I remember when bloggers decried the 2008 Best Picture nominations for including two films (Frost/Nixon and The Reader) virtually nobody had seen. The exclusion of excellent, widely seen movies like The Dark Knight led in part to ten Best Picture slots in 2009. But with 10 Best Pictures to see, moviegoers can’t shell out for them all, and so some nominees have smaller box office than ever.
During their theatrical run, The Kids Are All Right and 127 Hours grossed around $21 and $18 million. Winter’s Bone landed at $6.5 million, lower than any nominee since 1983. Since sales have shifted to DVD and Blu-ray, those numbers are locked. On one hand, the ten slots give a boost to extremely limited releases—Winter’s Bone played in only 141 theaters, compared to Toy Story 3’s 4,028 screens. But while a few pictures gain momentum, how much can we say the others really benefit?
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Deck the halls with murder, drugs, and erectile dysfunction. Once again, Hollywood has lined up an interesting array of films for Christmas week that don’t quite get me in the holiday spirit. We should be grateful that there aren’t actual holiday movies among the offerings; I’m sure we’re all unpacking our DVDs of Four Christmases to satisfy that need. But I wonder just how popular the slate of Yuletide releases will shape up to be.
Quite a few movies are opening December 22, just in time for the family to gather. I can see taking the relatives to Little Fockers, though by now the franchise looks as stale as re-gifted fruitcake. But wait until Grandma and Grandpa’s reaction as Ben Stiller stabs a needle into Robert De Niro’s drug-induced erection. Try explaining this to your children, and see if they still have dreams of sugar plum fairies. The raunchy PG-13 comedy, even one with a younger generation of Fockers, seems like a hard sell for a multigenerational family movie on Christmas. But I’ve found that studios tend to push the envelope for Santa’s big day.
And they like to gift us with Oscar bait. This year, the Coen brothers return to the West with True Grit, which hinges on a young girl’s father shot in cold blood. Their last effort in the West, No Country for Old Men, was chilling and violent. From the trailer, True Grit looks more cemented to its genre, with hallmarks like a big, bad sheriff, a quaint desert town, and plenty of gunshots and horses. Matt Damon offers some comic relief, but the rating promises “intense sequences of Western violence” and “disturbing images.”
Also on the marquee: An actor and a country singer, both struggling with their own addictions, question how to survive and what course to take. This describes Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere and Country Strong with Gwyneth Paltrow, both in limited release. The latter will be inspirational, right down to its title song, but still—two options for pill-popping over the holidays.
Then there’s Rabbit Hole, which expands from its limited release on December 25. It’s not quite as morose as previously Oscar contenders (Christmas with The Reader, anyone?). But the loss of Nicole Kidman’s son hovers over a grieving family. From the wackos in Little Fockers to the missing son in Rabbit Hole, Christmas movies really have it in for the stable family.
If you want a film for the kids, there’s always Gulliver’s Travels… starring renowned classics actor Jack Black. Judging by the trailer, it looks like the progeny of School of Rock and Land of the Lost. So perhaps we should be grateful for non-conventional holiday fare. Tis the season for dysfunction.Continue Reading »
Note from the editor: Zoom In is the newest series to Unknown Critics. Josh will unpack trailers, posters, and other promotional material of upcoming releases. I’m thrilled he’s decided to join us and contribute. This is his first post.
Behind every movie, good or bad, are hundreds of people molding and shaping it. From the director down to the caterer, many small decisions are made day by day that change a film forever. I’m here as a sort of analyst for Unknown Critics. With each post, I’ll focus in on the small details: how a trailer is made, perhaps, or how an actress delivers her lines.
Audiences see the first glimpses of a film visually through the trailer and the poster. Trailers can be misleading in tone, but they are still cobbled from the actual movie. Posters are fantasies: how the studios want us to see the film. Think of the recent controversy over Blue Valentine, which was slapped with an NC-17 by the MPAA. Is it any coincidence that this poster, released last week, plays into the furor?
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