Episode 166: Buffering… Buffering… Buffering…

The Overthinkers tackle what’s wrong with movies.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Joshua McNeil, and John Perich to overthink product placements, the video-game-ization of movies, and whether Zoe Saldana could kick your ass.


→ Download Episode 166 (MP3)

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29 Comments on “Episode 166: Buffering… Buffering… Buffering…”

  1. Timothy J Swann #

    Bing (Because it’s not Google) is the funniest of all placed products, because it’s so comically not-used. Notably in Season 4 of the Guild, where one of the characters becomes a meme because his terrible promo video is uploaded to Bing video, and they use it rather than youtube. No-one does that to watch anything but the content they’ve made exclusive by paying creators.

    Incidentally, I believe Friends included a long-term payoff product placement for the Microsoft search engine.


  2. Timothy J Swann #

    If they remade All About My Mother with Jason Statham replacing Penelope Cruz that would be incredible.


      • Timothy J Swann #

        I made a list of deep cuts I wanted to make for the last podcast then completely forgot to do them.


        • Amanda #

          “deep cuts” of what exactly? Funny stuff Wrather says? Also, in case you don’t check the “email me when new comments are posted” box, I have now finally replied to your comment on the last podcast’s thread.


          • Timothy J Swann #

            I follow comments on RSS. Deep cuts i.e. references to past episodes of OTI that have been forgotten. A frequently recurring one is Pete’s standing offer of Mint Milanos to any member of the Wu-Tang Clan who will appear on the podcast, from Episode 16. I wanted to use ‘a sidetrack from our broader thrust’ whenever going on a tangent and I can’t remember the other one. Oh yeah, to formulate One Day as a ‘They’ll Get Past It’.

          • Timothy J Swann #

            Also, I use Strangely Apropos just in my life in general.

  3. cat #

    I’m not super familiar with films with a lot of fighting or complex fight choreography but it might be interesting to take a look at good and bad examples of men with similar “slight” frames and how their choreography compares to that of women with “slight” frames. Are both genders tasked with portraying the unrealistic ideal or is it mostly women?

    I don’t want to further limit the amount of action roles that women are getting but I agree that the display of what they’re capable of doing should be modified based on physics and the like. The issue with asking female actresses to really bulk up for a role is that they might then be cast primarily in action movies. I can’t think of many really muscular male actors who truly cross genres in a meaningful way. Which then leads to certain false conclusions, like this body type (and likely stereotyped personality) is not capable of being the kind of character from another movie (wife, mother, professional, etc.)

    On an unrelated note, Saldana is also a dancer. She started out in Center Stage.


    • fenzel #

      The analogous phenomenon for male actors is taking an actor who is skinny and making him look muscular with makeup and lighting effects. Now, of course, these actors have “tone,” which just means they have low body fat. The classic and much-discussed example on the internet is Brad Pitt in Fight Club, who is not very muscular, but has low body fat and is cut, so in the right light he looks muscular.

      By the way, the idea of “tight, toned, compact muscle” is a fiction (Bruce Lee actually has pretty big muscles if you look at pictures of him). The quality of the muscle isn’t really what changes – it’s the fat over it that changes how it looks. You can be strong without being huge, but a guy who looks really cut might not be strong in real life and just have low body fat.

      However, it is worth noting that these actors are also usually short, and that the movie tries to make them look taller as well as more muscular before making them kick ass, rather than just showing a small skinny guy kicking ass. When the guy is actually small and skinny, he usually does kung fu or has supernatural or cybernetic powers.

      Adrien Brody in Predators is jacked (though also favorably lit to look larger), and he crosses genres at will.

      Not really sure what you mean by the genre crossing thing, because there are lots ofmuscular male actors in pretty much every genre of film. Like, does Taylor Lautner count? Not everybody is Arnold Schwarzenneger, but to be fair, Arnold is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Maybe your bar for huge is too high and doesn’t include guys who only bench press 300 lbs.

      Taye Diggs is a great example – he’s jacked and has been in everything – romance, action, comedy, musical, doctors, lawyers, cops, family comedies.


      • cat #

        Hmn…I take your point. My response would be…is Zoe Saldana (or any other actress against whom such complaints have been lobbed) lit or otherwise shot to look more muscular or taller? If not, why is the expectation that she have the qualities of her male counterparts not there? And why are the qualities that are seemingly at the root of their abilities not at the root of her abilities? Then, what is at the root of her abilities? My knowledge of Colombiana mostly comes from the trailer but I guess my answer would be emotion/family/vengeance?

        I would question how successful Adrien Brody was in Predators (52 million domestic with a budget of 40 million) and his having to change his body type (at least from other films) for the role. Why did he have to undergo a dramatic change where Zoe Saldana (and many female actresses) do not. I’m sure she trained in fight choreography, but there isn’t the same expectation that she alter her body to the same degree. Might there be an assumption that women aren’t capable of altering their bodies to the same degree? Is it that the woman becomes less desirable, less marketable?

        Taylor Lautner. From his resume I can only pick out Sharkboy and Lava Girl, Twilight, and that movie with Taylor Swift and about 10 other main actors that they wouldn’t stop advertising. I have not seen the majority of things Taye Diggs has been in. Also, for some reason I thought Day Break was called Deja Vu. Wikipedia informs me that the show was not successful. Maybe it’s that these two actors can be in different genres because they appeal to both a male and female audience? Though I would question how male audiences feel about Taylor Lautner in action movies. Is that Stretch Armstrong thing still in production? Perhaps a stronger-looking female might be expected to either alienate female or male audience members? I’m just throwing out ideas here, as I would actually like to see more believable actresses in these roles. Maybe then I’d actually see one of these movies.


    • John Perich OTI Staff #

      Best example I can think of for a male action hero with a slight frame is Jet Li. Dude is short, compared to Western action stars.

      If you consider his fight scenes, especially in the hands of a master like Yuen Wo-Ping, Jet Li’s speed and flexibility are on display. Yes, he shows power – he can kick through a wooden beam – but that power is a result of his flexibility. Think of his foot whipping like a ball and chain, not crushing like a sledgehammer: still lethal, but a different type of force.

      This also speaks to the difference in Western v. Eastern cinematography. Yuen Wo-Ping in particular framed his scenes to display the balletics of the fight first, the faces of the actors second. That’s something you can only get when both participants are lifelong practitioners of wushu or are very diligently trained (as Keanu Reeves and Hugo Weaving were, by Yuen Wo-Ping, for The Matrix).

      In any case, consider what is probably Jet Li’s best fight scene: his blowout brawl vs. Billy Chow at the end of Fist of Legend. Watching it, you have no doubt that (1) Billy Chow is physically stronger and (2) Jet Li is no less capable of hurting Chow because of that.



      • Leigh #

        Fist of Legend is probably my favorite martial arts movie ever. Every fight scene is amazing.

        This very much reminds me of an essay I read many years ago (part of which is available at the link below) about how Jackie Chan was feminizing action movies. Basically, Jackie Chan’s comedic antics were feminizing simply because they were the opposite of the American action movie tradition, which was defined by its portrayal of masculinity. If this is true, then it explains why women in action movies tend to fight and act and serve as objectified eye candy just like men do – because that’s what the action genre requires. If the lady-heroes were doing something else, it would be some other kind of movie.



  4. Devon #

    I appreciated the discussion of realistic women’s strength re: body type. I agree that Buffy’s slightly more buff* than some of the more recent women action heroes, but, watching the DVDs on a big flat screen now, it’s pretty humorous to see her body change dramatically from skinny to bulky and back again as the stunt woman cuts in and out. (No disrespect to the Buffster, of course.)

    It’s worthwhile to keep pointing out these contradictions in the media. Ideals of feminine beauty have always been about undermining women’s physical ability and strength (heels, corsets, foot-binding, skirts, and yes…extreme skinniness). When you have to reconcile that kind of beauty with the qualities of an action hero… well, OF COURSE there’s a 100-pound girl shooting a rocket launcher from her hip.

    *Cue Willow: “Aren’t ya sorta naturally buff Buff? Heh. Buff Buff.”


  5. Stacy #

    The only time I remember Breaking Bad talking about bathtubs was when it was mentioned that they are not good to decomposing bodies, so I don’t know if that is considered product placement.

    And yes, the company has to agree with how the placement is used in the show-I listen to the official Breaking Bad podcast and they answered that question.


  6. Libby #

    There’s a new Steven Soderbergh film coming out, I think early next year, starring MMA fighter Gina Carano as some sort of special ops agent on a revenge mission. I haven’t seen any of her real fights, but she certainly looks convincing in the trailer, and from what the other cast are saying about her.


    • Libby #

      Oops, forgot to say it’s called Haywire.


      • Leigh #

        There was a preview for Haywire before The Debt in my local theater. Looks watchable.


  7. Amanda #

    Hello overthinkers!
    Matt, the 15-year old you referred to in the podcast might have heard of Overthinking It! That is because I, in all my eclecticism, have sent a submission to work for her new website/possibly print magazine rookiemag.com. In it, in true “I was once a teenager” fashion, I listed things I liked that I felt would help demonstrate my tastes and sensibilities. And I quote myself:

    – tv shows: […] Gossip Girl accompanied by OverthinkingIt.com’s These Fucking Teenagers podcast (http://www.overthinkingit.com/category/podcast/tft/) […]

    In the end, as in gym class, I was not picked. :( But the site turned out pretty interesting, with collaborations from Dan Savage of all people and even your old classmate, Zooey Deschanel! :D
    Yes, I am using the OTI comment space to advertise a site I am not even a part of, but I do this because as far as effing teenagers go, Tavi is a damned smart and interesting one. I just wanted to make sure you knew who she was and I’ll try to catch her attention on twitter and advertise OTI to her, cause that’s just what I’m like. Stalk-y, overly enthusiastic about things and a one person street team for anything I care about.


  8. Leigh #

    I totally thought Josh McNeil was trying to be funny when he questioned the product placement of bathtubs. But of course Fenzel has an overly elaborate explanation of the bathtub product placement decision matrix ready to go. That’s beyond entertainment, folks. Kudos on yet another delightful show.

    For the record:
    male, 35-40, college graduate, white non-Hispanic


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      Fenzel has an overly elaborate explanation of the bathtub product placement decision matrix ready to go.

      Will you please leave a slightly elaborated version of that as an iTunes review? It sums up our show better than I ever could.


  9. Julien #

    Does anyone know where to find that Crazy Taxi fanfic Fenzel and Wrather were talking about?


  10. projektionsfel #

    In a way, aren’t the lines on the maps in the Indiana Jones movies progress bars between “levels”?
    There is a bit of an overreaction in the video game story telling discussion regarding The Debt. I’m not sure, but I have a feeling that the impending death of narrative art has been proclaimed ever since the birth of narrative art. BBC film critic Mark Kermode proclaims at least once a year that a film is a sign of the death of narrative cinema. I think that Ice Age 2 was a sign on the impending the death of narrative cinema. I think he described it as modal. Like jazz. (I know nothing of music, except that it makes the drinking seem less lonely.) Aren´t video games modal? Aren´t they basically repeated variations on a theme? Maybe it is not a death, but an evolution. Isn’t every new beginning some other beginning’s end?


  11. projektionsfel #

    Back to the evolution of narration thing I brushed at earlier: ROTPOTA is a film which is constructed like a 90 minute trailer. (I enjoyed the film, btw. and commented about the soap-opera structure in TWD comic book, so guess I have structuralist tendencies.)It is most likely the next step in narration in the fiction film. It is basically just a question of the rationality of the markets: everyone wants more bang for their buck, no matter the cost.
    In the black-and-white-days of cinema film makers would show a car arriving to a building and the character walking all the way to the “scene” before the action could start. Now the rule is get in late, get out early. Transitions are a sign of poor narration in todays world. With some exceptions.
    If market rationality kills narrative arts, so be it. In a way, cinema has come full circle: at the birth of cinema people were scared by a moving train which came towards the screen. Now, we have 3D chopping towards one’s face.
    From spectacle have ye risen. To spectacle shall ye return.

    Lat: 60° 11′ 45″ N
    Long: 24° 57′ 37″ E


  12. Peter Tupper #

    I think it would be good to see more women who are bigger in films in general and action films in particular. Or rather, a broader range of body types in general. However, I suspect that women who don’t fall into a fairly narrow range of height and build get weeded out of the Hollywood talent pool early on, assuming they go into acting at all.

    There are a zillion tricks of the trade for making a performer look a certain way. Apart from dieting and exercise, there’s body language, costuming, body makeup, lighting, camera tricks, standing on things to look taller, stunt and body doubles and so forth. That’s how Nic Cage can look like a scrawny beanpole in “Raising Arizona”, like a classic action hero in “Con Air”, and like a guy fighting middle-age spread in “Adaptation.”

    If the issue is that Zoe Seldana isn’t credible in an action sequence, then that may be the fault of the production that they didn’t work to create that impression with the above-mentioned techniques, plus a fighting style that made sense with her physique.


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