Episode 157: Optimus…I just met a Prime named Optimus.

The Overthinkers tackle Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Josh McNeil, and John Perich to overthink Transformers: Dark of the Moon, movie projectionists, WalMart, and listener feedback (!).


→ Download Episode 157 (MP3)

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22 Comments on “Episode 157: Optimus…I just met a Prime named Optimus.”

  1. cat #

    We Geminis are awesome. Smart, talkative, creative, engaging, though a little bit flighty. The traits for Taurus are a bit boring. Patient, stable, reliable, persistent, though a little inflexible. This is of course with the consideration that as a non-science you can take what you what from astrology and leave what you don’t. That would be an interesting way to approach actual science. I accept your theory of heliocentric theory but your conclusions about what qualifies as a planet don’t gel with my anecdotal experience so therefore you are wrong. Yet your overall theory of the universe is valid because I like the parts that flatter me.


  2. Leigh #

    I read at AVClub that projectionists were angry that Michael Bay was telling them how to do their jobs, given how awful he is at his job. Can’t say I blame them.



    • Brian #

      Yet Robert “Rocks His Job” Ebert said the same thing, though he lays blame more with Sony and systemic devaluing of skilled labor in general. Bay’s letter isn’t at all condescending or vilifying projectionists, and like it was mentioned Pixar does the same thing all their movies.

      Projectionists are blowing an opportunity for public support by vainly scapegoating Bay, they could leverage the public awareness of this problem to revalue the projectionist as a skilled profession- but of course that won’t happen because 1. The job is so deskilled already no one gives a shit about it, and 2. It’ll raise ticket prices. So it’s looks more economical to everyone to push through this awkward growing phase and finish the path to full automation.


  3. Timothy J Swann #

    At least in the UK, there are said to be very few projectionists left as everything becomes push a button, but also because we just don’t complain. We went to a poorly projected film recently and didn’t want the social awkwardness of demanding it corrected. Some backlash against Bay for his letter comes from the demands he’s making being damaging to the equipment, which was already an expense they had to make to get 3D. Who was the Time Out article by, Pete?

    Josh made a good point – here in Britain we have two-ish major cinema chains, but if you don’t have an independent cinema in your time (like me), it’s really hard to see anything of substance. And yet films that are blockbusters with ‘serious’ screenwriters – i.e. Inception – did fantastically – so more money could be made if they bothered. Indiana Jones is more profitable than Transformers in the long run, because Tom Stoppard only worked on one of those franchises. The selection determines the popularity of movies, so the one time an interesting documentary comes around (Life In A Day, which is being promoted by the Scott brothers but is basically a low-budget indie documentary, and a fantastic film), few people go to see it.

    When you’re an Autobot, you’re an Autobot to the end…

    For state-controlled internet sites, see Russia, where one of their most popular sites which is mostly a comedy website, which some fanservice as well, is nevertheless state-controlled.


  4. Timothy J Swann #

    Oh, and David Tennant’s Hamlet definitely lay between himself, the Tenth Doctor and Hamlet. Lots of people went to see it because of his TV role, but not just because it had made him famous.


  5. Chris #

    I worked in a movie theatre as a lad, and we didn’t have anybody who strictly worked as a projectionist. One or two of the managers would handle the projection work at any given time. I presume it was a cost cutting measure, as the theatre closed a mere six months after I started working there.


    • Brian #

      Same here, first job was at multiplex and we didn’t have anyone whose sole job was working the projector, managers did it half the time and this one dude who was kinda trained on it would do it sometimes if the lines for popcorn weren’t too long. You don’t need a projectionist like in Fight Club to switch the reels mid-showing these days, it’s all on what’s called a platter- one big reel, but you still splice it together from smaller reels so you add the frames of porn in then.


    • Evan Parker #

      I remember back in the late 90’s (vaguely) that there was a big effort to bust up the projectionists’ union. I’m not sure what came of it but there was a summer they were out picketing.


  6. Brian #

    Congratulations Wrather from another film snob who saw 2001 in the new 70mm print, I even saw it at a Cinerama theater which is the format it was shot in so further congratulations to myself for being a purer purest; but an interesting thing happened at the showing- the projector broke, some guy said proudly and not at all sarcastically, “That’s what you get with film!” as if this only further proved the authenticity of the showing. Also the print I saw had faded colors which to be honest I thought was cool as I felt it “further proved the authenticity of the showing”- but that’s considering seeing it on a big screen on film is rare and it’s not shitty out of laziness or cheapness. Which brings up the point about theaters being a luxury outing trend.

    There’s a theater in my town, Cinebarre, has a full bar and pool tables in lobby, food and drinks during feature, giant counter/pop-culture movie posters up and all the employees have at least one full sleeve of tattoos, but really it’s tame and that’s fine with me, and the point is I think the ability to just hang out is more important than luxury- at least in my bedroom community suburban town that doesn’t have any hip urban clubs in real urban decay and whatnot, where the choice to hang for a group is Red Robin or the new Red Robin.

    But what’s really cool about Cinebarre is they show short films from amateur filmmakers before the feature instead of the studio commercials multiplexes have now. And speaking of dim projection, what sucks is since it’s pre-show the theater house lights wash out the screen and the sound is low, but still supporting local artists is pretty neato and like the most alien thing there is to a multiplex mentality.


  7. Ben #

    McNeil, if all the theater owners got together and decided not to show the new Ryan Reynolds film, the production and distribution companies could sue them for violations of anti-trust law. That being said, AMC or Regal individually could do that, they just couldn’t collude.


    • Ben #

      Sorry, I forgot to start that post with a “Well, actually . . . “


  8. John Perich OTI Staff #

    Listening to this, I just heard myself say “a contretemps, if you will.” I apologize. I have to drink a bit before each podcast and sometimes these pretensions slip through.


  9. Gab #

    But how long are projectionists going to be necessary? If films are being filmed on digital files more because of the Avatar advance in technology, all it’ll take is opening the digital file. Would the file openers still be in charge of lighting and stuff, too?

    The movie was far too long because yes, there were loooong stretches of action that had no point… Yes, I saw it.


    • Brian #

      Apparently not long according to the all knowing wikipedia, says it’ll be push button soon. But this whole dim screen hoopla sounds like a Sony engineering design snafu, the filters can’t be removed in time between showings, how was that not top consideration in the filter design? It doesn’t give much hope in their capabilities for full automation. “It’s not a bug it’s a feature when theater audiences are harvested for bio-energy every time an usher inputs a wrong code and the system goes into DRM self-defense lock down, it saves the average building 3.0082 cents a year in electricity and heating, the system practically prints your money!”


      • Timothy J Swann #

        I guess they still might be able to go out of focus, not have the appropriate lighting or something – they need to be adjustable – even if the settings that come with the film deal with some of it. And if no-one there knows what they ought to be, you end up with a movie being shown poorly.


        • Gab #

          (And at Brian as well)

          I know light SHOWS are automatic and programmable- press a button, and the lights do this for that amount of time. So wouldn’t it make sense that the movie would act as a program for the lighting of the screen and room? When the film suchandsucha coding is turned on, the lighthing is programmed to do bladdyblah (I’m awesome with the techno jargon, aye?).

          This all comes out of an experience I had with a digital movie. The “projectionists” couldn’t open the file because it was password protected. But that just shows how more computer-digitally-oriented the business is going.


        • Brian #

          Yeah tweaks will be needed, but that’s the problem for Ebert, that as long as no one knows/cares a lot about projection Sony will con theaters into buying any crap that needs to be replaced in 2 years- that’s why this debate is public is because there was no unions to nip it in the bud and demand quality. I don’t know if this is always the case, but Ebert thinks it could become a real systemic disaster. Will reskilling projectionists solve it? It’s hard to imagine everyone going to theaters with signs “Full Time Projectionist” as a badge of quality if it means higher ticket prices, but it works for organic food. But I think enough people complaining like they like to and demand quality will lead theaters and manufacturers to not shove crap down their throats, I don’t think people like to complain so much they’ll willfully neglected sink cinemas to crappiest entertainment possible, reality tv vents enough of that energy.


    • Timothy J Swann #

      Essentially the worth of the film is being determined objectively by dollars?

      I like that.


    • Gab #

      Is that total revenue, or just DVDs? I know there were viewing parties by conservative groups when it was in theaters, so I wonder if there will be massive orders so these groups can supply their members with copies…


  10. Lars Brown #

    I worked as a projectionist for Regal and then an independent from 2001-2003. Oh wait, no, I was employed as an assistant manager who happened to project the movies. It was one of the best jobs I had and I had it when I was 18 years old. Which is ridiculous. All of my friends were also assistant managers and we had a good time.

    We had a room on the second floor that lacked a wall that looked out over the lobby, so in a wall’s place we had cardboard cutouts from the Star Wars rerelease covering us. So we would look out on the lobby and shout at the workers from behind Chewbacca and so on. The actual projecting portion of the job doesn’t take too long, so we’d be doing other duties.

    On Thursdays we would recieve copies of the movies broken down into several reels. A kids movie would be about 5 or 6, Gods and Generals was like 12 or more. Gods and Generals was practically falling off of the platter. We would take the reels and splice them all together into one gigantic reel and lay it down on a giant platter. We would feed that through a central brain portion, then up and down the projector tree, into the projector and then back onto another platter. It was like being in a gigantic VCR.

    The five projectors were all of different age. For some reason theatre 5 hated Harry Potter and kept chewing the crap out of it. Suddenly the film would stop, the film would melt in the lens and then it would sputter out onto the floor. I’d go up to watch one of the assistant managers gently and quickly threading it back onto the platter.

    So on Thursday nights we’d build the movie and then watch it to make sure nothing was screwed up. Example, I was training a new guy to put together a movie. He put together Hollywood Homicide and left. I stayed to watch it (because I got paid to watch it) and at some point Harrison Ford is running backwards and upside down while bullets get pulled back into the gun.

    Because of problems with the film we got really good and jumping out of our seat and jogging up the flight of stairs to get back to the projector. If the film stopped it would set off an alarm.

    Sometimes though when I’d had a pizza and the movies were started I could sit at the table in the projector booth and fall asleep. At the time in 2001 digital cameras were just being used for movies like Phantom Menace and in the trade journals you’d read arguments about digital and how the projectionists were going away. I guess I’m not really sure where it’s at now, although a friend of mine does own a theatre and it’s still extremely valuable for him to have an assistant manager who can actually maintain the projectors. The process of changing bulbs and parts is usaully left to a certified technician. These guys just roam around in areas fixing projectors and getting paid well for it. Speaking of trade magazines I remember reading descriptions of Idiocracy for years in them! It kept getting pushed back and getting the title changed.

    Oh yeah, so when you have the film all spliced together you get a very large, and very heavy film that is not only held together by the strength of it being wound together. However, we would have to move these damn things. Sometimes from theatre to theatre. I remember moving Scooby-Doo in the back of my Subaru and at the time I was so cockcy I just slung the damng thing over the shoulder and carried it up the narrow stair case. At some point I lost my nerve however, primarily because after watching one of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies me and a friend dropped the film, the center ring came out and the film being to unspool everywhere. We spent hours into the early morning fixing it. The people who watched the movie the next day were given a special treat. At some point Bond gets turned down by a girl then the movie hits a splice and all of a sudden he’s waking up with her in Iceland. We had managed to swap one of the reels around! We let the movie run but half of the audience asked for their money back and I very quickly fixed the movie so it was in time for the last showing.

    I put together Terminator 3 and forgot to reset something in the projector so to my horror after the movie we came upstaris for the find projector itself packed with film, straining at the parts. I had compelelty destoryed it with terminator and that theatre was closed until it was repaired. I didn’t tell anyone, just claiming mechanical failure like a wuss.

    I remember that I specifically got new glasses so that I could get the focus just right for Two Towers when it came out.

    Otherwise I remember having to watch Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Feardotcom and, the cream of the crap, Gigli during my run. During Gigli I left the theatre and got a high score on Maximum Force that lasted until the theatre closed down.

    Yeah, good times.


  11. Optimally Primed #

    Been a fan of the podcast and site for a little while now and have greatly enjoyed the content. Having listened to previous episodes I was excited for some insightful and eye opening lampooning of the summer’s biggest movie/modern take on my childhood nostalgia. After all isn’t overthinking it all about overthinking things that probably don’t deserve it?

    Here’s a few of the topics I imagine could spark some interesting discourse:
    – The morality of Optimus Prime and what does it mean to be an Autobot in the poster Cybertron war era?
    – Is Sentinal Prime the smartest bot of them all or just a misguided PTSD victim?
    – What is the fate of Cybertron at the movie’s climax? – How does the potential destruction of a planet effect Earth in the global/universal sense? What about the cybertronian natives? How will we deal with refuges?
    – Shockwave – great villain or terrible villain?
    – Does the world of the 3rd film feel genuine as a society whose accepted giant transforming robots – if not what would make it so?

    Instead all I got was musical theatre discussions and assumptions about the world of projectionists. Did you guys even watch the movie? How was there no mention of the “we kill them all” speech by Prime?

    Imagine that instead of the awesome and highly entertaining overthinking done on X-Men: First class (morality, cultural allegories, discussion of locations, etc) all I got was a discussion of the horrible teaser posters.


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