Apparently unconnected items appeared within two days of each other in the Los Angeles Times, and together confirmed my fear that American movie-going is entering into a Dark Age. The first was in a blog by Patrick Goldstein, who said: "Film critics are in the same boat as evening news anchors -- their core audience is people 50 and over, and getting older by the day. You could hire Jessica Alba to read the evening news -- or review 'G.I. Joe' for that matter -- and younger audiences still wouldn't care." The other was in a report by John Horn that despite "The Hurt Locker's" impressive box office success, "younger moviegoers are not flocking to the film, which could limit its ticket sales."
The obvious implication is, younger moviegoers don't care about reviews and have missed the news that "The Hurt Locker" is the best American film of the summer. There is a more disturbing implication: word of mouth is not helping the film in that younger demographic. It has been Hollywood gospel for decades that advertising and marketing can help a film to open strongly, but moviegoers talking with each other are crucial to its continuing success. That has been Summit Entertainment's game plan for "The Hurt Locker," which opened in a few theaters and has steadily increased its cities, becoming a real success without ever "winning" a weekend or benefiting from an overkill marketing campaign.
Click to blow up image From "Blow-Up": A blow-up image of... what?
“Until the film is edited, I have no idea myself what it will be about. And perhaps not even then. Perhaps the film will only be a mood, or a statement about a style of life. Perhaps it has no plot at all, in the way you use the word. I depart from the script constantly. I may film scenes I had no intention of filming; thing suggest themselves on location, and we improvise. I try not to think about it too much. Then, in the cutting room, I take the film and start to put it together, and only then do I begin to get an idea of what it is about." -- Michelangelo Antonioni to Roger Ebert in 1969
I can think of no better tribute to the late Michelangelo Antonioni than this 1999 letter to Ebert: A friend recently sent me your column in the Nov. 8, 1998 Denver Post about the movie "Blow-Up." As I actually played the blow-up in that fine movie, I thought you might enjoy knowing the behind-the-scenes story of how the film was made (or not made, in fact). Your column proclaims it to be a great film, and I am not trying to discret that opinion. But it is nonetheless an unfinished work, and it raises the fascinating question of how much of the "art" of a final film is intentional -- or accidental.
My name is Ronan O'Casey, and I played Venessa Redgrave's gray-haired lover in the film. The screenplay, by Antonioni ("just call me Michelangelo"), Tonio Guerra, and Edward Bond, told the story of a planned murder. But the scenes depicting the planning of the murder and its aftermath -- scenes with Vanessa, Sarah Miles and Jeremy Glover, Vanessa's new young lover who plots with her to murder me -- were never shot because the film went seriously over budget.
The intended story was as follows...
Q. The movie "Twister" opens in my town the day after tomorrow and I have yet to read a review of it. I presume this is because the studio does not want adverse comments before the opening and they do not have faith in the picture. Would you say the length of time before the opening of a movie that critics are permitted to view it is decreasing? Perhaps this length of time in days would be a useful statistic to go into the review. (Dane Rigden, Merrimack, N.H.)
LOS ANGELES - It was one of those California Sunday brunches where everyone's expected to fill up on organic bran muffins and honeydew melons and five flavors of herbal tea...the kind of brunch where Bianca Jagger is chatting with Peter Weir, this hot young Australian director, while a reporter from Variety stands between them, so eager to eavesdrop on the conversation.
DINGLE, Ireland — "I never did see 'Secret Ceremony,' to tell you the truth," Robert Mitchum said. "Did Mia call Elizabeth her daddy?" They did some weird things with that script because contractually they had me for 10 days only. They were in trouble when I got there and I don't think I improved the situation any.