As ahead of itself as the presidential campaign, fall preview season is upon us. From now until mid-September, Time, Newsweek, the New York Times, and half the other magazines and newspapers in the country will participate in that odd journalistic ritual whereby critics abandon the skepticism we demand of them the rest of the year and emit hopeful bubbles of enthusiasm–a gush that turns to bile when the plays or movies or art shows in question prove as disappointing as one sort of suspected they would be.
Under-researched and perfunctory (no editor or reporter wants this unrewarding, time-consuming assignment), tending toward hyperbole (once a writer has picked things to preview, he has to justify his choices), previews nonetheless provide a valuable service. You read the pix, you buy your tix, and you’re cocktail-party-proofed for the season. The only problem is that not everybody goes to cocktail parties, or even longs to be up on the latest thing. What about those of us who consume culture on the fly–who go to the movies only when dragged to the megaplex by the kids, who buy books at airport bookstores, who need to know whether the Broadway show whose high-priced tickets our parents are trying to pawn off on us is a gaudy spectacle from hell or Great Art? We don’t want long lists of everything we know we should see but never will. We want the opposite: a list of everything we must absolutely not see, under any circumstances, if it were the only show playing in the godforsaken town where we’d gone for a stint in an isolation tank and … you get the idea.
To this end, Culturebox hereby inaugurates the Culturebox Anti-Fall-Preview: an admittedly unscientific list of the musts-to-avoid in this fall’s cinematic, literary, theatrical, and sartorial seasons. Just because it’s unscientific doesn’t mean it won’t be empirical: Though Culturebox lacks a vast staff of underlings to read, watch, listen, and try on the latest size-2 fashions for her, she will rely on you, dear readers, for data. Tell her what on the fall preview lists about to inundate us you’ve actually read, or seen, or worked on the set of, or worn, or gotten some serious inside dope on, and know for a fact to be a complete and utter dud.
For instance: This week Entertainment Weekly kicks off its fall preview with a two-and-a-quarter-page spread on Kevin Costner in For the Love of the Game. Having failed to win critics’ hearts with his last two movies, The Postman and Message in a Bottle, Costner is presumably reverting to the most consistently successful formula of his career: charming, over-the-hill sports figure makes a comeback. Now, this may be a masterly work of cinematic innovation–defying her own demand for empirical evidence, Culturebox speaks on the basis neither of a preview screening nor of gossip. She just has this hunch that For The Love of the Game will turn out to be a pitch–Bull Durham meets Tin Cup–that mistakenly found its way to film. You make the call: “His team’s in last place. He’s just found out he’s about to get traded. And the love of his life … is about to leave him. With all of this bad news, he steps onto the mound at Yankee Stadium, and over the course of what turns out to be a perfect game, he flashes back on his life and replays its pivotal moments.”