Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Inexplicably incorrect running times
My wife and I watched the movie God Help the Girl, the feature directing debut of Belle & Sebastian lead singer and songwriter Stuart Murdoch, on Monday night.
But it's only because of a strong constitution and an unusual appetite for endurance that we, or anyone else, would begin such an undertaking, given the length of time the DVD case told us we'd be watching it.
God Help the Girl was, you see, that rare indie musical set in Scotland that runs a whopping two hours and 27 minutes. Or so the box told us, anyway.
In reality? The credits actually start around minute 99, making for a very manageable 111-minute movie. There couldn't have been 12 minutes of credits, so even the "correct" 111-minute running time -- the one I found on Wikipedia about halfway through, thank goodness -- might not be totally correct.
But it's a lot more correct than the 147-minute running time advertised on the DVD case.
So what the hell explains those 147 minutes?
I can't tell, and googling doesn't help. The only thing I can imagine is that there are 36 minutes of special features. But when have you ever seen a DVD factor the special features into its listed running time? I almost never watch special features, but I did once randomly watch a making-of featurette on the vampire movie Daybreakers, which was nearly as long as the 98-minute feature (if not longer). I don't recall the package of that movie advertising its running time as 196 minutes.
I also don't assume that the people who packaged God Help the Girl are just high. So I don't really know what to assume. I don't really know what logical explanation may exist for things that just seem so arbitrarily, indefensibly incorrect.
God Help the Girl is not the only instance of this, either. You may recall that when I watched Alfred Hitchcock's The Lodger earlier this year for my silent film series No Audio Audient, its case erred to the other extreme. The movie ended up running 23 minutes longer than the 71 minutes promised on the package.
The running time should be one of the easier pieces of information to get right. It's not like there's a mysterious, ineffable art to determining a film's running time. It's right there in objective numbers, totaling two or three inarguable digits.
You do a real disservice to a potential viewing audience by telling them the a movie is going to run on for 36 minutes longer than it actually does. I say that weeds out a good 50 percent of prospective viewers. Sure, Belle & Sebastian fans are going to watch a Stuart Murdoch film no matter how long it runs. But what about those who aren't initiated, who are willing to gamble 90-some minutes on a trivial little confection, but will run screaming for the exists when it blows past the two-hour mark?
If you are out there (which you are) and you are reading this (which you are) and you have any insight on this strange error and others like it (that remains to be seen), please let me know, because I really want to understand it.