Sometimes when I’m flirting I find myself going on jokes runs that amuse me, but may not be as amusing to the girl I’m flirting with. Last night there was a girl rocking a librarian sexy look, I told her as much, and were she one I that would totally come to her library and just check out great works of literature just to impress her. Maybe I’m the only one who finds Gerard Manley Hopkins jokes funny (to be fair, she found it amusing… her boyfriend? Less so).
This may be the best weekend for mainstream movies of the year so far, and this makes me a little sad that both films are recycled pop culture from the mid-eighties. But this makes sense on two levels. One is that the material is tested and has a brand name, the other is nostalgia. This is never a safe bet, but you have to think of studio executives nowadays as intimidated children at a restaurant. Since there are very few movie stars, and even Matt Damon can tank when taking on something interesting but not necessarily commercial, ordering a hamburger is a good way to know what you’ll get. The same is true of audiences. They want to know what they’re going to get.
But ths hasn’t always been the case. Ten years ago the economy was good, and so people were more willing to take chances with their entertainment. Granted, the Weinsteins haven’t gone away, but the move of studios to promote independent cinema was at its zenith then, when films like Life is Beautiful or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon could be big money earners. I was trying to think of the last sizable foreign language film to hit, and the only thing that came to mind was Pan’s Labyrinth. That though had geek cred, and still only did $38 Million domestic. In America – and this has a lot to do with the recession, but also the ghost of September 11 – there’s an obvious increase in public xenophobia (cf: Arizona). You couple that with piracy and reduced theatrical release windows, and then sprinkle on some Netflix, the smaller marketed films have trouble getting saturation. And if people are comfortable watching films on iPhones then the theatrical experience is not going to be deciding factor if they want to see Winter’s Bone, or Let the Right One In. They can wait for something small moreso than somthing 3-D and Imax. As such, a film like Anti-Christ goes theatrical at the same time it hits Video on Demand. The best selling point of the film will not likely be the Cannes uproar, but that it will surely be in the Criterion Collection at some point this year.
Ultimately, if money is scarce you want to know that you’re going to get your bang for the buck. And so the studios are right in recycling and sequelizing and rebooting in this cultural climate because it’s that much harder to get people to spend money on art that might infuriate them, or leave them depressed. Splice was well reviewed, but it was weird and did a pittance of the Nigtmare on Elm Street remake business. If you’re problems are outside the theater, it’s good to leave them there for two hours or so. Unfortunately, studios are very good these days at offering explosions, but don’t seem to understand character or build in their bigger movies. When you watch films from the depression era, the main characters are often simply audience surrogates, and often there is a sense of a journey. Those fluffy films envelope you in their fantasia. And to that extent, the staggering success of Avatar makes perfect sense, as it’s a film about being able to turn into something else, to become something else. But now is the time for safe, and so it shall be for a while.
ALL LOST IN THE SUPERMARKET, CAN NO LONGER PREDICT HAPPILY
The A Team should take the weekend, but The Karate Kid has a very strong possibility of playing longer, if Toy Story 3 doesn’t take allof the same audience. Next week should effectively kill Shrek, that’s for sure. Get Him to the Greek should hold the best of last week’s films.
1. The A Team – $35.5 Million
2. The Karate Kid - $29.7 Million
3. Shrek Forever After - $13.3 Million
4. Get Him to the Greek – $11 Million
5. Killers – $7.7 Million
And then more of the same in a couple of days.