A Dialogue on Movies, Books and More

Posts tagged ‘Box Office’

Episode 20 – End of the Year!

Well, it is now 2012, but we recorded our latest podcast last year, when we were all relaxed and unwound after the holidays and some time off (for those of us working…).  Maybe it was just me, but I could pretty much only find stories that were basically lists, so this episode is relatively laid back and free from any real heated debate.  In fact, one might say that we… bantered.  Ha, ha.  Don’t worry, that bit of lame humor is 2011 leftovers.  This year, the three of us are going to up our game, move to our own site, get some cooler theme music, get back to blogging as well as podcasting, and change some other stuff that our team isn’t ready to unveil yet.

So.  Here is what we talk about in Episode 20 – End of the Year!

Also, I gave reviews of:

Justin mentioned a book he’s reading, Doctor Who and Philosophy: Bigger on the Inside.

And Matt got a puppy, so be jealous!

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“On That Bombshell…”

We open tonight’s post to find our two heroes running for their lives down a dark city street, a zombie horde closing in quickly behind them. It wouldn’t be so quickly, however, neither of them are very fast runners. Justin could also stand to lose a few pounds. Run little rabbits run.

Justin: Hey! I am working on it. Who the heck hired this narrator?

Zoe: No one did as far as I know; he just sort of showed up with the zombies… and why the hell did it have to be zombies? Couldn’t it have been a hoard of fluffy bunnies or something?

Justin: Not only that, they aren’t the slow-moving kind either.  It just had to be the new “quick moving zombies.” I swear I even saw several wearing cross trainers.

Zoe: Those cheating bastards.
Our heroes burst out into the middle of a four-way intersection. They stop for a moment to catch their breath.

Justin: I told you we should have gone to the sporting equipment store for a cricket bat, but nooooo, you want to be sensible and go and have lunch.

Zoe: Well I didn’t expect the zombie apocalypse to start today.   I should’ve been better prepared; Matt and I have been watching “Reaper”: those guys are always prepared!

Justin: You should always expect the zombie apocalypse.

Zoe: Sorry, not high on my list of things to worry about. Okay, so what are our options here?

Justin: Well as you know, we have a hoard of zombies coming up from behind. To the right it looks as though an alien invasion has started. For some reason there is a large group of vampires beating the shit out of something sparkly, while a pack of werewolves stand by and watch, down the left street. I would suggest going straight but it looks like the end of the world has started down there.

Zoe: Oh my god, you know what this is?

Justin: Other than majorly screwed up?

Zoe: Well yes, but it also seems like a really bad movie that incorporates every popular trend these days.

Justin: You know, I think you’re right. I have an idea though.

However, before Justin can explain his life-saving plan, he is attacked by a zombie that begins to gnaw on his head. Zoe stands by and watches in horror as her friend gets brutally mauled. It isn’t long though before the pack of werewolves get bored with watching the vampires beat up the sparkly guy and descend upon the now distracted Zoe. It is here that our heroes fall in glorious battle. Well at least Zoe does. Justin just comes back as the reanimated dead.

(End Scene)

Justin: BRRAAIINNSSS!!!

Zoe: Ha ha, very funny. Anyway, if you didn’t guess the topic by today’s intro, I wouldn’t be surprised. Today, Justin and I thought we would talk about some popular trends these days in the book / movie / video game industry.

Justin: That’s right and most of the major ones were listed in the scene above. So, where would you like to start?

Zoe: Well over the weekend there was this hilarious trend on Twitter called #youmightbeahipster.  Do you have hipsters down there in the rural Midwest?

Justin: I think there are hipsters everywhere, including the Midwest. Probably not as many as you have out in California but enough that they drive you up the wall.

Zoe: Okay, because that’s a trend I could do without.  Just sayin’…  Some trends are funny and the kinds of trends I like and hope become more like standard plot / theme / characterization options, and some of them are just weird.  Weird one: Why will No Strings Attached and the upcoming Friends with Benefits come out in the same year?  Good one: girls kicking huge amounts of ass and saving the guys (Kick Ass, upcoming Hanna, even the not as current ladies in Death Proof saving themselves without any help from men hell yeah).

Justin: I really think there is a covert group of people out there who run around trying to figure out what the latest trends are and then shove them down our throats. Let’s take zombies for example. They have been a staple of the horror genre for a while now. However, it seems to me in the last few years zombies have become cool. They are everywhere. In the movies you have Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead and several others. Heck Netflix has a whole sub-category dedicated to just zombie movies. My favorite title so far, while browsing has to be Zombie Strippers. Anyway, you’ve got the video game industry raking in the money with games such as Left4dead and the sequel. It also seems that each game lately has to have some kind of zombie mode where you are either killing zombie cowboys or zombie Nazis or pretty much zombie anything. In television you have the hit series “The Walking Dead” and in books you have things like World War Z, The Zombie Survival Guide, and even Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. They are everywhere and as much as I love killing zombies in Left4dead or watching Woody Harrelson smash one with a banjo, enough is enough at times.

Zoe: The vampire one is just starting to fade I think, with the backlash against people who absolutely loathe Twilight and all the hoopla surrounding it.  This trend has been arguably going on for a pretty damn long time, starting with Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1992, aimed at kids and idiots, then moving on to the general public / adults with the release of Interview with a Vampire in film version in 1994 (the book was released way before in 1976, for you curious ones out there).  I’d say this craziness has been increasing over time, to hit a peak with the release of Twilight in 2008, arguably the most controversial vampire book/movie in terms of how much it deviates from general vampire canon / how quality the book actually was or was not / how much the movie sucked (pun totally intended!).

Justin: I am sorry, you just can’t have a vampire that sparkles. Not when the original Vlad the Impaler aka “Dracula,” was a heartless evil tyrant (purportedly). Sparkly just doesn’t work. But you are right and I think the Vampire trend is dying down for now. It will be back though all in good time. It seems like there really are not a lot of original ideas out there lately. Trends seem to come around again and again. Aliens/UFOs movies are a good example of this. You have movies like Independence Day come out with a few other alien movies, then there is a break and then you get movies like Skyline and Battle for L.A. It all comes around full circle. Heck even the hit show The X-Files which ended in 2002 released a movie in 2008. It is all about what can make money.

Zoe: You know what’s a smaller trend that I always find super duper awesome?  Cross-dressing and body-switching–for completely comedic value (not gender studies type–that’s a whole other favorite thing, but it’s a genre / theme / etc)!  There are a lot more of them out there than you think.  My favorites? She’s the Man, Shakespeare in Love, Sorority Boys, Freaky Friday, Some Like It Hot, Mrs. Doubtfire, Mulan, It’s A Boy Girl Thing, The Hot Chick, and in more sci-fi ways like Face/Off and Jake Gyllenhal’s new Source Code.

Justin: Not going to lie, I love how we went from zombies to vampires to aliens only to be followed up by cross-dressing. Amazing and I think something that could only be found on this blog.

Zoe: Well… it has to be goofy to differentiate between themes in movies that we like, versus specific trends…  You know, so that we have some legitimacy.

Justin: I thought just our cool opener would give us that.

Zoe: Wait!  I thought of one last awesome trend: Random cameos!!

Justin: This is true. A ton of stars have been popping up in TV shows and movies, just to be in the show or movie. Heck Paul was just one giant sci-fi movie cameos. Just one reference after another that only true sci-fi geeks would catch.

Zoe: But it was excellent even if you didn’t catch all of the little in-jokes.  There are things like Bruce Willis’s cameo in Charlie’s Angels and Tom Cruise’s BITCHIN’ turn as Lex Grossman in Tropic Thunder.  And an old school one: Bob Barker in Happy Gilmore for all you fans of Happy Madison productions.  Justin?  Any favorites?

Justin: I am sure there are plenty of cameos that I enjoy, however at the moment I can’t think of a darn one. Although Netflix just added a ton of seasons of “Top Gear” on their instant service. There are celebrity cameos in there. Although I guess they aren’t really cameos and more like guest appearances. And to quote Jeremy Clarkson, one of its hosts, “On that Bombshell, it’s time to go.”

Zoe: Night everyone!

Busy Time of Year

In school, the beginning of fall coincided with the beginning of the busiest time of the year: Midterms, then Thanksgiving, finals, winter break, and the start of the next semester.  In post-academic life, the beginning of fall still seems to signify the same thing, in essence: I get busy!  It’s not just me, of course.  For everyone working in tourism (and in an academic setting / institution, obviously) it’s high season now.  I don’t know about other professions, but I’d wager between work and the stress that comes with the approaching holidays / the holidays themselves, everyone starts to feel busier.  My husband, his friends, and of course gallons of strangers none of us knows has just started National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and even though I’m mad busy–I just finished working 7 to about 5:45, then [99% mandatory] work function 6:30 to 9–and I have no new unformed, unstarted ideas, I’m jealous of them.

But while I can’t write a novel this month, I can talk about one of my favorite upsides to this time of year: Fall movie season!  The start of movies strategically released to actively campaign / angle for awards!  Midseason replacements!

To prepare, first I checked out IMDb’s schedule of new released for November and December to see what things listed I’ve already heard of that look worthwhile.  I bolded the ones that I’m definitely seeing.

November:

  • Megamind: sweet digital comedy romp
  • 127 Hours: true story starring James Franco mostly alone
  • For Colored Girls: finally, something by Tyler Perry that interests me (maybe cause it’s based on a play he didn’t write)
  • Fair Game: re-teaming Naomi Watts and Sean Penn (21 Grams).
  • Morning Glory: could be silly, but might be poignant/sweet
  • Deathly Hollows: Part 1: I’m rereading now in preparation!!!
  • Tangled: Disney with a female who might be sassy!
  • Burlesque: dance! powerful voices! Cher! quick glimpse of Kristen Bell!
  • Love and Other Drugs: Gyllenhal and Hathaway have chemistry in the trailer–I hope it has a serious side

December:

  • Black Swan: exciting, weird trailer, strange pairing (Portman, Kunis) and one of the most intriguing directors (Aronofsky)
  • I Love You Philip Morris: Jim Carrey + Ewan McGregor = L-O-V-E
  • The Tourist: Johnny Depp playing an actual man using his own face; doesn’t happen often–story doesn’t seem worth it
  • The Tempest: Julie Taymor does Shakespeare with a powerhouse cast
  • The Company Men: should be solid, and I like Ben Affleck in ensembles
  • The Fighter: passion project of Wahlberg’s, and I trust his judgment
  • TRON: Legacy: well… I don’t remembering caring much for the original, but I’m game (ha, ha)
  • Somewhere: I love Stephen Dorff–shut up, watch SFW and then tell me you don’t see what I see
  • Country Strong: they say Paltrow’s playing against type, I say she’s a smart lady and I like what she does when she feels like doing it
  • Blue Valentine: it’s going to slay me, like the two of them (Gosling, Williams) always do, and I’m so ready, tissues in hand
  • Biutiful: Javier Bardem… I’ll see him in anything, he always gives such intense and layered performances

I then checked out new trailers at the Apple website.  It’s actually always a pretty lame gathering of trailers, but every now and then I find a few there that I haven’t caught notice of elsewhere.  This time around, it reminded me about Sucker Punch and introduced me to Ong Bak 3, and reiterated my the “Oh God, I don’t know if this is going to be awful, awesome, or awfully awesome” thought I had when Matt and I saw the Drive Angry (Nicolas Cage, Amber Heard, William Fichtner) trailer when we went to see Red.

But, I am on a work computer and it doesn’t have Adobe, so I couldn’t watch the trailers to see if any of the others that look potentially intriguing, like Hemingway’s Garden of Eden, and the foreign film Undertow.

All I’m saying is, in this season of high stress at work, during a time of year too where people have it rough (tough families, bad memories of previous holidays, too much sadness about who’s no longer around to survive the holidays with us), take some time out to see some quality movies.  I do think it’s murky business to put so many heavyweights, or potential heavyweights / unknowns that might be heavyweights-disguised-as-unknowns, into such a short time.  But I think too that it’s exhilarating to get on such a roll, and then have time to blow your hair out of your face and catch up early next year before the awards season kicks in.  I have mixed feelings about awards season, too, but man do I love to see the trends that emerge, the movies that become forerunners and the ones that get overshadowed by unexpected big draws.

Did I miss an upcoming movie that looks great?  I’m too tired to comb through all the coverage of the film festival season from a little while back to find out which of those looks good / is being released (in limited fashion, mostly).  Is there a TV show that got canned that you’re actually bummed about?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Does the Box Office Matter?

Justin: Howdy.

Zoe: Umm hi… What’s with you and using howdy?

Justin: What’s wrong with howdy?

Zoe: Howdy is for cowboys.  You live in Ohio, not Texas. Ohio is like the most neutral state in the country. Whenever they need some small podunk town with some average-speaking, average-looking people for a movie, they choose Ohio as the location.  It’s where “Glee” is set.

Justin: This is true. I can still like the word “howdy” though.  I live close enough to Kentucky that I can sound southern and I lived in Virginia for two years.

Zoe: Sure, go with that.  Anyway, do you have any ideas for us to talk about today?

Justin: Actually, I do, and it surprisingly came from Twitter.

Zoe: Another day I’m going to ask you to try to defend why on earth anyone gives a horse’s ass what everyone they know is doing or thinking or eating every second of every day in however-many characters or less.

Justin: It’s no worse than a Facebook status update. At least with Twitter you don’t have to sift through all the garbage that gets put on Facebook these days. It is what Facebook used to be… simpler.

Zoe: There is so much wrong with that, but I’m in a pretty decent mood all things considered, so I’m just going to tear myself off that subject and ask, So, what’s this idea of yours?

Justin: Well this idea came from several tweets from Kevin Smith, who is hilarious to follow on Twitter.  He may be vulgar sometimes but that is just who he is and he has some great perspective when it comes to film. I would highly recommend following “ThatKevinSmith” on Twitter if you have an account. (Warning: He does tweet a lot.)

Zoe: Yeah, that’s not an idea, Justin, that’s a free promo for Kevin Smith’s Twitter.

Justin: Let me finish jeeze. Anyway, a few days ago a discussion started to take place between Mr. Smith and those who follow him. He started tweeting about how people need to stop caring about box office numbers and start caring about the films. His basic argument was that the only people who should really care about the box office are those who have a stake in the financial aspect of the film. Other than that, you should just enjoy the movie for what it is. Just because a film doesn’t do well at the box office, doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth seeing.  Mr. Smith’s examples were Scott Pilgrim vs the World and his own Mallrats.

Zoe: As film enthusiasts, we can scoff at the box office stuff all we want, but it does have a huge impact on what we get to see and its quality.  Right now, with the financial troubles the studios have, hardly any studios want to make, buy or distribute films that are considered risky at the box office, like Scott Pilgrim and Mallrats.  On a related note, earlier this month the Wall Street Journal ran an article about the increasing power of the international market:

“The rising clout of international audiences is a sea change for Hollywood. Decades ago, a movie’s foreign box office barely registered with studio executives. Now, foreign ticket sales represent nearly 68% of the roughly $32 billion global film market, up from roughly 58% a decade ago, according to Screen Digest Cinema Intelligence Service.”

– from “Plot Change: Foreign Forces Transform Hollywood Films

Justin: That is an interesting factoid and I understand the financial crisis, however, if screenwriters and then directors, like Kevin Smith and Edgar Wright, have to worry about box office numbers, doesn’t that stifle their creative process?  It’s a shame, because how can innovation happen when people have to hamstring their stories to make films that will do well at the box office? In my personal opinion, if someone like Edgar Wright cared about box office numbers, Pilgrim would never have been made the way it was.

Zoe: I completely agree; it’s a shame.  But look, all artists have to deal with this sort of tug of war, whether they’re authors, screenwriters, directors, cinematographers, tv writers, or painters or architects.  Creative types who are unique or “niche” voices have to either compromise themselves to make their work palatable to the mainstream, or they have to just struggle and work and pray that they can get it done how they like.  It’s not as if there are only big-budget movies predicted to make over $100 million getting made.

Justin: So if you are an artist, of any sort, you are really going to struggle. I mean you have to start somewhere. However, how in today’s market, where everyone is looking for the next big box office hit, are you supposed to do that? Are you saying that everyone should just cave and make what the public wants to see? I already see that happening in the music industry, where I hear singers who have amazing voices, but instead of using them they fall into the mainstream pop. They lower themselves to sing what they think the public wants to hear.

Zoe: Absolutely.  It’s a really bad trend.  But I don’t think that all of this has to do just with the tight financial times, it just can’t.  Artists always struggle with this balance; actors, singers, writers, all of them have to balance out the paycheck with integrity or work they find challenging or rewarding.  It’s frustrating, the issue of “selling out” versus just thinking about their job as a job, nothing fancy.

Justin: That’s a whole other issue, about how to think about the job you have.  Are you an artist, or are you a businessperson?  If you land your “dream job,” what do you do, or not do, to keep it?

Zoe: You’re right.  Back on track: Clearly, everyone has not given in like babies and gone mainstream.  Most of people’s favorite movies are actually more like cult hits.  Name a few of your favorites, Justin, which are creative, unique pieces that didn’t do well, money-wise.

Justin: Boondock Saints, Firefly and Serenity, Donnie Darko, Garden State, umm Fight Club.

Zoe: See, and more directors stick to their vision than you want to admit because you’re bummed out that people are so focused on gross.  Think of directors like Tarantino (Kill Bill), Daren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Requiem for a Dream), and Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy II: The Golden Army).  They use their amazing vision to draw in massive audiences to movies they might never have considered if someone unknown made or acted in them.  Inception is a perfect example at this time.  C’mon, all big directors, writers, producers and actors start out not so big, being risky, but they prove themselves and, yeah, maybe they sell out, but lots of them can be subversive.  Look at Drew Barrymore.  She started her own production company (Flower Films) and they made He’s Just Not That Into You, but then they also made Whip It!

Justin: I guess I should remember, when it comes to creativity versus financial success, that even industry types can only think of a few people that can crank out “guaranteed” hits.  I mean, off the top of my head, the only names I can come up with, on the production side, are Michael Bay and James Cameron.  On the actor side, the names are almost the same as the top-paid list: Brad Pitt, Sandra Bullock…  This is understandable because if you love an actor you are going to go see their films. Like we talked about before when we were talking about taste.

Zoe: If you’re still depressed, think about how many writers and directors and even actors are still fighting for projects that they’re passionate about.  And I’m sure people would argue, but I think that the exposure and opportunities of film festivals still work miracles.

Justin: Yeah I see your point; there have been some great films that have come out of Cannes and Sundance. You know, at the beginning of this post I really was beginning to think you were a heartless capitalist pig, talking about how “with our financial troubles… blah blah blah.”  But I really see that you do still believe that innovation can take place and not be stifled by the pressures of the box office.

Zoe: Umm thanks… I think.

Justin: PS. Seriously if you have Twitter and you don’t mind a bunch of tweets follow “TheKevinSmith”. He is a funny funny man.

Zoe: Stop plugging Twitter.  Kevin Smith is not going to send you a “what’s up”.