Box Office Avoidance

I don’t feel ready to go back to a movie theatre and it’s making me a little crazy. 

Check that. 

I’ve always been a little crazy, in an engaging sort of way, but I’ve gone a lot crazier in the last 18+ pandemic months partly because I don’t have life at the local cinema to help me out.

Right.  I know. 

Not me at all, I swear

Theatres are open and I’m thrice vaccinated and boosted as much as any human can be at this point. 

What that means is that even if I were to contract COVID the overwhelming odds are I wouldn’t be hospitalized and, statistically, am pretty much immune from dying by its ugly hand.

Nevertheless, sitting inside for 2-3 hours in a mask with a room full of people I don’t know doesn’t seem like an escape from crazy to me.  It feels like gilding the lily of crazy. 

And, I suspect, I’m not alone. 

Plus, how am I supposed to eat popcorn like this?

Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story,” about as want-to-see and hyped as any holiday movie can be (Note: The exception being something Marvel-ous) opened to about 4.1 million at the domestic box-office on Friday and is expected to gross about $10.1 million in its first weekend of release.

To translate those numbers into industry parlance, that means AWFUL. 

There are lots of reasons and analyses of this you can read here that will recount it far more articulately, hopefully and in more length than any mere blog such as this one will allow.

It’ll be a slow build, the weeks before Christmas are never great box-office, Spielberg films tend to sustain much longer than others, blah, blah, blah…

Digging into the archives for this one

But here’s what I do know.  For sure.

The audience for this movie is majority older adults, despite it’s youthful casting, and as far as that’s concerned I’m Telling You, the majority of us older Americans mostly Aren’t Goin’ out to the movies.

Oh Chairy, I see what you did there

This may or may not be rational but in every way and more this is the correct assessment of the situation.  For the time being.  And probably longer than that.

Sure, sometime during the Christmas season I just might decide, on the spur of the moment, to attend an 11am showing at a theatre on a Monday or Tuesday (Note: traditionally the slowest movie going days) in a reserved seat far, far, FAR away from anybody else. 

But this will only happen if the box-office numbers for WSS don’t build, and indeed plummet, probably into CATS: THE MOVIE territory.

Don’t bring me into this

More likely is I will wait until I can rent the film on a streaming platform or attend a small, select industry screening at an off hour where you have to prove you’ve been triple vaccinated. 

And there have so far been few, if any, of the latter events on my industry invite docket.

(Note: Industry invite docket being any email, phone call or overheard conversation within eye or ear shot that sounds even vaguely appealing to this very, very VERY crazy, quite desperate housebound me).

I’m keeping busy in the meantime

I’m told by some of my friends that it’s not wise to live this way and that you only live once.   I tend to be ruled by the latter and to that I do emphatically reply, Um….YEAH.  YOU SAID, IT, I DIDN’T.  AND NOW I DON’T HAVE TO!!

I guess it all comes down to risk/reward.  What are you willing to put up with and for how long?

Or as someone much smarter, wry and acerbic than me once said:  Is the f-king you’re getting, really worth the f-king you’re getting??

The Chair’s gettin’ saucy!

Historically it’s taken me a while to decide what the answer is to that one whenever I’m in a situation where I’m not pleased.  Though certainly I expect to revisit the issue as pandemic life proceeds with no end in sight. 

In the meantime, I can already rent Kenneth Branagh’s much talked about Belfast on Amazon for $19.99, and Meet the Ricardos will be available there on  Dec. 21.  The Hand of God, director Pablo Sorrentino’s (The Great Beauty) much ballyhooed new film drops on Netflix Dec. 15th.   And there is always a chance the Writers’ Guild and others will be sending out DVDs or codes I can pop in for things like Guillermo Del Toro’s new version of Nightmare Alley.

Don’t worry Benny, I got you on Netflix too

Yes, I know it’s better to view that one on the big screen but guess what?  Me and the hubby are not giving presents to each other this year and are instead using the money (and then some) to get a bigger, more streaming friendly flat screen (Note: 77” – but don’t call us size queens) at one of the MANY holiday sales.

It’s not the same as going out and being with other live people.   But the only mask you have to wear is the one you sometimes put on in front of your spouse instead of following through with every insidious, horrible thing you’re really thinking of doing to them.

….Oh, of course I’m only joshing!!!

Or am I???

2022 look, obviously

But before you answer, consider how crazy I’ve already confessed to being and just how much crazier I will get by the day. 

Who knows what those in my age group are capable of?

Even Spielberg, once he gets the final grosses.

West Side Story (2021) – “America”

Is The Irishman why we go to the movies?

After spending three and a half hours seeing Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, financed by Netflix, at a screening at the Writer’s Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills, there are lots of thoughts and feelings to be sorted out.

None of these have to do with the future of film exhibition or whether Netflix is justified in its release pattern for the new Scorsese film.  For those who don’t know, that would be only eight theatres in NY and LA this week, followed by additional movie screens in more cities seven days later and, finally, its streaming debut just ten days after that (Nov. 27) for anyone with a Netflix subscription or the ability to hop on to someone else’s account.

Netflix is so needy #validation

Scorsese, who turns 77 years old on Nov. 17, is one of THE best American filmmakers of the 20th and 21st centuries, or any century.  Yeah, he’s publicly expressed his disinterest in superhero films and sounded the alarm bells about a money guzzling, tent-pole-driven, market-researched-to-death movie industry obsessed with the Marvel/DC Universe at the expense of cinema dealing with humans and the complexity and nuance of their emotions.

But, for the record, he’s right about that.  Most of us would tire of potato chips and chocolate bars if we ate them 75% of the time.  Even if we didn’t, think of the affect it would have not only on our bodies but our souls, assuming it already hasn’t.

Avengers: Age of Gluttony

Point being, Scorsese not only has a good argument about what passes for present-day cinema but has earned the right to grouse.  For Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Raging Bull, Good Fellas, New York, New York, The Aviator, Casino and The Departed alone, he can opine from now until the end of time about what displeases him and/or makes him happy about any one group of films or the movie industry in general.

also thank you for this gif

Which makes one wonder if the same goes for his audience.  If you’ve been a Scorsese admirer and mostly loyal fan all these years, do you have the right to be disappointed in the latest entry into the master’s oeuvre that everyone else seems to be calling brilliant?

Well, of course you have the right.  This is still a free(ish) country.  But is it called for, or even worth it to bring up?

Yeah, it is.

Oh there’s more…

Movies by their very nature are a communal experience.  Sure, many of us now too often watch in the confines of our own homes, and too often do it alone.  But the cinema Scorsese makes and presents is shared with others in a dark room where it’s then debated and dissected afterwards.  It’s part of the gift he’s given us for over half a century and to ignore real life discussion of a new Scorsese film would be like negating the very existence of the artist himself.

So here’s the thing…

Is that Ray Romano?

The Irishman is extremely well made, brilliantly acted and doubtless couldn’t be directed better by anyone else on the planet.  But it’s as cold as a tray of ice cubes on a bleak winter’s day and about as revelatory and/or insightful.

Ouch, Chairy!

After 209 minutes it’s difficult to not wonder aloud, Why did I just spend all of this time watching this?  What did this film tell me that I didn’t already know?  In what way was I touched, repelled or even slightly moved by the lives of these “wise guys” and the people around them?  (Note: Not to mention, I already knew the Mob murdered Jimmy Hoffa!!!).

This is especially true if you’ve ever seen a mob film by Scorsese.  Or watched one in that genre by his friend and contemporary, Francis Ford Coppola.  Or even binge watched the HBO series The Sopranos.

Don’t drag me into this! #cuttoblack

It’s unfair to say that with The Irishman Scorsese has made his version of a sequel to a sequel of his latest superhero film.  The Irishman has many flaws (Note: Despite what the critics are saying), but once it reaches the three-hour mark it forges some new ground.  In its last half hour, one begins to realize why the director spent all of these years trying to make this story and why it is likely the final chapter of every mob story he has ever told.

You can trust the Chair

But suffice it to say that dark and foreboding as it might be, that third act ending doesn’t so much surprise as simply…play out.  It takes you down a road you didn’t expect to see onscreen but pretty much could have imagined would have happened exactly that way off screen.

Would you have imagined it, if left to your own devices?  The answer is probably not if you weren’t a contemporary of Scorsese.  So in that sense, it does play in to the director’s own definition of cinema and, in its way, far surpasses anything you will see in the latest Marvel/DC superhero film.   Which is not to say it is Scorsese, or even cinema, at its best.

God, he’s so rich

There are many different reasons why we go to the movies.  Though let’s qualify that to reflect a 2019 reality.  There are many different reasons why we watch movies.

Escape comes to mind.  File this under the category of general entertainment.  We want to laugh and forget or, if we are addicted to catharsis, we want (and need) to cry and commiserate.

I already know I’ll be a disaster during this movie

Perhaps we want to feel superior to a person or class of people being portrayed onscreen.  Taken one step further, we might even joyfully hate watch something we know will be hopelessly dumb, awful or not to our taste just because we can, especially if we’re the type that has no empathy for its own highly overpaid craftspeople boring us.  (Note: Rest assured the latter also includes ALL of its above-the-line talent [nee actors, producers, writers AND directors] despite what they might say or admit to in interviews.  Though this should never, ever include Scorsese or anyone of his caliber).

But mostly, many of us go to and/or watch movies simply because we are true blue fans, Scorsese or otherwise.

… and for the popcorn #arteriesclogging #delicious

We hope for the best, realize we may be disappointed and yet still are pleased that we saw it.  Some but not all of us in that category can usually find something to like in almost anything, even if it’s the good intentions of those who might have let us down.   (Note: See a few paragraphs above). More importantly, there is always a chance we will see something we like, perhaps even love, and be transported.

And for that experience, we will be grateful, perhaps forever grateful.

With so many other ways to spend our time these days there is still nothing quite like sitting in the dark (or semi-dark, or even light) and watching someone else’s idea of life unfold.  For a short time we get to feel something we might have never felt before, or in that particular way

I have a lot of feelings, OK?!?!

There are Scorsese films where we have that for a few fleeting moments, for numerous moments or, sometimes, all the way through.

You (okay, I) want The Irishman to be the latter even though the best you can say about it is that it’s in the former.  But like all great cinema, the movie and its director contain some moments where you feel as if you are in the presence of screen super heroes.

And that says something.  Actually, it says a lot.

Muddy Waters – “Mannish Boy” (from soundtrack for The Irishman)