Here’s a great TED talk by Rob Legato, creator of movie effects so good they (sometimes) trump the real thing. The stuff on “Apollo 13” and “Titanic” is pretty amazing, and he discusses “Hugo” as well.
In a funny way, the most surprising thing about this year’s batch of Academy Award nominations was how strongly they stayed true to Oscar’s long-held habits — even a Film Drunk could see it this year. At least in terms of sheer numbers of nominations, the Academy was most generous to a historical/inspirational costume drama from England over a somewhat edgier and less traditionally fashioned tale ripped from today’s business headlines.
“The King’s Speech” led the nominations with 12, followed by “True Grit” with 10, and just eight for “The Social Network” — still very much the front-runner in my opinion — and “Inception.” Though Anne Thompson sees the momentum shifting in a more royal direction, I think it’s a big mistake this time around to read too much into sheer quantity. For example, I would be surprised to see a huge number of non-“technical” awards for “True Grit” or “Inception.” (Roger Deakins’ “True Grit” cinematography and the amazing effects of Christopher Nolan’s team being very likely winners).
Considering where most of the awards have gone so far, the only thing really going for “The King’s Speech” and against the previously prohibitive favorite, “The Social Network,” is aforementioned traditional Oscar genre prejudices and the inevitable backlash most highly acclaimed and award winnings films get. However, outside of infantile attention-hog critic Armond White, I actually haven’t noticed a huge anti-“Network” backlash though there were some off-target feminist complaints. (A movie about an almost literal boys’ club is going to depict a boys’ club atmosphere.) In any case, the rather enormous and still ongoing on- and off-line backlashes against “American Beauty,” “Crash” and “Titanic” clearly didn’t hurt those films’ Oscar prospects one bit.
Those of us speculating on the possibility of a surprise in either the high or low direction for “Inception” early on Friday (okay, that would mainly be me), have now been silenced by the weekend estimates. They appear to have come down on the highish side of what the professional prognosticators expected, even if some of them were confessing to uncertainty. (Where did I read that? It’s gone now from where I thought I read it but maybe my dreams are being manipulated by a crack team hired by a Japanese billionaire who hates Nikki Finke.)
So, no, Christopher Nolan’s highly praised but also controversial science-fiction thriller film for Warner Brothers is officially not “too smart” or too not-franchise-associated to be a hit, if an estimated $60.4 million is enough to constitute a hit these days for a $200 million film. It’s also worth noting that it managed this without an artificial boost from inflated 3-D ticket prices. I wonder if some math whizzes out there can compare this to the “disappointing” $77 million opening for “Avatar.” Anthony D’Alessandro points out this is the strongest North American opening ever for a Leonardo DiCaprio-headlined movie, which includes “Titanic.”(That box office stinker only made about $28 million domestically it’s first weekend.)
Still, as always, the question remains “legs” and how the word-of-tweet-facebook update-txt-mouth goes. The L.A. Times reported that the film scored a B+ on Cinemascore, reportedly dividing the audience by age with under 25-ers giving it an A and us oldsters giving it a B-. So are middle-aged filmgoers more discerning or younger ones more open to real genius? (Hey, politically, I tend to agree more with under-25 years olds more than people my own age who mostly loved Ronald Reagan, who I believe peaked in “Storm Warning” with Ginger Rogers.)
…I suggest you got to the front of your local multiplex, remove your pants, sing “La Cucaracha” at the top of your voice, and see what happens. You certainly won’t get anything too unexpected from the weekend’s movie grosses based on what I wrote Thursday night.
According to Box Office Mojo , once again the 3-D science fiction fable that just won’t quit, “Avatar” continues to “hold” fabulously for Fox and is down only 14.1% from last weekend for a very nice total of $30 million in its seventh week atop the box office. Jolly Carl DiOrio reminds us, however, that while James Cameron‘s previous “Titanic” record is about to be demolished in terms of raw cash, that mega-blockbuster stayed on top of the box office for an astonishing 15 weekends. (I’m glad I wasn’t writing these back in 1997-8; I might have gone insane from the repetition.) Of course, all it takes to end the record is one really sizable new hit movie to make into the high twenties or low thirties. We’ll see.
For now, that sizable new hit remains a mere phantom. This week’s silver medalist is the thriller “Edge of Darkness, starring Mel Gibson” The film managed an estimated $17.12 million in 3,066 theaters for Warners, making for an unexciting per screen average of $5,584. This is not a terrible performance, but given the film’s $80 million budget, it ain’t great. Some of you (you know who you are) may recall that, when the space opera “Serenity” opened with about $10 million some years back, it was deemed a fairly major disappointment with a budget of less than half that much. Ol’ Sugar Tits and company are going to have to hold on very well at the box office in subsequent weeks if he wants this to be seen as anything resembling the start of an acting comeback. Speaking of movies related to great-but-canceled television shows with high geek appeal, what does it mean that, just as I was starting to write this post, the Dandy Warhols’ “We Used to Be Friends” came on the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf’s Muzak? Yes, the theme to “Veronica Mars” put me in mind of the performance of the critically drubbed romantic comedy “When in Rome.” Still, the appeal of former TV teen detective Kristen Bell may have counted for enough to get the film a non-terrible estimated opening weekend of $12+ million for Disney, which might be enough, or not, depending on the budget.
There was some interesting blowback from prior weeks. Last week’s surprising situation where the killer-angel film “Legion” came in at a strong #2 with over $28 million, defeating the family appeal of Fox’s “The Tooth Fairy” was reversed this week. The PG-rated Dwayne Johnson comedy vehicle stayed in the #4 position and earned an estimated $10 million dropping a relatively very modest 28% in its second week. “Legion” from Screen Gems sank by a whopping 61.1% and came in at the #6 spot, beneath “The Book of Eli,” with only an estimated $6.8 million.
The only other news of much note is the strong performance of the slowly expanding country-music themed drama, “Crazy Heart” — featuring a multi-award-winning performance by Jeff Bridges that really seems like an Oscar lock. In 239 theaters as of this weekend, the film earned one of the weekend’s best per-screen averages ($9,414) for an estimated total of $2.25 million. That will be sweet, soulful music to the ears of the suits of Fox Searchlight.