The Hot Blog Archive for May, 2017

Rebooting the 80s

I saw a headline, then read a story this last weekend, which snarkily telegraphed that we were running out of 1980s hits to reboot/remake/sequel-ize.

Like so many of these pieces, it left things out to make its point stronger.

To start, six of the top 20 grossers of the 1980s were already sequels, four of which were sequels to originals released in the same decade.

If you look at the 1980s Top 10 (domestic)…

1. E.T. – $359m
2. Star Wars: Jedi -$253m
3. Batman – $251m
4. Beverly Hills Cop – $235m
5. Ghostbusters – $229m
6. Raiders of the Lost Ark – $212m
7. Back To The Future – $211m
8. Star Wars: Empire – $209m
9. Indiana Jones 3 – $197m
10. Indiana Jones 2 – $180m

The only thing that jumps out? Spielberg refused to make a sequel to E.T.

That and Beverly Hills Cop, which was a straight action comedy that did mega-business. The specific comparison in 2010-17 would be The Hangover II ($254m domestic), but I wouldn’t be hard-pressed to make the comparison to Deadpool, which I don’t believe did $363 million as a comic book movie, but as a hard-R comedy about a fish out of water.

Here is the 2010-2017 Top 10.

1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – $937m
2. Jurassic World – $652m
3. Marvel’s The Avengers – $623m
4. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – $532m
5. Beauty and the Beast – $501m
6. Finding Dory – $486m
7. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $459m
8. The Dark Knight Rises – $448m
9. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – $425m
10. Toy Story 3 – $415m

Two Star Wars, two Marvel, two Pixar, a Batman, a Jurassic reboot, a Disney animated remake and a Hunger Games.

Avatar, which opened two weeks before 2010 is not on the list. But unlike E.T., will be sequeled… eventually.

Two Star Wars sequels in both decades.

A Batman in both decades.

I prefer the first two Indiana Jones sequels to the Marvel hits… but they live in the same genre, especially given the evolution of technology.

Pixar and the rise of the animated movie to the top of the box office roster didn’t happen in the 80s. The Little Mermaid, with $84 million domestic, was the top=grossing animated film of the 80s, representing the first life out of Disney in the Katzenberg/Eisner era that would lead to where we are today.

The Jurassic franchise didn’t start until the 90s (also a CG issue) and remains the only traditional sequel Spielberg has directed, as Indiana Jones was meant as a movie serial, not just an homage to serials.

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast didn’t exist in the 80s. And The Hunger Games was a designed series, the first of which just misses the Top 10 for this last 8 yeses with $408m.

When you get to the Second 10 of the 1980s. That is when the difference between then and now starts to show.

11. Tootsie – $177m
12. Top Gun – $177m
13. Crocodile Dundee – $175m
14. Rain Man – $173m
15. 3 Men & A Baby – $168m
16. Roger Rabbit – $156m
17. Fatal Attraction – $157m
18. Beverly Hills Cop II – $154m
19. Rambo 2 – $150m
20. Gremlins – $148m

Tootsie sticks out like a green thumb there. No sequel. No sequel likely. Though there is a Broadway musical on the way.

3 Men & A Baby, which was quickly sequeled, also jumps out. Two TV actors and a B movie actor and boom, a huge hit of its time.

Comedies dropped out of the high end of theatrical in this decade, more so than drama, which didn’t have the same foothold. (And I won’t include The Martian in this category.)

2017 (to date) – Going In Style – $44m
2016 – Central Intelligence – $127m
2015 – Pitch Perfect 2 – $184m
2014 – 22 Jump Street – $192m
2013 – The Heat – $160m
2012 – Ted – $219m
2011 – Bridesmaids – $169m
2010 – Grown Ups – $162m

Only Ted cracked $200 million, when a consistent rise in box office would suggest there should be a few $300 million comedies, and certainly $250m comedies.

There is a legitimate argument that comedies have, on the high end, suffered from not scaling to the CG-driven era, thus not being theatrical must-sees. On the other hand, comedies have been a stable money maker at much lower budgets than CG-mania movies.

But back to the Second 10 discussion… here is the 2010-2017 list:

11. Iron Man 3 – $409m
12. Captain America: Civil War – $408m
13. The Hunger Games – $408m
14. Frozen – $401m
15. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 – $381m
16. The Secret Life of Pets – $368m
17. Despicable Me 2 – $368m
18. The Jungle Book – $364m
19. Deadpool – $363m
20. Inside Out – $357m

Three sequels in the 80s, four sequels in 2010-2017.

Three first-films that will be sequeled in the 80s, six in the 2010s.

Rainman and Fatal Attractions are dramas in the Second 10 in the 1980s. None in the 2010s.

But unlike comedy, the dramas are tracking more to a fitting scale. American Sniper did $350m domestic and Inception did $293m. But if you took away all the films that were heavily CG-reliant (CG animation and superheroes) and limit the franchises to one title each, the 2010-2017 Top 10 feels a lot more like the 1980s.

The Dark Knight Rises
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Furious 7
American Sniper
Skyfall
Inception
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
The Hangover Part II
Maleficent
Fast & Furious 6

Not far behind (over $200m domestic), The Martian and a number of films that could have been done without heavy CG (mostly), Ted, The Apes movies, Cinderella and Logan.

I am not arguing that the mix hasn’t changed. It has, a lot. But the assumptions about why and how (exactly) are often wrong and more an emotional reaction than based on fact.

History is a funny thing. Gone With The Wind was initially released as a wildly expensive road show release, charging multiples of what a normal movie cost at the time (making estimates of ticket sales rather iffy). Jaws never was on 1,000 screens. Star Wars, in its initial release, was never on 1,100. Yet these two movies are held up as the parents of wide releasing.

What was the first film to reach 2,000 screens at once? Beverly Hills Cop in 1984. 3,000 screens? Mission: Impossible in 1996.

And in the 21 years since, exhibition has changed drastically, making the screen count in 2017 into a venue count, a count that tells you almost nothing about wide release patterns.

Just lingering on 2010 for a moment, here are the movies that weren’t Top 20 box office titles but would be unsurprising as remakes in 2030: The Other Guys, Salt, Black Swan, The Expendables, Date Night, The Social Network, The Book of Eli, The Fighter, The Town, Unstoppable, Eat Pray Love, Dear John, Knight & Day, Easy A, Dinner for Schmucks, Tooth Fairy and more.

The paranoia is that no one will ever make movies like Easy A or a Date Night or The Fighter — remakes or originals — in the future. But that underestimates the way movies evolve and imitate… as these pictures reflected films and filmmakers long dead.

We are already well into the 2000s in terms of replicating old IP.  The Mummy, Ocean’s 11, Jurassic Park, The Fast & The Furious and Dr. Dolittle are 2001 titles in play for theatrical films this year and next.

The industry is changing. It is always changing. But the tendency to prefer overstated nostalgia for the good ol’ days that were really not that different remains an eternal irritation. Next thing you know, media will be running stories expressing surprise that Cannes will not dominate the Oscar race this year. Oy.

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Weekend Estimates by Klady of the Carbs & Beans

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Pirates 4 off of Pirates 3 – 27%
Pirates 5 off of Pirates 4 – 31%

The compass is not taking us to what Disney’s heart desires.

But they have a different compass for international.

$349m, $643m, $654m, $805m, $208m and counting…

Holy Johnny Depp’s paycheck!

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Friday Estimates by NoWatch of the IP Klady

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56, 43, 35, 23. See a pattern here?

Those are the opening days of the first four Pirates movies. The first film had a Wednesday open and a $14m first Friday.

Domestically, Pirates is over at this scale, what with a $40 million star in the lead. Internationally, Disney is hoping not to care what happened domestically.

Paramount had an ugly Baywatch launch, weaker than Dwayne’s (and Wahlberg’s and Bay’s) Pain and Gain. I don’t think it’s just because of the movie’s flaws in filmmaking, but because of the concept, which was well-reflected by the marketing. Do you make a Baywatch movie that embraced the spirit of the show, which includes prurient titillation, but always keeps a lid on it. or do you focus on dick jokes and over-the-top action that doesn’t work as action? They’ll be hoping for international to make the pain go away.

Len typo’d in last week’s opening number in for Alien: Covenant. I believe the correct number is around $3 million and a drop of over 75%. More pain. More looking to international.

I hate “sky is falling” pieces. The sky isn’t falling. But you can be sure that a lot of studios execs are dirtying their Depends as what worked before is not working now. Some of these titles aren’t just off domestically, they are way off domestically. A lot of movies being made by Hollywood driven almost exclusively by international potential. But American moviegoers aren’t taking up the slack when they aren’t interested. There are too many other entertainment options.

What hasn’t changed is that people will go to the movies in huge numbers if they see something  they want, even when the movie is iffy. Sequels are not dead. IP is not dead. But more and more, studios are getting smacked for reaching behind their grasp… when they knew full well they were doing just that in the first place and closing their eyes and hoping for the best. Open your eyes, folks.

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Roger Moore Keeps The British End Up No More

roger_04Roger Moore was my first James Bond.

Live and Let Die was my first Bond film in a movie theater. I don’t recall whether I had seen Goldfinger or Dr No on ABC TV (Bond movies were a broadcast TV event back then). I think I had watched “The Saint” in black & white. But I loved — and love — that movie. Moore… Kotto… Geoffrey Holder… Jane Seymour. Sharks. Literally blowing the bad guy up.

Scaramanga’s Third Nipple and Hervé Villechaize weren’t played for comedy in The Man With The Golden Gun.

But there was something about The Spy Who Loved Me‘s combination of Barbara Bach, who was filthy-sexy in a way that previous Bond girls were not, and Jaws, who was not presented as funny, that somehow became Peak Bond and sent Moonraker into self-satire. Perhaps it was Moore’s age, then 52, and that Lois Chiles – even with the name Holly Goodhead – seemed to be smarter and more inherently capable than Bond. And they set big action in space. And of course, Richard Kiel’s Jaws was played for comedy in that one.

The final three Roger Moore Bond films were dragged along behind the car. Forgettable villains were cast (as casting was so critical). Moore was still a very handsome man and we were so familiar with him that we accepted that we didn’t really believe he was stronger and faster than everyone else. More of the stunts were done behind masking of some kind.

A View To A Kill was the end, with a great Duran Duran song, the amazing Grace Jones (though on the heels of Conan The Destroyer, which made the magic of who she is seem used up), and the first great Christopher Walken hair performance. But Bond seemed ready for retirement.

And Roger Moore, who would work to near the end (he is a voice in Guillermo del Toro’s Netflix series, Trollhunters), never chose to become a man in his 60s or 70s or 80s in front of the camera. Unlike Sean Connery, he seemed to have no urge to prove himself as any more of an actor than his decades of worldwide stardom suggested he was. No dying, no balding, no crying.

And so, he will be forever young, whether as Bond or as The Saint.

Roger Moore is the first James Bond to die. Sean Connery will be 87 this August. Lazenby will be 78. Goldfinger expected Bond to die… but these guys seem to live forever.

May Sir Roger Moore rest in peace.

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Review: Baywatch

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I was looking forward to some good, dumb summer fun.

And Baywatch has its moments.

But it’s taken down by an undertow of overthinking, over-raunching, and generally a complete miss of what made this series so absurdly popular for so long.

This is the bane of the IP-generated movie era: What do you do with the nostalgia? Do you embrace it fully? Do you mock it? Do you parody it broadly? Or do you split the difference between the three possibilities and miss the mark by an embarrassing distance?

Honestly, Baywatch is not as terrible as its massive failure suggests. There are still moments and this cast is aces, from top to bottom. And this makes the failure to be simple, stupid, joyous summer fun so very frustrating.

What were they thinking when then made a R-rated version of Baywatch when the only nudity was a not-funny dead-guy’s-penis joke and the other almost sexual thing is a guy somehow getting his erect penis and scrotum on the wrong side of a chaise lounge’s slats… which is not nearly as funny as they think it is (spending two full minutes on it).

There are breasts in bathing suits, low-cut dresses and wet suits. But the jiggle jokes are less overt than on the TV show. I didn’t need to see a bare bosom in the film… but I didn’t need the dick jokes either. And it’s not like they are smart, sly, insightful, ironic dick jokes. They are just dick jokes.

The core problem is that the idea of the movie is just not interesting. An endlessly recurring theme is that the lifeguards think they are police when they are just lifeguards. This never pays off. Never.

If you are extremely spoiler-sensitive, you can drop off now, but here is the primary storyline (aside from Zac Efron coming of age)… A super-hot Indian woman whose only clothes require tape to keep her breasts from falling out owns a beachfront hotel and wants to take over other beach front hotels because, somehow, this will make her drug smuggling (which never takes place on the beach) easier and is happy to torture or kill anyone in her way to they-were-hoping comic effect.

That’s it.

It makes no sense. But it offers bodyguard types big and mean enough to fight with Dwayne Johnson four or five times during the film. It must have been intended to offer a sexual tension with the villain… that is not longer in the film, as it appears that superhero Dwayne is a sexual eunuch in this R-rated film.

This is that place where I make a suggestion that sounds like I am telling the filmmaker what to do. But I am not. I am offering an option that would have been better than what was there. There are a million solutions and this is just one. But… MAKE A CHOICE. You could have The Rock sleeping with all the Baywatch beauties in a completely matter-of-fact way… of course people this good looking who are always running in bathing suits and have co-ed showers end up having sex… no big deal. OR he is mourning for his great love and has put all of his energy into Baywatch for years, but he is about to explode sexually. OR he is sexually insecure even though he is the toughest man on earth. WHATEVER. Make a choice.

It is one of the sad parts of the Baywatch effort that they created a very smart, capable, physically gifted female character of color (Ilfenesh Hadera)… then make her both a clitoral eunuch and the character with the least amount of story amongst the lead characters.

The film splits the other two screen melters (Alexandra Daddario and Kelly Rohrbach) into romantic dyads that are signaled clearly from the very beginning of the movie. And this is a shame. Both of these young women turn out to have real skill as comedians. Daddario is reminiscent of Alison Brie, a little younger (4 years) and on a slightly different track. She actually breaks away from the bombshell imact of here turn in HBO’s “True Detective” by being smarter than her objectification here. Rohrbach is what they are always hoping for when they cast a model to play comedy.

Again, the issue of the screenwriters and director making a strong choice is an issue for both of these actresses’ characters. Daddario’s Summer plays hard to get… so why not make it really hard for Zac Efron’s character and play with the line of sexuality. Rohrbach is on track to end up with the comic relied nerd… so take it to the next level. What if The Beauty really wants it from The Beast and he keeps on being unable to deliver? It’s almost there in the film… but it shies away. As a character, she is completely matter-of-fact about his penis, which is not seen but is played for jokes throughout. Why didn’t they really do something with that idea?

This entire movie is like the middle, boring part of a joke… like no one wants to get to the punchline.

Or go a different way. I don’t see the point of making this PG-13 movie into an R by saying “mutherfucker” a lot and showing a dead man’s penis if you aren’t going to make it a real R (like Horrible Bosses).

Sad to report that Seth Gordon, with his fourth major studio film here, still directs like an episodic TV director… single, single, single, boring 2 shot, single. There are shots that actually don’t match. Forget about getting a sense of space in any of these action sequences. Everything is a close-up and a jump cut. The guy makes character comedies, but he doesn’t know how to help his actors thrive on screen…. even though he has had some success. The fact that he ha overcome his limitations as a director in his films tells you how great he is at casting.

The unnecessary complexity of the story structure, given how simplistic the ideas were, really kept a great cast from flying here. I was even willing to put up with the Josh-Gad-wannabe (Jon Bass) by the end. But the movie doesn’t know what it has going for it and what is just meaningless complication.

By the time we got to the outtakes over credits, I was ready to leave… didn’t feel that the film had earned the right to be so self-amused.

If you are satisfied by a few laughs and looking at beautiful people for 2 hours, go for it. It’s not going to enrage you. As I noted earlier, it gets uglier by dissection, but it’s bland and beautiful enough not to hurt. But it could have been so much more.

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Obama Photographer Pete Souza Shoots “A Day In The Life Of Frank Underwood”

President Frank Underwood at Foggy Bottom Metro station in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2017 Photo © 2017 by Pete Souza

President Frank Underwood at Foggy Bottom Metro station in Washington, D.C., May 22, 2017
Photo © 2017 by Pete Souza

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“Twin Peaks”: A Place For Spoilers

Falling into a dream: the main credits of the new series.

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Weekend Estimates by Alien Trouble Klady

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This is a terrible result for Alien: Covenant. I thought they had found a strong, clear voice for the marketing about a month ago. Problem is… the movie didn’t open while the voice was strong. It opened an entire month later. In today’s movie marketing universe, timing is more important than ever. And when your campaign is “Run. Hide. Pray.,” sitting around waiting for the movie to open in a month and change later is clearly problematic.

I wasn’t sitting in meetings. I’m no expert on the A:C campaign. But you can see this all around.  a few studios now go for a very short marketing window compared to a decade ago, as little as a few weeks. And others, like Sony’s current Emojis campaign, push awareness as much as two months out.

Every time I see a Netflix ad for a show that isn’t on yet, I think of what a waste it is because a service that is based on instant call-to-action is not making its product available when it is calling me to action. There is so much content, the idea of anticipating all but a few shows/movies for more than a month is impossible. I would have watched the Brad Pitt/David Michôd war movie three times by now if it were already on Netflix. But I don’t even notice the ad (or remember the release date) after looking at billboards for a month.

I don’t think there is an easy answer. Star Wars and top-shelf Marvel is about the only stuff that could clearly open with virtually no marketing window. Someone needs to take that risk and do a 10-day campaign for a movie that can actually open. The imagination only lasts that long. It could work. But the irony is that a shorter marketing window might not lower costs, as the audience is so widely dispersed. You can find sports-loving men or pre-teen girls in specific spaces, but for a three- or fourquadrant movie, trying to push awareness and want-to-see in 10 days is an intimidating prospect. I get that.

And the question of whether Alien: Covenant got what it deserved goes back to the wrong-headed idea that opening weekend is about the film itself. It never is. Very, very rarely you can see a Sunday effect… almost never. The sales job for that opening weekend is done by Thursday night (earlier, really) and what is going to happen then is going to happen. (Tracking is wrong often because it is an imperfect art… again, not unlike trying to find every viewer in a short marketing window. Tracking is great for awareness, not so great for likely ticket sales.)

I think that Fox can be comforted by the idea that they did everything they could do to open A:C. The question is, for me at least, whether doing everything is still the most effective way to sell some movies, especially IP-driven films where awareness is not the big problem.

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Threads: Del Toro, McQuarrie, Mangold, Johnson et al.

Twitter is a lovely river when thread creates what participant James Mangold calls “a lively artistic banter among friends.”

This is only a sample. Listen in for a bit.

It began with a question from Christopher McQuarrie to a few colleagues:


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Friday Estimates by Alien: Klady

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Alien: Covenant takes a hit from Prometheus, as audiences aren’t quite ready to jump back into the water, even though Fox has pushed the action agenda more aggressively this time out. With Pirates a week away, the question of whether the same will happen there is legit.

Prometheus did $276m overseas. Will Alien: Covenant top that or not? And will A:C improve, as it should, on Prometheus‘ 2,5x opening domestic number? These questions will determine the future of this prequel franchise.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 is building distance from the original as it goes. At the end of the first weekend, it was $52m ahead. Second weekend, $69m. After Friday, $71m. By the end of the weekend, we’ll see. And of course, international is enormous, passing $400 million this weekend.

Everything, Everything is a positive for ailing WB. It’s not a huge number, but it will lead to profit if the reported $10m price tag on the film is remotely true. The studio has clearly not spent a fortune marketing the movie.

Fox’s third release in the last nine days, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, is eating it. Maybe cramming for three tests would be the metaphor. None of the three  openings went well, Snatched doing best (in perspective) of the three. Here, you had an openly acknowledged cast change and what seemed to be the hope that the old audience (now too old) would just show up. Captain Underpants seems to be what Wimpy was a few years ago (at least at my kid’s elementary school), so we shall see in couple weeks.

Two strong arthouse entries, Abacus and Wakefield, are in line to do $10k per in exclusive release this weekend.

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Woody Allen On Facebook Live

In which Allen offers his perpetrual shrug toward Annie Hall, talks about the CGI of Wonder Wheel, and his demand of total creative control at the age of 81. “When I make a film, I like the people backing the film, sometimes the studios, to put the money in a brown paper bag and then go away,” Allen says.  “And then six months later I give them film. That’s the way I’ve always been able to work, having complete control… I wouldn’t work… any other way… It came to a point where the studios would say, “Look, we’re not banks. If you’re asking us for $12 million, we want to read your script, we want to know who you’re casting and we want to have input. We’re not just bankers.” I, on the other hand regard them as, at best, bankers, if not criminals, and I said, ‘No, you can’t read my script and I’m not interested in your input.’I said this politely! And they said nicely, ‘Get lost.'”

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Trailers du Jour: Fox Apes Fight Humans & Feminism

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Weekend Estimates by Magic Snatched Klady

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This Mother’s Day weekend may (or may not) reflect the least accurate projections of Sunday numbers in memory. Both Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 and Snatched are projecting Sunday as significantly bigger than their Friday gross, which would be unusual. Expect the 1-2-3 order to stay in line tomorrow, but with different grosses.

I almost did a spit take when I saw today’s weekend projections. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2 made a giant leap on Saturday and a big projection for Sunday, but it is within reason, given Marvel’s history. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword took its sad $5m start and projected a sad, but unsurprising $14.8m weekend. And Snatched leapt from a $5m Friday to a $17.4m weekend. Huh?

Last Mother’s Day, in the only such example in the last five years of Mother’s Days, the 2 top movies (Captain America: Civil War and The Jungle Book) had exceptional Saturdays and Sundays. But the newcomer in the #3 slot, Money Monster… the only non-mega-movie? Just under 3x Friday. The movie Mother’s Day? Normal weekend trend line, Sunday less than Friday. So why is Snatched projecting 3.5x Friday? Likely to assure that it will be the #2 film and the #1 new film (and #1 comedy… ha ha ha) over the very close Friday competition of Krap Arthur.

Thing is, the Guy Ritchie bloodbath is laying down to die, so Snatched will be #2 even if the real number is $16m or under. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Guardians number drops a million or two when “actuals” land tomorrow (not that a million or two means anything in that film’s box office history).

Only three films managed $10k per-screen this weekend (and mind you, that is only 1100 or so ticket buyers – at most – per screen over a three-day weekend): Guardians, the four-screen premiere of Paris Can Wait and the exclusive of  Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe.

Also of note, there are three $1m-plus non-English market films on the charts this weekend: How To Be A Latin Lover, Baahubali 2: The Conclusion, and Bon Cop Bad Cop 2.

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The Hot Blog

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I never accepted the term contrarian. I think that’s offensive, frankly. And my response to that is: if I’m a contrarian, what are other reviewers? What I strive to do is be a good critic, not somebody who simply accepts the product put in front of me. I guess it scares people to think that they don’t have any originality; that they don’t have the capacity to think for themselves.

“There’s a line a lot of reviewers use that I don’t like at all. They say ‘accept the film on its own terms.’ What that really means is, ‘accept the film as it is advertised.’ That’s got nothing to do with criticism. Nothing to do with having a response as a film watcher. A thinking person has to analyze what’s on screen, not simply rubber-stamp it or kowtow to marketing.”m

“To me, everything does have a political component and I think it’s an interesting way to look at art. It’s one way that makes film reviewing, I think, a politically relevant form of journalism. We do live in a political world, and we bring our political sense to the movies with us – unless you’re the kind of person who goes to the movies and shuts off the outside world. I’m not that kind of person.”
~ Armond White to Luke Buckmaster

“One of comedy’s defining pathologies, alongside literal pathologies like narcissism and self-loathing, is its swaggering certainty that it is part of the political vanguard, while upholding one of the most rigidly patriarchal hierarchies of any art form.”
~ Lindy West