of their business rather than the other way around. Why has it come to this? Why is it that as a film fan, I am forced to make choices about whether it is worth my while going to see a film or not? I shouldn’t have to, and the entire industry is worse off because of it. I may be just one person, but if one farmer in Iowa is judged by the Supreme Court to come under Federal law because of the corn he grows, then I am certainly not alone.

Instead, would it not be better if going to the cinema were treated like the occasion it used to be? Instead of being given the Wal-Mart treatment, we were enlightened by our evening and as a result, are far more likely to consider patronising The Senator again (definitely once they get that bar open though). In the past, the addition of more screens, stadium seating and better sound were thought to entice people from their armchairs. Now it’s 3-D that’s been given another crack at the limelight, and it too, looks to falter again. All these things cost a ton of money, which could perhaps have been better spent on giving the customer something they actually want.

Hundreds if not thousands of cinema gems have been lost over the years, the victims of growing suburbia, socio-economic upheaval in their surroundings and a general apathy towards history in this country. The March of Progress, etc. etc. The oft-quoted response is that such buildings are “a dime a dozen”. Sadly, there isn’t that many left.

Is there hope for the future? Perhaps. Cinemas such as The Senator are dependent on two things: continued patronage and the uninhibited ability to show the films they want. I fully enjoyed my little slice of American cinematic glory. Its time we all did.

5 Hanna-Barbera Shows That Really Should Be Turned into Movies

We’ve had the Smurfs, Yogi Bear, The Flintstones and The Jetsons all make it onto the silver screen, but the Hanna-Barbera library is much more vast than these popular titles. What other properties from the past could be brought back to life with a tasteful big-screen adaptation? Let’s find out.

1. Huckleberry Hound

Via: Yowp

Seriously, eejits are all the rage in movies, especially ones who succeed despite all the odds (a role Will Farrell plays quite well). Huckleberry Hound is ripe for the picking. He’s the ultimate nice guy that even Steve Carrell can’t touch. His film would make a nice turning point towards more character driven entertainment with some physical humour thrown in for good measure.

2. Top Cat

Via: Yowp

Technically this one has already been done in Mexico, but there’s still more then enough room in the crowded US market for a wiseass cat and his gang of misfits. What could a possible plot be? How about a diamond thief accidentally dropping a diamond in Top Cat’s alley. Hilarity ensues as our favourite feline has to evade the thief and the law in order to return the diamond to its rightful owner.

3. Jonny Quest

Via: First Showing

This one is quite literally begging to be made. Action and adventure are all to common in TV shows but once you get to the big screen, things get a bit sparse. Tintin arguably fills one void, but he isn’t Jonny Quest. It’s time to see him in his own film, I mightn’t even mind if it’s live-action!

4. The Snorks

Via: 3DM3

If The Lorax can be made as good looking as it is, there’s no real reason why the Snorks can’t get a similar treatment. Bonus points for updating the concept beyond the horrible 1980s plots of the TV show.

5. The Perils of Penelope Pitstop

Via: Patrick Owsley

This is cinema gold. A [supposedly] rich Southern belle who drives a very fast car constantly being pursued by her evil cousin who’s after her inheritance. You can almost see the crappy live-action “update” now; starring Reese Witherspoon as Penelope and Hank Azaria as the Hooded Claw.

Yuck.

How about an animated version instead, complete with all the physical humour and squash and stretch that it deserves. Not too sure about including the Anthill Mob though. Why were they always following her around?

So that’s what I’ve come up with. Can you think of any others?

So The Lion King Topped the Box Office Again

What does this prove? That a 17 year old movie is better than the current offerings? That it’s actually better in 3-D than we ever thought possible? Or is it that because it’s aimed at families, you know they’re selling more than two tickets at a time?

It’s hard to say. It would be nice to think that The Lion King succeeded because it is a really good movie that outshines whatever was offered this past weekend. However, the truth is probably not near as exciting.

First of all, at 17 years, The Lion King is bordering on nostalgia at this point. I was 10 when it came out and I’m 26 now (thanks to the ever-present international delay, the numbers don’t quite add up). So it is surely ripe for claiming a whole new generation of kids and re-capturing their parents.

Secondly, the box office really does mean squat in the grand scheme of things. Saying that such and such a film is top of the box office is really only saying that it sold more tickets than the others. It is not a reliable indicator of tastes or indeed quality as The Smurfs so perfectly illustrated.

Naturally this will be trumpeted by various marketing departments as a sign of the Lion King’s strength and quality as a film. Yes, this might be true, however it is alarming that we are not seeing a re-issue of other films from the same period. While they obviously do not meet the same lofty status of The Lion King, they were certainly just as popular at the time and have not dated as badly as other films the same age.

Couldn’t all the effort that was put into 3-D-izing The Lion King have been better used to clean up and re-issue some other films?

The point is that the Disney Renaissance films were all spectacular when they were released and they are still spectacular now. Making them 3-D is not going to increase their appeal. I’m willing to hazard a guess a that most people simply wanted to see it on the big screen again and nothing more.

 

If The Poster is Overwrought, What Chance Does the Film Have?

 Via: Movie Fanatic

It doesn’t so much say adventure as it screams “THIS IS GOING TO BE A BIG BIG MOVIE THAT YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY SEE BECAUSE IT’S SET ALL AROUND THE WORLD AND WE’VE USED PHOTOSHOP FOR THIS POSTER TO PROVE HOW AWESOME IT IS”

Apologies for the screaming.

While I’m aware that this is more of a teaser poster than anything else, it does seem to be beating its breast a bit. This doesn’t concern me so much as why it’s doing so this early in the game. Most teaser posters are much more sublime and only really hint at what the audience can expect. This goes full bore and leaves relatively little to the imagination.

It’s slightly disconcerting to know that the studio feels the need to put this much information on a poster that should show a lot less (yes, the earlier ones did show a lot less, I’m aware of that). It’s a sure sign that a film is overwrought/overproduced if ever there was one.

The creepy looking characters don’t help matters either.

For putting you through that, here’s the teaser poster for Luc Besson’s upcoming feature A Monster in Paris. Much nicer don’t you think?

Via: Shockya.com

It’s Now 10 Years Since the World Was First Spirited Away

 Via: Inside Pulse

Today marks ten whole years since Studio Ghibli first shared Spirited Away with the world. Thus far it is the only foreign film to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, which says a lot about it and its success with foreign audiences.

Spirited Away is one of my favourite films for the simple reason that it has a lot going for it. A great coming-of-age story, a quirky yet layered set of characters, fantastic animation that stays true to traditional methods while incorporating digital technology and a superb score by Joe Hisaishi all combine to make it a very enjoyable film yet at the same time remain an emotional tale.

Its hard to believe its now 10 years old but it is. A true testament to the deftness and skill of Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. John Lasseter also deserves an honourable mention for handling the better than usual English dub.

Oliver Good over at The National has a nice write-up on how Spirited Away helped break the mould for Japanese movies.

 

 

Guest Post: Kung Fu Panda 2

Today’s post is a guest review of Kung Fu Panda 2 by Emmett Goodman. Emmett is a graduate from the Pratt Institute in New York and is a notable member of ASIFA-East. His personal review blog is here and his sketch tumblelog is here.

Via: All Movie Photo

A terrific movie, and a job well done. Kung Fu Panda 2 is both entertaining and artistically sophisticated. It has some of the same flaws as the first film, but what it excels in mostly make up for those flaws.

Dreamworks Animation is (at least in my eyes) improving more and more as their movies progress. KFP 1 had some of the usual Dreamworks traits I dislike (such as over-abundance of celebrity voices, emphasis on the actors, sub-par dialog), but it abandoned pop-culture references in favor of a solid story, and took the time to give the movie a unique and distinct look. I could never truly appreciate movies like Shrek, Shrek 2, Shark Tale, or Madagascar, because their stories were too transparent and there was too much emphasis on who was voicing the characters than the characters existing on their own. Also, you could tell the stories were no good as they were overflowing with pop-culture references (which only contributes more to the transparency). Starting with Over the Hedge, the studio started stripping some of these flaws, but they were stripped even more with KFP 1. It seems to have improved with further movies, and KFP 2 cements that fact even more for me.

I can’t praise the artistry of this movie enough. The opening of the movie (along with a personalized version of the Dreamworks Animation logo) is animated in a style suggesting metal puppets. I can’t speak for how clear the influence of authentic Chinese art is, but there is definitely something different in the look of the film than the previous. Something very tactile in the design. Poe’s memories are animated in 2D, and are so beautifully realized, that I wish there was a whole movie in that style.

The story this time is just as solid as the first film, but with more operatic tones. After the end of the first movie, Poe (Jack Black, panda) is now a respected member of Master Ishu’s (Dustin Hoffman, red panda) Kung Fu clan, and is tasked with protecting their village. However, a powerful dynasty has come under attack by its exiled prince Shen (Gary Oldman, peacock), who seeks to not only take over China, but his primary weapons threaten to destroy Kung-Fu tradition. Now the way I say it here, it probably sounds cliché, but in the movie the story is taken very seriously. Poe recognizes a symbol on Shen’s minions (wolves), which unleashes a forgotten nightmare. The story takes an emotional turn for the main characters (which for an animated film/show, is music to my ears). Poe and the Furious Five are dispatched to confront Shen and stop his bloody revolution. In the course of the story, we really get to see the inner workings of Poe’s relationship with his friends/comrades, his adoptive father, and how what made him an outcast in the first film now makes him a unique warrior.

My few criticisms? Poe’s flashback of self-realization, with all the clips from the previous films seemed a little out of place, but it was at least long enough to get the point across. I think they should have used fewer previous scenes, and maybe drawn some out a little longer instead. Also, I was a little uncertain about the acting in the scene where Poe confronts Shen about his own demons. Too preachy.

I must also speak about the directing of the movie. Jennifer Yuh Nelson is not the first woman to be involved in directing an animated feature from a major studio, but she is the first Asian-born female director to receive sole-credit in directing one. And I have to say she does a fantastic job. It is true that there are few female directors or creators in the animation industry, which is very sad to me, because I know several super-talented female artists, and many who are successful in independent animation. Hopefully, many more will be able to follow Jennifer Yuh Nelson. And some day, the lines will be blurred even more.

I am also thankful that no references to Grandmaster Flash have been made in these movies, due to the name “Furious Five.” As much as I like references to contemporary music, they wouldn’t fit into these movies.

Movies like this give me something to appreciate about commercial animated features. With all the criticisms I’m surrounded by these days, its nice to see something that impresses me.

Has Pixar Aligned With Intelligent Design In the ‘Cars’ Universe?

Josh Berta (of P*rtty Sh*tty fame) seems to think so in his piece from yesterday over on Observatory.

The article itself is firmly tounge-in-cheek as evidenced by the following quote:

But there are a couple of crucial elements in the design of this world that point not to a human overlord, but an all-powerful Designer with a bad case of motorhead……if one looks closely enough, cloud formations resembling tire tracks can be seen drifting through the sky. Certainly, it’s no mistake that this most befuddling design element is also the most heavenward. There’s something up there, and It won’t be explained. But It does have a name, and we can thank the tractor trailer character Mack for this revelation. Upon finding his lost friend McQueen late in the second act, he exclaims, “Thank the Manufacturer!” Must we?

The entire thing is well worth a read, especially the comments at the end from those who failed to completely grasp the joke.

 

Cars 2 Currently ‘Rotten’


As of this morning (June 22nd), with release just two days away and with 20 of the top critics reporting, Cars 2 is currently sitting at 55% (EDIT: has dropped to 52% as of the afternoon), which is considered ‘rotten’ over a the movie review site, Rotten Tomatoes.

While it is still far too early to judge the films actual performance (there’ll be plenty of time for that in the coming days), it is nonetheless a worrying sign that almost half of the critics who have seen it have given it the thumbs down. Of course, RT ratings have to be taken with a grain of salt; plenty of films I love have gotten a ‘rotten’ rating from the critics but are loved by the fans.

Compare that with Toy Story 3 last year, which was sitting at 100% from the beginning until one critic decided otherwise. If that doesn’t say something about the difference in quality, I don’t know what does.

So we will have to wait and see, but in what I’m sure is a coincidence, Floyd Norman posted yesterday about when a film isn’t going so well, and he gives us this great sentance:

Most can see the wheels coming off the wagon early on, but we dare not say anything because we risk the wrath of those employing us. So we keep smiling as the train goes over the cliff.

The sad part is that Pixar has had us believe that as much creative energy went into Cars 2 as did Toy Story 3.

When Dual Advertising Makes You Scratch Your Head in Wonder

The other day, the girlfriend bought InStyle magazine for the Taylor Swift article. Long story short, she decided to flip through the entire thing with an eye to creating a blog post about the ads. Well, today I’ve stolen her idea in order to write about one ad in particular.

Dual advertising has been around since day dot, especially in the entertainment industry. How else could studios get their films in magazines and extend the brand beyond the cinema? Espousing a product’s connections to a film or vice-versa is a well worn marketing gimmick that has been proven to work time and time again.

While toys are perhaps the most obvious choice, there have been plenty of example in live-action too. The James Bond films are great examples, he drives an Aston Martin, wears an Omega watch and drinks only Martini.

So without further adieu, let’s have a look at today’s subject:

Warning, large image (c. 1.4MB)

Yes, it’s not an animated film but that’s OK, it’s put out by a studio who used to (and to a certain extent still do) make their bread and butter from animation. Just sit and study it for a minute (you can click through for the full-size version).

Here we have an advertisement that is for O.P.I. Nail Lacquer that has something in it to make the polish appear cracked or worn. Fair enough, but what is that at the top of the page? Why it’s the logo for the Pirates of the Caribbean set of movies that [gasp] is in theaters right now!

Right, so, the ad attempts to tie the pirate movie with the cracked nail polish. Fair enough. I don’t see much of a connection between the two anyway, so how does the ad accomplish this task? By putting a mermaid in there!

Now when you think of Disney + Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean is not the first film to pop into my head. While there may be mermaids in the latest installment, that’s certainly news to me. Although to be fair, they have thrown in a pirate ship in the background for good measure, even though it’s just sitting there doing nothing.

Secondly, the tag is “Nail color you’re sure to TREASURE!” OK, but again, why do you say that when all there is in the background is a boat and a mermaid? When I think of treasure I think of a chest of gold, no? Ostensibly the “treasure” connection is supposed to be upheld by the already implied connection to “pirates”. However, visually, there is nothing to reinforce it and as a result, the tagline seems wholly inappropriate to the setting.

Lastly we have the only truly obvious connection to pirates:

(apologies for the poor scan, apparently magazines are tricky when it comes to that)

Gut-wrenching pun aside, it is buried down in the bottom right corner of the ad, where you have to have read the rest of the ad before you get to it.

All in all, this is the kind of dual-branding advertisement that makes you wonder how on earth these two came together. Sadly , it seems that it has a marketing department stamp all over it. No thought seems to have been given to the context of the product or the film. Yes, a pirate film is hard to sell, but that should not mean throwing all sensibility to the wind, right?

I mean, nail polish? No-one outside of an ad agency or marketing department desperate to share ad costs would even consider putting the two together. It’s not a particularly dumb move, but it doesn’t exactly shine with inspiration either.

Smart tie-ins can greatly improve a film’s commercial health and can provide a positive association between the product and the film. Done well it can bring in millions for both parties, but done poorly, it can leave each looking desperate and foolish.

 

The ‘R’ Rating Hurts Animation: Here’s How We Fix That

IFCO 16 Rating via Wikimedia.org

Film classification is a bit of an interesting topic because it highlights the cultural differences that exist from country to country, even those that lie next to each other! The whole purpose is to classify films into categories to give (ostensibly) parents a quick heads up as to what the film is likely to contain.

The US is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to film classification because, unlike many other countries, classification is not government-mandated. As a result, it is undertaken by the MPAA for its member studios. If you haven’t already, I highly suggest sussing out “This Film Is Not Yet Rated” by Kirby Dick which looks at the process and the secretive way in which it is conducted.

Via: Gawker

Above is the MPAA rating system which anyone reading this in the US should be familiar with. As you can see, there is no intermediate rating between PG-13 and R. What this means is that once a film goes over the PG-13 rating, viewing requires the accompaniment of an adult. It also leads to the somewhat bizarre scenario where a child of any age can see anything they want as long as someone over 18 is with them.

In many other countries though, there is an intermediate rating for ages around 15/16. Taking Ireland as an example, a 16 rating means that anyone that age or older can see the film at the cinema, unaccompanied. While 2 years does not sound like much, it is forever when you are a teenager, especially if you want to see a film without a parent looking over your shoulder.

The end result is that some films are classified as R when they probably could get away with being 16. Never mind the fact that some films that are rated 15 in Ireland are PG-13 over here, but that’s a discussion for another day. At the same time, such situations exist precisely because an R rating greatly reduces the potential audience size for a film and is avoided if at all possible.

How does this hurt animation?

It means there is a bit of a glut when it comes to animated films that are a bit more mature in stature than what we’re use to seeing. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of animated material out there that is perhaps a little too mature [wink, wink] for the average person. However, you will never see an R rated animated film on general theatrical release.

My hypothesis is that if an extra rating were added (say 16), we would be more likely to see animated films that bridge the gap between being for everyone and being for adults only, in other words, suitable for unaccompanied teenagers. Arguably Princess Mononoke would come fairly close to such a rating as it is a bit scary for younger kids but more than suitable for teenagers.

If such a move were enacted, it would also have the handy side-effect of encouraging more animated films to be made that target the so-called [Adult Swim] crowd. In other words, teenagers and young adults. Such a result could only be beneficial to the animated industry.

Have you any thoughts? Please share them below, I’m curious to see what others think of the idea.

Anastasia and The Swan Princess: Two Decent Films Worth A Look

All I can say is that this was a damned tricky post to write!

I watched both Anastasia and The Swan Princess last week as I had never seen them before and while one left me pleasantly surprised, the other made me feel like I had watched an hour and a half of my life disappear without any chance of getting it back.

The Swan Princess is by far the more entertaining film. OK, it’s pure fantasy, but at least its enjoyable. The characters are relatively simple, yet fun. The main characters are your typical princess, prince/hero and villain. There is  a nice character development sequence at the beginning that follows the prince and princess as they grow up. There are some humourous moments and it provides a good background to the characters mutual hatred for one another all through their childhoods. While both characters are not near as rich and developed as I would have liked, my enjoyment of the film was not hampered by it.

The animation, with plenty of nice, hand-drawn goodness, is grand. The nice thing about this film is that it doesn’t pretend to be complicated film vaulting for the critical appraisal. It was created for the family-friendly market and that is squarely where it is strongest. Adults will have a tougher time enjoying this film for the simple reason that it came out before Toy Story, when animated films generally didn’t appeal to adults as well as kids.

Anastasia, in comparison, is the juggernaut from Don Bluth and FOX. It aims high with lush, fluid animation, a high concept storyline and plenty of top-notch animation filled with complimentary CGI. On paper, it should be by far the better film however in reality, it is anything but.

I found it an OK film in that there is nothing inherently wrong with it, just that I found it less enjoyable than I was expecting. Perhaps I was hoping that it would be up to par with the Disney films of the same time and unfortunately, myself and audiences of the time agree that it is not. The animation is superb, the plot is fine, the pace is a bit erratic and there is an anti-climax at the start of the final act. However, the biggest letdown are the characters.

The God-awful voice-acting of Meg Ryan and John Cusack doesn’t help either. These two are clearly not voice-actors. Their performances are about as flat as you can imagine. There is none of the energy that you normally see and expect from an animated film and it really does show during the dramatic scenes where I found it very hard to care for the characters for the simple reason that they seemed so fake. Even the great Christopher Lloyd as Rasputin is powerless to balance the monotony of these two, who, in all honesty, end up sapping so much life from the characters of Anastasia and Dimirti that they become almost unwatchable.

Overall, both films are fine. Neither advances the animation artform any more than what came before it but that should not detract you from searching them out and giving them a shot. I was surprised by both (for different reasons) but I am glad I watched them, despite what I said in the opening paragraph.

PS. Apologies for the insular nature of this post.