Posts Tagged ‘The Fighter’

Alice Ward, 79, Played As Feral Mother By Melissa Leo In The Fighter

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Alice Ward, 79, Played As Feral Mother By Melissa Leo In The Fighter

Wilmington on DVD: The Fighter, Hereafter, Last Tango in Paris, TCM Greatest Classic Legend John Ford Westerns

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011


The Fighter (Three Stars)
U.S.; David O. Russell, 2010

Why are most sports movies in general usually so phony, predictable, and schmaltzy, while movies specifically about boxing (or that feature boxing or boxers prominently) tend to move us more, play more realistically, work better dramatically, and supply more film classics than the sports film norm?

I’m not saying that David O. Russell‘s The Fighter — which is about the relationship between light welterweight fighter Micky Ward and his half-brother/trainer Dickie Kelvin — is necessarily in the class of films like Body and Soul, The Set-Up, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Harder They Fall, On the Waterfront, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Ali, Million Dollar Baby or Raging Bull. Or even, God help us, of Rocky. But it’s certainly a good movie, an arena for really good actors and writers and technicians to show their stuff.

That’s true of many fight movies. It’s a genre that even attracted Alfred Hitchcock (in 1927’s The Ring.) And even a somewhat phony, melodramatic boxing show like City for Conquest (with Jimmy Cagney fantastic as the boxer who fights to help his brother, the musician Arthur Kennedy) and Golden Boy, from Clifford Odets’ lauded Depression play (with William Holden as the boxer who is a musician) are several notches above. They have classier corn, tonier schmaltz.

Maybe it’s because boxing movies can focus more easily on character and individual combat. In The Fighter, Mark Wahlberg plays Micky and Christian Bale plays Dickie (respelled “Dicky“ in the movie, to match “Micky“) and they‘re the classic pair-up of good-guy/prodigal-guy (half) brothers. Both are from working class Lowell, Massachusetts (Jack Kerouac‘s town). Both are the sons of tough cookie Alice Ward (Melissa Leo of Frozen River and 21 Grams). But they’re way different.

Micky is diligent, self-sacrificing, a terrific boxer with a great temperament who works hard, survives unusual hardship (including a busted hand), and who won’t fold under duress. His nickname is “Irish Thunder.“ Dicky is a natural athlete and sometime irresponsible goofball who was a star fighter when Micky was 12, fought Sugar Ray Leonard almost even up (Leonard appears in The Fighter as himself), and now trains and strategizes for his half–brother (and does it well).

But Dicky has gotten heavily into crack cocaine. He’s a certifiable bad influence, and the new managers who take over Micky‘s career, after the boxer gets whipped a few times, don’t want him around, especially when Dicky pops up on camera in a TV documentary on cocaine use called High on Crack Street.

Micky goes along with the program and splits up with his brother, despite being pushed toward Dicky by their mutual mother, and pushed away from him by Micky’s contentious girlfriend, Charlene Fleming (played, in a real change of pace, by sunshine gal Amy Adams). Soon Micky is fighting for the Intercontinental light welterweight championship — against the snobbish champ, a British pugilist, who’d rather have a different opponent.

You probably know what’s going to happen in this movie even if you don’t know the real life story. (The real-life Micky and Dicky show up under the credits.) But this isn’t a case where predictability matters. It’s a character study of depth and power, and Wahlberg, Bale, Adams and Leo – and a lot of the supporting actors — really shine. (Bale and Leo both won supporting acting Oscars for their parts. Perhaps most impressive is Bale, who looks, and acts, something like a Dead End Kid on crack, an elongated mix of Huntz Hall and the younger Mean Streets De Niro, oscillating frantically between the goony and the near-tragically self-destructive.

Bale, like De Niro as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull seems willing to all but deform himself for his roles, and here, he plays Dicky as a guy who thinks he‘s a Golden Boy but keeps slipping, slipping, fouling up (like Cameron Mitchell as heroin addict boxer Barney Ross in Andre de Toth‘s Monkey on My Back). Wahlberg has his role as Micky, the less splashy one, down pat, and Melissa Leo seems like a Lowell mama who just walked into the movie. (So do the platoon of actresses who play her family). As for Adams, playing a tough bar girl in a low-cut blouse may not be her type and métier, but I liked her better here than I liked her in Julie and Julia.

Then again, these four actors are always good. It would probably take some crack cocaine and twenty blows to the head from Joe Frazier to really mess up their characters.

The Fighter — scripted by Scott Silver, Paul Tahasy and Eric Johnson — has a real weath of characters, several dozen good speaking roles, where the average movie focuses on maybe a half-dozen people or less. That richness may come from the fact that the sources here were real people. A real story. If I could hand the Hollywood studios one motto (or two) that would make their movies better — at least as good as The Fighter and maybe better — its this: Trust life. See and trust the world around you. Make your people breathe before you make them fight.


Hereafter (Three and a Half Stars)
U.S.; Clint Eastwood, 2010

Few moviemakers have divided American movie critics so rancorously as Clint Eastwood once did — and maybe as he does again with his new picture Hereafter. Part of the reason is that we’ve know him as an actor and director so well for so long, that we tend to take his work personally.

Hereafter won’t change people’s minds much. And I’ve got to admit I had doubts myself when I walked out of the theater — not about the movie’s subject, the afterlife (in which I tend not to believe) nor about Eastwood (in whom I do), but about the movie.

Hereafter was written by Peter Morgan, the British bio-drama specialist who wrote the scenarios for The Queen, The Last King of Scotland, Frost/Nixon and others, and it was executive-produced by Steven Spielberg (who suggested Eastwood as director). It’s a supernaturally slanted but soberly done, clear-eyed and unsettling drama about life after death, an intelligent, non-dogmatic film that accepts the possibility of soul survival.

The movie twists together three story-strands on the theme set in different countries — one about a French newswoman (Cecile de France) who nearly dies and recalls what it was like, one about an American factory worker (Matt Damon) with a seeming talent for communing with the dead, and one about a lower-class British boy (George McLaren) who‘s lost his twin brother in a fatal accident and desperately wants to find him again — and keeps moving them forward on separate tracks until the inevitable Crash of a climax.

Hereafter is a workmanlike, well-crafted film, and, predictably, it never goes all mystical and M. Night Shyamalan-ish on us. But it packs some wallops, beginning with a stunning vision of personal apocalypse that haunts the whole movie thereafter: a wondrously well-staged and very convincing tsunami. As we watch, swept along by the kind of technology Eastwood and his usual collaborators rarely exploit, a great wave roars like a huge gray specter out of the sea around the city, and it smashes down, flooding the streets, submerging the buildings, and drowning all visible people. That tsunami fatefully captures TV newswoman Marie LeLay (de France), who’s on a holiday with her lover-producer Didier (Thierry Leuvic), as she shops for curios from street vendors. (Didier is safe and sated in their hotel room.)

In images of spooky inexorability, caught-head-on without hysterical cross-cutting or Michael Bay slash-a-second stuff, Marie races the wave, unstoppable. Death seems near, here, inevitable. She and we both see the oft-mentioned white light and dark figures supposedly glimpsed by many people pulled back just from the brink of dying. (I had a very cool, very smart, very good friend who was inches from death by a heart attack, and he saw them too.)

Then, at the last minute, she’s pulled back to life and air by matter-of-fact rescue workers, combing the ruins. From then on, or at least soon afterwards, Marie eventually becomes a true believer, sacrificing her job, her reputation, a book contract (a lucrative assignment to trash Francois Mitterand), some friends and her lover (newsbabe-magnet Didier) to investigate and write instead about the white light and the afterlife she barely missed.

Interwoven with this first Hereafter tale is the second, involving George Lonegan (Damon), a boyishly frank San Francisco factory worker who was once a famous, and apparently legitimate, psychic. George dumped it all to preserve his mental and emotional well-being, and now is being pulled back against his will toward his old métier and life (and those huge old paychecks) by his determined mover of a brother Billy (Jay Mohr).

Following George’s path, briefly or not, are an old man (Richard Kind) in search of his departed wife, Derek Jacobi (himself) whom fan George meets at a book-signing, and a cutie-pie, flirty fellow cooking school student (Bryce Dallas Howard) who unwisely summons up his gift.

Last of the stories, and the one that usually would have held the screen by itself, is the tale of two London twin boy brothers, Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) who live with their drug-addicted, poor mother (Niamh Cusack) and are torn apart when Jason is killed in a traffic accident. It is Marcus, scouring the Internet for some way to reconnect with his lost brother, who finally sets all the interconnecting threads and wheels in motion.

Ever since his 2003 TV film Henry VIII, scriptwriter Morgan has mostly done dramas drawn from real life and history –and he and Eastwood give this movie the feel of reality heightened, of something that might actually have happened, even though we know it didn‘t. That mix of mythic storytelling and stylistic realism is part of the director’s signature, and also that of his team: cinematgrapher Tom Stern, editors Joel Cox and Gary Roach, and production designer James J. Murakami. Eastwood’s Hereafter composer was his longest-lived colleague of all: himself, doing another of his Windham Hill streetwise Erik Satie-gone-Thelonious Monk turns.

He still makes a hell of a picture. What’s most impressive about Hereafter is, first of all, that Eastwood had the guts to do it, to make a movie so far beyond his usual ken, one that was bound to be heckled as schmaltzy, New-Agey, sluggish and so old-school it’s out to lunch. But Eastwood just doesn’t flinch from even the script’s worst snare: the sense that the screenplay is proselytizing for supernatural explanations, that it’s trying to sell us the hereafter.

I don’t think it is, any more than the Twilight shows are trying to sell us on vampires. Hereafter is dealing with something, the afterlife, that many, or most, people believe, and that many would like to believe. But the attitude I sensed here was speculative, open-minded: “Maybe it’s there. Maybe it isn’t. We don’t really know. But here’s what it could be like…“

Morgan is a witty, sophisticated, well-read and very knowledgeable writer, and also a compassionate one. (His parents were both refugees, his father a German Jew, his mother a Pole; “Morgan“ comes from “Morgenthau.”) And all those qualities, except maybe the wit (which the movie could use more of) are on ample display here. I wouldn’t call Hereafter as masterful a writing job as Morgan’s biographical screenplays. But it has most of the good qualities of his earlier work, and it was obviously much tougher to do, not least because we’re so un-used to serious movies about the supernatural, so much more accustomed to horror-house thrill rides, or campy bloodbaths, or eerie sleazy movies about slashers running amok.

I admired Damon, for the way he absolutely grounds, in everyday rhythms, the conversations with the dead, And I was pleased by Jay Mohr’s push-push as Billy, and the sudden warmth of Richard Kind’s Christos after George locates his wife. I liked those cooking-school scenes with George’s very careful, thoughtful culinary routines and Bryce Dallas Howard’s flirty seduction (exactly right), and the way her character suddenly lets go.

That’s why Eastwood’s shoot-it-like-it-is philosophy on scripts works so well, as does his laid-back direction and his let-them-act strategy with actors. As a director, he and his team provide a rock-solid backdrop, and he usually puts the characters in a perfect, well-crafted trap — of crime, of war, of violence, of show biz, of drugs, of sexual exploitation, of life itself — then lets his actors tear their ways loose in the ways that feel right to them. It works. In Hereafter, he and Morgan deal with one of the great, obsessive themes of all history and religion, but they treat it as something ordinary, normal, something we might all experience.

Hereafter isn’t totally a tragedy, or totally a horror movie, or even totally a drama about people with a link to the beyond. Or a dark comedy either; if it had more laughs, it’s detractors might be more tolerant. It’s a ghost story, about the beings, wisps of memory and yearning, and the loved ones from our past that may be — or so the movie lets us believe for a moment — all around us, still alive, still somewhere. Don’t we wish…


Last Tango in Paris (Four Stars)
France/Italy: Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972 (MGM)

Marlon Brando is Paul, an American expatriate in Paris, who’s just lost his wealthy wife to a suicide (or maybe a murder, maybe by Paul), and whom we first see disheveled, in a raincoat, howling in the street, torn apart it seems with anguish and loneliness. Maria Schneider is Jeanne, a smart, voluptuous, chic young Parisian with a bit too much eye makeup, engaged to a fatuous, madly enthusiastic young cineaste named Tom (Jean-Pierre Leaud), who is shooting her (and himself) for a dumb-sounding reality TV show that he‘s concocted. (“If I kiss you, it may be cinema!”)

Reality lies elsewhere. Paul and Jeanne cross paths under an elevated train bridge, where she witnesses Paul‘s despair and his screams of “Fucking God!” She’s intrigued, wary, walks away as he sobs. But they meet again shortly afterwards when he turns up in a flat she’s looking at. They have an empty conversation without exchanging names (she’s guardedly friendly, he‘s morose) and then have quick, explosive sex with most of their clothes on, crying, moaning, against a wall, on the floor; when he pulls out, she rolls away like a cat.

He rents the place, she returns. They decide to keep meeting there, to keep having almost anonymous sex, to fuck each other over and over, while abandoning themselves to desire, and all the fantasies of the body. And dirty words, which bother some audiences more than nudity and sex itself. “Last Tango” is one of those movies guaranteed to offend squares.

This taboo-shattering classic by Bernardo Bertolucci, in which Brando and Schneider (playing a role intended for the prettier Dominique Sanda of The Conformist) broke barriers, appearing nude or semi-nude and feigning sex (Brando is the more modest of the two), is the torrid memento of a time — post-Sexual Revolution, pre-herpes outbreak, pre-Aids plague — when quick anonymous sex between partners who barely knew each other, happened if not commonly then at least quite a lot, and may even have been happening (to some degree) in the seats of the theaters where Last Tango in Paris was playing, or just outside them, or definitely in apartments within walking distance of them.

It’s a movie borne along on some of the more intense psychological, political and sexual currents of the ‘70s, and it’s starkly, nakedly revelatory of that time’s savage kinks and wet dreams. Maybe it’s not quite the epochal, revolutionary masterpiece Pauline Kael believed when she wrote her famous New Yorker piece (comparing “Last Tango“ to Stravinsky‘s “Rite of Spring“). But it was definitely the sort of movie, the kind of fantasy, that she had probably always wanted from the cinema (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I Lost It At the Movies), and that other intellectual and passionate cinephiles wanted as well.

Beautiful streets, beautiful images, a beautiful city. An actor like Brando: ravaged, half-nude, fucking. An actress like Schneider, nude, copulating, screaming out a climax. Good dialogue and fine acting and artistry, too. (The French language conversations were written by Agnes Varda, the music was by saxophonist/composer Gato Barbieri and Oliver Nelson, and the paintings in the credits, looking as if they were rotting in their frames, are by Francis Bacon.)

Brando, one of the movies’ greatest actors — and one who, sadly, really lost his way after this film, taking many subsequent roles, it seemed mostly for the money and eating himself into a premature grave (this was one of Brando’s peak roles, but perhaps he should also have played one of the debauching foursome in Marco Ferreri‘s La Grande Bouffe) — is at his peak here. He never exposed himself as much on screen, in several senses. (Paul has part of Brando’s own real and fictional biography: boxer, actor, South American revolutionary, Japan, Tahiti.)

Maria Schneider, a newcomer who never surpassed her performance here, is sumptuous-looking, sensual and open,  right for the part, but probably not as good as Sanda would have been. (The fox-eyed blonde beauty Dominique was then widely hailed as the Garbo of her day, and she had a smile that drove you mad.) But Schneider makes potent memories nonetheless.

Last Tango in Paris captures a lot of the unease and dangerous ecstasy of the early ‘70s and the sometimes boundless ambition of the decade’s best moviemakers, who, unlike all too many filmmakers today (techno-hacks whose preferred orgasms seem to be mostly financial), wanted to make powerful, intelligent, adult films, to create classics that transgressed boundaries, broke new psychological and cinematic ground, and carried audiences to where they‘d never been. They honestly, really wanted to. Some of them did.

The movie still shocks — now not so much by its sexual content as by the unrestrained passion and fury of Brando’s performance and the wild beauty of Bertolucci‘s, Vittorio Storaro‘s and designer Fernando Scarfiotti’s view of Paris. But it amuses us as well. Brando is sometimes very funny here, and I’ve always though “Last Tango” would be even better if it were even funnier, before it darkens at the end.

I don’t know if I think it’s a masterpiece, revolutionary or not. I don’t know that it matters. No extras.


TCM Greatest Classic Legends: John Ford Westerns (Two Discs) (Four Stars)
U.S.: John Ford, 1948-64 (TCM/Warner Bros.)

“My name’s John Ford. I make Westerns,” he liked to say, to introduce himself.

A simple sounding epitaph for one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived. But it’s clear that John Ford — despite the blue ribbon prestige of his six Oscars, and despite his mastery of movie genres like the historical drama (Young Mr. Lincoln), the social drama (The Grapes of Wrath), the family drama (How Green Was My Valley), the film noir/political drama (The Informer), the war film (They Were Expendable), the documentary (The Battle of Midway), the sea film (The Long Voyage Home) and the romantic comedy (The Quiet Man) — was at his happiest and probably best when he could take a company of the actors, technicians and crew people he liked most and go out to Monument Valley, that hair-raisingly beautiful landscape of desert and mountain and mesas straddling Utah and Arizona where he shot most of his westerns from Stagecoach on. And shoot another Western.

Far from Hollywood. Far from producers. Far from the barrooms, flesshpots and pleasure haunts of the city. Far from the present day world. Far from the bustle and noise and aggravation of politics, studio or otherwise. Far from home. And far from what Thomas Mitchell, as Stagecoach’s jovial alcoholic/medico/philosopher Doc Boone, called “The blessings of civilization.”

Ford, (born Sean O‘Feeney in Maine) had directed mostly Westerns in the first years of his career. Starting in 1917, he was tutored by his older brother, the then star director-actor Francis Ford (later a familiar Ford character actor), and he later worked with star cowboy actor Harry Carey and others, honing his craft, training his marvelous, painterly eye, and refining his sense of how to tell stories in the dark, until he made a career breakthrough in 1924 with the hit Western epic The Iron Horse. Eventually, he rose through the ranks even higher to become the Hollywood studio system‘s most honored and admired director, the one filmmaker to whom almost all his colleagues deferred and paid their respects.

I used to defend Ford when some David Thomsonish guy would start trashing him by listing six genius or major filmmakers, who, when Ford was alive, all called him the “greatest living film director”: Frank Capra of course, but also Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Sidney Lumet, Elia Kazan — and Orson Welles, who watched a print of Stagecoach over 40 times, before embarking on Citizen Kane.

Ford’s Westerns are not exactly mythic, and not exactly realistic (they are, in many ways, both), and they are definitely not kitsch or hokum, though some critics (like David Thomson) like to dismiss them for alleged crimes of politics, realism and taste. They are, as Welles once told Peter Bogdanovich, the work of “a poet, a comedian.” (Welles also said that, with Ford, “you feel that the movie has lived and breathed in a real world.”) Ford’s best movies — actually almost all of his movies — are deceptively simple-seeming stories about deceptively simple-seeming people who live in a landscape primitive, dangerous and yet complexly bewitching and beautiful. Beauty lies all around and death lies everywhere in a good classic Western, and nowhere is beauty more intense and death sadder and more wounding than in a Western by John Ford.

In his movies, for all their seeming historical flaws, for all their unabashed appeal to ordinary Americans and common folk everywhere, for all their shoot-‘em-up simplifications, for all their deviations from the truth (which Ford knew as well as anyone and to which he always returned), we constantly see something vitally entertaining, deeply human, lyrical, moving and sometimes extraordinary.

We see the magnificence and horror of a great popular dream of our collective past, and we sense the truth and lies behind it. We see lines of U. S. Cavalrymen riding before the horizon, and stagecoaches racing across the salt flats. We see Navajos singing and passing pipes in their tribal councils, and waiting silently above in the hills. We see outlaws and outsiders, great men and women and the ones who were forgotten. We see the womenfolk and the dances and the gardens and the graveyards, where the old people go to talk and commune with their beloved dead. We see a living, breathing frontier, as it may have looked 150 years or more ago. We see America, as Ford wanted to see it, and as, in some important ways, it was.

Ford has been criticized by his detractors many times for what they wrongly say was his artistic credo, for the chilling irony of that pompous statement by newspaper editor Carleton Young as he throws away the true story given him by Jimmy Stewart’s Ranse Stoddard, the so-called “Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”: “This is the west, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.“ It’s a shame that this has to be explained again, as it so often has, by Bogdanovich and others, but those sentiments are clearly not intended as Ford’s philosophy of life or art. In that movie, the character played by Carleton Young prints the legend. Ford prints the fact.

That’s the whole meaning of the story and title of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. And however much Ford may have had to work with Hollywood legends and formulas, a vision of history and the truth and what it meant to real people always lies behind his tales.

An artist’s great gift is their ability to reclaim and preserve beauty and humanity, people and places, villainy and heroism, sorrow and happiness, from a world that insists on slipping away from us and dying. John Ford claimed he didn’t like the word “artist” to describe what he did; he said he preferred to call himself a “workman.” In this case, as in several others, I think he was kidding us along, printing the legend a little. He was an artist, a poet, a comedian.

He was John Ford. He made Westerns.

Includes: 3 Godfathers (U.S.: John Ford, 1948) Three and a Half Stars. In a movie Western story that kept being told again and again — first by Ford in 1919’s Marked Men, then by director William Wyler, then by Richard Boleslawski, and finally here, again by Ford — three outlaws, pursued though a searing desert by Sheriff Ward Bond and a relentless posse, make a promise to a dying mother (Mildred Natwick) that they will save her newborn baby, and try mightily to keep their word.

The outlaws are played by John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and, in his movie debut, Harry “Dobie” Carey, Jr. (Dobie’s father, and Ford’s old friend/collaborator Harry Carey, who had recently died, is paid tribute in the credits.) Full of Christ-child and Christmas symbolism that should seem labored but isn‘t, sometimes corny, sometimes hokey, this lovingly shot and acted movie just overwhelms your defenses. Adapted by Laurence Stallings and Frank Nugent from a story by Peter Kyne.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (U.S.: Ford, 1949) Four Stars. Colonel Nathan Brittles, played by John Wayne, in one of his signature roles, is an aging commander in a Western fort, with only a few days before retirement and a raft of problems, some almost charming, some deadly. The fort is surrounded by increasingly hostile Indian tribes inspired and emboldened by Sitting Bull’s defeat of Custer at the Little Big Horn, Nathan’s old friend, chief Pony That Walks, is powerless to mollify the young warriors. Meanwhile, the belle of the fort (Joanne Dru) is being pursued by two young officers (John Agar and Harry Carey, Jr,), and Nathan’s top sergeant, Quincannon (Victor McLaglen) has a secret whiskey stash that could help start an epic barroom brawl, and, of course, does.

One of the great ones: the most beautiful of Ford’s Cavalry Westerns, and one of Wayne’s two or three finest performances. (The way Wayne’s Nathan puts on his specs to read his troop‘s “sentiment” on their goodbye gift to him is a heart-crusher.) This is also the movie with the emergency operation (by Arthur Shields and Natwick) in the wagon in the thunderstorm, the one where Nathan says “Never apologize; it’s a sign of weakness,” and the one where Ben Johnson, as Plumtree, keeps saying to Nathan “That’s not my department.”

Wagon Master (U.S.: Ford, 1950) Four Stars. Another great one — and, like She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, one of Ford’s own personal favorites. The only black and white movie in this set, it’s a warm-hearted and lyrical action comedy odyssey about a Mormon wagon train heading West, a sternly religious community led by a hot-tempered  preacher (Ward Bond), who hires two charmingly happy-go-lucky cowboys (Johnson and Carey, Jr.) to be his wagon masters.

Complicating matters: the Cleggs, a family of bloodthirsty outlaws, including the genially murderous Pa Clegg (Charles Kemper, of Jean Renoir’s The Southerner) and hulking Clegg brute (and future Matt Dillon) James Arness, and a wandering troupe of traveling players, including sexy Joanne Dru again and grand ham Alan Mowbray. Wagon Master, with its excellent cast and stunning landscapes, shows Ford at his most brilliant: It’s pure poetry, pure comedy, a real masterpiece.

Wagon Master later inspired the long-time Number One-rated TV series, “Wagon Train” with Bond essentially repeating his role here as the notably non-Mormon but hot-tempered Major Seth Adams — and there’s one “Wagon Train” episode, called “The Colter Craven Story,” starring Bond, directed by Ford, with a Duke Wayne cameo, and with gorgeous footage (including the movie’s last shot), borrowed from Wagon Master.

This disc also has a top-notch commentary by Bogdanovich and Harry Carey, Jr., with archival interviews and salty remarks by Ford himself.


Cheyenne Autumn (U.S.: Ford, 1964) Three and a Half Stars. Ford’s last Western, and also his last movie to be shot in Monument Valley, was this long-cherished project about the trials and triumph of the Cheyenne tribe, unhappily relocated to a reservation east of their homeland, and of their arduous trek, against the wishes of the U. S. government, back to their ancestral hunting ground in Yellowstone.

A genuine epic, Cheyenne Autumn is larger-scaled than anything Ford made after The Iron Horse — except for 1962’s Cinerama saga How the West Was Won, also scripted by James Webb, in which he has one short unforgettable episode called The Civil War. Cheyenne Autumn also offers a last loving look at Monument Valley and an all star cast that includes Ricardo Montalban, Sal Mineo, Gilbert Roland, Dolores Del Rio, and Victor Jory among the noble, and occasionally fiery, Cheyenne. (Western movies with largely Native American casts for Native American roles were still a few years away, A lot of Ford‘s usual Navajo actors are in the tribe here again, though.)

Also in the Road Show-style ensemble: Carroll Baker as the Cheyenne’s Quaker teacher; Edward G. Robinson as the U.S. Grant administration’s Indian Affairs head Carl Schurz; James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy and John Carradine in a comedy interlude, as cynical poker players Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and Major Starbuck; and the mostly likable and highly conflicted contingent of U. S. Cavalry men that includes Ben Johnson, Harry Carey, Jr., Mike Mazurki, Pat Wayne (Duke’s son), Karl Malden and Richard Widmark (who also narrates the movie.)

Once wrongly low-rated as an overly preachy message movie, by myself and other Ford admirers (including my old writing partner Joseph McBride, who here supplies a superb and very thoughtful and informative commentary), this is one of Ford’s key works, a major piece of historical reappraisal by the director who (as he sadly said himself) had “killed more Indians than Custer.” It’s also a movie with strong links to both Ford’s official masterpieces The Searchers and The Grapes of Wrath.

The Fordian landscapes are as overpowering as ever, and the story is a riveting and very historically important one, harmed perhaps only by Ford’s reticence about putting too many villains or unsympathetic characters in the Cavalry. Malden, a martinet who precipitates a massacre, is really the only one. But, as Joe suggests, if Cheyenne Autumn is a “noble failure,” as some have said, its nobility is more important than its failure.

This is the 154 minute director’s cut version, with the complete Stewart-Kennedy “Battle of Dodge City” episode, plus all the Overture and Intermission music. The other extras on the overall set include a “Cheyenne Autumn” featurette narrated by Stewart, trailers and some of Ford’s personal home movies. These movies are available in other, more complete and more expensive sets; this one though is a first-rate compilation and a bargain.


The Weekend Report — March 13

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Los Angeles Doesn’t Believe in Tears … Mars Does

The fears that a depressed marketplace would take its toll on Battle: Los Angeles proved unfounded as the sci-fi extravaganza easily took weekend honors with an estimated $36.2 million. However, the frame’s other two national releases seriously underperformed. The visual flamboyant fairy tale Red Riding Hood trudged through the woods with $14 million in its basket to rank third and the family targeted Mars Needs Moms received a resounding audience “no” with $6.8 million.

Regionally a pair of pics bowed in Quebec to undistinguished results. Local production French Kiss generated $91,200 at 54 stalls while French family fave Arthur et la guerre des deux mondes provided $68,400 from 35 venues.

The action among limited/exclusive debuts was considerably more encouraging with the latest Jane Eyre earning a $45,120 average from four screens. The indie Kill the Irishman was unexpectedly potent with a $142,000 tally in five exposures and French award winner Certified Copy grossed $66,300 from a comparable quintet.

Overall the pluses and minuses canceled out and weekend revenues slipped 4% from the immediate prior session. It was a steeper 13% decline from 2010 when the second weekend of Alice in Wonderland reigned with $62.7 million followed by bows of Green Zone and She’s Out of My League with respective openers of $14.3 million and $9.8 million.

Industry anxiety ran high for Battle: Los Angeles with pundits invoking the likes of Independence Day, District 9 and Skyline on the down side as past barometers. Initial tracking pegged its opening between $25 million and $30 million with it pushing slightly higher as opening day approached.

Exit polls pegged the audience unsurprisingly at 62% male. However, it also showed that the ticket buyers were 55% over the age of 25; continuing the 2011 industry question of where the younger, previously more avid crowds have migrated (and whether is possible to park product at that location).

Audience composition for both Red Riding Hood and Mars Needs Moms were also as anticipated. The cowl clad lass was 54% distaff and 56% under the age of 25 while the folk from the red planet were 85% family with 68% buying stereoscopic ducats. But though not particularly family friendly, Rango was the audience magnet even with a 40% hit off of its opening weekend.

Though the two films hit their target, neither hit it with quite the anticipated force. Red Riding Hood was tracking between $16 million and $20 million while Mars Needs Moms was supposed to be in the range of $10 million to $14 million.

Expect some hard questions to be asked at CinemaCon in two weeks beginning with the evaporation of the under 25s. Distribution is likely to be pushing for shorter theatrical windows and theater owners will just be … freaking out.

Weekend (estimates) March 11 – 13, 2011
Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Battle: Los Angeles Sony 36.2 (10,590) NEW 3417 36.2
Rango Par 22.8 (5,820) -40% 3923 68.4
Red Riding Hood WB 14.0 (4,630) NEW 3030 14
The Adjustment Bureau Uni 11.4 (4,010) -46% 2847 38.4
Mars Needs Moms BV 6.8 (2,190) NEW 3117 6.8
Beastly CBS 5.0 (2,570) -49% 1959 16.9
Hall Pass WB 5.0 (1,970) -43% 2555 34.9
Just Go With It Sony 4.0 (1,660) -38% 2398 93.9
The King’s Speech TWC 3.6 (2,030) -42% 1768 129
Gnomeo and Juliet BV/eOne 3.5 (1,360) -52% 2585 89
Unknown WB 3.3 (1,440) -49% 2303 58.4
I Am Number 4 BV 2.2 (1,110) -61% 2005 50.3
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 1.3 (1,050) -69% 1247 70.9
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son Fox 1.2 (1,330) -62% 931 35.1
Take Me Home Tonight Relativity 1.2 (610) -65% 2003 5.8
Cedar Rapids FoxSearch .93 (2,360) 13% 394 4.6
Tangled BV .62 (1,710) -22% 363 196.6
The Fighter Par/Alliance .55 (1,210) -51% 453 92.9
Black Swan FoxSearch .44 (1,310) -56% 337 105.9
True Grit Par .43 (1,070) -56% 401 169.4
Barney’s Version eOne/SPC .34 (1,760) -13% 192 6.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $123.60
% Change (Last Year) -13%
% Change (Last Week) -4%
Also debuting/expanding
Of Gods and Men Sony Classics .25 (4,500) -2% 56 1.2
Jane Eyre Focus .18 (45,120) 4 0.18
Kill the Irishman Anchor Bay .14 (28,260) 5 0.14
French Kiss TVA 91,200 (1,690) 54 0.09
Arthur et la guerre des deux mondes Alliance 68,400 (1,950) 35 0.07
Certified Copy IFC 66,300 (13,260) 5 0.07
HappyThankYouMorePlease Anchor Bay 59,700 (3,140) 70% 19 0.09
I Will Follow Film Movement 44,100 (11,020) 4 0.04
3 Backyards Screen Media 11,400 (11,400) 1 0.01
Making th Boys First Run 6,800 (6,800) 1 0.01
Elektra Luxx IDP 5,700 (1,420) 4 0.01
Black Death Magnolia 3,700 (3,700) 1 0.01
Monogamy Oscilloscope 3,600 (3,600) 1 0.01
Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – March 10, 2011)
Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (9) 337.1 20.90%
Sony (9) 277.4 17.20%
Buena Vista (5) 215.2 13.30%
Warner Bros. (12) 179.1 11.10%
Universal (6) 163.3 10.10%
Weinstein Co. (3) 121.2 7.50%
Fox (5) 82.9 5.10%
Fox Searchlight (3) 76.3 4.70%
CBS (3) 41.3 2.60%
Relativity (3) 29.5 1.80%
Focus (2) 20.7 1.30%
eOne/Seville (7) 12.2 0.80%
Summit (3) 11.7 0.70%
Sony Classics (5) 9.6 0.60%
Other * (73) 37.6 2.30%
1615.1 100.00%
* none greater than 0.4%
Top Limited Releases (Jan. 1 – March 10, 2011)
Title Distributor Gross*
Blue Valentine * TWC 9,313,215
Barney’s Version * eOne/SPC 5,661,527
Biutiful Roadside Att 4,337,480
The Company Men TWC 4,102,660
Cedar Rapids rch 3,676,294
From Nada to Prada LGF 2,946,275
Another Year * SPC 2,854,313
The Way Back Newmarket/All 2,806,469
Hubble 3D * WB 2,321,675
The Grace Card IDP 1,842,199
The Illusionist * SPC 1,811,964
Rabbit Hole * LGF 1,810,546
Somewhere * Focus 1,502,550
Incendies * Seville/eOne 1,348,780
2011 Oscar Shorts Magnolia 1,266,790

The Weekend Report — March 6

Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Gold Star … Silver Star

The lizards of Rango slithered easily into audience hearts with an estimated $38.7 million that topped weekend viewing charts. Three other new wide releases entered the marketplace with the “what if” antics of The Adjustment Bureau ranking second with $20.9 million and the modern fairy tale Beastly following with $9.7 million. The romantic Take Me Home Tonight captured few hearts with a $3.4 million gross.

Limited and exclusive debuts were largely uninspired with the coming of age HappyThankYouMorePlease generating $29,700 on two screens and Thai award winner Uncle Bonmee grossing $25,400 from four venues. Box office for the 3D presentation of opera favorite Carmen from England’s Royal Opera weren’t reported.

The infusion of new titles expanded sales by 24% from the prior weekend but couldn’t compete with last years $116.1 million bow for Alice in Wonderland. Revenues slumped by 34% from 2010 and the year to date is lagging behind the prior year’s pace by 16%.

The enthusiastic reviews for the 3D animated gunslinger yarn Rango did little to bolster interest for the film’s non-family audience and the film bowed on the low end of industry estimates. Generally positive reviews for the sci-fi romance The Adjustment Bureau place that film on the high side of tacking predictions.

Conversely tracking for both Beastly and Take Me Home Tonight veered radically from expectations with the latter expected to out perform in its debut. With the former predicted to do no better than $6 million, you can guess the rest.

With the exhibition sector’s convention just three weeks away (now re-named CinemaCon) one can expect some hard questions being bruited. It’s decidedly not a period of warmth between theater owners and the studios and waning audiences; particular among the key under 25s will certainly heat up the issue of making new releases available on other platforms including home screens.

Oscar sheen (a distant relative of Charlie) appeared to dim rapidly for all save The King’s Speech. Though it’s hardly a new phenomenon, the shorter award season (and threat of an even shorter one in the near future) is likely to create the employ of new strategies to exploit films reliant on statuettes and the like this year.

Weekend (estimates) March 4 – 6, 2011
Title Distributor Gross (average) % change Theaters Cume
Rango Par 37.8 (9,660) NEW 3917 37.8
The Adjustment Bureau Uni 20.9 (7,350) NEW 2840 20.9
Beastly CBS 9.7 (4,980) NEW 1952 9.7
Hall Pass WB 8.8 (2,990) -35% 2950 26.8
Gnomeo and Juliet BV/eOne 7.0 (2,350) -48% 2984 83.8
The King’s Speech TWC 6.5 (2,890) -12% 2240 123.8
Just Go With It Sony 6.4 (2,200) -39% 2920 88.1
Unknown WB 6.4 (2,210) -49% 2913 52.9
I Am Number 4 BV 5.7 (1,970) -48% 2903 46.5
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 4.2 (1,880) -55% 2254 68.8
Take Me Home Tonight Relativity 3.4 (1,710) NEW 2003 3.4
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son Fox 3.2 (1,950) -58% 1642 33.2
Drive Angry Summit 2.1 (930) -59% 2290 9
The Fighter Par/Alliance 1.1 (1,840) -33% 575 92
Black Swan FxSrch 1.0 (1,440) -26% 681 105.1
True Grit Par .94 (1,300) -52% 725 168.6
Cedar Rapids FxSrch .77 (3,280) 16% 235 3.3
Tangled BV .74 (1,760) 76% 421 195.7
The Roommate Sony .59 (970) -70% 606 36.8
The Grace Card IDP .51 (1,450) -50% 352 1.7
Barney’s Version eOne/SPC .40 (1,900) -27% 211 5.7
No Strings Attached Par .36 (850) -75% 425 69.6
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $127.75
% Change (Last Year) -33%
% Change (Last Week) 24%
Also debuting/expanding
Of Gods and Men SPC .26 (7,420) -16% 42 0.73
The Illusionist SPC 77,500 (1,020) -48% 76 1.9
HappyThankYouMorePlease Anchor Bay 29,700 (14,850) 2 0.03
Uncle Bonmee Strand 25,400 (6,350) 4 0.03
Bereavement Paradigm 22,300 (1,120) 20 0.02
Detective K CJ Ent 13,500 (13,500) 1 0.01
I Saw the Devil Magnolia 12,100 (6,050) 2 0.01
The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom Mongrel 9,400 (1,880) 5 0.01
The Human Resources Manager FilmMove 8,300 (2,770) 3 0.01
Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – March 3, 2011)
Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (8) 283.2 19.60%
Sony (9) 267.7 18.50%
Buena Vista (5) 198.7 13.70%
Warner Bros. (12) 157.7 10.90%
Universal (5) 135.8 9.40%
Weinstein Co. (3) 112.8 7.80%
Fox (5) 78.8 5.50%
Fox Searchlight (3) 73.6 5.10%
CBS (2) 29.3 2.00%
Relativity (2) 24.8 1.70%
Focus (2) 20.3 1.40%
eOne/Seville (7) 10.9 0.80%
Sony Classics (5) 8.7 0.60%
Summit (3) 8.5 0.60%
Other * (68) 35.2 2.40%
* none greater than 0.4%
Top Domestic Grossers (Jan. 1 – March 3, 2011)
Title Distributor Gross*
The King’s Speech * TWC 99,641,843
True Grit * Par 97,285,477
The Green Hornet Sony 96,820,070
Just Go With It Sony 81,700,070
Gnomeo and Juliet BV/eOne 76,782,010
No Strings Attached Par 69,289,473
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 64,551,441
Little Fockers * Uni 63,484,205
Black Swan * FxSrch 63,240,197
Tron: Legacy * BV 53,579,845
The Fighter * Par/Alliance 51,877,355
The Dilemma Uni 48,475,290
Unknown WB 46,509,264
I Am Number 4 BV 40,738,416
Yogi Bear * WB 40,506,801
The Roommate Sony 36,260,283
Tangled * BV 33,709,950
The Rite WB 32,464,547
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son Fox 29,969,678
The Mechanic CBS 28,812,145
* does not include 2010 box office

The Brothers Behind The Fighter

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

The Brothers Behind The Fighter

The Weekend Report — February 20

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

I Am Number?

There was little to salute as the weekend portion of the President’s holiday frame saw movie going once again register box office and admission declines. A trio of new films opened to modest response including the action-thriller Unknown, which led the field (though it could slip to second for the four-day period) with an estimated $21.9 million. Also new were the teen-oriented chiller I Am Number 4 , with $19.4 million to slot third, and the comedy sequel Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son in position five with $16.4 million.

There were also a tsunami of niche and exclusive bows including new Hindi and Telegu movies from India. But neither 7 Khoon Maaf nor Katha Screenplay Darsakakatvam provided more than a ripple of interest. Best of the limited releases was the non-fiction The Last Lions with $49,400 at four venues and Spanish Oscar submission Even the Rain, which grossed $52,600 from eight screens. And the fistful of exclusive bows was largely non-vigorous, though the doc I Am generated an encouraging $10,100 in its solo flight.

The absence of an 11th hour Oscar surge didn’t help the situation, though two contenders — The King’s Speech and Black Swan — managed to pass the $100 million threshold. Still, the failure of most late calendar releases to find Academy favor and the wave of new releases pushing out front-runners trends toward a serious re-thinking in theatrical exploitation for award season movies.

The four-day weekend should generate roughly $175 million and that translates into a 28% drop from President’s weekend 2010. It’s a more modest 4% erosion from the prior weekend. A year ago the trio of freshmen comprised of Valentine’s Day, Percy Jackson and The Wolfman debuted to respective grosses of $63.1 million, $38.7 million and $35.6 million.

Unknown skewed dramatically older with exits indicating 89% of its ticket buyers older than 25-years old. Surprisingly, I Am Number 4 also went slightly older with 53% plus 25s and Big Mommas had a 50/50 split. Also unexpected was Number 4’s 57/43 split that favored men and only 26% of its audience identified as teens.

The past six months has certainly seen a listing toward what the industry views as an older audience. The combination of the majors’ historic slowness at responding to change in the marketplace and decades of reliance on young males to propel special effects movies into the box office stratosphere is about to face a major challenge in May.

If you build it … will they come? Stay tuned.


Weekend Estimates – February 18-20, 2011

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
Unknown WB 21.9 (7,190) NEW 3043 21.9
Gnomeo and Juliet BV/eOne 19.6 (6,490) -23% 3014 50.6
I Am Number 4 BV 19.4 (6,160) NEW 3154 19.4
Just Go With It Sony 18.3 (5,150) -40% 3548 60.8
Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son Fox 16.4 (5,810) NEW 2821 16.4
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 13.6 (4,370) -54% 3118 48.5
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. 6.5 (3,100) -11% 2086 103.2
The Roommate Sony 4.0 (1,870) -50% 2160 32.6
The Eagle Focus 3.4 (1,490) -61% 2296 14.9
No Strings Attached Par 3.1 (1,570) -47% 1966 66
True Grit Par 2.4 (1,660) -36% 1465 164.2
Sanctum Uni 1.5 (1,110) -73% 1377 21.8
The Fighter Par/Alliance 1.5 (1,990) -30% 759 87.9
The Green Hornet Sony 1.5 (1,170) -60% 1265 95.1
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 1.3 (1,970) -39% 656 101.5
The Rite WB 1.1 (1,030) -67% 1048 31.3
The Mechanic CBS 1.0 (1,090) -68% 952 27.9
Cedar Rapids Fox Searchlight .93 (9,120) 207% 102 1.3
Barney’s Version eOne/Sony Classics .80 (2,850) 90% 323 4.3
Tangled BV .55 (1,410) -32% 389 194.1
Biutiful Roadside .52 (3,640) -10% 143 3
Tron: Legacy BV .43 (1,380) -22% 312 170.4
Yogi Bear WB .41 (570) -47% 725 97.2
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $139.30
% Change (Last Year) -28%
% Change (Last Week) -4%
Also debuting/expanding
Blue Valentine Weinstein Co. .32 (1,370) -45% 235 8.8
The Company Men Weinstein Co. .29 (1,210) -44% 242 3.5
Another Year Sony Classics .22 (1,820) -33% 121 2.5
7 Khoon Maaf UTV .19 (2,470) 76 0.19
The Illusionist Sony Classics .19 (1,790) -37% 106 1.5
Even the Rain Vitagraph 52,600 (6,570) 8 0.05
The Last Lions National Geo 49,400 (12,350) 4 0.05
Katha Screenplay Darsakatvam Supreme 36,700 (1,930) 19 0.04
Immigration Tango Roadside 14,400 (380) 30 0.01
En terrains connus eOne 12,600 (1,050) 12 0.01
I Am Paladin 10,100 (10,100) 1 0.01
Brotherhood Phase 4 8,800 (8,800) 1 0.01
The Chaperone IFC 6,900 (690) 10 0.01
Putty Hill Cinema Guild 4,500 (4,500) 1 0.01
Vanishing on 7th Street Magnolia 3,200 (3,200) 1 0.01

Domestic Market Share – 2010

Distributor Gross Market Share
Paramount (8) 236.4 21.60%
Sony (9) 216.8 19.80%
Universal (5) 131.8 12.00%
Buena Vista (4) 114.3 10.40%
Weinstein Co. (3) 90.6 8.30%
Warner Bros. (10) 87.9 8.00%
Fox Searchlight (3) 66.6 6.10%
Fox (4) 47.4 4.30%
CBS (2) 27.4 2.50%
Relativity (2) 24.6 2.20%
Focus (2) 12.9 1.20%
Sony Classics (5) 5.9 0.50%
Other * (49) 33.5 3.10%
1096.1` 100.00%
* none greater than 0.45%

Gurus o’ Gold – What Would The Oscars Look Like As Of Today?

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

There still may be some changes. Just adding in the last few late votes, for instance, pushed Melissa Leo back into the top Gurus slot in Supporting Actress.

But if The Gurus are right, just 3 days before balloting closes, the scoresheet the next morning will look like this…

The King’s Speech – 4 Oscars – Picture, Actor, Original Screenplay, Score
Inception – 4 Oscars – Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects, Art Direction
The Social Network – 3 Oscars – Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing
The Fighter – 2 Oscars – Supp Actor, Supp Actress
Toy Story 3 – 2 Oscars- Song, Animated Feature

And getting 1 Oscar each….

Black Swan – Actress
Inside Job – Documentary
In A Better World – Foreign Language
The Wolfman – Make-Up
Day & Night – Animated Short
Wish 143 – Live Action Short
Alice In Wonderland – Costume
True Grit – Cinematography

And with half an Oscar each (the Gurus have them tied for the lead)…

Strangers No More/The Warriors of Qiuang – Short Doc

Pamela Martin On Editing The Fighter

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Pamela Martin On Editing The Fighter

The Weekend Report – February 13

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

Bieber Pitch
By Leonard Klady

It was Sandler by a nose over the teen sensation. The rom-com Just Go With It emerged with an estimated $30.8 million while the 3D concert film Justin Bieber: Never Say Never was right behind with $30.4 million. In a session energized by new releases the animated Gnomeo and Juliet charted third with $25.3 million and the Gladiator-lite The Eagle slotted in position five with a drab $8.3 million.

The frame also featured a clutch of incoming niche and exclusive debuts. Bollywood entry Patiala House was the best of the newbies with $352,000 at 80 venues and on the Pinoy circuit Bulong had an OK $25,300 at six locales. Testing the waters with 15 screens, the comic Cedar Rapids found the temp conducive with a $302,000 tally.

There was also good response to the Oscar shorts tour with a first stop of $237,000 and the pacifist doc Mooz-lum had an impressive $12,000 per location average of $12,000, The single screen bow of another doc, Vidal Sassoon, looked and dressed good with $13,800.

Following a month of box office declines revenues experienced dramatic upturns that have finally put smiles on the folks in the distribution and exhibition sector.

Pundits were confident that the Sandler – Aniston pairing in Just Go With It would generate a $30 million plus opening salvo that would easily outdistance any threat from Justin Bieber’s concert foray. The latter movie was pegged at $25 million to $28 million and was the clear winner on opening day Friday with close to a $3 million edge of $12.4 million.

However, whereas the pubescent fan base proved to be first day fanatics, the older Valentine romantics were dominant for Saturday date night. The Bieber group declined by 13% while the Gos expanded by 42%. Both films skewed female with the concert crowd comprised of a whopping 84% and 67% under 25 according to exit polls. The comedy crowd was 58% distaff and 60% comprised of plus 25%. Never Say Never also registered a very potent 84% attendance for its stereoscopic playdates.

That still left plenty of room for the family audience that embraced Gnomeo and Juliet. Largely underserved in recent weeks, trackers underestimated its appeal with predictions in the range of $16 million to $20 million. The Eagle was the poor cousin in the mix and largely negative reviews didn’t help improve a lackluster response.

Overall revenues pushed to roughly $150 million for an eye-popping 73% boost from the prior weekend. It was also an impressive 32% improvement from 2010. Last year’s freshmen thrust was provided by first and third ranked Dear John and From Paris with Love with respective opening salvos of $30.5 million and $8.2 million.

Obviously with so much incoming fare the crowd of Oscar contenders – even the most resilient – lost a significant number of screens. And if on-going appeal is any kind of indicator, The King’s Speech contingent would be well advised to brush up on their elocution. It sputtered an insignificant 5% erosion despite the loss of 321 theaters.

Weekend (estimates) February 11 – 13, 2011
Title Distributor Gross (avg) % chng Thtrs Cume
Just Go With It Sony 30.8 (8,680) NEW 3548 30.8
Justin Bieber: Never Say Never Par 30.4 (9,790) NEW 3105 30.4
Gnomeo and Juliet BV 25.3 (8,450) NEW 2994 25.3
The Roommate Sony 8.3 (3,290) -44% 2534 26
The Eagle Focus 8.3 (3,630) NEW 2296 8.3
The King’s Speech TWC 7.3 (3,230) -5% 2263 93.8
No Strings Attached Par 5.6 (2,030) -30% 2756 59.8
Sanctum Uni 5.1 (1,830) -46% 2789 17.5
True Grit Par 3.8 (1,820) -19% 2072 160.3
The Green Hornet Sony 3.6 (1,730) -39% 2090 92.3
The Rite WB 3.1 (1,410) -44% 2207 28.7
The Mechanic CBS 3.1 (1,630) -42% 1886 25.3
The Fighter Par/Alliance 2.1 (2,030) -25% 1049 85.6
Black Swan FoxSrchlght 2.1 (1,980) -37% 1069 99.3
Dilemma Uni 1.0 (800) -70% 1242 47.6
Tangled BV .77 (980) -58% 784 193.3
Yogi Bear WB .74 (670) -67% 1111 96.6
Blue Valentine TWC .57 (1,450) -28% 393 8.2
Tron: Legacy BV .55 (1,510) -60% 364 169.7
127 Hours FoxSrchlght .54 (1,500) -50% 359 16.8
Biutiful Roadside .52 (2,740) -19% 190 2.2
The Company Men TWC .51 (1,840) -7% 277 3
Barney’s Version eOne/SPC .44 (4,400) -11% 119 3.3
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $144.10
% Change (Last Year) 32%
% Change (Last Week) 73%
Also debuting/expanding
Patiala House Hari .35 (4,400) 80 0.35
Another Year Sony Classics .34 (1,970) -23% 236 2.2
The Illusionist Sony Classics .32 (1,540) 70% 205 1.15
Cedar Rapids FoxSrchlght .30 (20,150) 15 0.3
2011 Oscar Shorts Magnolia .24 (3,880) 61 0.24
Mooz-lum Peace-Films .13 (12,000) 11 0.13
Gaganam Big Pictures 96,700 (6,400) 16 0.1
Bulong ABS 25,300 (4,210) 6 0.03
Poetry Kino 18,300 (6,100) 3 0.02
Payanam Big Pictures 15,400 (1,490) 9 0.02
Vidal Sassoon: The Movie Phase 4 13,800 (13,800) 1 0.01
Carancho Strand 12,900 (4,300) 3 0.01
Domestic Market Share (Jan. 1 – Feb. 10, 2011)
Distributor (releases) Gross Market Share
Paramount (7) 184.7 20.60%
Sony (8) 157.6 17.50%
Universal (5) 121.9 13.60%
Buena Vista (3) 83.9 9.40%
Warner Bros. (10) 81.3 9.10%
Weinstein Co. (3) 78.8 8.80%
Fox Searchlight (2) 62.4 6.90%
Fox (4) 46.6 5.20%
Relativity (2) 24.5 2.70%
CBS (2) 22.6 2.50%
Alliance (5) 5.3 0.60%
Other * (49) 27.7 3.10%
897.3 100.00%

Melissa Leo On “Pimping”

Monday, February 7th, 2011

Melissa Leo On “Pimping”

The Weekend Report – February 6

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Where Have All the Avids Gone …
Long Time Passing

The debut of The Roommate led an anemic field at the weekend box office with an estimated $15.5 million. Second ranked was another newcomer – the 3D adventure Sanctum – with a disappointing $9.2 million.

Anticipating steep Sunday admission drops from the Super Bowl both national and niche debuts were generally directed to strong single quadrant audiences. Opening day-and-date with Mainland China, the Sino version of What Women Want generated a dull $58,900 at 29 venues; the family oriented The Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec struggled to $51,300 at 27 screens in Quebec; and the inspirational Midway to Heaven was stuck in the middle with $42,400 at 10 playdates. Best of the new exclusives was American indie Cold Weather with a $14,800 tally on a single screen.

Continuing the first quarter cold spell ticket sales experienced double digit declines that have left both the exhibition and distribution sectors in a very blue funk.

The Roommate, a remake in all but name and credit of Single White Female, bucked recent viewing trend with exit polls showing strong younger appeal. Its 65% female crowd was not unexpected and its 61% under 21 makeup was encouraging … at least for an opening weekend gross that was largely predicted by tracking pundits.

Sanctum wasn’t as lucky with, again, a distaff skewing set of viewers, albeit largely plus 25s. The sizzle was all about its stereoscopic qualities and reviewers skewered its artistic elements. Still tracking indicated a bow of $10 million to $12 million that audiences weren’t willing to make come true.

Overall business fell short of $90 million for a 20% decline from the prior weekend. It was a slightly steeper 22% drop from 2010 when the $30.5 million opening of Dear John toppled Avatar’s reign with that film taking the bridesmaid spot with $22.8 million.

The industry is now inured to Super Bowl’s clobber but the more serious concern is the sudden disappearance of the avid audience that falls between ages 17 and 25. Recent movie releases are largely being blamed with no relief in sight for the first quarter of 2011 and certainly no possibility of Oscar fare bringing up the slack.

The official line is that the avids will return but somewhere in the dark recesses are concerns that a significant portion of that audience has opted out of the theatrical experience in favor of new technologies and platforms. Theater owners are buckling down for additional experimentation in “windows” that will cut into their bottom line.

Historically the majors have been slow to respond to change and if logically an aging population would suggest adopting more mature content, don’t expect that penny to drop for three to five years. Independents could move in to fill the gap though one can be certain their deep pocket brethren will out spend them to ensure market share dominance rather than address real business issues.


Weekend Estimates – February 4-6, 2011

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The Roommate Sony 15.5 (6,130) NEW 2534 15.5
Sanctum Uni 9.2 (3,300) NEW 2787 9.2
No Strings Attached Par 8.3 (2,730) -38% 3050 51.7
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. 8.1 (3,150) -27% 2584 83.9
The Green Hornet Sony 6.3 (2,070) -44% 3033 87.4
The Rite WB 5.6 (1,880) -62% 2985 23.7
The Mechanic CBS 5.3 (1,970) -53% 2704 20
True Grit Par 4.8 (1,650) -36% 2902 155
Dilemma Uni 3.4 (1,340) -40% 2545 45.7
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 3.4 (1,710) -34% 1977 95.9
The Fighter Par/Alliance 2.9 (1,730) -27% 1662 82.4
Yogi Bear WB 2.3 (1,260) -28% 1807 95.4
Tangled BV 1.8 (1,330) -28% 1369 192
127 Hours Fox Searchlight 1.4 (1,510) -36% 899 15.7
Tron: Legacy BV 1.4 (1,320) -46% 1040 168.8
Little Fockers Uni 1.2 (910) -52% 1355 146.5
Blue Valentine Weinstein Co. .79 (1,760) -33% 450 7.3
From Prada to Nada Lionsgate .69 (2,640) -38% 261 2
Biutiful Roadside .63 (3,560) 38% 177 1.4
Country Strong Sony .61 (640) -52% 948 19.8
The Company Men Weinstein Co. .55 (2,380) -17% 231 2.3
Chronicles of Narnia: Dawn Treader Fox .53 (1,030) -40% 514 102.6
Gulliver’s Travels Fox .67 (1,030) -42% 495 41.14
Another Year Sony Classics .48 (2,030) 55% 236 1.7
Barney’s Version eOne/Sony Classics .43 (3,570) -13% 119 2.7
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $84.70
% Change (Last Year) -22%
% Change (Last Week) -20%
Also debuting/expanding
The Illusionist Sony Classics .19 (2,850) 46% 68 0.77
Incendies eOne/Seville .14 (3,050) 30% 47 2.8
Rabbit Hole Lionsgate .12 (890) -32% 131 1.7
What Women Want China Lion 58,900 (2,030) 29 0.06
Adele Blanc-Sec Seville 51,300 (1,900) 27 0.05
Midway to Heaven Excel 42,400 (4,240) 10 0.04
Cold Weather IFC 14,800 (14,800) 1 0.01
Troubadours PBS 13,200 (4,400) 3 0.01
Waiting Forever FreeStyle 8,700 (2,900) 3 0.01
The Other Woman IFC 5,800 (2,900) 2 0.01

Top Domestic Grossers – 2010

Distributor Gross Market Share
Paramount (7) 163.5 20.90%
Sony (7) 130.7 16.70%
Universal (4) 103.7 13.30%
Buena Vista (3) 79.6 10.20%
Warner Bros. (10) 70.1 9.00%
Weinstein Co. (3) 66.2 8.50%
Fox Searchlight (2) 55.7 7.10%
Fox (4) 45.1 5.80%
Relativity (2) 24.1 3.10%
CBS (2) 15.1 1.90%
Alliance (5) 4.9 0.60%
Other * (46) 22.3 2.90%
781 100.00%
* none greater than 0.4%

Pete Hammond Goes Out Of Way To Prove He’s Not Melissa Leo’s Friend

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Pete Hammond Goes Out Of Way To Prove He’s Not Melissa Leo’s Friend

Melissa Leo Steps Into The Girl Fight

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Melissa Leo Steps Into The Girl Fight

Fisticuffs Fangirl Joyce Carol Oates On “Boisterous, Brilliantly Orchestrated” Fighter

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Fisticuffs Fangirl Joyce Carol Oates On “Boisterous, Brilliantly Orchestrated” Fighter

Friday Estimates — January 29

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

The Rite|5.2|2985|NEW|7.2
No Strings Attached |4.3|3022|-41%|30.4
The Mechanic|3.4|2703|NEW|3.4
The Green Hornet|2.9|3524|-42%|70.3
The King’s Speech |2.8|2557|29%|63.9
True Grit|1.9|3120|-9%|36.8
The Dilemma|1.7|2905|-45%|26.6
Black Swan|1.4|2315|-23%|86.9
The Fighter |0.95|1914|-22%|75.3
Little Fockers|0.65|2051|-47%|142.8
Also Debuting
From Prada to Nada|0.31|256||0.31
Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji|26,700|42||26,700
Ip Man 2|18,800|20||18,800
* in millions

I’d Like to Thank the Academy …

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

… for announcing its nominations at such a ridiculously early hour during Sundance every year. Everyone in the business who’s already hitting their exhaustion point at the fest really appreciates getting to wake super early so we can hear nominations that rarely offer any huge surprises. But we’ll see.

… Okay, there were a few surprises, pleasant and otherwise:

I’m happy to see Dogtooth get a nomination for Best Foreign; we’ve been talking about that film since Toronto 2009, so it’s nice to see it get some love. But I’ll be rooting for my #1 film of the year, Biutiful, to win the category.

Speaking of Biutiful, how great is it that Javier Bardem got that well-deserved Best Actor nomination? In a perfect world, he would win it, but all things being what they are in Hollywood, you can give the performance of your career as he does here and still be the underdog.

No Ryan Gosling, though, which is too bad. Not sure which Best Actor nominee I would have bumped to make room for him. Bridges, maybe.

And also good to see John Hawkes get the Supporting Actor nom for Winter’s Bone. He’s my pick to win it. Fingers crossed.

On the chick side of things, I’m not unhappy to see any of the actresses who were nominated for Best Actress. It would be easy to get excited about the nominees all being from films with small budgets. Not that there’s anyone from a bigger film I would have liked to have seen nominated, but still.

As for the Supporting Actress noms, nothing shocking there, though it’s probably Hailee Steinfeld’s to lose. Here’s hoping her career survives the dreaded “child nominee” backlash, and that she has someone smart guiding her script choices post-True Grit.

Aronofsky and the Coens got well-deserved director nods. I wish Debra Granik’s name was on that list as well, but at least they tossed her a bone for screenplay. And what? No Christopher Nolan?

Nothing terribly shocking in the docs nominations. Once Exit Through the Gift Shop made the short list, it seemed likely to make the final cut. I hope it wins. And I guess I am going to have to get off my ass and force myself to watch Restrepo.

Good for The Illusionist for at least getting a nomination … maybe that will interest more parents in watching it with their kids. Okay, probably not, but a girl can dare to dream. If it actually beat out Toy Story 3 that would be probably the biggest shocker of the Oscars this year, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for that to happen.

And yay for the Roadside Attractions team for scoring noms for two films, Winter’s Bone and Biutiful. It’s been interesting to watch as Roadside has stepped up into the awards game with some smart acquisitions. Nice guys all around, and I’m happy for them almost as much as for the films, both of which I loved.

Okay, thanks Academy. Back to Sundance.

Friday Estimates — January 22

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

No Strings Attached|7.2|3018|NEW|7.2
The Green Hornet|5|3584|-55%|50.4
The Dilemma|3|2943|-52%|26.6
The King’s Speech |2.1|1680|-43%|51.6
True Grit|2.1|3464|-37%|132.7
Black Swan|1.7|2407|-28%|79.1
Little Fockers|1.2|2979|-41%|138
The Fighter |1.2|2275|-20%|69.7
Tron: Legacy|0.9|2018|-35%|160.5
Yogi Bear |0.75|2510|-29%|85.6
Also Debuting
The Way Back|0.39|659||0.39
The Company Men|0.17|106||0.17
Dhobi Ghat|0.13|79||0.13
Evangelion: 2.0|7,950|15||7,950
Un Vie Qui Commence|4,700|13||4,700
L’Autre Dumas|3,800|8||3,800
The Woodmans|1,800|1||1,800
* in millions

The Weekend Report — January 16

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Weekend Estimates – January 14-16, 2010

Title Distributor Gross (average) % change * Theaters Cume
The Green Hornet Sony 33.2 (9,270) NEW 3115 33.2
Dilemma Uni 17.4 (5,910) NEW 2940 17.4
True Grit Par 10.8 (3,130) -26% 3459 126
The King’s Speech Weinstein Co. 9.0 (5,810) 40% 1543 44.5
Black Swan Fox Searchlight 8.0 (3,450) -1% 2328 72.9
Little Fockers Uni 7.3 (2,140) -46% 3394 134.4
Tron: Legacy BV 5.7 (2,350) -43% 2439 157
Yogi Bear WB 5.3 (1,950) -21% 2702 82
The Fighter Par/Alliance 5.1 (2,100) -28% 2414 65.7
Season of the Witch Relativity 4.5 (1,600) -57% 2827 18
Tangled BV 4.0 (1,940) -22% 2048 181
Country Strong Sony 3.6 (2,550) -51% 1424 13.2
Chronicles of Narnia: Dawn Treader Fox 2.3 (1,340) -51% 1704 98
Gulliver’s Travels Fox 2.0 (1,220) -56% 1666 37.6
The Tourist Sony 1.6 (1,150) -57% 1420 64.2
Harry Potter & the Deathly Hollows, Part 1* WB 1.4 (1,460) -42% 1507 289.8
Blue Valentine Weinstein Co. 1.4 (5,910) 93% 230 2.8
Megamind Par .62 (1,820) 125% 341 145.4
The Heart Specialist FreeStyle .48 (1,140) NEW 422 0.48
Yamla Pagla Deewana Eros .43 (5,270) NEW 82 0.43
How Do You Know Sony .41 (660) -78% 615 29.9
Weekend Total ($500,000+ Films) $123.70
% Change (Last Year) -27%
% Change (Last Week) 15%
Also debuting/expanding
Barney’s Version * Sony Class/eOne .37 (8,270) 259% 45 0.8
Rabbit Hole Lions gate .26 (2,620) 138% 100 0.9
Somewhere Focus .25 (4,680) 52% 53 0.73
Mirapakaya Bharat .23 (8,820 26 0.13
Another Year Sony Classics .12 (9,380) 40% 13 0.34
Anaganga o Dheerudu Blue Sky 66,500 (2,290) 29 0.07
The Illusionist Sony Classics 63,400 (9,060) 92% 7 0.25
Aadukalam Big Cinemas 25,600 (4,270) 6 0.03
Kaavalan Big Cinemas 21,800 (1,680) 13 0.02
Siruthai Bharat 18,200 (2,020) 9 0.02
Every Day Image 8,800 (2,930) 3 0.01
Ong Bak 3 Magnolia 5,500 (1,830) 3 0.01
A Somewhat Gentle Man Strand 5,100 (5,100) 1 0.01

Weekend Estimates — January 16

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

The Green Hornet|33.2|NEW|33.2
The Dilemma|17.4|NEW|17.4
True Grit|10.8|-26%|126
The King’s Speech|9.0|40%|44.5
Black Swan|8.0|-1%|72.9
Little Fockers|7.3|-46%|134.4
TRON: Legacy|5.7|-43%|157
Yogi Bear|5.3|-21%|82
The Fighter|5.1|-28%|65.7
Season of the Witch |4.5|-57%|18

Friday Estimates — January 15

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

The Green Hornet|10.8|3584|NEW|10.8
The Dilemma|6.0|2940|NEW|6.0
True Grit|3.1|3459|-29%|118.3
The King’s Speech |2.4|1543|35%|37.9
Black Swan|2.3|2328|-4%|67.2
Little Fockers|2|2414|-33%|62.1
The Fighter |2.1|2528|-21%|52.9
TRON: Legacy|1.4|2439|-50%|152.6
Season of the Witch |1.2|2827|-67%|14.7
Country Strong |1.1|1424|-58%|10.7
Also Debuting
The Heart Specialist|0.35|422||0.35
Yamla Pagla Deewana|0.12|82||0.12
Barney’s Version *|0.09|45||0.09
Every Day|3,501|3||3,501
* in millions