Movies postsSaturday March 08, 2008
Gore Vidal once wrote a piece — in 1973 — on “The Top 10 Best Sellers According to The Sunday New York Times as of January 7, 1973,” and in the March issue of The Believer magazine I do something similar with movies, but from an historical perspective: the top 10 box office hits according to Variety as of March 19, 1958. What the movies we watched say about what we were; what they say about where we are. You can read an excerpt here.
Also check out the interview between Werner Herzog and Errol Morris.
"New Indiana Jones trailer is smash hit"
I live in Seattle and I used to live in Minneapolis and I edit magazines in different states around the country so I visit a lot of newspaper Web sites. It's part of my job and part of my interest. And yesterday I saw the same headline in almost all of them.
About Iraq? Pakistan? About the March 4 showdown between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? No. It was about the trailer for the new Indiana Jones movie.
Apparently it's a smash hit. That's what they all said. In fact, if you Google the entire headline in quotes, "New Indiana Jones trailer is smash hit," you'll get (as of this morning) over 58,000 hits. Smash or otherwise.
They all pulled the same AP story by Regina Robertson. About the viral spread of the trailer. About how it's doing well online. About how kids might not know from Indiana but that's the challenge because that's the demographic. The usual quotes from Paramount marketing execs and the Aintitcool.com dude. It was probably the biggest news story of the day.
I understand why it was big. It was about entertainment so it might appeal to kids but it was about an older dude so it might appeal to the newspaper's actual demographics. Classic analog hero in digital age clash. Who will win?
Here's what bugs me. Paramount estimates that the trailer was seen 200 million times in its first week? When are they going to get the actual figures? Paramount says the 4.1 million hits on the Yahoo movie site was a record? What does Yahoo say? Do they have a say? Do they want one? Or are they just waiting to be bought? Now that's a feeling we can all get behind.
It's not even PR journalism, it's TV Guide journalism, because the brunt of the story is less about what's been (the release of the trailer) than what's about to be (the release of the movie in May). It's all about anticipation and more and more that's what we focus on. Culturally we're a myopic country peering into the middle distance for any kind of good (or cool) news. Because the past is so five minutes ago and the present is unknown and uncomfortable. But that thing that's about to happen? That we can anticipate in this way? Hell, maybe that can pull us along a little bit and get us out of where we are. Maybe it's the old dude in the leather jacket who can finally save us. At least for two hours. In May.
Once he gets here, though, he's done. Because his not being here is exactly the point. Then we'll need a whole new headline.
The latest MSNBC piece — on Woody Harrelson — is up now. This morning I realized something I should've added. In Semi-Pro, not only is Woody not playing the dumbest guy onscreen; he's actually playing the smartest. Whole new territory for him.
Netflix gets it right
Minor thing, but I'm glad Netflix has changed alphabetically listing, say, the films of Martin Scorsese or Tom Hanks, and are going with the chronological approach. The arc of a filmmaker or movie star is chronological not alphabetical. For me, it's easier to find what I want.
Yeah, I know, I alphabetized the reviews on the film page but even this seems wrong to me. Just go to the S's and you get Sanger fran andra vaningen followed by Saving Private Ryan and the original Scarface. And then? Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. Weird. Some things just shouldn't hang together.
Everyone deserves an Oscar nom
Lord knows I’ve had my complaints about the Oscars over the years but lately I’ve begun to have more complaints about Oscar’s complainers. A recent “Must List” in Entertainment Weekly is indicative. They subtitled it “Snubbed by Oscar Edition” and listed off 10 of the snubbees, including two for best actress (Keri Russell for Waitress, Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart), two for best actor (Christian Bale for Rescue Dawn and Ryan Gosling for Lars and the Girl) and two for best director (Joe Wright for Atonement and Sean Penn for Into the Wild).
All fine. But you’re not dealing with an infinite number of spaces here. So if you’re going to say Wright and Penn both deserve director nods, tell us who didn’t deserve them. Julian Schnabel? Jason Reitman? Tony Gilroy? Angelina Jolie was great. So choose her over who? Ellen Page? Cate Blanchett? And really? Christian Bale and/or Ryan Gosling over Tommy Lee Jones or Viggo Mortensen or Johnny Depp or George Clooney or Daniel Day-Lewis? If you’re adding, you gotta subtract. If you’re going to bitch about the Academy, you’ve gotta play within their parameters. Otherwise we’re back to grade school and everyone deserves a gold star.
And that’s my first petty bitching about other people’s petty bitching.