The Dumbest Thing Said at CPAC?
Breitbart headline: FRED THOMPSON: CONSERVATIVE FILMS NOT MADE BECAUSE OF HOLLYWOOD 'COCKTAIL CURRENCY'
Repsonse: Right. If only Hollywood made movies starring good guys who use guns to save the world from usually nonwhite bad guys. But that'll never happen.
On second thought: That's not nearly the dumbest thing said at CPAC. Dinesh D'Souza spoke, after all.
Maybe someday we'll be able to see scenes like this on our movie screens. But liberal Hollywood keeps getting in the way.
Breitbart's 2014 Box Office Predictions Obvious, Lack Context
Bretibart says Katniss will rise highest two years in a row. Has that ever happened?
The Breitbart site has given us its 2014 box-office predictions two months into 2014, but what the hell. The first two months are always throat clearing for Hollywood anyway.
Among its predictions?
- “Mark Wahlberg will become the industry's next big action star.”
- “With films 300: Rise of an Empire, Maleficent, Divergent, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Dolphin Tale 2 set to open well, a lot of new talent will be joining current new talent heavyweight Jennifer Lawrence.”
- “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part One Will Be Year's Biggest Grosser.”
Wow, going out on a limb, BB. My responses:
- Wasn't he 10 years ago?
- New talent? You mean Shailene Woodley from “The Descendants”? Or maybe Sir Ian McKellan from “X-Men”? It would be nice if they named names, as their political ancestors did.
- The sequel to the biggest movie of 2013 will be the biggest movie of 2014? Shocker!
Actually, wait. Maybe that last one is a shocker. Has the same franchise movie ever been the year's biggest movie in back-to-back years?
Here's a list of sequels that were the biggest domestic box-office hits of the year, followed by time removed from predecessors:
- 1980: “The Empire Strikes Back” (Three years after “Star Wars” was 1977's biggest movie)
- 1983: “Return of the Jedi” (Three years after “Empire” was 1980's biggest movie)
- 1991: “Terminator 2” (Seven years after the first movie was the 21st-biggest-hit of 1984)
- 1999: “The Phantom Menace” (16 years after “Jedi” was 1983's biggest movie)
- 2003: “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” (One year after “Two Towers” was the second-biggest movie of 2002)
- 2004: “Shrek 2” (Three years after “Shrek” was the third-biggest grosser of 2001)
- 2005: “Revenge of the Sith” (Three years after “Clones” was the third-biggest movie of 2002)
- 2006: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest” (Three years after the first “Pirates” was the third-biggest movie of 2003)
- 2007: “Spider-Man 3” (Three years after “Spider-Man 2” was the second-biggest grosser of 2004)
- 2008: “The Dark Knight” (Three years after “Batman Begins” was the eighth-biggest hit of 2005)
- 2010: “Toy Story 3” (Eleven years after “Toy Story 2” was the third-biggest hit of 1999)
- 2011: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” (One year after “HPATDH Part 1” was the fifth-biggest grosser of 2010)
- 2013: “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (One year after “The Hunger Games” was the third-biggest hit of 2012)
Two things you notice about the above: 1) Sequels used to be spaced three years apart and now come more quickly, thanks to CGI; and 2) we're loving our sequels more and more. Or maybe Hollywood's just better at making them.
For two decades, in the 1980s and '90s, only four sequels were the year's biggest hit: three “Star Wars” movies and “T2.” But in the last decade? A sequel has been the year's biggest hit every year since 2003 with the exception of 2009 (“Avatar”) and 2012 (“The Avengers”); and you can make an argument for the latter as a sequel.
Anyway, the larger point stands: The Breitbart site seems to be predicting the obvious but is actually predicting something that's never happened. They should have mentioned that in their post.
The above stats are taken from Box Office Mojo, which tracks back only to 1980. Numbers before then are an iffy territory (if they're not now). But if you do go back further, as I did with “The Hollywood Reporter of Box Office Hits,” you'll find one sequel that was the No. 1 box office hit of the year one year removed from its original. “The Bells of St. Mary's,” with Bing Crosby as Father O'Malley, was the No. 1 movie of 1945 the year after “Going My Way,” with Bing Crosby as Father Chuck O'Malley, was the No. 1 movie of 1944.
So it has been done. Once. Seventy years ago.
Breitbart site? It's called research.
Katniss is trying to do what only this man has ever done. But can she sing?
Trailer of the Day: The Last of the Unjust
I could do without the American trailer narration. It's just wrong for this documentary.
Anyone know when it might play Seattle?
Help Me Copy Curmudgeon, You Are My Only Hope
I'm reading “Hollywood” by Garson Kanin on my Kindle and came across this spelling error from amazon.com. It's on the Kindle, too, but not in the book. ATTN: Copy Curmudgeon. Not to mention Mr. B:
“Hollywood” is a lot of fun, by the way. Great stories so far on Samuel Goldwyn. He's a major asshole but he's got personality, and, as we've learned, personality goes a long way.
When Modern Celebrity Began
“It seems so strange that so many people would gather at the train to welcome one they had never seen, only in pictures.”
-- Florence Lawrence, “The Biograph Girl,” and the first designated movie star, after she was mobbed by fans at the St. Louis railroad station in March 1910, as reported in Ty Burr's “Gods Like Us: On Movie Stardom and Modern Fame,” pg. 17. Burr adds: “No one understood what had just happened, least of all the woman at the center of the rapture.” You could say our modern world, with its heavy focus on fame and celebrity, began here.
In Talking Oscars, Breitbart's Big Hollywood Makes Fox News Seem Fair and Balanced
Big Hollywood attributes the Oscar ratings boost to the lack of politics at the event during the Obama years. (Above: First Lady Michelle Obama announces the best picture winner, for “Argo,” in 2013.)
How bad is Breitbart's Big Hollywood site? It makes Fox News look fair and balanced in comparison.
Big Hollywood recently posted an article on the bounce-back ratings for the Academy Awards Sunday night (43 million vs. 32 million in 2008) and attributes it solely to the lack of “boorish, smug, divisive political behavior” from the Hollywood elites during the Obama years. No Michael Moore speeches, no anti-Iraq war speeches, etc. So viewers are tuning in again. “Who would have ever guessed?” John Nolte asks smugly, if not to say divisively, at the end.
The problem? 2008 was also the last year there were five best picture nominees—nominees, by the way, that had long stopped being among the top box-office hits of the year. (See this chart.) That was the whole point of expanding the nominee pool: to get bigger box-office hits among the mix, and thus, hopefully, goose the TV ratings. Do politics, or apolitics, have something to do with the recent ratings boost? Who knows? But for Nolte not to mention the expansion of best picture nominees verges on duplicitous.
The Fox News site, on the other hand, while it gives us a boorish, divisive headline about another Oscar matter (“Academy, Hollywood's failure to recognize 'Lone Survivor' a travesty”), attempts some fair and balanced reporting from James Jay Carafano.
His piece is about how “Lone Survivor,” the Mark Wahlberg/Afghanistan/anti-My Lai picture, garnered no nominations despite some critical and box-office acclaim. Certain right-wing pundits (Sean Hannity) have used this as an example, according to Carafano, of “how liberal Hollywood really hates the military.” Carafano isn't convinced. He brings up “Saving Private Ryan” and “The Hurt Locker,” and echoes the shrug of The National Review's Jonah Goldberg over the controversy.
True, Carafano writes, in over-the-top fashion:
In the annals of American war films, the technical accuracy and realism of this film is unprecedented. In this regard, it is truly a historic cinematic achievement. For Hollywood, not to salute that is a travesty.
But he adds:
That said, it’s simply unfair to label Tinsel Town as a bunch of pathetic pacifists.
(Of course, that's almost like push-journalisim, isn't it? The way that push-polling is about disseminating false facts rather than extracting true information, this could be the same from the journalism side: pretending to be vaguely objective while pushing propaganda points.)
Carafano also gets his numbers wrong.
In the first graf, he compares “Survivor” to “Waterworld,” the 1995 Kevin Costner flick that actually garnered an Oscar nomination (sound editing) even though “Lone Survivor” has none, and even though the Wahlberg flick “also crushed it in ticket sales.”
First, you can create the world's greatest film festival from the movies that never received an Oscar nomination—from 1957 alone: “A Face in the Crowd,” “Paths of Glory” and “Sweet Smell of Success”—so I'd leave that one alone. Second, the numbers are fudged. Yes, “Survivor”'s domestic box office is bigger than “Waterworld” ($123.5 million to $88 million), but when you adjust for inflation “Survivor” is the same while “Waterworld” is on top with $169 million. And that doesn't even take into account international box office, where “Waterworld” grossed $175 million in 1995 (unadjusted) and “Survivor” grossed exactly zero dollars this past year, because it hasn't been released overseas. Will it ever? Who knows? Maybe Universal feels it won't play in Europe. Or Asia. Or anywhere but here. There's a story there.
In the end, the handwringing over “Lone Survivor”'s zero noms is overdone. It's an OK movie but hardly great. For all of these reasons.
“Wait, we didn't make as much as 'Waterworld'?”
Yankees Suck Reason #38: Keeping Vic Power in the Minors
Vic Power had his best years with the Athletics in 1955, when he hit .319 and slugged .505, with 34 doubles, 10 triples and 19 homers.
John Rosengren, who has written two previous books on baseball, has now published a third: “The Fight of Their Lives: How Juan Marichal and John Roseboro Turned Baseball's Ugliest Brawl into a Story of Forgiveness and Redemption.” It's worth checking out. (Disclosure: Rosengren's a friend.)
Most baseball fans know about the incident. In the midst of a tight pennant race in August 1965, Juan Marichal, a future Hall of Fame pitcher, who was at the plate, took a baseball bat to the head of catcher John Roseboro. Rosengren's book is the story behind those 10 seconds of infamy.
The most interesting aspect of the book, though, may be the sections on the history of dark-skinned Latinos integrating the Majors after Jackie. It includes yet another stellar moment in Yankees history:
Vic Power (né Victor Pellot Pove), a dark-skinned infielder from Puerto Rico, had married a light-skinned Hispanic woman, but when he drove her around Kansas City—where he played for the Athletics in 1955—police regularly stopped him to question him about the white woman in the passenger seat. Another time, after Power bought a Coke at a gas station in Florida, the attendant boarded the team bus and demanded that Power return the bottle. Power complied with some choice words. A patrol car soon pulled over the bus, and the officer arrested Power for profanity. Power’s teammates posted bail of $500 but warned him not to go back for the trial. “What kind of country is this?” Power asked.
America’s team gave him his answer. Power batted .330 and drove in 109 runs for the New York Yankees’ AAA team in 1952, but the parent club did not promote him. The next year, Power won the American Association batting title with his .349 average but still didn’t get called up. Knowing that Power’s stylish play and his relationship with a white woman (whom he would soon marry) might ruffle the team’s staid fan base, Yankees general manager George Weiss said Power wasn’t the “right kind” of black man to integrate the Yankees. The team’s traveling secretary Bill McCorry was more blunt: “No nigger will have a berth on any train I’m running.” Yankee president Dan Topping tried to justify the team’s decision by labeling Power a “poor fielder.”
Once Power finally did get a crack at the big leagues after the Yankees traded him to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1954, the infielder went on to win seven Gold Gloves ...
For the record, the Yankees were the unlucky 13th of the original 16 teams to integrate (in 1955 with Elston Howard), behind only the Phillies ('57), Tigers ('58) and Red Sox ('59), and despite the other New York teams being the first (Dodgers in '47) and fourth (Giants in '49) to move the country, the culture, and the world forward.
Nikki Finke on What We'll Be Watching in Five Years
“It will all blur, now that you’ve got Netflix and Amazon and everything. I think a lot of it is going to blur. It used to be you only wanted to be in a movie. If you couldn’t be in a movie you wanted to be in a network series. If you couldn’t be in a network series, then maybe HBO. Because remember, you’re not getting paid as much for all these things. And then cable. In five years, you’re not even going to be aware of where the hell you’re watching, if it’s broadcast, if it’s cable, if it’s Netflix. TV is getting so smart right now and the platforms on your phone and your iPad and everything, you’re just watching. You’re not even going to be aware what it is, you’re just watching.”
-- Nikki Finke, in “Nikki Finke: The Kindle Singles Interview” by David Blum. I read it in about an hour. Pretty interesting. She's particularly good on the studios and studio chiefs, and who greenlit what, and who was a bastard to whom, all of which I know almost nothing about. I particularly like the last line of the quote above. Reminds me of Chance the Gardener.
“Democracy is so overrated.”
SLIDESHOW: My Oscar Picks
SLIDESHOW: This is who I want to win, not who I think will win. I have no inside information, being in Seattle, but I'll bring up some of the favorites. I'll also mention who's missing from among the nominees, if anyone. Overall, I have to admit, it's been a good year for Hollywood movies and the Academy did a good job picking its nominees. Its big blind spot was not giving any love to “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but then, as my friend Jim Walsh writes, that's the nature of Llewyn Davis. Nothing would be more incongruous than Llewyn Davis winning anything. If you want him during awards time, he'll be in the back alley getting his ass kicked. But onward.
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “HAPPY”: What's missing, of course, is any song from “Inside Llewyn Davis,” or at least the original songs (“Please, Mr. Kennedy,” etc.), but even if that were nominated I'd probably still go with this song—and not just because Patricia's obsessed with it. It's because Pharrell's voice is great, the song grooves, and it does what it sets out to do. It makes us happy.
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: GRAVITY“: Sure, great effects and whiz-bang in ”Star Trek Into Darkness“ ”The Hobbit 2,“ and ”Iron Man 3.“ But c'mon. This movie was an experience. It was a spectacle. It pushed the bounds. It went where no film had gone before.
BEST FILM EDITING: ”AMERICAN HUSTLE“: How do you choose this category unless you know what the editor was working with? But I'd go ”Hustle“ based on how quickly it moved through the movie's many different storylines in a way that felt left almost nothing extraneous on the screen. It's a quick, fun, fat-free movie. The only extra weight was what Christian Bale put on.
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: BRUNO DELBONNEL, ”INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS“: I wouldn't be surprised if the black-and-white movie wins (”Nebraska“) but ”Llewyn Davis“ felt black and white to me. This is Delbonnel's fourth nomination, after ”Amélie, “Un long dimanche de fiançailles,” and “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.” Roger Deakins, who often photographs the Coens' movies, is also up, for “Prisoners.” It's his 11th nomination with no wins. Could be interesting. Would love to see someone from this movie up there.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM: “THE GREAT BEAUTY”: It won the Globe and the BAFTA, and its strongest competition isn't here: “The Past,” from Iran, and “Blue is the Warmest Color” from France. Plus it was No. 3 in my top movies of 2013. Although does that count against it ulimtately? Either way, Jep (above) gave us the best Oscar-night advice: “We're all on the brink of despiar. All we can do is look each other in the face, keep each other company, joke a little. Don’t you agree?”
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: “THE ACT OF KILLING”: Every year this category gets tougher. Think of all the great 2013 docs that didn't even get nominated. But “Killing” is in a league of its own. It's horrifying, bizarre but ultimately redemptive. If we think what we see in the first 9/10 can be redeemed.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: JENNIFER LAWRENCE, “AMERICAN HUSTLE”: There's been pushback lately that Lawrence's is a showy performance. Maybe, but it's my kind of showy performance. But it appears Lupita Nyong'o will win for “Slave.” If enough members of the Academy can bother to see it.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: MICHAEL FASSBENDER, “12 YEARS A SLAVE”: I'd be happy with Jared Leto, who seems a lock. But Fassbender's was one of the most amazing performances of the year. Not because, as a slaveowner, he could act cruel but because he could also act righteous. There's not a trace of guilt in him. The opposite. Look how wronged he felt in the end.
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: SPIKE JONZE, “HER”: This category is usually stacked but not this year. To be honest, any of these could win and I'd just shrug. The best movie of the bunch is “American Hustle” but I heard a lot of that was improvised. So I'd go Jonze.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: STEVE COOGAN, JEFF POPE, “PHILOMENA”: I still think this is a very underrated movie. There's a purity, a cleanness to it. I'd be happy with either “12 Years” or “Wolf,” too. What would make me most unhappy? “Before Midnight,” one of the most overrated movies I've seen in years.
BEST ACTOR: LEONARDO DICAPRIO, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”: This is the most stacked category we've got. It's so stacked that performances that might normally win, such as Robert Redford in “All Is Lost,” Tom Hanks in “Captain Phillips,” and Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis,” weren't even nominated. It's McConaughey's to lose, of course, and I'll cheer along with everyone else for the great year he had, including “Mud,” “Wolf” and HBO's “True Detective”; but Leo took it to another level here. It’s like he was channeling Jack Nicholson at his outré best. He was both contained and over-the-top. It was riveting.
BEST ACTRESS: JUDI DENCH, “PHILOMENA”: Again, why was there no buzz for this performance? Cate Blanchett was amazing in “Blue Jasmine,” and she'll deserve it, but Dench is so good she almost undercuts her film. We get several scenes from the 1950s to demonstrate what Philomena Lee lost, but these, to me, are almost superfluous. We know what Philomena Lee lost. You just need to watch Judi Dench act.
BEST DIRECTOR: MARTIN SCORSESE, “THE WOLF OF WALL STREET”: I know, he's got no shot. But the movies Marty will be remembered for are “Mean Streets” (no nomination), “Taxi Driver” (ditto), “Raging Bull (nominated, lost to Redford), ”Goodfellas“ (nominated, lost to Costner), and this. So who gets the honor instead? I'll take McQueen, even though, in some sense, ”12 Years“ is his least powerful movie. I'll take Cuaron for pushing the boundaries of space on film. But this is who I want. And finally ...
BEST PICTURE: ”THE WOLF OF WALL STREET“: It’s about the haves and have nots; about how to be a have and not fall back into have-not territory. Jordan Belfort keeps bringing up McDonald’s with his brokers in the wolf pit. He keeps bringing up dingy cars and plain wives and the energy-draining 9-to-5 existence: commuting between two places that don’t really appreciate what you do. The schnook life. Our life. And welcome to it. ”American Hustle“ might win, along with either ”12 Years“ or ”Gravity," but this movie is about the true American hustle.
EXIT MUSIC (FOR A SLIDESHOW): Gosh, where to start? I'd like to thank Patricia for always being there, and for taking like two dozen photos of me before we got a decent one. I'd like to thank the Academy for starting up to stave off unionization. I'd like to thank the talented people who made this year's movies, particularly Martin Scorsese, and all the people who came to my Oscar party. But mostly I'd like to thank Llewyn Davis. For reminding me of me. This one's for you, dude!
For Red Carpet Watchers: That's a Bowling Alley Behind Angelina Jolie
“On the way back to our condo rental, we stopped at the Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards. The theater is squeezed into a shopping mall on busy Hollywood Boulevard that has a Gap store, food court and bowling alley.
”'I don’t remember the red carpet taking place outside a mall,' I commented to the guide. Everything, he explained, is cloaked. Store signs are covered for the Oscars telecast.“
-- from my sister's Star-Tribune piece, ”In Los Angeles, studio tours are the real stars," about going on studio tours with the family earlier this year in Hollywood.
Twitter: @ErikLundegaardTweets by @ErikLundegaard