But who will pay me for suffering through Will Ferrell’s last three movies?

Sony just settled a lawsuit brought by moviegoers tricked into seeing a crappy film by a blurb in a movie ad from a nonexistent critic. Members of this classless action lawsuit can get a $5 refund per ticket.

When I was TV critic at People, I gave a bad review to some bad TV show and NBC pulled a quote out of context: I said something to the effect that it was an incredible piece of crap and their ad said, “Incredible! – Jeff Jarvis/People.” I wrote about this in my next column, complaining about the “NBC pinhead” who’d done this dishonest deed.

Now this happened to be during the development of Entertainment Weekly. And it so happened that my alleged business partner went to Hollywood for meetings to flog the idea of the mag. When he returned, I asked how the meetings had gone and he said that his meeting at NBC was with “the pinhead.” The biz guy was uncomfy. I said welcome to the world of church and state.

And Hollywood wonders why it’s shrinking. They make crappy movies and then lie about them. [via Freakonomics]

  • Gotta worry about a business model that relies on deception. Did Sony really think that it would be able pull this stupid stunt off in today’s world? I don’t know if a lawsuit’s in order (who bases their move choice from a quote in the movie’s ad, anyway? See Jeff’s point above about being pulled out of context), but it’s nice to see scummy bahavior getting punished. I wonder, though, what the long term affects will be on Sony’s credibility?

  • I find it quite a fun sport, actually. I go into a bookstore and look for things I’ve reviewed negatively, and then look to see if I’ve been selectively blurbed: “Amazingly … good … fantastic story.” The PR folk have to get quite ingenious at times.

  • Jim Dermitt

    MSN had a viral marketing program called MSN Found. It was called a search opera and it then committed corporate suicide. The trick the user angle always fails, unless you want morons for customers which is what Microsoft got. I could tell the human race was screwed when I saw a big respected corporation insulting the worlds intelligence with this sort of crap. They think they are smart and we are all idiots. The images are still floating around like spam through the hour glass, these are the ads of our lives.

  • David

    Wow, that was a fast forced refresh, couldn’t even get my snarky comment out. I guess copy and paste is in order.

  • David

    Today I will become a media critic. I will, for a price, write glowing reviews of anybody’s movie (or TV show, pilot, whatever). So that facts don’t get in the way, I wont even see the movie in question. I will write under the pseudonym Allen Smithee. I promise that each review will include words like: hilarious, engaging, most entertaining movie of the year, realistic, heart rending, etc. Jeff, could you put me in touch with the right people?

    On a more serious note, when two ads for a comedy has mostly unfunny material, the movie has to suck.

  • Like spam through the hour glass, huh? Riot.

    A have a friend who does not look at the words used at all. She goes by the reputation of the newspaper/magazine where the quote originated. For me, the NY Times movie reviews are the Bible and I just go there.

  • Anon

    >And Hollywood wonders why it’s shrinking. They make crappy movies and then lie about them.

  • Jim Dermitt

    Collect, combine,decide and share.
    Piggy Bank is an extension to the Firefox web browser that extracts information from existing web pages and stores it in RDF.
    You could collect pure data about a movie with Piggy Bank.
    Combine it…Find the theater venues, for example.
    “It is sometimes desirable to combine information from several web sites and view it all in the same window.” http://simile.mit.edu/piggy-bank/combine.html
    And then decide what is worth seeing. Then share the data… http://simile.mit.edu/piggy-bank/share.html
    Enable Your Web Page for Piggy Bank

    Introducing Piggy Bank 2.0
    May 23, 2005 ~ 20:22
    says, “Piggy Bank is a Firefox extention that turns your regular web browser into a semantic web browser. Cutting the buzzword crap, we enable you to take web data, normalized and well mixable, with you. Then you can search it, store it, browse it, share it, map it, tag it and so on.”

    I like it.

  • Dana

    Hollywood makes movies, which are stories, which are often not true at all and in fact are generally made up from start to finish. Can I call something that is not true and is made up a lie? If I can then Hollywood lies for a living. With the exception of the Documentary films, which Micheal Moore has shown to be yet another avenue for Hollywood to tell not-truths.

    So they lie for a living and then are caught lying about their product. What a suprise!

  • Maureen

    A few things are killing Hollywood. The big one, of course, it that they’re producing crap. It’s finally catching up with them, as we moviegoers refuse to pay ridiculous prices for lousy films. I also think another thing keeping us away from the movies is that we’re tired of overpaid, poorly educated but surrounded by yes-men, overindulged movie stars & producers who seem to think it’s their right, just because they’re in movies, to tell the rest of us what to think. Whether it’s Tom Cruise, with his high-school education, telling women they don’t properly know how to handle post-partum depression (remind me again of how many babies he’s had?); Susan Sarandon telling us that “she knows things other people don’t;” Michael Moore on his ego-trip; even total nobodies like Kate Hudson & Maggie Gyllenhal & Leonardo DiCaprio pontificating on whatever it is, we’re tired of it & refuse to pay for it. Not to mention the producers behind them who also promulgate that political ideology. (Altho it does lead to some priceless gems like “Day After Tomorrow” which has to be one of the funniest movies ever made. It’s up there with comedy classics like “Showgirls”–not quite in that pantheon, but close. I haven’t laughed so hard at a movie in years as I did at “Day.” But no, I didn’t pay to see it at the theater–I waited until it came out on cable.) I vote with my pocketbook, & I simply refuse to go to dreck like “War of the Worlds” when the producer thinks he needs to put a “message” in it, or patronize movies with actors like Sean Penn or Johnny Depp. The saying is out there, & it’s apt–Shut Up & Act, or Shut Up & Just Make Movies.

    Hollywood is in a real bind, just like MSM. They no longer can force us to swallow their political prejudices poorly disguised in their medium–because we have alternatives. For Hollywood, there are tons of alternatives to a too-expensive movie. The cable channels are producing films that are far superior to what’s being shown at the local multiplex. Outfits like Netflix provide the opportunity to find hidden gems & watch them in the comfort of our own home. And I’m betting it’s only a matter of time until movies can be streamed efficiently over the web. I suspect that, like the rise of blogs to compete with MSM, we’ll see movies being made outside the control of Hollywood that are purely web-based. Perhaps something along the lines of Napster, only for movies.

    Hollywood, & those who make their living off it (like actors), need to realize the reality quickly. They no longer call the shots. We’re tired of crappy movies, & we’re tired of people who, because they surround themselves with paid flunkies, somehow think they’re entitled to “enlighten” the rest of us with their opinions. Shut up. Just shut up. Use your energies on improving your industry.

  • I do agree with all the ideas you have presented in your post. Theyre very convincing and will certainly work. Still, the posts are very short for newbies. Could you please extend them a bit from next time? Thanks for the post.