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June 20, 2008

HL: The argument against print

Way back when, the magazine Movieline was one of my many guilty pleasures. (Aren’t we supposed to feel guilty about all pleasures? Oy.) It was an irreverent mag for people who felt a little bad about liking pop movies.

Apparently there weren’t enough of us, or we were the wrong demo for the advertisers, because Movieline became Hollywood Life, which was more interested in the lifestyles of the rich and boring than in teasing the people we had secret crushes on. Then Hollywood Life stopped publishing, and, frankly, I didn’t care.

Now it’s back and in my mailbox as HL, an ultra-glossy, high glamor, near-card-stock magazine that epitomizes just about everything I don’t want to see in a magazine or, frankly, on paper:

The topics are out of date. The first three one-page profiles are of the big name stars of Indiana Jones, Savage Grace, and Leatherheads, three movies that came out weeks ago, and one of which failed miserably months ago. Jeez!

It fetishizes the sorts of objects no one actually buys and few of us care about: Diamonds, obscenely expensive perfume, furniture too ugly to sit in, clothing only Jessica Alba’s prepubescent sister could fit in.

The font is tiny, and although it has serifs, it is far from angelic. The stems are so fine that it is almost illegible when it’s printed white against a dark background, which it frequently is. It’s even worse when it’s black against a blue and black background photo of a shag carpet, as it is on a two-page spread. Print is not intended to be op art.

The photography is dark ‘n’ trite, because you know that’s how us jet-setting couch potatoes like it. And when they run a full page photo of Malcolm McDowell printed on blue paper, not only is his dark jacket nothing but a black lump, they tell us who provided it for the shot. John Varvatos, call your agent. Or your lawyer.

The writing is awful. Here is the opening line of the piece on Harrison Ford: “Harrison is like … a fine wine.” And that’s proudly in all caps as the lead-in. (The ellipsis is in the original.) The big article on Cannes takes three long paragraphs of value-free blather (“sleepy fishing village,” “charmed circle,” “could hardly have imagined,” “celebrity hot spots,” “breathtaking vista,” “windswept pines”) before telling us what it’s about: Some glamorous Cannes spots you might to visit. Even then, it lacks the sort of information that might be useful to a traveler.

As you’ve guessed, HL doesn’t give a flying celluloid crap about anyone new and actually interesting. For example, a two-page spread tells us that the Halcyon Company — “one of Hollywood’s most cutting-edge and innovative entertainment groups” because, well, it hasn’t actually produced anything … be sure to tip your PR agent, boys — plans on “reinventing” sci-fi by picking up the Terminator franchise. Yes, there’s nothing more cutting-edge and innovative than picking up a franchise.

Oh, they have a “portfolio” of young Hollywood actors…whom they portray as 1940’s noir-ish stars (oddly claiming the photography is an homage to the Silent Era). In fact, overall the photos are retro as if a magazine proudly proclaiming that print isn’t dead can only prove it by looking like something you might have found in your upscale dentist’s office forty years ago.

Do you think when I mulch it, the varnish on the pages will cause my geraniums to wilt? [Tags: ]

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