MCN Originals Archive for January, 2015

Friday Box Office Estimates

American Sniper showed traditional fatigue yesterday, dropping a more normal 45% from the previous Friday. Still, as the film’s weekends have gone so well so far, it will pass $250 million domestic Sunday. Three wide release newcomers (Project Almanac, Black or White, and The Loft) will fail to reach as much as $10 million. In limited release, the “Game of Thrones “special IMAX release drew about $3300 per screen and showings of Oscar-nominated shorts will extend to almost $200k this weekend.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Is The Door Wide Open Again?

Could the Academy’s bizarre preferential balloting system be the defining issue in coming to a Best Picture winner this year?

And let me note again, before going any further, that the existence of the preferential ballot system at The Academy is IDIOTIC and I will forever believe that this was a bad joke foisted on The Academy by an exiting Bruce Davis.

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Sundance Seen Part 1

The whispering of powder from a dull quiet sky. Snowflakes fall between the screenings. Then the sun is bright and powder dusts off the slopes.

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The DVD Wrapup: The Judge, Downton Abbey, My Old Lady, Green Prince, Bird People and more

Downey and Duvall may be dredging up ghosts of characters they’ve played in countless previous movies, but that’s enough to recommend The Judge to their fans and courtroom drama buffs.

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Sundance 2015 Review: Advantageous

In Phang’s imaginary future, it’s pretty much the same-old, same-old: As men grow older and wiser, they morph into handsome “silver foxes” without losing stride on the career or social desirability fronts. As women grow older and wiser, though, their perceived worth diminishes while those aging men chase after younger, newer versions to upgrade to. Phang’s tale imagines a reality where a woman could choose to “upgrade” herself to a younger and thereby more desirable version. You don’t have to be a woman working in the film industry to relate to (or fear) such a thing, though Hollywood is perhaps closer to the future we see here than anywhere else and, sadly, populated by a lot of women who would quite likely line up around the block to take advantage of it.

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Sundance Reviews: The Wolfpack, Slow West

Unique ironies surround Crystal Moselle’s bewildering documentary, The Wolfpack, not the least of which is that the film opens with a group of brothers at home re-enacting Reservoir Dogs, a film that premiered at Sundance 23 years ago.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: It’s Gettin’ Hot In Here

There are a lot of theories out there about how to read the tea leaves this season. But for me, the truth is that I have never seen anything quite like it.

PGA and SAG, Birdman. Globes, Boyhood and The Grand Budapest Hotel. LAFCA and NYFCC, Boyhood. Coming up in short order… DGA, BAFTA, WGA.

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Sundance 2015 Review: The Second Mother

The intelligent, sometimes biting social commentary woven throughout the film is somewhat reminiscent of Lucretia Martel’s 2008 Cannes entry The Headless Woman, but where that film relied on ethereal cinematography and wove its social commentary enigmatically and almost abstractly, The Second Mother tackles similar issues of class division and human dignity primarily through humor and studies in contrast: Val’s unquestioning acceptance of the social construct versus her smart, modern daughter’s questioning of “the way things are.”

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The Weekend Report

American Sniper continued to hold sway at the box office with an estimated weekend gross of $63.9 million. Trailing in second place was the debut of the sexual suspenser The Boy Next Door with $15 million. Two other titles opened nationally to close to D.O.A. results. The not so madcap comedy Mordecai bowed with $4.1 million and the not terribly animated Strange Music (“from the mind of George Lucas”) eked out $5.5 million.

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Sundance Review: The Witch

The most effective horror films have a sense of dread that never really goes away, constantly pushing the needle and raising the stakes. There needn’t be cheap jump scares every minute or two to create something tense if everything else in the production is unsettling.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

American Sniper dropped a little bit more than some projections expected, but will still have a remarkable second weekend and will be in range of $200 million by weekend’s end (a little under or over). The much-abused The Boy Next Door will do a little less than last weekend’s The Wedding Ringer, which is off 53% Friday-to-Friday. And in carwreck mode are both Johnny “Time For A New Schtick” Depp’s Mortdecai and George Lucas’ Lucasfilm swan song, Strange Magic.

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Sundance Review: THE BRONZE

It was unreasonable to expect the opening night U. S. Dramatic film would play as well as 2014’s electric Whiplash for a curtain-raiser to Sundance.

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The DVD Wrapup: Boxtrolls, Lucy, Zero Theorem, Rudderless, Maddin, Sturges, Rohmer, Narwhals and more

Of all the branches of the Motion Picture Academy, it’s the ones representing animated films and documentaries that routinely produce the greatest howlers on the day nominations are announced. It’s not even close. In a year when The LEGO Movie and Life Itself could have just as easily rounded out the Best Picture category at 10 nominees – the full academy dissed audiences and filmmakers worldwide by limiting itself to eight finalists – the elimination of those fine films by their respective branches gave viewers two very good reasons to skip this year’s ceremony. I mean, why reward incompetency and elitism with Nielsen ratings? This isn’t to imply that the movies that did make the cut weren’t worthy of being invited to the party, just that whomever wins the Oscar in those categories will, like Roger Maris, forever have to live with an asterisk next to their names. The five films nominated as this year’s Best Animated Feature are excellent entertainments, if not the critical and commercial success that “LEGO” became, and all will have entered the Blu-ray market by March 17. So, you be the judge.

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Gurus o’ Gold: A Week After Nominations… Any Changes?

The Gurus update their Best Picture picks and answer this question: Has the leader in any of the other categories changed, in your view, over the last week?

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Ragin’

I don’t know that I have seen anything like this before. It’s kind of about Oscar season. It’s mostly not. But Oscar has yelled “pull” and now everyone is shooting at the clay pigeons. And the bullets are flying from every direction.

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Six Films To Watch At Sundance

Attending Sundance this year means personally jumping through a lot of difficult hoops to make it happen, but this festival is becoming legendary—2014’s iteration eclipsed both Cannes and TIFF combined—and I simply couldn’t skip this year.

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The Weekend Report (4-day numbers)

American Sniper is the big story at the box office, the #1 drama opening in movie history. Paddington and The Wedding Ringer each had $24m-$25m four-day openings. And The Imitation Game cracked $50 million.

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The Weekend Report (3-Day)

The national release of American Sniper was better than a bullseye with a record-breaking estimate of $89.3 million (all figures reflect 3-day box office) that represented roughly 45% of session box office. The Martin Luther King holiday frame saw three other national releases including strong returns of $20.9 million for the urban comedy The Wedding Ringer and $19 million for the beloved kid-lit bear Paddington. Conversely there was little threat from the hack attack Blackhat , which bowed to $4 million.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Clint’s bullseye: a $30 million opening day; Kevin Hart comes up relatively short at $6.9 million; Paddington‘s accepted by a new society at $4.6 million, while Liam Neeson’s Taken another $4.3 million for a cume of $53.1 million. Selma hits $20 million while Blackhat deciphers only $1.8 million at eighth.

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Gurus o’ Gold: Nomination Day (1 of 2)

The Gurus have voted on the slotting of 22 categories (no shorts yet) after today’s nominations. And if you listen to the Gurus today, 14 of those awards will be split pretty evenly between Boyhood, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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MCN Originals

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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