In a 7.6 article by The Oregonian‘s Shawn Levy about the uncertain commercial prospects facing Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild, Cinema 21 owner-operator Tom Ranieri offers a succinct analysis of what makes a hit film: “A movie has to have a spark for there to be any chance of finding an audience. Winning awards is part of the overall marketing can of gasoline. A ton of fuel with no spark equals no fire.”
My quote in Levy’s piece says that “there’s always been a huge aesthetic gap between film journos and cineastes who attend film festivals and Average Joes who buy tickets to see films.” The difference, in Rainieri’s equation, is that film festival audiences are hip and perceptive enough to spot a film with good gasoline, and that in itself is enough to warrant praise. But Joe Popcorn wants that spark, and if he senses it isn’t there he won’t show up, asshole that he sometimes can be.
David Poland‘s tweet about Beasts says it all — he thinks it’s a beautiful art film on its own terms, but it doesn’t play to the schmoes because it doesn’t entertain. I think it does “entertain” if you just open your pores a bit. My only beef was that Nancy-boy remark about Beasts starting to feel too gooey and muddy and boozy after the first hour or so. But then it pays off beautifully at the finale so I’m not understanding why people are taking shots.
Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone, an unabashed Beasts lover, is also sensing this resistance.