MCN Originals Archive for November, 2017

20 Weeks To Oscar: Year of the Reconstructed Rom-Com

Award seasons have a theme that emerges as the season progresses. With the arrival of Phantom Thread and The Post, this year is loaded with rom-coms that don’t want to be rom-coms.

The form has been torn down in recent years and barely exists now in Hollywood movies, indies, or even TV. But take the idea of a romantic comedy about, say, the black guy being brought home to meet the over-exuberant white suburban parents and give it a twist… and BAM!… Get Out.

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DVD Gift Guide II: Red Skelton, Bob Hope, Der Bingle, Hitchcock, Homicide, Agatha Christie, Jean Rouch, MST3K, Curtiz, Logan Lucky, Animal Factory, Woodshock and more

Because our grandparents and great-grandparents already seem to have everything they need, they get shorted when gifts are being handed out around the Christmas tree. The challenge of picking out presents grows greater every year, it seems. After all, how many sweaters, robes and slippers can a person possibly own? Why not give the gift that never gets older that it already is: nostalgia. No matter how many channels there are, the ones dedicated to shows seniors might recall with fondness are limited to TCM, PBS and niche services on premium networks.

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The Weekend Report

Coco prevailed at the Thanksgiving movie feast with an estimated $49.3 million for the weekend and a 5-day gross of $71.5 million. The session’s other national newcomer was the legal eagle Roman J. Israel, Esq. with $4.5 million that ranked ninth.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Coco reminds Pixar why they don’t open movies in November. Some of their great titles (like The Incredibles) and their weakest (The Good Dinosaur) opened in November to contextually uninspiring numbers. And now, Coco does better than Dinosaur, but not a lot better. It will be interesting to see the ethnic demos. Meanwhile, Justice League falls further behind Wonder Woman, though it is running apace with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and $250m domestic seems likely. Wonder is the surprise hit of the season (especially relative to cost). And in the battle for awards, Call Me By Your Name sets the per-screen opening record for the year with Three Billboards expanding strongly, a solid launch for Darkest Hour, and a disappointment for Denzel J. Amazing Performance, Esq.

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Gurus o’ Gold: Thanks

The Gurus offer their usual Best Picture chart, with The Post having arrived for screenings and Phantom Thread due a day after the turkey’s been eaten. In addition, please check out the Oscar nominations that The Gurus would be thankful for as the first groups start voting next week. Lots of wonderful treats voters should have an eye out for.

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The DVD Wrapup: Good Time, Hitman’s Bodyguard, Tavernier’s Journey, Valerion, Lemon, Jabberwocky, Mick Ronson, Harmonium and more

Robert Pattison has come a long way from his tenure as Edward Cullen.

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Gurus o’ Gold: Oscars For The Ages

The Gurus do the normal Top 10, then take a look at what age groups in The Academy they think will be the primary base of support for each movie. (Here’s a hint… Get Out is for the young voters, Victoria & Abdul for the elders.)

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The Weekend Report

The righteous prevailed as Justice League dominated the marketplace with an estimated $95.6 million debut. Counterprogramming still proved effective with Wonder charting second with a potent $27.1 million and inspirational animated The Star grossing $9.8 million.

Exclusives were led by Roman J. Israel, Esq., which launched at four locations to $64,700 prior to a wide expansion Wednesday. Expansions of Lady Bird and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri sizzled as early favorites in an awards season that’s just starting.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

Justice League has a better Friday/Thursday Night than Wonder Woman, but is estimated by some to open to less than Wonder Woman over the 3-day. Is WB convincing box office writers to underestimate the weekend now so that a still-soft $105 million opening for the film will seem like a win tomorrow? Probably. Meanwhile, Lionsgate is looking at its best non-Power Rangers opening in over a year, opening Wonder to $9.6 million on Friday with a good chance of gaining strength over the weekend with an appeal to younger audiences and women. Lady Bird expands nicely, as does Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

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20 Weeks To Oscar: Season of a Different Color

I don’t know if this will be an #OscarSoWhite year. But even if Denzel Washington and Octavia Spencer are nominated, it will be the same way as two seasons ago… and likely, two seasons into the future.

The problem is not how many nominations people of color get from The Academy. The problem is that we have such a small group of “movies of color” for Academy members to consider.

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The DVD Wrapup: Wind River, Unlocked, In This Corner of the World, Funeral Parade of Roses, Zoology, Romero Redux, Indiscretion and more

What makes Wind River compelling is how Sheridan integrates it into the depiction of life above the tree line both for humans and animals.

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The Weekend Report

Thor: Ragnarok rocked and yokked to the top once more with an estimated $57.3 million. A pair of new national releases started out well: Daddy’s Home 2 took with $29.7 million while the remake of Murder on the Orient Express came into the station with $28.3 million.

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Friday Box-Office Estimates

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The Gronvall Report: “Planet of the Apes” Costar Terry Notary Takes Center Stage in “The Square”

“They were real art-world people: donors, billionaire donors, owners of galleries, and famous photographers, and some singers, too. He didn’t tell me any of that. Only on the last day did he say, ‘Do you know who you’ve been throwing water on? A billionaire donor; she’s actually the biggest donor in Sweden.'”

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Gurus o’ Gold: Pick The Winners Way Too Early

As The Gurus get into the weekly habit of prognosticating again, there was no messing around. Who is going to win? The Gurus, who are insightful, but not fools, didn’t vote for any of the movies or performances that haven’t yet been shown widely (that changes over Thanksgiving). For a “wide open season,” there are a bunch of categories that seem surprisingly close to settled in the minds of The Gurus.

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The DVD Wrapup: King George, Cars 3, Overdrive, Afterimage, Glass Castle, Whisky Galore, The Journey, Into the Night, Sissi, Stay Hungry and more

Even if Olive Films weren’t presenting its Blu-ray release of The Madness of King George as a cautionary tale, it would be difficult for any American – Republicans included – not to draw parallels to our current political predicament.

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The Weekend Report

Marvel Studios has its best off-summer opening by a large margin with Thor: Ragnarok. When everyone is following their zig, they zag. (Universal should partner on a Hulk movie. There is too much money in play not to consider it.) A Bad Moms Christmas made a number of mistakes on its way to theaters (including opening an adult Christmas movie on November 3), but $21.5m at the end of opening weekend is only a little off the original, which did five times its opening. Lady Bird delivered the biggest per-screen opening of 2017, just shy of $100k. One of the three or four likely Best Picture nominees at this late date, it delivered appropriately.

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Friday Box Office Estimates

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The DVD Wrapup and Gift Guide I: Fellini, Ernie Kovacs, Green Acres, Carol Burnett, Person-to-Person and more

It’s difficult to imagine discovering a movie by Federico Fellini that lovers of foreign films haven’t seen at least once. In the case of Arrow Academy’s “The Voice of the Moon: Special Edition” Blu-ray, “discovery” might not be the right term. The Maestro’s final feature has been sitting around in plain sight for more than a quarter-century, just waiting for some distributor to give it a whirl. Better late than never.

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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