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Entries in Mama (3)

Tuesday
Apr232013

Burning Questions: Can You Really Separate A Performance From The Film?  

Hey everybody. Michael C. here. Growing up in the dark days before Twitter, back before I could get my Oscar gripe on 24/7, I had to focus all that emotion on Siskel and Ebert’s annual "Memo to the Academy" special. Watching year after year, one of the refrains the duo drilled into my head was that the Academy should expand their idea of what constitutes an Oscar-worthy performance. Don’t lazily jot down the names of those appearing in best picture contenders. Evaluate each performance on its own merits, apart from the film that contains it. They were adamant on the subject. 

Or at least they were, until the 1998/99 episode when Gene found the limits of Roger’s open-mindedness by suggesting James Woods receive a Best Actor nod for John Carpenter’s Vampires. After Gene went on for a bit about Woods’ talent for commanding the screen, Roger demurred, “Yeah, but if you’re gonna nominate someone for Best Actor you kinda want them to be in a little better movie, don’t you think?”

Gene wasn’t having it: “No. I want the performance. I don’t care about the movie.” 

This altercation zeroed in on a question that has always nagged at me. If even a harsh critic of stodgy thinking like Ebert has to draw the line somewhere, is the issue that cut and dry? Is it really possible to separate the performance from the film? [more]

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb082013

Burning Questions: Are Jump Scares Ever Not Awful?

Michael C here. I recently caught up with Andres Muschietti’s Mama and found it to be a decent little chiller with one particularly irksome habit. It is packed end-to-end with cheap jump scares. It’s as if the studio insisted the director include a quota of brainless “Boo!” moments amid all the creepy suspense stuff that takes actual filmmaking skill. 

Savvy filmgoers understand that jump scares are the worst. Apart from the fact that it requires roughly the same level of craft to startle someone with a loud noise as it does to zap them with a seat buzzer, they have the added drawback of creating distance between the audience and the film. They release tension, rather than build it. This explains their popularity among teenagers who see horror movies as a carnival ride, doling out empty “scares” with mechanical timing.

So finding a minefield of these cheap shots in another otherwise capable spook story like Mama got me thinking. Are there any defensible examples of the jump scare? Or is it an artistic sin every time it’s trotted out?


jump scares after, um, the jump.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Jan202013

Box Office Playbook: Jessica vs. Jennifer

As if doing battle like Best Actress Gladiators both Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence are all over the nation's theaters. They'll be horns locked for the next 5 weeks in the media, I'll bet. JLaw was joking about beating JChas to the Oscar on SNL -- too gently? -- but it was Jessica who won the box office. And twice over. The last time I remember that happening was Leonardo DiCaprio at Christmas 2002 I think (Gangs of New York and Catch Me If You Can?)  [UPDATE: Sharp-eyed TFE Reader Brian Z actually reminds us that it happened in 2011 too... also with Jessica Chastain for The Help and The Debt]

On a related side note: I just know I'm going to start calling them Jessica Lawrence and Jennifer Chastain before long; name slippage is coming!

Box Office Top Ten
01 MAMA $28.1 *NEW* Jose likes the wig
02 ZERO DARK THIRTY  $17.6 (cum. $55.9) Top Ten List  
03 SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK  $11.3 (cum. $55.3)  Beau's Review
04 GANGSTER SQUAD  $9.1 (cum $32.2) 
05 BROKEN CITY $9 *NEW* 
06 A HAUNTED HOUSE  $8.3  (cum. $29.9)
07 DJANGO UNCHAINED $8.2 (cum. $138.3) More on Django
08 LES MISERABLES $7.8 (cum $130.3) Top Ten List
09 THE HOBBIT $6.4  (cum $287.3)
10 THE LAST STAND $6.3 *NEW* 

In other movie/money news: Skyfall became only the 10th movie to break the $300 million barrier in the US box office this decade (Alice in Wonderland and The Hunger Games are the only non-sequels in that list... though both are franchisey in that remake or kick-off kind of way); Two very expensive movie gambles Life of Pi and Rise of the Guardians will inch over the $100 million mark in the next few days which must be a relief even if it doesn't quite spell "big profit!"; Chasing Ice, a nominee for Best Original Song, crossed the $1 million mark which is a big deal for documentaries; Sony Pictures Classics are still being really conservative with Amour -- it's only in 36 theaters despite 5 Oscar nominations last week though they grossed nearly ½ a million this weekend; And despite nobody caring about it or talking about it whatsoever Tom Cruise's latest actioner Jack Reacher crossed the $75 million mark this weekend... Oscar season always makes it easy to forget that a huge portion of the moviegoing public never even thinks about "Oscar Season".

WEIRD, RIGHT? 

Speaking of the public -- though the specific and not the general --  what did you see this weekend?

the three most popular movie musicals since Cabaret. Les Misérables is nearing their lofty box office heights

P.S. Les Misérables only needs a few more weeks of heat -- which Oscar season will surely provide -- to pass Mamma Mia! and become the third most popular movie musical of the modern era stateside (after Grease & Chicago). Of course the atrocious Mamma Mia! has the absurd distinction of being so popular around the globe (over ½ a billion) that it's actually the most successful modern musical if you include the entire world in your overview. Usually we prefer to be international but Mamma Mia!? Blargh!