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David Poland

By David Poland

Is Focus Dumping The Next Coen Bros Movie?

What appears to be a show of support on the surface is sending up big ol’ red flags for me.
Focus announced today that Burn After Reading will be released “wide” on September 12, spun as an expansion of faith in the film’s commercial upside.
But the reality is that September is the place where quality movies go to die.
Let’s take a look at both angles… box office and awards. First, awards, as it is clearer.
Q: How many movies have opened on over 1000 screens in September and been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?
A: 1 – Goodfellas, 1990
Q: How many movies have opened to over $5 million in September and been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar?
A: 2 – Goodfellas, with $6.4 million and L.A. Confidential, with $5.2 million
Q: How many Best Picture nominations have come out of September in the last 20 years?
A: 10, 3 of which launched on the last weekend, overlapping into October, including The Queen and Capote, 2 of the 4 September releases to be nominated in the last decade.
In the last three years, 11 films released in September

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37 Responses to “Is Focus Dumping The Next Coen Bros Movie?”

  1. Drew says:

    I guarantee you give more of a shit about the Coens chances at an Oscar next year than they do.
    BURN AFTER READING was never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER going to be a film that anyone seriously ran for Academy Awards. Even a cursory read of the script makes that apparent. This is the funny Coens this time, and I don’t think it matters what month the film comes out… there’s a limit to how wide that audience is ever going to be.

  2. David Poland says:

    Let’s see that long list of Focus releases that were not chasing Oscar.
    Did a cursory reading of Lost In Translation (not that the script ever locked) suggest an Oscar nod, a race, or even much box office?
    Did you read Juno and go, “Oscar!!!”
    I didn’t write a single word about The Coens wanting or expecting an Oscar run. I’m quite sure they didn’t go into No Country looking for one either.
    But I guarantee you I give less of a shit about this film’s box office and awards chances than Focus does.

  3. Drew says:

    Not a slam. Just an observation. Relax, big guy.
    I just think that putting every single picture through the Oscar prism leads to some oddball thinking, and the Coens have rarely been invited to the Oscars in the first place. This is simply them returning to form after an anomaly year.

  4. jeffmcm says:

    All this means it that we have another good movie in what is typically a dead period of the year, instead of the traffic jam of all the ‘quality’ movies crammed into December and January, which is aok with me.

  5. LexG says:

    How did SOUND OF THUNDER get name-checked above? The years-delayed Hyams potboiler which seems to contain actors walking on a treadmill in front of back blue-screen projection? Just seems like an odd, random choice to throw in the mix.
    On topic, can’t these guys just do awesome crime movies every time? The sepia-toned screwball ones aren’t unamusing, and I appreciate their diversity, but compared to Josh Brolin running around with shotguns and OWNING shit in an awesome stache with GIANT-ASS TRUCKS… the thought of more arch irony and antic mugging and bluegrass music just doesn’t send the same charge of excitement.

  6. Noah says:

    Drew, Mazel Tov on the kid!
    Jeff, I think that’s a good point. If the Coens or Focus aren’t going to be chasing Oscars, then why not put a good movie out in late August or early September? I love when there are actual quality movies released throughout the entire year instead of being happy when I get the odd Paranoid Park or Zodiac in March or Constant Gardener in late August. I wish there would be less catering to the Academy’s “short term memory” or trying to fit potential films into little boxes: money-maker or award winner.

  7. anghus says:

    Will the Coens ever make “To the White Sea?”
    Personally, i’m a little burnt out on last year’s Oscar race to worry about this one. I understand the mechanics, politics, and financials behind academy award nominations, but at some point, at least this early in the year, i have to believe that quality is a priority for the awards.
    I realize it’s immature to think that quality is more important than release date, financial success, etc. But hell, Juno got nominated, so there goes that theory.

  8. Richard Nash says:

    Before NO COUNTRY, what Coen Bro movie would be considered an Oscar contender? It’s not like they have a good track record.

  9. IOIOIOI says:

    Releasing award films in September a bad idea. Check. Got it. Good.

  10. Goulet says:

    Didn’t they win the Best Screenplay Oscar for Fargo?
    And Jeff Bridges and John Goodman should have Oscars for The Big Lebowksi, dammit.

  11. David Poland says:

    Why not put it in August or July?
    Why not put it in October, where Clooney has now had a few successes, including Intolerable Cruelty?
    September is a box office month of oddities… and September 12 always seems like a burial at sea to me. But maybe it will be lovely.

  12. jeffmcm says:

    Richard Nash, the Coens previously got a Best Picture and Director nominations for Fargo, Best Screenplay nomination for O Brother Where Art Thou? Not to mention that they’ve won or been nominated for BAFTAs, Palmes d’Or, Independent Spirit awards, Golden Globes, etc.
    How are Sanchez and Rufus Masters, by the way? We’ve all been worried.

  13. Stella's Boy says:

    That’s exactly what I thought as soon as I saw a post from Richard.

  14. jeffmcm says:

    From what I know of this movie, putting it in July or August would result in even greater commercial suicide than putting it in the Fall.

  15. Glenn Kenny says:

    What’s sexier than Oscar-concern-trolling? Really.
    Hey, here’s an idea

  16. David Poland says:

    In an effort not to overreact to your odd post, Glenn… are you suggesting that I don’t think that the movie (or any) matters if it isn’t Oscar bait… or are you suggesting that of Focus?
    I seem to recall The Coens confusing you, so I am truly unclear on your intent.
    Either answer plays. One gets a big, angry “f-you” response. The other just gets a roll of the eyes. Let me know.

  17. Jeremy Smith says:

    Has a black comedy ever won Best Picture? Does ALL ABOUT EVE count? THE APARTMENT? Anyone care to make a case for THE DEPARTED?
    BURN AFTER READING is more along the lines of FARGO, but much less reassuring; the script takes an even dimmer view of humanity than NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, if that’s possible.
    But didn’t Focus open THE CONSTANT GARDENER in late August? They got a Best Supporting Actress Oscar out of that. Early September is a dead zone until it isn’t.

  18. leahnz says:

    goulet, just wanted to concur about jeff bridges in the big L, one of the single greatest performances of all time, all hail the duder

  19. doug r says:

    What, Titanic wasn’t a dark comedy?

  20. jeffmcm says:

    Crash is a comedy, and it has lots of black people in it…

  21. lazarus says:

    Come on. A Coen Bros. off-beat comedy contending for anything besides a screenplay nom? I doubt it.
    This has about as much chance contending for anything big as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind did. Not much.

  22. Joe Leydon says:

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here, David. Seven ($100 million domestic gross, $327 million worldwide) was “bloodied” in September? How so?

  23. David Poland says:

    You mean, you understand 850 words of it and 1 makes no sense to you?
    My apologies.
    That would be in the Oscar section of the piece, no?
    Of course there are September successes. But like Seven, very few are in any way complex. The eight September releases in history to crack $100 million domestic are Double Jeopardy, Fatal Attraction, The First Wives Club, Remember the Titans, Rush Hour, Seven, Crocodile Dundee, Sweet Home Alabama.
    Company you would have the Coens keep?

  24. LexG says:

    I know he’s the PROGNOSTICATION MASTER and all, and clearly knows his shit when it comes to release dates and history and all… and weekly BO reports all tend to base the weekend’s success against the PREVIOUS YEAR’S EXACT DATES…
    Let me assure you, Joe Six-Fuck in rural Pennsylvania isn’t like, “Oh, it’s September 17th; I don’t go to see movies THIS weekend. Hit me back in December.”

  25. David Poland says:

    You are correct that it is, in principle, arbitrary.
    And you are wrong if you choose to argue that trends don’t exist and have some subtext to them.
    Release any movie that people really want to see on any day of the year and they will show up. But releasing a Coen Bros movie is not releasing Spider-Man 4… or even Sweet Home Alabama.
    And the ability to open some movies is very seasonally dependent in a real way.

  26. Joe Leydon says:

    As I recall, Fatal Attraction was nominated for six Oscars (including Best Picture), became a genuine pop culture phenomenon, sparked op-ed pieces, and even wound up on the cover of Time magazine. (Or was it Newsweek?) So, yeah, I wouldn’t mind that happening to a Coen Brothers movie.

  27. movieman says:

    I personally don’t see what all the fuss is about.
    If Focus (and the Coens) want to open their new movie–which sounds a lot closer to “The Big Lebowski” or “Intolerable Cruelty” than to “Fargo” or “No Country for Old Men”–the weekend of September 12th, all power to them.
    Too bad Focus is still beholden to the whole fall/prestigious movie thing, though. I’d love to see this open in the dog days of summer when we could really use a shot of the Coen’s trademark misanthropic anarchy.
    I’m guessing they’re planning to premiere it in Venice (maybe Teluride), certainly Toronto, no?
    And “Milk” looks a lot more like the kind of big, “serious” film that gets a full-throttle awards season push anyway.
    Personally I can’t wait to see BOTH movies.

  28. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Focus is the one arty imprint that’s gone big on Oscar-whoring year-round. Look at how they’re promoting “In Bruges” and “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day”.
    BTW, “American Beauty” also went over $100M in the US — and it opened in September.

  29. Glenn Kenny says:

    Please don’t get angry on my account, David. Feel free to roll your eyes. And for the record, the Coens have never confused me. There’s a difference between confusion and trying to parse ambiguity.

  30. adaml says:

    Was Road to Perdition really criticised? It snagged 6 Oscar nominations, all well deserved, and topped $100 million at the domestic box office. I suspect it’s this film you’re thinking of when you say criticism was unjust.

  31. jeffmcm says:

    I think we can safely assume that In Bruges and Miss Pettigrew will not be nominated for any major awards, even though I liked Bruges. Chucky, your obsessiveness is tiresome.

  32. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Not as tiresome as having to put up with “Academy Award Winner” and/or “Academy Award Nominee” in the trailer, poster, print ads or any combination thereof.

  33. jeffmcm says:

    God forbid! Is there a foundation I can mail a donation to ease the suffering of the victims of this scourge?

  34. I kind of hope that Chucky goes into fits of rage/hysterics everytime he goes to the cinema and sees that line on a poster or trailer. It’d be hilarious for anyone watching.

  35. Chucky in Jersey says:

    Actually I find that a good way to know which films are a Must to Avoid so I don’t have to waste my hard-earned money in this economy.
    As for the foundation jeffmcm wants to set up? AMPAS must have a slush fund that gets a kickback every time a studio goes Oscar-whoring.

  36. jeffmcm says:

    Chucky, what you just said is exactly why I think you’re insane: since No Country for Old Men is “from Oscar-winners Joel and Ethan Coen”, you would therefore decide it’s a piece of garbage and choose to see, say, Alvin and the Chipmunks, a film with no Oscar winner or nominee in the cast or major crew role. Can you confirm or deny that this is, in essence, your position? Because that’s what you just said, and it’s bonkers. The quality of a film has nothing to do with how the marketing people decide to sell it.

  37. Chucky in Jersey says:

    For the record, Focus opened “Vanity Fair” and “The Constant Gardener” on the Wednesday before a Labor Day. Mainstream theaters often book arty fare for that weekend to get patrons on the last weekend of summer season.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon