The Hot Blog Archive for January, 2014
This issue has dragged along for a few years now. I love Telluride, but It’s about time that Toronto stopped being so damned Canadian about the issue.
Like so many other things, film festivals can no longer take place in a vacuum. 10 years ago, the 2 trades, indieWIRE, maybe an LAT reporter, and a few others (including me) went to Telluride. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal not only didn’t cover intensely… they had never attended. Blogging didn’t exist at the time and the few heavy online film people, for the most part, didn’t go because of the cost. So reviews of films slated to premiere at Toronto but “snuck” in as TBAs happened there, but by the handful. It was inside baseball.
(Corrective Note: The New York Times actually did cover the first two years of Telluride (1974 & 1975). And Elvis Mitchell attended in 2002 and 2003 when he was with the Times (though I seem to recall that he attended when unemployed as well). Thank you for your attention.)
That changed a few years ago… really, with Jason Reitman and Juno. Big hit movie. Oscar movie.
Also, the media landscape changed. In the last 5 years, event coverage has become all the rage. From Cannes to Comic-Con to Telluride, suddenly everyone needed to be in the game.
Four years ago, The New York Film Festival, under Rose Kuo, decided that it wanted exclusive openings for 3 slots during the festival, which has always been primarily a festival of festivals with the first screenings of movies in New York City. The rule had been, for many years, that if you were going to open at NYFF, you would skip the Telluride/Toronto corridor, but you could premiere at Venice or even Cannes. So this was a big change.
NYFF got world premiere fever after its first world premiere in many years, The Social Network, which opened the festival in 2010. After that, the rule became that if you wanted one of the 3 high-profile slots at NYFF, you needed to be a World Premiere… no “sneak” at Telluride or Euro-premiere at Venice and obviously, no TIFF.
Then, in 2011, they opened with the North American premiere of Carnage, the world premiere of My Week With Marilyn, and a “sneak” of Hugo. In 2012, it was Opening Night with Life of Pi, Centerpiece, Not Fade Away, Closing Night with Flight, and the unannounced “sneak” of Lincoln.
Meanwhile, Toronto was just not being so demanding of distributors. The big Telluride TBA that was supposed to premiere in Toronto in 2011 was The Descendants. In 2012, it was Argo. But there were many others, without the Oscars, but with high profiles.
This last September, Toronto took it on the chin from Telluride on 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, and Prisoners, as well as the new Errol Morris, The Unknown Known, and the surprise hit and Oscar doc shortlistee Tim’s Vermeer.
And finally, enough was enough.
But instead of simply putting a black mark on any film that wanted to show at Telluride, TIFF made a Solomon-like decision. If you show at Telluride, you can play TIFF… but not on opening weekend (as reported by Anne Thompson).
This is a double-edged sword.
Opening weekend at Toronto has become a giant clusterfuck. Too many films. Too many films that MUST be seen.
I guess it can’t get any worse. But this edict also reenforces the insane over-prioritization of that opening weekend.
On the other hand, this could help extend the meat of the festival over a few more days… say, into the end of the first week… Wednesday.
And that would be a glorious blessing. It is tragic to see films opening Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday feel like they are being slighted of media and distribution attention. And they are. But they should not be. (Don’t even get me started on films opening Thursday or the festival closer.)
I would love it if some of the big players decided to have their cake and force those of us who attend TIFF to eat it, too. If Gravity, for instance, played Telluride and opened in Toronto on Tuesday, media would stay in Toronto to see it on Tuesday night. That would be great for everyone.
But like the Academy switching to potentially 10 nominees, we will see how it works. It could make a material—and happy—change to the landscape of TIFF. Or it could undercut a somewhat overly aggressive and media hungry Telluride of the last few years. Or, most likely, something in between.
I’m hoping for the win-win.
This discussion is both the most obvious thing in the world… and the most difficult to manage.
On some level, I think the discussion of how women writers are harassed on the internet is a bit myopic. Comments all over the web, focusing on all kinds of writers, regardless of whether the writing is “important” or trivial, tends to the horrifying. It doesn’t get any worse than, say, “Duck Dynasty” comments… or really anything that is defined as “left-vs.-right” or “religious-vs.-non-religious.”
On the other hand, calling a women author a “cunt” is no better or more acceptable than calling a black writer a “nigger.” And none of this is any more offensive (or less) than challenging someone’s sexuality as a way of disagreeing with a piece of writing or idea that has nothing to do with sexuality. And there’s always the ready leap to ‘Hitler should have finished the job” aimed at jewish (and sometimes, non-jews that idiots assume are jews) that we have seen over many years.
The level of discourse on the internet, driven in no small part by anonymity, is often brutal. Women have plenty to complain about in this regard. Lazy threats of rape and other physical abuse directly connected to gender are unacceptable. But so is the lazy use of “faggot” or “ass-fucked” that rhetorically abuse homosexuals even when they are not aimed specifically at people who are gay. And as we go further down the rabbit hole, the question of whether anal sex, for instance, should reflexively be assumed to speak to male homosexuality complicates the situation even further.
I think that being any one group assuming the position of being the most offended is always a problem. This is why I always try to remember to refer to “the jewish holocaust” and not just The Holocaust… because it is not the only holocaust, even if history tends to use other words for other holocausts.
The abuse of the ideas of others on the web – and by extension, of the authors of those ideas – is gross. And as a First Amendment absolutist, I am not sure what I would like to see done. I don’t think monitoring for specific words is the answer… or authoritarian comment approval.
The thing that jumps out to me as the best option is to remove anonymity… to make people post under their own names. But that also has problems, as there are good elements to anonymity, even if it is mostly abused. Moreover, it isn’t clear that there is a functional way to force people to post under their own, real names on a consistent basis.
I feel like I have been very lucky with this blog. I can count on one hand the number of people whose posts have even been blocked or removed from the comments section. It can get pretty contentious and personal, but mostly, I think that over the last 9 years or so this has been a blog, the commenters have been respectful of one another, if not always of me.
I run onto more “unacceptable” comments on the DP/30 YouTube page, which interestingly, allows other commenters to mark comments as “spam” or “offensive.” Sometimes, I find the removed comments to be unoffensive, but just out of step with the opinions of fans of whatever film or person the DP/30 interview is about. I re-approve a couple of those most weeks.
And yes, the majority of the bad language and nasty stuff is aimed at women or people of color. Most often, this is inappropriate sexual comments that seem to be intended as complimentary, but are actually invasive and unacceptable… worst of all with underage actresses. But women make a lot of “objectifying” comments about make actors as well, albeit very rarely in such rhetorically aggressive terms. The racial stuff is seriously disturbing.
So… what say you? Is there a good idea for how to cut down on the ugliness of web commenting without eliminating the free exchange of ideas?
Do you agree – as I think Amy Wallace really does – see this as a broader societal issue than women being called names and being wildly threatened on websites?
Or are we stuck in rhetorical traffic, so surrounded by humanity that we just have to accept that some idiot is always going to cut you off at some point on the way home?
Almost nothing to add.
Ride Along will be the first starring $100m grosser for both Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. Screen Gems must both be excited and a little bit scared of not being able to capitalize with two Kevin Hart movies on the way; About Last Night and summer release, Think Like A Man Too, which is a sequel to the $92 million grosser of last April.
Looks like it’s time for MGM to dust off Soul Plane – the first Kevin Hart starrer – and try to get it some traction again. The film also had supporting turns from the then-struggling Sofía Vergara and the not-yet-Oscar-winning Mo’Nique.
I, Frankenstein is, obviously, a miss. Is there enough money in all of the rest of the world to keep this from being a writedown?
The phenom of Frozen continues, now threatening to overtake Despicable Me 2 as the #1 domestic animated film of the year… just $21m away as of today, still doing over $8m a weekend. This may well be an influencer on the animation marketplace moving forward. The strong female lean and the musical elements have not been in style. It will be interesting to see if DreamWorks Animation and others retool their in-process projects to speak to the popularity of these things.
This weekend is a little more interesting than it appears. The weekend after the Martin Luther King, Jr Day 4-day has premiered these new films in the last 5 years;
2013 – Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, $19.7m
2012 – Underworld Awakening, $25.3m and Red Tails, $18.8m
2011 – No Strings Attached, $19.7m
2010 – Legion, $17.5m and Tooth Fairy, $14m
2009 – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, $20.8m
You’ll notice all of those are from majors or divisions of majors. Lionsgate still not quite there.
But the bigger question of this weekend is why it was abandoned by those majors. Why is Sony pushing out two movies on February 14 when RoboCop seems like a perfect fit with the films that have opened quite well on this date and will have to fight the nature of Valentine’s Day weekend when it opens? Or what about Pompeii, which seems like they are dumping it… why not here instead? Universal’s Non-Stop would seem like a fit, though Universal clearly had faith that Lone Survivor would still have some heat and didn’t want to program against it in the same niche going into its third wide weekend.
Of course, March is a bit of an action clusterf**k at this point. 300: Rise of An Empire, Need For Speed, Divergent and Noah back to back to back to back.
Instead, I, Frankenstein will hope to get to $8 million as the only wide opener. Scary.
I am not a big fan of analyzing specific weekends to death. But there are so few these days with just one wide release on them, that when the major choose not to go there, one wonders why.
Not a lot else worth writing about. All 9 Oscar nominees still in release did okay. Significant expansions for Dallas Buys Club, Nebraska, 12 Years A Slave, and Gravity with not overwhelming results. The strongest re-boot was Dallas, which no coincidentally had the biggest expansion… but it won’t get close to the film’s best weekend-to-date, which was back in November.
It will be interesting to see the Oscar nominees fall off the Top Ten charts completely in a couple of weekends as we wait five more weeks until Oscar Sunday, at which point more than half of the nominees will be available on DVD.
It is impossible not to feel sympathetic pain for Anita Busch. I’m not sure why it was buried 12 paragraphs into a “Commentary” that is structured like a news story, but the real lede of the story is that Ms. Busch, a long-time veteran of the entertainment media who has been out of the game for about a decade, had a family member murdered in the Aurora, Colorado massacre at the Dark Knight Rises screening.
She goes on to mention and offer various insights into or quotations from the families of victims of Aurora, Newtown, Dr. King, and her father on his deathbed. All presented earnestly and thoughtfully.
None of this is okay in any way. None of this should be disregarded.
But none of it is a legitimate argument against Hollywood’s use of gun violence in films. There is a very real discussion to be had on the issue. But it needs more substantive arguments than the pain of the victims of horrible crimes (which includes the extended families of the dead and/or injured).
I say this as a member of a family that lost 4 children to a thoughtless crime that was probably not intended to end in death, but did. In our family’s case, it was an arson. The teenager who set the fire probably didn’t know there were young children in the house as he set the fire. But he was setting a fire to someone’s home. This was 50 years ago now. And while my mother still cannot abide lawyers—as lawyers helped this murderer walk with a minimal juvenile—I cannot blame the profession, any more than I can rage against lawnmowers or the gasoline that fuels them which were used to set the family house aflame.
It was a hate crime… against Jews in Baltimore at the time. But I don’t live in fear or hate of non-Jews.
And when I look at Newtown or Aurora or the many, many, oh-so-many crimes of gun violence perpetrated in America in the last number of years, I do not see a clear correlation to the violence in movies or television.
In 1963, Westerns were all the rage, at the movies and on TV. Gun violence. Plenty of what we now know to be hateful perspective on Native Americans. But that racial hate did not kill my (potential) siblings. And we didn’t have the regular cycle of mass killings that have become shockingly normal, even expected, in America today.
Anita quotes Dr. King, who was murdered in April of 1968. There were no CG massacres or videogames in 1968. The #1 movie in America the month before Dr. King’s murder was Stay Away, Joe. You’ve probably never heard of it because Elvis Presley was in brownface, playing a Navajo named Joe Lightcloud. Burgess Meredith plays his grandfather, who lives in a teepee. The film is a comedy, but racist enough that you have probably never heard of it. Shortly before that film topped the box office, Planet of The Apes was a box office sensation. Can anyone seriously blame the racial undertones of that film for the assassination of Dr. King?
Violence in America is a very tricky issue. This is nothing new. As a nation, we live in denial about our history of the land grabs and massacres that came with the growth of the country. Overall, we’re still not very comfortable taking responsibility for slavery. And as a nation that often gets involved in major military conflicts, we often shy away from defending the vulnerable in other nations as they suffer clear and murderous oppression. But we love a good first-person shooter. And the body count in PG-13 movies can go awfully high, so long as the deaths never seem too real, as in “no blood means it’s okay for kids to see it.” I feel this is exactly wrong.
In Anita’s first 11 paragraphs, she wrestles with Harvey Weinstein’s recent comments on violence, which are fine, but also stakes out a position that is much easier for him to take than most people realize.
Harvey distinguished, on his appearance with Piers Morgan, between a “crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people just for the sake of making it” and a movie like Lone Survivor, which is extremely violent, but is “a tribute to the United States Special Forces.”
That distinction is legitimate. That distinction is critically important. But the problem in this conversation is that the distinction is a matter of taste and perspective.
Anita and many others have brought up the issue of where the line is with Quentin Tarantino, not just regarding violence, but with racism and sexism and language as well. And if you ask Mr. Tarantino and he cares to answer, you will hear that the use of violence, race, sex, and language are tools to make a greater point… to not be violent, racist, sexist, or potty-mouthed. And in America, we have freedom of speech. Critics of Tarantino can claim that he is being facile and just having a great ol’ time wallowing in piggish behavior. But that does not make his work bannable or our personal truths inherently greater than his.
Getting back to the specifics of Harvey Weinstein’s choices as a producer and distributor… Even before Harvey and Bob Weinstein started The Weinstein Company in 2005, they had split the company into Miramax and Dimension. Bob ran/runs Dimension and the division name came with the brothers when they split with Disney. In the 8 years of TWC (using Box Office Mojo as a source), only 16 titles have been released by Dimension to 77 from The Weinstein Company. And aside from the Dimension division, the only films that films that can really be argued to be in the “lazy violence” category at TWC are Quentin Tarantino’s.
Look at 2013’s Weinstein Company line-up; Quartet, Escape From Planet Earth, The Sapphires, Kon-Tiki, Unfinished Song, Fruitvale Station, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, The Grandmaster, Populaire, Salinger, Haute Cuisine, Philomena, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.
Aside from the butt-kicker from one of film’s great artists, Wong Kar-Wai, is there anything there that grandma wouldn’t be fine seeing?
Did Anita or anyone else hear Harvey say that he was going to make Bob shut down Dimension, which is pretty much all-genre, all the time? (Let’s not even get into whether Harvey could make Bob change course.) Sin City 2 is coming to a theater near you pretty soon and could imaginably become a Top 5 all-time grosser for TWC/Dimension. Until you see the brothers dump it off to any of the 6 major studios that would take it on (assuming it can be R-rated) in a instant, don’t think for a second that Dimension, which has been a key part of the financials of the Weinsteins for more than a decade, is going away.
Furthermore… I have history with Anita Busch’s crusade against movie violence, from back when she attempted to use the then-power of The Hollywood Reporter to take down Fight Club, both because she was personally offended by the film AND because she didn’t really understand it. I am not going to get too far into the details of that history, as it did end in a laughable threat by Anita and THR to sue me and TNT cable and TNT parent Time-Warner. What Anita clearly learned from that experience was to mark commentary as commentary and not to try to pass opinion off as news. I am happy for that, even though this new commentary buries itself in what seems like news for 11 paragraphs before getting very personal very fast.
Fight Club, you might remember, was not a movie of gun violence. But it was very violent. And the whole point was that glamorized violence—in this case, young beauty Brad Pitt fighting and charming and deadly dangerous – was as bad a choice as living in a homogenized Ikea universe where the only danger is picking the wrong end table. But you would have to see past the violence to understand the film. This is much easier in Fruitvale Station, in which a flawed hero is killed for no good reason at all. But that doesn’t make the anti-violence message of Fight Club any less clear. And I would argue that Fight Club is a much more impactful film in regards to young men and how they see power outside of the issue of America’s racial issues.
The same kind of issue has caused a clamor around Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street… and really, around most of Scorsese’s films at the time of their release. Where is the line between glamorizing bad behavior and showing it so that it can be understood?
I was just going to write about “the tipping point” on the issue of too much violence in films, but then I realized just how many there have been. In my personal history, it was the original Total Recall, which was on the edge of an NC-17. The film was really the first to use modern guns to kill massive numbers of “people” without much, if any, regard for the weight of death. People counted the dead bodies in that film like people are counting the use of the word “fuck” in The Wolf of Wall Street. (I consider that count, personally, to be an act of art hate in the case of Wolf, attempting to devalue a piece of art by reducing it to numerical details.)
It’s taken a long time, but people have finally come to understand that Paul Verhoeven is one of the great satirist-filmmakers. RoboCop is overtly a comedy. So is Starship Troopers. And how else is there to see Showgirls? Basic Instinct is the closest thing to a straight action drama, though time has made it more obvious that the Sharon Stone leg-spread was more about the boys in the room than about the flash. But when Verhoeven returned to his roots, he made Black Book, which is about the most serious holy of holies, the Jewish Holocaust… and it’s hilarious. I still start any conversation about the film by recalling the name it was dubbed with at Toronto… Showgirls’ List.
But, BOY, did people work hard not to get the joke with Verhoeven. He was so good at creating beautiful havoc that some audiences missed its purpose.
Sam Peckinpah found “the tipping point” repeatedly, whether in shootouts or in questioning how Susan George felt about being raped in Straw Dogs.
George Romero found ” the tipping point” in Night of The Living Dead with zombies that now seem tame compared to those in any given episode of “The Walking Dead.”
Just a few weeks ago, in an incredible speech, Harry Belafonte talked about seeing a Tarzan movie as a 5-year-old and the shadow of how blacks were portrayed in Birth of a Nation and how he finally found pride in being of African descent in 12 Years A Slave, a movie includes realistic images of lynching, whipping, rape, kidnapping, general dehumanization, and lightly-taken murder. How you feel about the artistry of 12 Years is your business. But to suggest that these elements be taken off the palette of an artist like Steve McQueen to express a story or that you or I get to decide just who gets to use elements like these in their “art” is outrageous.
Personally, I have no time or use for the kinds of films that are referred to throughout Anita Busch’s editorial on movie violence… no more than the many unnamed executive sdo (whether they or their company’s invest in them or not). Stupid movies that lazily through in violence just to try to be more commercial. If there was a movie I could erase from my memory, it would be Miramax/Dimension’s Wolf Creek. Not unlike Hostel 2, it felt like the ugliness was there to turn someone on, perhaps just by turning others off. I saw and see no point to the existence of those films. But I would fight to the end to keep them from being banned in any way.
But then I see The Raid, directed by a serious young artist, and I choose to embrace that experience (as did Sony Classics, hardly a violence schlock house, twice). I love the Japanese film Battle Royale, which is grotesque, but has many profound things to say about violence, as we watch violence throughout. I only wish the American knock-off (that claim disputed by its author) was nearly as brave about lingering in the ugliness of the murder of children by children. One of the best American films of 2013 was This Is The End, which was literally end of the world violent, and also profane, sexist, homophobic, and even a little racist, all very, very smartly turning the meaning of the acts witnessed on their heads. (It was also very, very, very funny.)
I am the father of a 4-year-old. He just recently started his superhero phase. (We’ll find out eventually whether it lasts for decades or not… but that’s another issue.) He spends hours jumping, kicking, punching, shooting webs, flying, exploding in fire, hulking out, slicing things with his claws, etc. His mother is not a fan of this activity. Sometimes, usually when I am being punched by surprise, I am not in love with it either. An elementary school we recently toured told us that kids who talk to them in interviews about superheroes are not likely to be admitted. When I mentioned this to a number of educators, their response was, “Avoid that school.” Why? Because superhero play is not only a known phase, but a critical tool for boys in separating from their mothers.
There are moments when my child points a loaded finger or someone else’s toy gun. Yet I have no fear of my child going out and killing someone intentionally. Why? Because even though he has access to violence in the culture, he is being raised by two non-violent people. He may be watching too much “Spiderman Unlimited,” but he is not watching “True Detective” with us. We do not have guns in our home and we do not teach him that violence is an answer to problems, by our words or our deeds. Also, he is not mentally ill. And if, God forbid, he were ever to become mentally ill, we would support him in treatment and certainly do everything we could to great a safe environment for him and everyone around him.
I personally feel that weapons have a very limited place in private homes, particularly in urban areas. I understand the idea of self-protection and if I lived in an isolated place, I would seriously consider it. But I have lived in big cities most of my life, often traveling through “bad neighborhoods” and have no patience with the idea that aside from very specific cases of protection, that anyone needs to be carrying a concealed weapon anywhere in my town. I would feel less safe in any place in Los Angeles knowing that anyone around me was carrying a handgun.
I believe that this country would be more safe with a lot fewer guns.
However, I still believe that the #1 cause of gun violence is the absenteeism of family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers, etc. People need to pay attention to others, care for others, consider others.
Second for me is the easy access and proliferation of firearms in the country. You could take every gun away and bad things would still happen. For that matter, someone can be surrounded by interested people who simply can’t know what is going on in someone mentally-ill mind.
But the cop who killed Oscar Grant III didn’t pull the trigger because he saw too many violent movies. The mass murderer in Aurora couldn’t have done what he did without being able to get cheap, serious weapons without a background check. The mass murderer in Newtown was known to be mentally disturbed, seems to have had a specific problem with the school, and many of the weapons he used were his mother’s, serious guns right there in the house… and he also added more over the internet.
It sure would be comforting if we could blame movies and television and videogames and a culture of violence for these heinous acts. But we would only be lying to ourselves as we picked the lowest possible hanging fruit. That doesn’t mean that studios and other film funders should not consider what they choose to make more carefully. Early word on a very violent sequel coming out next month is that it is much more sexually violent than the first film… and maybe that will sell some tickets. Disgusting.
Stanley Kubrick made one of the greatest films in the history of the medium, released in the United States on February 2, 1972. A Clockwork Orange. It should have been rated X because it is a film for adults. It is a film of great importance. It is loaded with quite graphic sex and violence. It also speaks quite memorably to efforts to correct abusers of sex and violence.
Just months after the film’s release in the UK, there were 3 incidents in which violent crimes were connected to A Clockwork Orange. Kubrick asked Warner Bros to take the film out of distribution in the UK and it was not legally seen again in that country for 30 years… when it played on television.
For me, Kubrick was the greatest filmmaker ever. And I think he made a mistake with this choice. But I also think the choice was personal, not societal. He didn’t want his art or his family to be connected to ugliness. And in just a few months, multiple idiots/ill people had done just that. So he clamped down. I think he took away something profoundly insightful and actually helpful as a preventative against violence from his second home nation.
Art reflects society. And people in society can choose to make art a part of their lives in terrible ways, whether it is The Bible or “The Catcher in The Rye,” or A Clockwork Orange. But I will choose to read the Bible (and the holy books of other religions) with my son and we will discuss it. He will read “The Catcher in the Rye” and we will discuss it. And when he is a teenager, I will show him A Clockwork Orange… and Apocalypse Now and The Godfather and Reservoir Dogs and Carnal Knowledge and The Bridge Over The River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia and Scarface and No Country For Old Men and so many other films, loving and profane. And we will discuss them.
And if he is of healthy mind, you and I and the world will be safe of him. And he will have greater insight to be more kind and more thoughtful and a better part of his community for having experienced great art that speaks to the darkness of humanity.
And if he is not of healthy mind, no movie or television show will make him more or less dangerous to me or to you or yours. And if that horror comes to his life and that of his family, I hope that I or others who love this individual with help to keep him and everyone in the wide world around him safe from that illness.
But barring the sad case of mental illness, I fear no movie’s impact on my son… nor Salinger… nor The Brothers Grimm… nor The Bible… nor The Koran… nor Elmer Fudd. We grow by telling the story. If we do not tell the stories, that is when I start to fear for us all.
Check out 20W2O here, then comment there or come back here with your take on the morning line.
Not a lot to add to yesterday’s analysis.
Lone Survivor found the heartland that it was meant to connect with after giving up on the Oscar push. Smart. Winning. Only better January opening was Cloverfield, but unlike the monsterless monster movie, this one should pass $100 million domestic easily.
The Legend of Hercules is a domestic joke, but SummitsGate could end up making money on the film because of international. Also… maybe not. But this is the kind of story that could find a spark overseas, in the spirit of Asterix & Obelix. Also… maybe not.
American Hustle is now over $100m domestic, even though Wolf is slightly ahead day-by-day. $23m to catch up. It’s a fascinating conversation that is going on around town about which film, if either, is a legitimate contender to win Best Picture. There are still a few momentum shifts to come in the race… and 12 Years A Slave has done a good job about getting quiet for the last month or so… before (I suspect) a full-on push for the win in the weeks to come.
Here is the Best Picture Contenders chart as of today’s estimates…
Worth noting that only ONE film in the box office Top 25 for 2013 will be nominated for Best Picture by Oscar this year.
On the indie front, maybe it is time for the domestic independent world to start looking more seriously at the niche market for foreign language in the US and Canada. I’m not really sure what the conversation would look like, ultimately. But week after week, we see grosses for Indian and Québécois product that make American indie look anemic. This weekend, a Filipino comedy, Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy did $350k on 34 screens. Telugu-language film 1: Nenokkadine did $980k on 127. Four others did $900k combined.
The obvious answer to why these films are doing business is that they are very niche and focused at a seriously underserved market with a very hungry audience. But isn’t this what we used to say about American indies?
Especially heading into Sundance, I would think that the many small distributors would seriously consider the success of these films. Instead of looking for cheap, big-distributor-passed-by product with the most marketable elements (see: known actors), maybe there is room for a lot more financial success with aggressively niche films. Maybe it is time for small indies to commit to building brands (see: interesting directors) instead of trying to do what bigger distribs are doing with one-off buys.
Just a thought…
I will look at the numbers later today, but talking points:
1. Why did Lone Survivor open so well?
2. How big can Frozen get?
3. Will Wolf ever pass Hustle?
4. What’s the problem with Osage County?
There was a moment when Universal thought Lone Survivor was an awards movie. They were wrong. And I think they figured that our within weeks of showing the film to people who were not really skilled at giving quotes. It’s actually a good film, excellent at what it sets out to achieve. While there has been an enormous amount lot of emotional feeling from the filmmakers and cast about the military, the film itself is a micro-view piece, not a macro-view one. As such, it doesn’t play as “important” the way that awards voters tend to see “important.”
However… there is an underserved non-minority out there that never gets written about while others insist attention be paid to how women, people over 60, and people of color are underserved by “Hollywood.” White people of the middle and lower financial class… which tends to include military families and communities that have a significant percentage of military families. The Venn diagram may also include religious America, aka the audience that drove such big numbers to The Passion of The Christ.
And I see this as Mark Wahlberg’s roots as well. He is quite wealthy and famous now, but what has made him so successful, I feel, is his earnest connection to being a not-wealthy kid who got into trouble as he struggled through the early part of his life. He is also a guy who has held on fiercely to his faith as a way of staying on the straight and narrow as he maintains his sobriety and perspective, often lost by people when they have the freedom that his success now affords him and his family. So while I don’t see a single inch of manipulation on his part, when he melted down at events about the absurdity of comparing what actors do to what soldiers do, he was speaking directly to the audience for this film.
The audience heard. And Universal did their job, making sure that the audience that would actually buy tickets felt the spirit behind this film.
I keep pointing to Act of Valor, which was released last February by the ever-stumbling Relativity, grossing $70 million without a single name actor to sell… just Seal Team Six’s involvement.
Not to oversell the cultural weight of this underserved group, but I would presume some significant crossover with the films of Jason Statham and films like The Expendables. Blue Collar Kick Ass.
Anyway… a proud opening for Universal and Wahlberg and Peter Berg and the entire team.
2. Frozen is a phenom. Already one of only 7 animated films to ever gross $300m domestic, it’s playing into January much stronger than any of its November-opening predecessors. It will likely pass Shrek The Third to become #6 all-time by the end of next weekend. The next slot leap will be $45m away, to Despicable Me 2, which is probably not going to happen.
The most interesting thing about Frozen‘s massive success is that the Disney animation brand, separate from Pixar, is really about girls and women. You can choose not to want to segregate movies that way if you like, but Frozen is quite overt in making sure that no one can mistake this for a tale in which a man or men save the day and/or the two female leads.
On the flip side, is Disney’s Marvel division, which leads with macho.
And somewhere in the middle, Pixar, which took a long time to have a female lead in a movie, but does not tend to wallow in male-driven cultural stereotypes in its films.
3. I don’t know the question to this. The noise in the media bubble about Wolf is nearly impenetrable. In many ways, the Oscar voters will answer this question for us next week. If Wolf surprises positively in a few categories, the box office could be fueled considerable. If not, probably not. Likewise, the settling in of Hustle as a potential Best Picture winner could push it farther, faster.
4. Sorry, but August: Osage County can’t hide behind 905 screens. The Weinsteins are still clearly hoping that Oscar nominations will fuel the film to real success. The expansion this weekend is not coincidental to the Oscar nomination voting closing. They can’t be hurt by a perception of this weekend being soft. And while it isn’t horrible… it is soft. Saving Mr. Banks is seen as soft at the box office and it took four wide weekends to fall to a number as low as Osage’s expansion this weekend.
Let me put it like this. August: Osage County is going to have numbers pretty close to the expansion weekend of 12 Years A Slave. So is that number for a Meryl Streep/Julia Roberts movie with a cast full of well-known supporting actors great or soft?
Like I say… if the nominations come for August, they will get a boost and numbers will be better. But Saving Mr Banks is already $64 million. Long way to go for August to get there. 12 Years is at $39 million.
Perception and reality… hmmm….