Unfocused Does Not Mean an Absence of Ideas.

I’ve been very unfocused this week. Perhaps it’s the jetlag from my return trip from the West Coast. Perhaps it’s because my granddaughter not only shared her love but also her cold (believe me, the love is worth the cold). Perhaps it’s the Springtime in February weather we’ve been experiencing on the East Coast this week. For whatever reason, I’ve been unable to focus on a single theme for this week’s “really like” post. But, that’s okay. I can make unfocused, half-baked ideas about “really like” movies work.

I’ve been very unfocused this week. Perhaps it’s the jetlag from my return trip from the West Coast. Perhaps it’s because my granddaughter not only shared her love but also her cold (believe me, the love is worth the cold). Perhaps it’s the Springtime in February weather we’ve been experiencing on the East Coast this week. For whatever reason, I’ve been unable to focus on a single theme for this week’s “really like” post. But, that’s okay. I can make unfocused, half-baked ideas about “really like” movies work.

I was going to write something insightful about Black Panther only to discover that the airwaves and the internet have been saturated with stories about this cultural phenomenon. Anything I might have to say would get lost in the wave of Black Panther mania. I’d guess that this isn’t the last time that the hype machine will take over our cultural conversation. Some of it will be deserved. It might even be deserved for Black Panther. Its cultural significance is unquestioned. Its greatness as a movie has to meet the test of time. As I did last year for Dunkirk, by throwing down a “great” movie benchmark (Saving Private Ryan) for comparison, we can benchmark Black Panther’s greatness over time. An appropriate benchmark for Black Panther is the gold standard of Comic Book inspired movies, The Dark Knight. That gold standard includes an IMDB average rating of 9.0, a 94% Certified Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes, an 82 Metascore Rating, an “A” from Cinemascore, and 8 Academy Award nominations including 2 wins. So far Black Panther is exceeding the standard based on scores from Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic and CinemaScore and lagging pretty significantly the IMDB standard. We’ll need to wait until next year’s awards season to see how much Oscar love there is for Black Panther. Today, Black Panther is a well established “really like” movie. I’m looking forward to seeing it. Let’s give it a little time to see how it measures up to the established greats like the Dark Knight series.

I also thought about posting an Academy Award related theme but decided to hold off a week on that one. I am doing an special Oscar study for next week (That’s a tease folks!). But my unfocused mind has been thinking about this year’s Oscar awards. Last week I watched two Oscar nominated movies, The Shape of Water and Mudbound. I “really liked” Shape of Water but I didn’t love it. I think for this movie to work you need to care about the creature. Don’t get me wrong I cared that the creature was being treated inhumanely. I just didn’t find out enough about the creature to care about him as an individual. On the other hand, I really cared about Elisa (Sally Hawkins) which is why I liked the movie. But, to really care about a movie relationship I think you need to care about both people in the relationship. Thus, my ambivalence about the movie.

Mudbound, on the other hand, was a revelation. I loved it. With as many movies that have been made about American race relations, it is difficult to find a story that is fresh. Mudbound is fresh and well told. I have not seen this story on the screen before. After seeing Mudbound, I began to think about how underrepresented it is in the Academy Award nominations. Is it because it is a Netflix movie? The Netflix model is to release movies in theaters overseas and on its streaming platform in the United States. Does Hollywood penalize movies owned by Netflix because of this model? I’m just wondering.

Finally, I was thinking about the movie wasteland that exists between now and the beginning of blockbuster season in May. It is not historically a good time for new “really like” movies to get released. Some ” really like” movies do, though, and I make it my personal mission to pan for that nugget of movie gold worth watching. This weekend I have my eye on two new releases, Annihilation and Game Night. Early Rotten Tomatoes reviews are promising for both. Stay tuned.

So, as you can see, I was a little unfocused this week. Just don’t mistake that for an absence of ideas.

 

Do July Movies Crackle or Fizzle?

In the United States, the highlight of the month of July is the celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July. It is commemorated by parades, cook outs, and firework spectaculars. For readers of this blog, though, you may be wondering if the movies released in July crackle like the firework displays put on in the cities claiming the mantle, “cradle of liberty” (Boston, New York and Philadelphia), or do they fizzle out like damp Roman Candles launched in your neighbor’s back yard. I’m happy to report that not only is July National Hot Dog Month in the U.S., it is also a pretty good month most years for movies

In the United States, the highlight of the month of July is the celebration of Independence Day on the 4th of July. It is commemorated by parades, cook outs, and firework spectaculars. For readers of this blog, though, you may be wondering if the movies released in July crackle like the firework displays put on in the cities claiming the mantle, “cradle of liberty” (Boston, New York and Philadelphia), or do they fizzle out like damp Roman Candles launched in your neighbor’s back yard. I’m happy to report that not only is July National Hot Dog Month in the U.S., it is also a pretty good month most years for movies.

Like June, July is a big month at the box office. For the five year period from 2011 to 2015, ticket sales per movie averaged $15.91 million. Over the same five year period ticket sales for movies released in July averaged $22.13 million, very close to June’s $22.45 million. Where June and July part ways is in the quality of the movies released. Of the top 75 movies  in IMDB’s Top 250, ten of them were released in July, compared to five in June. Based on the movies I’ve seen over the last 15 years, there is a 53.6% probability I will “really like” a movie released in July compared to 36.1% for June releases. Here are my top five “really like” July movie releases:

Oscar Noms. Oscar Wins Best Picture Noms
When Harry Met Sally 1
Saving Private Ryan 12 5 1
Dark Knight, The 8 2
Seabiscuit 7 1
Die Hard 4

All, with the possible exception of the very good Seabiscuit, are considered iconic by most film buffs and were strong Academy Award performers. Throw in Inception with its 8 nominations, including Best Picture, and 4 Academy Award wins, and the list is even more impressive. Based on the evidenced presented here, we might conclude that July movie releases crackle.

Let’s not be hasty, though. In the last ten years, of the 78 movies nominated for Best Picture, only Inception and The Dark Knight were released in July, a paltry 2.6% of the total. Take a look at last year’s top five July Box Office Movies and you begin to wonder, where’s the crackle?

Top Movies IMDB Avg Rating Rotten Tomatoes
Minions 6.4 Rotten 56%
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation 7.5 Cert. Fresh 93%
Ant-Man 7.4 Cert. Fresh 81%
Trainwreck 6.3 Cert. Fresh 85%
Terminator: Genisys 6.6 Rotten 26%

Of these five movies, only Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and Ant-Man are “really like” prospects. Neither is destined to be labeled iconic. There isn’t a single Academy Award nomination of any kind in the group. 2014 wasn’t much better with only one nomination among the top five July releases. Does this mean that July used to crackle but now it fizzles?  I think a two year sample isn’t large enough to declare a trend but it’s worth watching.

On Thursday, I’ll take a shot at identifying five movies that have the potential to crackle this July. With five July weekends this year the odds are in our favor. Like every month, though, there will be movies that you expect to crackle but, like that damp Roman Candle, will fizzle out.