Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013: First Quarter

Time flies quickly.  We're already a quarter into 2013 and it feels like it just begun.  While the first couple of months of the cinematic year are clearly focused by the craziness and nonsense of the awards mania, movies did in fact come out.  While typically a dumping ground for inferior product and whatsits, I thought I'd pontificate.

Here's the "best" of the new year in terms of popularity, which means dollars and cents:
  1. Oz: The Great & Powerful- $200.2
  2. Identity Thief- $130.0
  3. The Croods- $93.8
  4. Mama- $71.5
  5. Safe Heaven- $69.8
  6. A Good Day to Die Hard- $66.5
  7. Warm Bodies- $65.2
  8. Jack the Giant Slayer- $61.5
  9. Olympus Has Fallen- $56.5
  10. G.I. Joe: Retaliation- $55.5
How about that?  The narrative this year so far has been focused on the downward stats on attendance and dollars earned.  A nod I have a particular distaste for as money should have nothing to do with the overall conversation of cinema.  That being said, 2013 thus far has been a waiting game for all.  Waiting, not just for a film to spark and engulf us into the joys of filmmaking, but also for the next big thing-- Oz: The So-So and Kinda Sexist changed the latter, to the mercy of executives and shareholders around the world...God bless!  Just to purge, the international box office paints a different picture; here's the top ten worldwide moneymakers of the 2013 so far:

  1. Oz: The Great & Powerful- $414.2
  2. A Good Day to Die Hard- $295.6
  3. The Croods- $242.7
  4. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters- $216.4
  5. Jack the Giant Slayer- $158.0
  6. Identity Thief- $146.7
  7. G.I. Joe: Retaliation- $135.9
  8. Mama- $127.0
  9. Warm Bodies- $104.5
  10. Gangster Squad- $99.2
Eight out of ten films overlap, but perceives failures Jack the Giant Slayer, Gangster Squad and A Good Day to Die Hard don't quite seem quite that overall.  Meanwhile, the Hansel & Gretel sequel is a real thing now, so thank you international audiences for that.

The top ten per-screen averages of 2013:
  1. Spring Breakers- $87,667
  2. The Place Beyond the Pines- $69,864
  3. Somebody Up There Likes Me- $34,362
  4. From Up on Poppy Hill- $28,793
  5. Quartet- $23,561
  6. Stoker- $22,935
  7. 56 Up- %22,088
  8. Gimme the Loot- $21,065
  9. The Gatekeepers- $20,517
  10. Oz: The Great & Powerful- $20,223
Moral of the story is that 2013 has been James Franco's world; the rest of us are just living in it.

Enough with the numbers game!  It's about the quality dammit. And while 2013 has been so far, as previously mentioned, a few months of the waiting game, there have been a few things to pay attention too.  Here's my take:

Honorable mentionsStoker and The Place Beyond the Pines aren't quite films that work for me as a whole, but they are worthy auteural installments of the collections of their filmmakers,  Chan-wook Park and Derek Cianfrance.  Both have lovely visual touches and are worthy argumentative pieces of film.  Also of note are two films that had blink and you miss them 2012 Oscar qualifying releases that were shafted aside into early spring 2013 by tentative indie studios clearly mismanaging their properties-- On the Road and Ginger & Rosa.  Again neither film is perfect, but both have indelible performances worthy of discussion and foaming at the mouth.  On the Road features a hopefully star-making turn by Garrett Hedlund and Ginger & Rosa has a worthy one for Elle Fanning.  Both of them deserve better-- casting directors take notice.  Warm Bodies, a surprise box office hit was a quiet charmer as well, even though it clearly follows the strident Twilight mold.

The real deals:

4) Beautiful Creatures- Speaking of a film that follows the strident Twilight formula, Beautiful Creatures reversed roles of teenage witch and mortal falling in love in a fried green tomato backdrop.  It shouldn't have worked and well, audiences didn't go for it, which in a way may be an outside complement for a film that's smarter, funnier and fresher than it really has any right to be.  Director Richard LaGravenese brought a literary sense to this tweener, but also had a top drawer cast in Alice Englart (also a find in Ginger & Rosa) and Alden Ehrenreich (both refreshing newcomers), and able support in Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Eileen Atkins, Margo Martindale, and most wondrous of all, Emma Thompson.  The mix of tones and acting styles, a gentle mix of earnest and camp made this a delightful surprise.  Terribly marketed by an unsure Warner Bros. seemingly desperate to brand this as something it wasn't quite, it's worthy of a look and a cult when it comes out on Blue-Ray.  Review here.

3) Side Effects- Steven Soderbergh's alleged swan song from the cinema was a lean, nervy potboiler.  Perhaps a film that could have been done in his sleep, it matters not.  Review here.

2) No- The most artful film thus far of 2013 was actually a Foreign Language Oscar nominee this year, and dare I say it (shameful I'm aware), I feel it might actually be better the winner.  Review here.

1) Room 237- The most refreshing and entertaining celebration of film geekery, perhaps of all time.  The Shining was one messed up movie.  Review here.

Anything coming out so far have any awards potential?

Well, Oz: The So-So & Kinda Sexist will have an outside shot at effects awards, but the nature of the blockbuster contingent can be hard to predict as we're not quite sure what the rest of the year will hold.  Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton's ugly revisionist tale did well with the Academy and Oz was clearly made in the same mold, so Production Design seems a near given, but who really knows.  Stoker and The Place Beyond the Pines will have its critical champions and are worthy perhaps of some plaudits, but since neither will likely be audience favorites nor money makers, the Oscars aren't probable.  Aside from that James Franco has an bonafide Indie Spirit nod in the making for Spring Breakers.  That's all folks.

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