The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2007

A Proud Moment In Indie Film History



20 Weeks: The Sequel

The point of this column is not to shovel dirt on the past, but to look to the quite immediate future. There is an entire summer ahead of us that looks a lot like one of the strongest summers ever without The Big Three being any more than The Big One.
Last summer, it was Pirates 2 followed by Cars in #2 slot with $244 million domestic. In 2005, it was Star Wars 6/III followed by $234 million domestic for War of the Worlds. In 2004, it was Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2 in the ether and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban with $250 million domestic in third.
The closest thing to this summer was 2002, with Finding Nemo and The Matrix Reloaded huge in May and Pirates of the Caribbean huge in July with Bruce Almighty at $243 million for #4 and X2 with $215 million domestic at #5. But that was so very different also. Nemo opened to “just” $70 million and did almost 5 times that opening. Bruce Almighty was a surprise with a $68 million opening and about 3.5 times that total domestic.

The rest…


And Some Open Space…

As always, when I am on the run, I try to leave some space for y’all to work it out.
Try to be nice to one another… or at least civil…


Seattle Day II

It’s so beautiful in Seattle that no one seems to be able to talk much about anything else.
That is, except for Anthony Hopkins, who we chatted with tonight for almost 2 hours before a screening of Remains of The Day as part of his tribute here. He couldn’t have been a more gracious or forthcoming guest. And where else will you get a world-class James Ivory imitation, Ismail Merchant to boot, and acting insights from Hepburn to Gielgud to Alec Baldwin, who shut down production on The Edge in order to get Hopkins to the hospital as Hopkins tried to soldier on. Sir Tony even has the distinction of having developed a relationship with Bart The Bear over two films. (He tells a great story about one take when Bart didn’t get his treat after doing his bit… and how he could see Bart’s face turn from domesticated animal to wild bear in a flash.)
Because of the Hopkins schedule, I have only had a chance to see his Slipstream at a theater last night and a number of films on DVD. Unfortunately, a couple of the docs I’ve seen have been minor versions of previous docs, like Rock School and King of Kong (which is here) and Darkon. I also viewed a rather wacky, but not-sticky-enough-for-me (not literally) Korean teen sex comedy called Dasepo Naughty Girls that was almost a grrrlpower episode of The Monkees… but not quite that good… at least for me…
The first film I watched was The Life of Reilly, which was a videoed version of Charles Nelson Reilly’s one-man touring show. Obviously, losing him this last week made the urge to watch all the greater. And he was funny and tough and insightful and even understated. I wish the filmmakers had been a little less concerned with trying to make it look like more than it was, shooting a great deal of the film from the backstage, which meant seeing too much of the back of a man whose expressive face was all an audience might ask for. But when he underplays moments, like being told by the head of casting at NBC in the 50s that “They don’t put queers on TV,” and somehow not being disturbed by that verbal aggression, there is enormous power.
The new wave of documentary… what really is being changed by the availability of cheap, good quality cameras… is about cataloging every little thing. And some day, the way we surf the web now, we will surf video history. If you want to learn about actors, you will catch a little of The Life of Reilly and a little of Special Thanks To Roy London, and so on.
And after a couple of hours of great stories tonight, I would feel it was really a shame if we didn’t get Sir Anthony Hopkins to sit down for 4 or 5 hours just to tell his stories. He tells them with love and with humor and self-deprecation. But mostly, he carries in his mind a big part of the history of film. He’s worked with so many of the great directors. He’s been on top and he’s been slogging along. But how many people can give you a first hand opinion about the work of Coppola and Spielberg and Cimino and Stone and Lynch and Attenborough and Ivory and Parker and R. Scott and Demme and Lester and Wise and Schlesinger and Zemeckis, whose Beowulf he is in this fall. And that’s just scratching the surface.
And come tomorrow… I’ll be able to just go to the movies and enjoy the spirit (and sun) of Seattle. Yay.


In Seattle…

It’s Day Six of the 33rd Annual Seattle Film Festival, which opened last Wednesday night with a movie I kinda love, Son of Rambow.
I arrived today just in time to attend a dinner for Anthony Hopkins and a screening with Q&A of his film, Slipstream. Tomorrow night, he gets an award from the festival and I’ll be chatting with him before the presentation. He was pretty feisty tonight, which hopefully portends another intense public outing tomorrow night.
Meanwhile, I’m settling in with some DVDs, as Seattle is one of the few major festivals left that makes a wide selection of their program available for the press to check out on DVD. I expect that I will see at least three films by the time of the first screening public tomorrow… great.


Stupidest Headline Of The Summer

Early Summer Movies Underperform At Box Office
It is completely appropriate for Dean Goodman or anyone else to point out that the record setting openings of three films this May, as well as a record setting month of May, has to be put in perspective by reportage of the cost of the films and the failure of each (and no doubt, Pirates 3 will follow domestically) to match the second films in their respective franchise series.
But “underperform?”
This is the insanity of a media that sets up films as targets by exaggerating their potential then starts tearing them down as “underperforming,” when in reality, they are performing remarkably well.
Spider-Man 3, much as I hated it, will likely be the 18th highest grossing film of all time, pushed out of 17th by Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the final gross of which is quite uncertain at this point.
This is the same idiotic mentality that led to Slump Chat in 2005… you know, when theatrical box office was finished because The New York Times and others refused to acknowledge that Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 warped the whole box office year in the record-setting 2004 and that if you removed those two freaks, the year was off by very little in reality. And they still sell this shit in every article where they deign to mention two straight up years at the theatrical box office, much less the ever more surging international box office. They weren’t wrong… it just… well… there was a real problem… it just changed… because prices went down… no… because large screen TVs got more expensive… no… because the DVD market made less product available… no…
Of course, there is also the goofy Mark Harris article in EW this week that once again has a man in his 40s telling America what they REALLY want… because he knows… because more people in this country alone went to see each of the three massive openers on opening weekend than read EW in a year.
Mark… I love that you have taste… I love that you want better movies… I love that you don’t feel serviced by the studios summer slate… but in your journalistic ivory tower, it is easy to forget that the reason why the studios are now funding that crazy fall slate of movies that they make very little on but which become so important during the Academy Award race you wanted to extend (Sweet Jesus!) in another myopic article last year, is that they make money on Spider-Man 3. Or did you really believe that Sony bought the James Grey movie at Cannes that Universal dumped unceremoniously (that includes arty Focus) was because they know that adults really want more Russian mob dramas?


Sunday Estimates by Klady



Anyone Else…

… hate the outdoor campaign for what appears to be in the ads Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots: The Motion Picture (aka Transformers)?
(This is a screen capture from the website. I have seen one billboard with pretty much this image… the vast majority just have the two robots and don’t include the humans in the middle and that is the one I really hate. The funny thing is, I like it a lot more on the screen here than on a billboard, where the color is not as intense.)


Counting Down From 100 Movies To 1

(thanks to Lota for the find)


Fill In The Blahs

Looking through The Village Voice in search of Cannes coverage – and they are doing what The Tribune Co can’t seem to get… using all of their assets in one place… albeit at the cost of the jobs of some very good writers – and I ran into Nathan Lee’s “review” of Pirates 3.
And what struck me, even more than the predictability of it, was the feeling that it really could have been written months ago… a year ago… with some Ad-Libs-like spaced for specific details.
Thing is, I don’t really care whether he liked the film or not. I don’t even care that his distaste was so arrogantly dismissive and predictable. But I am not sure this is really a review. It qualifies more as a review of the idea of franchise movies. The very few facts he discusses are either wrong (Davy Jones’ Locker is clearly noted as a purgatory, not death), PC snooty (“Aunt Jemima” and the use of an Asian man to empower a white woman), or rather disingenuous given his distaste for the whole exercise (“Of all movies, this is the last you


The Weekend Slogs On…

“You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”

Box Office Mojo is estimating $31 million for P3 for Sunday, which is a similar Sunday drop to X3, which was the biggest dropper last Memorial Day Sunday… which could be right or $5 million or so wrong.
Sony (via C. Nikki Finke) is estimating at $35 million Sunday… which could be right or $5 million or so wrong.
Keep in mind that Sony’s Thursday estimate was about $3 million high… and other studios were in other places… estimates are estimates… not that there is anything wrong or unexpected about that… unless you are selling absolute accuracy.
What is apparent is that Monday will be in the mid-20s, which would put the 4.5 day cume in the 150s, which will not be a record. (4-day record is $161m… 5-day is $173m) Regardless, we will still have had three of the four biggest movie openings in history in this dainty month of May 2007.
That said, as the freaky numbers have shown us this summer, P3 looks like it will pass SM3’s first week gross of $182 million by the time Thursday grosses roll around. But then it gets interesting again…
Next weekend, Pirates 3 will face its first traditional 3-day weekend. Last year’s Memorial Day opener, X3, which also did Thursday night screenings, still fell 66%, even though logic would suggest a relatively small drop would make sense, as the 4-day weekend spreads the gross. Nope. P3 will face at least as much new firepower as X3 did in The Break-Up, with Knocked Up and Mr. Brooks combined. Drops were a lot smaller in earlier years, with Shrek 2 as a for instance.
Still, a strong week and a 50% drop for the 3-day only next weekend, would make for about a $245 million 10-day (or 11…or 10.5, depending on how you want to account for Thursday), which would put P3 behind only P2 after the second weekend. Still, a 55% drop and it’s back behind Spider-Man 3 as well.
(For the sake of clarity, SM3 fell permanently behind SM2 day count-for-day count on Day 11. Using the “first weekend/second weekend / third, etc” scale, SM3 fell behind SM2 on the first Monday for both films, pulling back ahead with a stronger second weekend, then falling permanently behind on the second Monday. SM3 fell permanently behind the first SM on the third Sunday.)
In other news, 2007 is now officially the biggest May in history, finally passing 2002 with Friday’s grosses.


Klady's Friday Estimates

For reference, the chart had been typo’d and is now accurate.


Happy 30th Birthday

I was 13… The Surf Theater on Miami Beach… my dad walked out on the film… I went back a few times… how about you?


The Plundering Has Begun



Pirates Spoiler Review

It feels a bit like I am whistling in the dark.
The film industry left town for the weekend yesterday and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is open and making money hand over pirate fist.
I did a bit of broad commentary on the film in yesterday’s 20 Weeks column on MCN. Here now, some SPOILERS in review.

The rest…


The Hot Blog

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin