Check out this Top Ten of ’07 list at Movie City News. Growing and evolving, might rearrange in a few days. No Country for Old Men at the top, of course. But look at #2. So it’s not just the British critics and four or five other guys (myself included). The total absence of Zodiac as a Best Picture winner with all of the various award-giving groups so far amounts to some kind of disconnect.
Ten years ago James Cameron‘s Titanic had been playing for one week (it opened on 12.14.97) and had made $28 million and change. Nobody knew how far it would go or how deeply it would connect, but I suspected — as did a lot of movie journalists and industry types who were invited to the first wave of screenings — it would be huge.
I had first seen it on a rainy afternoon in late November on the Paramount lot. I took Matt Drudge as my guest, and I remember feeling shaken and moved as I walked back to my car in the early evening. I didn’t share my feelings with Drudge nor he with me, but we were both a little beside ourselves. I knew in my heart of hearts that 93% of Titanic was only good (or pretty good), but that the last 15 minutes were heartbreaking, and that the final sequence was a levitation.
Nobody will ever feel the Titanic vibe the way a lot of us did back then. It was ruined, in a sense, by the worldwide mob loving it so much. The more popular it became with K-Mart Nation, in fact, the less affection I was able to feel for it. Or express my feelings for with any freedom. I feel as if I’ve been living in a Titanic gulag every since. The hip backlash kicked in a month or two later, and now it’s hard to find anyone in the intelligentsia who will admit to even liking it. It’s a deeply despised film.
And yet the negative feelings about it — almost all of this coming from know-it-all film snobs — over the last ten years have convinced me with more certainty than almost anything else that I’ve seen and felt over my 27 years of writing about movies that the smarty-pants crowd is sometimes deeply full of it.
Titanic didn’t make more money than any film in the history of motion pictures because it provided cheap emotional junk-food highs to teenage girls swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio. It did this because it touched people (including my cranky, emotionally shut-off father) in a way that, like it or not, was extremely primal and shattering. I’m not going to explain the how and why of this. Everyone has their views pretty well sorted out about this film. I’m just saying that when a film that connects this strongly and deeply it has done something right.
At the very least Titanic provided a payoff in such a way that the first 90%, some of which was merely sufficient and some of which was admittedly mediocre, served as a mere preamble or build-up. The most affecting films always do something like this. They simmer and marinate and take their time with the various ingredients and themes, and then along comes the last 15 minutes and it all starts paying off like a slot machine.
Obviously you have to watch these films to the end or the whole effect collapses.
I was friendly and talking occasionally with Owen Wilson back then, and I told him over and over how great the finale was. I took him to a Titanic screening about a week or so before it opened, in the very same Paramount lot theatre. He hated it. He left the theatre without saying a word less than 30 minutes in.
“I attended the Friday 4:35 pm screening of Sweeney Todd at The Grove. A full house at the beginning, though numerous walk outs [happened] during first two songs. The film was not sold as a musical and I believe these people were Pirates fans who were caught off guard.” — HE reader Jerry Beck, 12.22.07, 9:43 ayem. Surprised male moviegoer: “What a rook! They screwed us! Let’s ask for our money back!” Wife of surprised male moviegoer: “You won’t get anything back. Let’s just sneak into another film.”
Leaving aside the Bagger’s japey suggestions about how to have an Oscar Awards show without writers or talent in the seats, I was taken by the declaration at the start that the Oscars “are TBTF — Too Big Too Fail. Strike-ridden, snakebit, say what you will, but some kind of the show will go on. Too much money and ego are riding on it for a workaround not to emerge.” The fact that the DGA will cut a deal with the AMPTP a lot sooner than later (i.e., early next month?) will probably affect the WGA talks. Unlike the WGA and SAG, a healthy portion of the DGA members work on a regular basis. But if the strike continues and messes with the Globes and the Oscars, it’s going to be strange in a lot of ways.
National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets will be #1 this weekend with about $54 million and $14,000 a print. (I may actually pay to see this today.) I Am Legend is down 52% from last weekend but still at #2 — $36.9 million for the weekend. Alvin & Chipmunks will be third with $31.7 million, down 26%. Sweeney Todd will take in $12 million and $9600 a print for a fourth-place showing.
The fifth-place performer, Charlie Wilson’s War, is appealing strictly to a 30-and-over crowd that doesn’t tend to go to movies in any real strength until Xmas Day, so it might uptick next weekend. The Mike NIchols film will earn $9.3 million and $3500 a print.
HIlary Swank‘s P.S. I Love You..$7.4 million, $3000 a print. Enchanted..$4.5 million. Walk Hard…$4,450,000…$1600 a print. The Golden Compass…$4.3 million. Juno is tenth with $3.7 million, $12,000 a print in 384 theatres.
Walk Hard has become the first Judd Apatow-produced comedy since the Apatow hot streak started three years ago to fall on its face. It’s expected to make a lousy $4,450,000 for the weekend at $1600 a print….finished, kaput, off to the showers. It’s funny, clever, sharp, absurdist..what happened? My theory in a nutshell: (a) people figured that a spoof of Walk The Line and Ray wasn’t vital enough to see in theatres, and (b) John C. Reilly isn’t a star, doesn’t put butts in seats.
HE reader Jamie Rosengard, writing from a secret location that may or may not be within the continental United States of America, reported this morning that he “had the pleasure of seeing Sweeney Todd [last] night at a 10 pm showing. I was initially pleased to see there was a full house. However, it quickly became apparent that few people in the audience had any idea what they were getting themselves into. When the movie finally started and the first song began there was an audible gasp — almost no one realized that the film is a musical.”
“Audible gasp”? How completely shut-off-from-the-hullaballoo do you have to be to not have the first clue that Sweeney Todd is a musical? To be a complete human embodiment of a grazing steer and know absolutely nothing about a film except what the ads and trailers convey? To be walking around and not have the slightest idea who Stephen Sondheim is? People have their own lives and concerns to look after, obviously, and the tens of millions who’ve never been to a B’way show can’t be expected to know much about this or that stage musical, but even people who are totally lacking a sports gene (like myself) at least know who the New York Rangers are and that they all carry hockey sticks…c’mon.
“Based on the reactions I heard on the way out, nearly everyone enjoyed Sweeney Todd,” Rosengard goes on, “particularly Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter‘s acting (if not the latter’s singing). But I am curious about how Warner’s marketing strategy has influenced the people interested in buying a ticket for the movie.”
Variety‘s Bill Higgins, the veteran party-coverage guy, reported in yesterday’s print edition that the WGA strike impasse has pushed Golden Globe after-party planners to the edge of the abyss. With the WGA intending to picket the GG awards and talent (i.e., prospective award-winners) reluctant to cross picket lines, party maestros are grappling with a growing possibility that the whole damn shebang could very well implode.
“Planners are studiously trying to avoid upsetting the HFPA by prematurely canceling their after-party,” Higgins writes. “‘We’re trying to determine the point of no return,’ one exec says. ‘Nobody wants to be the first person to drop out.'”
As Higgins points out, by late December invitations “are [usually] printed and the venues are booked for the Golden Globes after-parties, the cost of which range from $300,000 to $700,000.
“But this year the event planners who put on Golden Globe parties need answers. Are the Globes on or off? If there’s a picket line, will the stars cross it? And how does all this affect the $40,000 in matching chair covers and table linens needed for the event?
“For party planners, the key question is whether the nominees are going to attend. If the thesps won’t cross the picket line, then what’s the use? ‘It’s all going to come down to: Can the Globes come up with a feasible plan that the talent is comfortable with and don’t have to cross a picket line?’ a planner comments. ‘And I don’t know what that is.'”