We interrupt this vacation to bring you a Slate piece
Iíve got a piece on Slate about movie box office and critical acclaim. If youíve arrived here from there, apologies. Itís no fun to travel and find the same shit you saw in the last place.
The argument in the article is basically two-fold: 1) Quality films ó as judged by criticsí rankings on Rotten Tomatoes ó do better at the box office than people realize, and 2), as a result, critics, who are perceived as elitist, and moviegoers, who are, by their numbers, populist, are actually closer in taste than people realize. Iíve made this argument before. Itís the numbers-crunching thatís new.
While on vacation in Minneapolis, Iíve been re-reading David Mametís Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business. Mamet isnít much of an essayist. He tends to wander within the confines of even a short essay ó exploring four themes in four pages ó but he packs a wallop, and the world, in a paragraph. Itís worth reading, or re-reading, for the paragraphs.
Mamet is an outsider who went inside; he knows how Hollywood works better than I ever will, and so itís nice that some of my assumptions, about how audience-testing squelches innovation, and thus possible cash cows, are borne out by his experience.
Hollywood outsiders can never be sure. Thereís that tendency to think, ďWell, theyíre professionals; surely they know what theyíre doing.Ē Pushing against this is that great lesson from All the Presidentís Men: ďThe truth is, these arenít very smart guys, and things got out of hand.Ē
Weíre all involved in our self-fulfilling prophecies and maybe the numbers-crunching is mine, and maybe opening schlock in 3,000 theaters is Warner Brothersí. Who knows? But Iíll keep watching the numbers.
OK, back to vacation.†