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June 11, 2013


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I really want a Glenn Kenny column on Vulgar Auteurism. Excellent review. I've loathed Snyder's previous films, but I find myself at least open to this one.


You say THE PURGE has "a far-fetched but hardly unviable premise." I haven't seen it, but if it comes within a country mile of making that premise "viable," it must be quite an achievement. While I have no trouble believing the worst of people, the notion that our society could take that particular turn within the next 20 years just strikes me as ridiculous. I generally feel this way about every dystopian or post-apocalyptic film, so maybe it's just me.


"This thing is starting to get old. There are too many superhero films."


In other words: http://www.comics.org/issue/19944/cover/4/

Like I keep saying (and only partly in jest), I wouldn't mind a Deep South-set superhero movie starring Dwayne Johnson as Buford 'Razorback' Hollis, myself...


Glad to see Michael Shannon get a high-profile role in a high-profile film. Now if only "Take Shelter" would become available for rent on AppleTV.


Wow, I may actually see this one now. Especially intrigued by Kevin Costner, I can actually remember when he was the biggest, most respectable star in Hollywood - never thought I'd hear anyone compare him to Gary Cooper again.


The Whedon rending of "Much Ado..." looked good based on what I saw in the preview. I like the fact that it seemed to be filmed at a real place. Amy Acker is not a name that I know (I guess I'm too old), but the preview reflected well on her. Hopefully, she's as funny throughout the film.


As I've solemnly sworn to never see another stupid fucking superhero movie -- okay, as I've solemnly sworn never to pay to see another stupid fucking superhero movie, it'll be awhile before I can comment on this no doubt entertaining spectacle/piece of shit.

In the meantime, GK, did you catch the new 35mm print of Tarkovsky's Nostalghia at BAM? Gotta be way up there in the list of most beautifully filmed movies of all time, if not at the very top. Less than totally brutal for a two hour movie with no explosions and only one self-immolation, but still requires a bit of stamina. Worth it though for, besides the cinematography, believe it or not, the humor. Surprisingly had at least two laugh out loud moments. Maybe more if you know more about Italian cinema. As a cinephile, I'm a piker, but even such as I couldn't miss the hilarious Antonioni reference. And the part where his memories didn't know what to do with themselves when the camera stayed to long on them. That was classic.


Kurzleg: I don't know how old you are, but Amy Acker first won fans for her role in Whedon's TV series ANGEL, from 2001 to 2004. So I'm guessing the reason you don't know her is that you never saw that show (or her subsequent roles in ALIAS, DOLLHOUSE and the current PERSON OF INTEREST). I really only know her from ANGEL, but she was adorable in that and I'm really hoping MUCH ADO will come to my market.


mw, I've been singing the praises of Nostalghia ever since seeing a print back in the mid-90s at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, of all places. Was in the middle of my Tarkovsky filmography viewing and it still stands as my favorite.

Sadly, it seems to be the least-written about of his works, maybe next after Ivan's Childhood. You'd think being his first film shot outside of Russia would have called for more analysis and discussion.

So many haunting images, and yes, a fair dose of humor.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Man, I should really give Nostalghia another chance. Stalker and The Mirror are my two favorite films of all time, but Nostalghia struck me as way too eager to spell out all its themes rather than letting the images speak. But perhaps a fresh viewing will change that.


Stalker does not spell out it's themes? The second half of the movie is one didactic monologue after another. I mean, I like it, but come on.


*its. Merde!


jbryant - I think the problem is less age than the fact that I don't watch much TV and don't watch tv series at all.


I admit, watching Nostalghia I focused much more on the craft than the story. One could use it as the basis for a master class in filmmaking. And I've since checked out the DVD and can say that when you see the new 35mm print in a theater, it's an entirely different movie.

Anyway, because of all that I guess I kind of took the attitude that its themes were obvious and predictable, at least for anyone familiar with Tarkovsky, so I didn't worry much about the story aspect of the film. Granted, I was a bit bummed by the candle thing at the end. Is a man's life like a fire that ends when the wind blows it out or does its flame burn for eternity? Or does it depend on the effort it takes to carry it from point A to B? Could he have possibly come up with a less hackneyed metaphor for the importance of faith in a decadent society?

But you know, what made the story interesting for me was that I thought I detected another level of Tarkovsky's story. A level of extreme self-loathing in which he recognizes both the tiredness of his themes (the misty fields, the log cabin, the german shepherd, the horse, the mother, sister, and male child -- the candle) and of the incredible craft he's acquired in order to illustrate those themes. Throughout the film he mocks both those themes and himself (perhaps even arguing that those themes are what make him himself). I think the line early on about the main character being sick of all the beauty in the Italian countryside indicates he mocks his mastery of craft as well. And as I said above, he actually does it with some sly humor, I think.

So, yea, perhaps Tarkovsky spells out his themes, but the way he manages it is the cinematic equivalent of great literature. I mean, there's not a lot of mystery on the themes underlying Crime and Punishment or The Brothers K, and pretty much all of Dostoevsky's work, like Tarkovsky's, could be described as self-indulgent wallowing in self-loathing. Yet somehow we can analyze and talk about those works pretty much forever.

Glenn Kenny

I admire "Nostalghia" a great deal and hope to catch the new print today If I finish my work in time.

That Fuzzy Bastard

Occasional commenter Ian W. Hill and I, inspired by the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video game, had a whole thread going about the video game you could make from Nostalghia. The candle is the final boss. If it does well, the Andrei Rublev JRPG will come out for mobile platforms.


Kurzleg: That's the point I was making. I only prefaced it with the mention of your age because in your original comment you suggested you weren't aware of Amy Acker due to you're being "too old."


Well, I got the first two "yours" correct, anyway. Should be "due to your being 'too old,'" obviously.


jbryant - Now worries. "Too old" means "no longer in the 18-34 target demographic for most TV shows."


"The Purge" worked for me. Not a great movie, and too reminiscent of other siege-on-a-house films: "Straw Dogs," "Night of the Living Dead" and especially "The Strangers" (down to the masks). But it held my attention all the way, and as Glenn wrote, it has the courage of its convictions. It wasn't afraid to go with a downbeat ending.

Yes, Amy Acker was adorable in "Angel." She also had a role in Whedon's "Cabin in the Woods." Looking forward to seeing her in "Much Ado."



Why do so many movies now suck? Netflix.

When the DVD market collapsed, it took away FIFTY PERCENT of the movie studios’ profits. And nothing has come along to replace it. And so, this article states, the studios are “frozen,” terrified to make anything but sequels, remakes and reboots.

Those still sell in foreign markets, which is where almost all the money comes from now. This is why American movies are no longer made for American audiences.


That is... an awful article.

"I used to be a producer, but I'm going to condescendingly admit I'm no good at math so I can explain to you that a loss of a fifty percent of the studios' profits is... a loss of half of the studios' profits 'cause my book needs pages!", "I'm going to write Names For Things And Stuff and ominously capitalize them through my book!", "Peter shares this VERY INSIDE stuff with me and now I'm giving you this VERY INSIDE stuff, hope it remains VERY INSIDE afterwards, though!", "Didn't I tell you that my book needs pages? Every time Peter tells me something, I'm going to warn you of its unspeakable awfulness, then I'm going to ask Peter to explain it to me, then Peter is going to dumbly stare at me, then Peter is going to explain it to me, then we're going to share a mournful silence and then I'm going to explain it to you again!", "I used to be a producer and a fucking INSIDER who knows big shots like Peter whom I talk to on a name-to-name basis (I'm never going to let you forget this fact), yet I used to believe (or used to believe that the public used to believe) that Hollywood movies were EXCLUSIVELY proliferating for free on the streets of Beijing and Hong Kong and Rio, not anywhere else, not IN AMERICA!", "I don't know if you dear reader remember having seen or even being aware of 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' or 'Identity thief', but we the chosen ones in DA BIZ (cue Harry Flowers and lieutenant: 'the business!' 'the business!') sure do 'cause they were SMASH!", "Technology killed the DVD, damned technology! (I guess it was Jesus who gave us the DVD, and Xanax)"

"Who's Jeremy Piven? We don't know, but it scared the hell out of us"

And... I don't even know where to begin to tackle "This is why American movies are no longer made for American audiences", so please elaborate if you really believe it's only Americans (North-Americans) who are tired of sequels, remakes and reboots...


Hollywood now does everything it can to cater to the global market, because that's their only source of revenue growth.

This affects everything from the kind of movies that get made (movies with lots of action, explosions and special effects sell better overseas than in the U.S., especially if in 3-D) to the casting (which helps explain why British and Australian actors are now playing American superheroes)It explains why American movies now have their premieres in Bangkok or Moscow.

It explains why the "Red Dawn" remake was redubbed to change the Chinese villains to North Koreans. No studio wants to offend the Chinese -- the people or the government -- now that China is such a booming market.

Two of last year's biggest flops in the U.S., "John Carter" and "Battleship," were hits overseas. So you can expect more expensive sci-fi/action movies starring Taylor Kitsch. It doesn't matter if nobody in North America buys a ticket. As long as people in Singapore or the Ukraine buy tickets, the movies will be made.

This has all been written about repeatedly, in a variety of publications (most recently in USA Today). It's not exactly news.


Some comments by critic David Denby, about the loss of American identity in studio movies:

"Two-thirds of the box office return comes from overseas. They have to play in Bangkok and Bangalore, you know, as well as Bangor, Maine ...

"The local flavor has gone out of them. In the early '70s, there were a lot of things set in American, very specific places like Nashville [Tenn.], you know, or The Godfather in New York in the late '40s, and Long Island and the city. I mean, that sense of a very specific time and place has vanished.

"Now you're getting it in small films, particularly things that go through the Sundance process of script development, like Beasts of the Southern Wild ... You can't get much more specific than that. I miss that. There's a certain grandeur, a certain ambition [that] has just gone out of studio filmmaking. And they openly say they're only interested in spectacles made from comic books and games, or maybe young-adult fictions and genre films."

As someone else quipped: "Will comedy survive if Seoul doesn't get our jokes and China won't allow them?"


It's true that a majority of the box office for blockbusters come from "overseas" markets. With certain films--medium budget action films with 2nd-tier stars like Jason Statham, animated features--the overseas share can constitute over 75% of the total.

That said, the US audience is still the single largest chunk, and that isn't changing for a while (China has more spectators, and is building far more screens, but ticket prices are still much lower).

And there's definitely a kind of, well, let's call it a home-team perspective on these things. Hollywood producers and studio bosses still live/work among a filmmaking community in California, and despite what you might believe from the kinds of big projects that get greenlit, there's a real sense of humiliation or at least bruised pride if a film they've made fails to do well here. If the film was also a critical laughingstock, that's a mark of shame, too (even Michael Bay reads his reviews, or at least looks at his Rotten Tomatoes rating).

As a result would-be "tentpole" pictures that flop domestically are much less likely to be followed by sequels, even if they do fairly well overseas.

Let me give you an example. "Price of Persia: The Sands of Time" cost $200 million to make, and maybe another $60–80 million (tops) to market internationally. The film bombed domestically, making under $100 million, but did make its money back and then some from overseas rentals (which constituted about 73% of the total gross). I imagine some of the markets where it was most successful (Europe, Russian, SE Asia) would welcome a sequel, but it's not going to happen because its domestic belly-flop gives it a stink and nobody in Hollywood wants to touch it.

Now this calculus might change some time in the near future. And there are always those international mid-range franchises (like Resident Evil) for which the US box office matters much less (the last iteration of that franchise made more in Japan alone than in the US).

But for now, for US-made blockbusters the domestic market (which I should note includes Canada, so it's not just the US despite my conflating the two here) retains a "moral" authority that the international box office does not....



Spielberg and Lucas now see themselves as victims of the blockbuster economy they started.

Spielberg says he had trouble getting "Lincoln" a theatrical release (it nearly premiered on HBO), while Lucas sees a two-tier admission system, where you'll pay $25 for the next "Iron Man" and about $7 for the next "Lincoln."


I have a hard time seeing how theaters can successfully pull off tiered pricing without significant changes to the staffing levels and maybe even theater complex layouts. Without such changes, folks will just buy a ticket for a cheaper film and go to the expensive one.

Tiered pricing is much more easily done on Netflix or AppleTV. I've already seen it on a modest scale on AppleTV. Frankly, home viewing seems the most likely for the domestic future of movies. Personally, I watch most movies at home via AppleTV and only go to the theater maybe 2 or 3 times per year.

Jeff McMahon

These are sad times for those of us who value a theatrical viewing experience.


"Lucas sees a two-tier admission system, where you'll pay $25 for the next 'Iron Man' and about $7 for the next 'Lincoln'."


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