Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Thursday, June 07, 2012
How about a bulk-review kind of day. I have seen a number of movies of late. None of them so terrific, or so awful, that I felt the need to give them their own post. The exception would be The Avengers, of course, but at this point, with the millions of words that have been written about the film, what more can I possibly add to the conversation. I loved every frame, every second of The Avengers. It's rare for me to say but the truth is I wouldn't change a single thing about it. It was pure Hollywood magic at its best. And so terrific is Robert Downey that he steals every scene he is in from actors that are, in themselves, no slouches. I'm sure you have all seen it by now. Moving on.
At a recent viewing of Dark Shadows, a movie that was just OK for me, I saw a preview for a film that is quite certainly going to be one of the worst, if not the worst, film ever made: Step Up Revolution. Seriously, I thought it was a gag. People in the audience actually elbowed each other and laughed throughout the preview. I can't do justice to its awfulness. Go to YouTube and check out the trailer. I refuse to link to it here for fear it will make the whole blog smell like farts and desperate, sweaty dancers dying dreams. "Now we dance for a cause," one of the non-descript actresses said, with a straight face. We all howled. Seriously, someone greenlight that project. Someone who makes more money than you or I and works in the Dream Factory that is Hollywood. Someone either stupid or someone that says "Screw art and standards! The market research says a percentage of teenage girls will be dumb enough to plunk down 10 bucks for this!" Screw that guy, whoever he is.
As for Dark Shadows what can I say. I have a real weak spot for Johnny Depp. I can't say how much I enjoyed Sweeney Todd. Seriously, I can't say how much because if my friends found out. Let's just say the locker room at the gym would feel awkward for a while. But Dark Shadows was pretty meh for me. Highly stylized, as one would expect from Burton, and high energy as you would expect from Depp. It had some pretty funny moments but overall it's just…..missing something. The movie confused me a little. Most often I can say exactly why I loved, hated or remained indifferent to a film but Dark Shadows….I just can't put my finger on it. The story was a little weak for me, but not absent. Nothing wrong with any of the acting. Well directed, obviously. Just something not right. The tension between Victoria and Barnabas was a little underwhelming. It's frustrating and I really wish I could say why I was a little disappointed. Maybe in the comments some of you can help me out with this one.
Snow White and the Huntsman. This one I just loved. First of all the movie was just gorgeous. I know it wasn't Disney but when you see some of the fantast scenes you're going to think "Hey! This is Disney magic at it's best." Just beautiful. Speaking of gorgeous, Kristen Stewart turns in a really solid performance. I know, I know, she has a lot of haters out there. I'll never understand that. Have you seen the Runaways? She's talented, has range, she's hot. What more do you want? Yeah she starred in some teenage vampire flick that everyone loves to hate but you know what? Tough shit. What actress in her right mind could have turned down that role. Give her a break. If not for that role you would never have heard of her. It gave her the ability to create a body of work and move on to better, more challenging projects. Unless you can tell me that you would honestly have passed on a role in a sure-fire slam dunk blockbuster than you have to cut her some slack. Watch Snow White and tell me she doesn't hit all the right notes. From abused damsel in distress, to confused wanderer of the woods, to pissed off warrior woman, Stewart nails the character.
And Chris Hemsworth is….well, he's Chris Hemsworth. He is pretty much Thor here without the superpowers. I like him, don't get me wrong, he is very likeable and charismatic on-screen. But he is, to me anyway, in danger of being a one trick pony. He's a big, larger than life Viking kind of dude. He swills mead and beats the crap out of people. I don't know, hopefully he isn't type cast and forgotten because I do enjoy him. To be fair the role, as it was written, didn't give him much else to do.
The highlights are the tremendous visual effects and Stewart. It's a fun, dark kind of fairy tale and I enjoyed the ride. And the dwarfs. Seeing a tiny Ian McShane—wow was that fun. I know the dwarfs are all up in arms that real dwarfs weren't cast, but honestly; try to make a movie these days without offending someone. If you haven't seen it yet, go now. You won't be disappointed.
Last, and certainly least, is Chernobyl Diaries. What a complete fucking waste of a fantastically original concept. I mean the location, a haunted, abandoned town outside of Chernobyl. How do you fuck that up? Well start by advertising it like a creative, interesting ghost story and then turning it into a "done a million God damned times" flick about irradiated freaks. It was like The Hills Have Eyes 3. But worse. I mean. Look, I love horror movies. All kinds. Paranormal Activity? Hell Yes. Halloween? God yes. All kinds. But this film, to me, was misrepresented from the get go. Had I known it was about a bunch of morons who seem to be TRYING to get themselves killed being chased by irradiated mutants you never actually see for more than a single eye-blink, I would have waited for video. I don't even know where to start. It's the anti-Avengers. I can't find a single decent thing to say about it. There is nothing I WOULDN'T have changed. As the esteemed Harry Knowles once said "This movie took a giant steaming shit on my eyes." Indeed. If you see this film in a RedBox somewhere tip the machine over and save people dumber than you from having to view it.
That about does it for today. Coming up on my must see list will be Dark Knight Rises (duh), Prometheus, Brave and That's My Boy. Yeah, I have a soft spot for Sandler. What of it?
Thursday, April 05, 2012
Now we know that when James Bond returns in Skyfall he will be drinking a Heineken. I have no idea if this means he will be eschewing his traditional martinis entirely or if the beer is a one-time only exception. What I do know is that this is going to drive some Bond purists crazy. And frankly, I am having trouble blaming them.
The deal Heineken struck to have their product featured in the film is hardly the first time that product placement has been used in films; Bond films in particular have been doing this for decades with watches, cars etc.. The problem here is that it just feels a little more invasive. When you’re fundamentally altering a character, especially a long running and revered character, you’re sort of asking for some blow back.
The question here, for me at least, is when is this sort of thing going to backfire? Product placements on television are so pervasive you probably don’t even notice them much anymore. But earlier this season when Subway interrupted Hawaii 5-O for what seemed like a 2 minute commercial viewers took to Twitter and YouTube to poke fun at it. It was the most invasive and clumsy product placement that I have ever seen. If that show wasn’t already a cheesy, steaming pile of poorly written shit I would say that anyone involved should be ashamed. But clearly these guys sold their “art” out long ago or they wouldn’t be cranking out this drivel. If this was a show with some reputation for being intelligent, witty or even respectably compelling I am confident the outrage meter would have spiked.
And that isn’t the only show guilty of hitting you in the face with a product placement. Bones has been shilling Toyota for a while now. At least with Bones the placement is handled a bit more delicately. Like having the car beep, Booth asking what that was and Bones explaining it was the Prius’ anti-collision system—and then the conversation is right back on track.
We’ve all seen these kinds of product placements. I don’t love them, but I understand why they exist. The problem is they seem to be escalating. Years ago it was enough to just have an actor wear a certain watch, drive a certain car or smoke a particular brand.
Today what we have is the product placement being woven into storylines. Breaking the action and now, with Skyfall,, changing the habits of decades old characters.
Video games don’t get off the hook either. There has been talk in recent years of, for example, having the billboards in game cities change now and then as new advertisers come into the picture. Since every gamer these days is online it’s easy to see how this would work. A simple update when you insert the game and you have a fresh set of ads right in the face of a coveted demographic.
My sense of this is that it will be self-correcting. As movies get a little more brazen with the product placements audiences will grow antsy. At the very least I assume we will wonder how this advertising windfall isn’t offsetting skyrocketing ticket prices or 3D rates.
Sooner or later a movie will go too far with it and the practice will be reigned in. I don’t know when but I hope it’s soon. For me the Skyfall intrusion is more than annoying. I am a longtime Bond fan and it just feels wrong to me. I know I have been getting close-ups of his brand of watches and his car brands in recent films, but none of that really changed the movie or the character. This one feels to me like it crossed a boundary of acceptability.
I would love to see what you all think. Leave your comments below.
You haven't seen this movie. You've probably never heard of it. Thanks to Netflix Instant I have discovered some hidden gems like this over the last few years and it's my pleasure to share them.
OK, it's not going to win any awards. It's not going to be a cult classic or something you remember in a few days. But...there is SOMETHING about it. Like Road House it's a guilty pleasure. It's just fun. Make some popcorn, turn off the brain, and have fun. And Devils Playground is a somewhat unique take on the whole zombie genera.
So what happens when a bunch of scientists use a benign virus to spread synthetic performance enhancing drugs through your body? And this drug has some, shall we say, unfortunate side affects? You get zombies of course. But not just any zombie. Sure they're fast, something I usually consider an abomination, but in this case there is at least a reasonable explanation. But aside from fast zombies you get zombies that are juiced up on performance enhancing drugs.
That's right. You get zombies doing parkour!
It stars Craig Fairbrass who you have seen before in a number of movies and television shows, including The Unit, Far Cry and Stallone's Cliffhanger. If you're a gaming fan he was a lead voice in Modern Warfare 2. He's a solid actor and, act 6'3, a natural action badass. I don't know why we don't see more of him, I always like him. You also get Danny Dyer in a supporting role. You likely have seen him a few times but he is bigger in England than here in the US. I thought he was pretty good, not that he was asked to do to much.
The premise is fairly straight-forward. A large pharma company moves into the human testing phase of it's synthetic performance enhancer, enlisting 30,000 people to take the drug. Predictably, things go badly. The test subjects get sick, then turn into mindless killing machines. Fast, jump-over-cars-in-one-leap style zombies.
But there is one woman, Angela Mills, played by Myanna Buring (also in Twilight: Breaking Dawn part 2), who doesn't get sick. Cole (Craig Fairbrass) is an head of security at the pharma company that caused the outbreak. He is also in the business of cleaning up their secrets and, if need be, erasing them. Cole wants out, he is awash in guilt over the things he has done for money and is ready to chuck it all. As luck would have it the head lab geek lets him know that Angela might be the key to saving humanity if she is, indeed, immune. But she must be found. Cole sees this as his chance for redemption and embarks on a quest to find her and make sure she survives.
Along the way you will encounter the predictable characters you see in all survival type films. The couple who will gladly sacrifice anyone they happen upon to ensure their own survival. The jealous boyfriend Joe (Danny Dyer) who sees Cole as a threat to his manhood and a few selfless heroes.
The movie is long on action, features half-developed characters and is generally an incomplete thought. Cole is supposed to be a conflicted anti-hero type but it never really amounts to much and frankly you aren't going to care.
It's a well acted film with a decent budget that gives you brain munching, wall climbing zombie action. It's just fun and worth an hour and a half of your time if you have Netflix.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Since I seemed to come down anti-remake in that last post I thought I might share with you my list of movies that would benefit from a remake, in my humble opinion. Why? Because they were just so close to being good the first time or the special effects don’t hold up, maybe a particular actor or actress just sucked in it—it happens. Most of these movies, to be truthful, I have fond memories of as a kid. And unfortunately, as with many of our childhood memories, they just aren’t as good as I recall them being. They’re still fun to me, sentimentally, but they also have potential to be better. They wouldn’t be on the list for purely sentimental reasons, there has to be more than that, but I can’t just ignore my attachment to these films. In a lot of ways they helped form the viewer I am today.
So here is my list of 10 movies that deserve another shot:
Why? Because there was a nugget of a good horror film in there with a decent enough story, wrapped in some cool myths; a good enough story that you might have thought it was from a decent Wes Craven film had you not known better. Directed by Stan Winston, better known for his makeup work, the film was not so low budget that it would remind you of a straight to DVD but it wasn’t a special effects bonanza either. Let’s face it, you know a movie is poorly acted when the IMDB credits feature only 2 actors with headshots! This movie was good enough to attract a following but didn’t because…of the stupid fucking name. I attribute this movies lack of cult status to an epic marketing fail and I think a remake with a nice budget and actors that aren’t extras on whatever shitty Jimmy Smitts show is failing currently would make a huge difference.
9. Night of the Comet
I know, for some of you this is sacrilege. But here’s the thing, cult classic or no, the special effects are bad enough at this point to be distracting. Yeah, I like the cast, love the story, it was beautifully directed and cheezily low budget, nearly perfect popcorn movie fare in all ways. But having recently watched it again, for the 500th time, the effects need a revamp. If I could trust Hollywood enough to just ramp up the effects work and not fuck with the story this would be number one on the list.
Come on, you loved this gem, admit it. Didn’t it seem like straight to video movies were better in the 80’s? That they tried a little harder? This movie was fun. It was Gremlins with 0 cute and all bad ass. The possibilities are endless! Billy Zane, Dee Wallace, what more do you need for a classic 80’s flick? Remake this, modernize the effects and give me some cameos from the original and some better Critters, you’ve got gold. Plus, Director Steven Herek went on to helm Adventures in Babysitting, Bill and Ted and the Mighty Ducks. Give the guy props for nailing 80’s camp. Hell, he may invented it!
7. Cloak and Dagger
A young boy with a dead mother and douchebag father invents a super-spy best friend in his mind, played by Dabney Coleman, and winds up embroiled in a real secret agent story line. This movie plays on that 11 year-old in all of us that wants to be James Bond and it’s so much fun. I can never get enough of those films that are able to truly peel back the curtain on that magical time when kids have boundless imaginations. It’s always nice to remember that period in your life, when imagination could run wild for hours or days and in your head you could just walk into a story, any story, you could come up with. This film does that so well, it’s touching without being sappy, nostalgic without being cheesy and the acting holds up pretty well. I think it might be a little bit dated for todays generation, a little tweaking to the story here and there, update the tech involved and I think todays kids might embrace this like I did. Imagine if Cody Banks had heart. And acting. And story. You get the idea. Toughest call here would be replacing Dabney Coleman, I always loved that guy and he’s terrific in this.
6. House of Fears
Yeah, I know, I know, you never heard of it. That’s the beauty of Nextflix instant view: You can take a chance on a little known movie with no risk other than your time. I’ve uncovered a few gems like this one using Netflix. But House of Fears, directed by Ryan Little, whoever that is, only came out in 2007. So, why remake it? Because they missed it by that much!
So close. Fun, campy, Halloween night style movie. If it was done just a little differently this is one I could pull off the shelf once a year, light the pumpkins and turn off the lights. But a story, that myth or legend that good horror movies play off, was just undeveloped and some really unfortunate directorial choices just sunk a movie that had good cheesy scare potential. Watch it and you’ll say “Man, I could have really loved this but they screwed it up.” At some points in the film the direction is so bad you’ll be looking at the description to see if it was made for TV. There’s a shitty, ham fisted back-story for one of the main characters that needs fleshing out. But it was soooo close to being good. In a lot of ways it reminds me of My Soul To Take, close but no cigar. I say give it a better director and let a decent writer make a few changes and you’ve got Halloween fun here.
One of the few times, if not the only time, you’ll see a Clint Eastwood film and think it could have been a little bit better. I think it’s high time to reintroduce the Russians back into film as the wily villains and this movie could do it. It had cold war intrigue, awesome tech (for the time) and a nice spy element that was more tough guy than spook. Like 25% Rambo and 25% James Bond and 50% Dirty Harry.
But in hindsight some parts of this movie are a little poorly paced, I think some scenes could have been removed altogether, and the tech needs updating. Still, if you wanted to remake a movie into a good old fashioned East meets West cold war style intrigue film this could be done well. And normally I would never advocate replacing Eastwood but he wasn’t so great in this one that his shoes couldn’t be filled.
4. Blue Thunder
John Badham directed this little known gem the same year he gave us War Games. Starring Roy Scheider, another actor I always had a soft spot for, as Frank Murhpy, test pilot for the experimental Blue Thunder.
As Murphy uncovers the real reason the helicopter exists and overhears some sinister backroom dealings he begins pulling at the threads of a conspiracy that reaches the top and brings the assassins in droves. It’s one of the 80’s best stories of intrigue and governmental corruption with the beloved actor from Jaws. Slam dunk. Remake it why again? Daniel Stern for one. He’s out of water in a serious role and good luck not imagining him in Wonder Years the whole time. Juice up the effects, freshen up the tech and do it again. It’s really a terrific movie that would benefit from a facelift.
Yeah, the one with the hot chick from the White Snake video. And that right there tells you why it should be remade. Really scary story, pretty competently directed. Low budget and some of the worst acting in history. I say recast it, inject a little cash and you have a horror better than 90% of what passes for it today.
It’s the future and robots do everything! They answer the door, do the dishes, plow the fields and, occasionally, go haywire and kill everybody.
I loved it as a kid. I also thought Cynthia Rhodes was crazy hot. What can I say, it was the 80’s. Kirstie Alley was in it when she was skinny. And sane. Gene Simmons as a villain. Cool stuff. But truthfully, other than Tom Selleck, the acting's pretty piss poor, the effects don’t hold up and even John Travolta could camp his way into a better bad guy than Simmons. Yes, I know that this cautionary tale of what happens when people begin to rely on technology too much has been done before. It’s the intentional sabotage that’s sort of clever. Especially because the bad guy has little to gain here, he’s basically a high-tech sociopath. I say new actors and better effects and we have a winner.
1. My Deadly Friend
I absolutely loved this movie when I was young and I still do. Ann Ramsey and Kristie Swanson in a Wes Craven movie. It couldn’t miss.
This is an awesome story of what happens when a brilliant young Doogie Howser type turns into a mad scientist and of the dumb things a young guy will do when he falls for the hot blonde next door.
Craven takes his usual abusive stepfather character to the next level when Pauls (Matthew Laborteaux) neighbor, and object of his young lust, is killed by her stepfather. So Paul does what any young genius would: He implants a chip in her corpse and turns her into a murderous robot. With a remote control.
Yeah, it’s pretty much Frankenstein with a twist, but Ann Ramseys gets her head crushed with a basketball! OK, this is a nostalgia choice, I admit it. But come on, Craven did something cool here. The settings, the shots, the creepy kid, the guy that wants to be the hero and save his girl but fails miserably. How far he’ll go to protect her. Maybe it was 13 year old me, but I loved every second of this. On repeated viewing it clearly needs some special effects work and an acting upgrade. But there’s enough here to make a good, scary, hormone infused horror movie here. And let’s be fair, a lot of 80’s horror, even the revered Elm Street, had a lower than needed budget and featured effects that don’t stand up. That alone isnt a reason to remake a movie but when the effects are truly holding a movie back from being something better than you gotta consider it.
My Deadly Friend is such a movie. The effects and the acting hurt it but there is definitely something worth saving here.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
I know he’s fairly popular, but I just can’t join the Russell Brand bandwagon. The guy’s a one trick pony and he’s simply not all that funny. Now, that is obviously just my opinion. And I willingly sat around while he gained notoriety and dated way, way out of his league with Katy Perry. But not anymore. I can’t stand idly by while Hollywood pisses all over a movie that, while in the usual sense may not be a classic, but is none the less beloved by many.
I know a great many who feel Hollywood is out of ideas. They bemoan the constant stream of remakes that are getting cranked out while more original projects seem to either stall or languish at the box office behind less creative ventures.
Now, I am not totally anti-remake. Sometimes I like the idea of refreshing the special effects of an older horror or sci-fi movie—maybe tweaking an older story line a bit to improve what was lacking in the original. I can’t say every remake is poorly done. It is true that for every Chainsaw Massacre, a remake that worked if you ask me, you get a total shit-fest like Rob Zombies disastrous Halloween reboot. But can’t you say the same for original projects? For every Inception there’s a few My Soul To Takes. You’re gonna see crappy movies, it comes with the territory. So I don’t think remakes are inherently evil.
I do think some movies are untouchable though. Back To The Future, for example. And Arthur.
1981’s Arthur was lightning in a bottle. Dudley Moore simply nailed the character perfectly and his chemistry with John Gielgud’s Hobson is never going to be replicated. The odds of throwing Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli in front of a camera with relatively unknown director Steve Gordon and having the chemistry work so well, the laughs delivered expertly and the heart strings tugged just so…well, they’re astronomical. You can’t recreate that film anymore than you can find two identical snow flakes in a storm.
Replacing Dudley Moore’s brilliant Arthur with talentless hack Russell Brand is just simply a bad idea. I don’t care if he is the flavor of the week and I am willing to bet he brings nothing to the character other than the same, stale performance he brings to everything else he’s ever done. I have no plans to see this movie and I hope people who remember the original fondly don’t stain the memory with the abortion this is sure to be. There are better remakes out there, you just have to choose wisely.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I’ll keep this one short (maybe, no promises) because this film doesn’t deserve a ton of effort to review. If you’re a huge Wes Craven fan, as I am, it’s likely already too late to warn you away from this one. If you’re not, wait for the Blue-Ray release and then don’t buy that either. Get it on Netflix.
I expected more from the writer/director who brought me Nightmare on Elm Street, The People Under the Stairs, the lesser known film I loved called My Deadly Friend and more. What I got instead was an absolute fucking mess of a movie.
Let’s start with what I expect from a writer of Craven’s caliber. Generally there is a terrific story rooted in some sort of very interesting mythology or research so you always know where his idea germinated and, at the very least, he helps you suspend disbelief a bit with his backstory and just get lost in his horror. This time around there is a clumsy, half-assed effort where a character early on mumbles something about a Haitian belief that schizophrenics aren’t mentally ill, rather, and more sinister, they actually contain multiple souls. Once this minor character spat out that nugget I got excited. I thought “Here we go. Another fascinating mythology unearthed by Craven that he can explore, elaborate on and use to scare the Hell out of people in a credible way.” But no. After that little blurb we never hear it again, the solution to the problem isn’t found by researching the legends and we see the Haitian character only once more in passing.
It’s so clumsy it’s as if Craven watched a rough-cut and thought, “Damn, I forgot to explain where I got this idea.” He then might have turned to an intern and said “Stick a line in there somewhere about that Haitian thing so people don’t think I pulled this out of my ass.”
And while Craven remains in a tie with John Carpenter for creating creepy scenes, like the remains of a burned out ambulance by the river in this one, the small town of Riverton just rings hollow. Populated by the same teenage stereotypes that are Craven’s go-to characters in most of his films none of them are believable, likeable or fleshed out at all. You know the characters because you have seen them all before and seen them done better; rename the teenagers from Nightmare On Elm Street and there you go. We have the horny, piggish jock, the punk that rules the school with an iron fist, the sheepish quiet protagonist with an inner-strength that, why! we just didn’t know he had and the sexy blonde girl that nobody can have. Oh, and the abusive step-parent that Craven has a real thing for. We meet him once and it would have been more subtle if they just had him wear a shirt that said asshole in it. One of the clumsiest scenes ever. He did manage to toss in a bible-thumping good girl but even that isn’t clever or original. Max Thieriot (Catch That Kid) does the best he can with the poorly written Bug and manages a few pretty creepy moments. Unfortunately, for every scary or tense minute there’s another one that is supposed to be but just makes you chuckle a bit.
The gist of the story is the tale of the Riverton Ripper. This guy murders his pregnant wife and when he dies his multiple souls seek out babies to take refuge in. 7 kids are born on the night the Ripper dies. Known as the Riverton Seven these kids are destined to be slaughtered as the ripper attempts to reunite all his souls under one horrifying umbrella. The tension is supposed to come from the fact that we don’t know which of the Riverton 7 is the bad soul claiming all the others. Sadly, there’s too many characters we just don’t know or see often enough to know or suspect. Don’t ask why there’s a blind kid tossed in there because there is seemingly no point. Although he can curiously sprint through the woods with little trouble, so there’s that.
There’s a nugget of a good, interesting story here but it’s lost. The pacing is terrible and you’ll be checking your watch at the midway point of the film. The 3D is certainly an afterthought and this method of sucking a few bucks more from your wallet is far more clever a device than anything in the film. It feels like there just isn’t enough story here to warrant an feature length film so they just stretched it out.
Because it’s Wes Craven there are certainly some good moments here and you can feel the master at work for brief minutes. But he’s off his game and diluted.
The best way to describe this movie for me would be this: You only have a little bit of very good, expensive bourbon left so you try to stretch it out with ice and water. You can barely taste how good it could have been if only you had a little more. That’s My Soul To Take. A tease.
I still believe in you Wes. I’ll see your next one but your running out of mulligans.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
So, I recently interviewed with a company for a marketing job and, through the course of this process, came to conclude this company had serious issues. The interview process with, oh lets call them AWS Truepower (oops, that is their name!) is best described as torturous. It's easily the worst interview process I have ever been through. Should you have an opportunity to interview with this company I highly recommend slamming your face in a car door repeatedly instead--it will hurt far less, I promise you.
The process began with a routine phone interview. A week or so later that was followed by another one with a few repeat questions, not a big deal but a bit annoying. And then came the email requesting a face-to-face. I should have said no, there were some red flags, but I didn't. In this economy you just can't. In normal economic conditions I would have declined.
And so, after the email requesting a face-to-face interview, came another with some homework assignments. They wanted professional writing samples, pretty normal, so I provided nearly a dozen. Next they wanted a written critique of their website. Slightly time consuming, but again I complied. And next up they wanted some bullet point thought on new product launch procedures which I again provided.
So then came the day. Put on a suit, print out some spare resumes and wonder what they could possibly have left to ask me.
I'm escorted to a large conference room and 3, yes 3, people file in. All of them were pretty pleasant and for the most part I enjoyed speaking with them. I did find it slightly bizarre that I had to field some questions about international marketing because I have 0 experience with that and nowhere in my resume would you be led to believe that I did. Next their web guy said he had some questions but in reality he just entered into a soliloquy about the company and their future products. If there was a question in there I didn't hear it. Finally he asked something about my website critique and as I answered him he nodded enthusiastically and the 3 interviewers exchanged knowing looks, as if they already knew of these issues and I was confirming them. After this round I felt pretty good, enjoyed the people and was confident it went well. It was more than an hour so I was getting a bit worn as interviews are inherently stressful, let alone when they go on and on. So they told me who I would be talking to at the next interview, which I assumed meant I had passed to the next round and would be told when to return.
Nope. Instead I was told to wait and more people shuffled in. This is where the real problems begin. One woman that came in had an obvious attitude and was miserable at first and quickly devolved into outright hostile. Easily one of the meanest and most miserable people I have ever encountered and certainly not anyone you would want to work for. She picked through my resume and all but called me a liar more than once. For example:
She asked me about a listing on my resume that says I offered some media relations training. Well, the truth is I had worked for a number of small companies and I have offered advice relating to television and radio interviews. It was real basic stuff, not exactly big leagues, but still, my bosses were happy I did it and their interviews went well. Just because I wasn't a seasoned media relations trainer or because I didn't counsel, for example, the CEO of Pepsi or anything, does that mean I should omit it from my resume? When asked for clarification I was honest in what I did and didn't try to misrepresent it but she was like a mean dog with a bone, at one point rolling her eyes. I internally tried to not be defensive but I was getting rattled and, to an extent, angry.
Next she said it was "Interesting" that I claimed to have experience with SEO work but my current companies website was not showing up in Google. Well, it would have been an interesting and easily answered questions without her hostility and accusatory stance. The truth? Our company had turned off their old website and turned on a new one the very day she was looking for it. None of the new pages had even been indexed yet, obviously. When I tried to explain this she just made a face and sort of looked at the ceiling. Everything in me wanted to walk out but I stayed.
She then began slamming the design of the website in what would easily become the most unprofessional and hostile interview I have ever seen. Just tearing it apart. Now, I was unsure what design she was seeing and relatively certain she must have viewed a cached page in Google just hours after the new site went live. She asked me if I was responsible for the design. Now, 2 things:
1. How can you unprofessionally tear apart a design and imply that anyone who approved it must be brain dead and then ask the interviewee if he did it? Is there a good answer? And was that really necessary?
2. I said I wasn't responsible. She said that as Marketing Director I should have approval of a design. I countered that it was started before I got there. The problem is I don't know if what I was saying was true or not because I have no clue which version of the site she saw and because of her obtuse attitude I am still not certain. The new design I approved and I liked, so screw her if that's what she saw.
Next she again said it was interesting that I was not listed on the staff page. I explained my boss had an issue he wanted to address using the new site and we went live sort of in a hurry and some pages weren't quite complete. She said there was an Administrative Assistant listed but not me. She said it twice, maybe three times. No matter how many times I explained it she wasnt having it. I dont see what the big fucking deal was with that but she didn't want to let it go.
And the final blow? In the previous interviews the rest of the marketing team talked about social media, my experience with it, their enthusiastic acceptance of it, and the need for them to be better with it.
This dragon-lady asked me a question, phrased in a way that attempted to force me to agree with her as she held all the power in the room, by saying beginning the question with "Don't you think..." and then she went on to say Twitter could cheapen a brand and shouldnt be on the website. Since I didn't agree, and neither does Lexus, Toyota, Chevy, Ford, Pepsi and a host of other brands with more recognition than hers will EVER have, I just went ahead and disagreed with her. As did, it would seem, nearly everyone else in the company that I had previously spoken with.
At the end of the day this thing went on for more than 2 hours. This mean woman rattled me, had me stammering and a little confused by the end of it. Having endured all the other interviews and feeling good about them, I knew the second this final round ended I had no chance. Which was for the best because I know there is no universe in which dragon-lady and I could coexist.
They said it would take a week but it came as no surprise to me when an email arrived two days later saying thanks but no thanks. I actually breathed a pretty huge sigh of relief. I mean literally, an audible PHEW escaped me because I wanted nothing to do with this company and was saved from a night of guilt and soul searching over possibly turning it down.
I still look back on that whole process with disbelief. She all but called me a liar several times, refused to take reasonable explanations when I was confronted by inane accusations and would not accept the fact Google did not index a new website in a matter of hours. Of course she was incredulous when I told her what happened and behaved as if it was out of the realm of possibility that a new site was switched on the day she was looking for it. I swear to God the next time I am confronted by such an interviewer, if I am unfortunate enough to have it happen again, I'll save some dignity and just walk out. I have nothing but pity for those people that have to endure this person daily. Yes I know her name and title, no I am never going to reveal it publicly so dont ask.
Tomorrow back to nothing but movies with no more detours!