Crimes of Grindelwald: Box Office Score

Good news and bad news about the performance of Crimes of Grindelwald at the box office in the US and overseas! Forbes magazine reports:

In other arbitrary milestones, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has now earned $611m worldwide on a $200m budget. This is a decent-enough total, down a reasonable 25% from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s $814m but 33% below the last film’s $232m domestic cume.

If it wasn’t the second of a five-part franchise, I’d be less concerned about the future. But maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement and the fans will give it a second chance.

The bad news is fairly obvious. This was the weakest performance by a Warner Brothers ‘Wizarding World’ franchise film ever. The controversies about Johnny Depp, the assertion that ‘Gay Dumbledore’ was undeniably in evidence in Beasts 2 and that the Pensieve of Erised moments reflected a sexual relationship between two men, and the multitude of not quite meshing subplots on top of scene cuts by the director (who thinks he gets story-telling better than this screenwriter?) may have dulled enthusiasm among the Potter faithful in the United States, at least. Or a host of other reasons. Let the speculation and blame-casting begin!

Rowling and Company by their shouting out ‘Impeach Trump!’ at fan conventions and The Presence on her twitter feed, telling those offended by their refusal to dump Depp (because of the accusations of his using violence against his ex-wife) to take a hike, and the huzzahs for gay sex from Ezra Miller in a country where a significant population is not on that bandwagon means they managed somehow to offend right, left, and center. Earnings are down. Folks may not want political correctness or indifference mixed in with their magical movies. Surprise!

That said, the good news in this earnings report is just as obvious. The film turned a profit in the vicinity of 400 million US dollars. They’re not packing up shop because the film ‘bombed’ relative to other Rowling franchise movies. Only the Marvel Universe and Harry Potter films have to break a billion dollars before going to DVD to be considered a success. 611 million dollars pays a lot of bills. We’re going to get five films even if the next two also lose 25% globally and 33% domestic.

As the Forbes reviewer noted with “maybe Fantastic Beasts 3 will be a big improvement,” all Team Wizarding World has to do to return to billion dollar land may be to make a less confusing movie and stop shooting themselves in the foot by making the films a referendum on social justice, the US President, and sexual adventurism. More Tina-Loves-Newt, less Albus-Misses-Gellert-Who-Grooms-Credence? More Eddy, less Ezra?Rowling has already pledged that we will “get answers” in the next film; I’m guessing that means she’s been told to straighten out the mess David Yates made out of Crimes in the cutting room (and give him a more straight film — in the various senses of that word — to shoot).

Why do you think Crimes didn’t do nearly as well as Beasts1? Was it the content, the confusion of plots, the twist at the close, wizard fatigue, Paris, politics, or what? Click on the ‘Leave a Comment’ up by the headline and let me know your best guess.

 

Oskar Eustis: Theater and Democracy

A long time friend of this blog sent me a link to a TED talk by Oskar Eustis called “Why Theater is Essential to Democracy.” He wrote that he thought I might find Eustis’ thoughts “useful or at least interesting.” Right he was!

It’s a short piece, only 13 minutes instead of the 18 allowed by TED, and, as you’d imagine, it celebrates live stage performance and the outreach efforts by the Public Theater in NYC, which Eustis leads as their Artistic Director. He is an unapologetic missionary for Culture. I admire him for his zeal and concern for the Great Unwashed, if at times I admit I had to grit my teeth at the condescension for the Deplorables in Flyover Country he sees as his mission field.

What I found “useful” and “interesting” in the talk was the distinction made between watching a movie and watching a live performance on stage. For years I have said in talks and written here and in my books that movies are not an imaginative experience but sensation, and, as such, they are incapable of transforming audiences in any meaningful, lasting way. All film can do is scare us or move us to a sentimental moment, not just tears and smiles, granted, but the sentiments of rage and pity as well, none of which, however, last very long.

I have found that this assertion about film, the distinction between active imaginative experience versus passive sensation, really annoys people that prefer screened images to reading books or who “just love movies” (which is to say “almost everyone”). One of the more interesting counters to my thesis I’ve heard through the years is the question, “Well, what about the stage? That’s not imaginative, either; you watch the characters rather than imagining them. Are you saying contra-Aristotle and millenia of experience that audiences at live theater are not experiencing catharsis?”

No, I’m not. With Oskar Eustis, though, I am saying that the experiences of staged drama and screened images are fundamentally different — and the effect of this difference is that one is an individual’s sense experience of little effect on the person watching and the other is at least potentially transformative. We imagine, Eustis says, ourselves as the speakers in dialogue on stage, which imagining in conjunction with our being part of an audience witnessing a live event exercises our empathy, the experience to be had in fiction read in books.

Let me know what you think. Does Oskar Eustis have it right about the difference between film and stage? Does that or does it not confirm my disregard for the movie medium relative to book reading or play watching? Let me know what you think!

Fan-Made Voldemort, Origins of the Heir, a Dazzling Surprise

Image may contain: 1 person, textIt’s no secret that I generally have little patience with fanfiction in its various forms. Though I know that some fanfiction is not bad, and some is even pretty good, I am generally turned off by the fact that so much of it is bad for so many reasons: poor artistic and grammar skills, juvenile wish-fulfillment that is not appropriate for a public readership, failure to understand or respect the author’s original vision, and an appalling amount of outright pornography and other filth.  Thus, it always a delight when I see “fan-made” work that impresses both with its technical accomplishments and faithfulness to the work from which it springs. This week, an Italian filmmaking team, Tryangle, released their film Voldemort: Origins of the Heir on youtube. It’s really quite an accomplishment, as demonstrated by the fact that it garnered 4 million views in its first 24 hours online. I do have a few quibbles, of course, but also some kudos, and a few questions (Yes, alliteration is fun. No, there just are not enough words in English that begin with “q”). [Read more…]

Voldemort: Origins of the Heir

Attack of The Last Jedi

SPOILER ALERT: Go see Star Wars: The Last Jedi already, will you? Quit dragging your Jedi boots! Then come back and read this piece, and tell us what you think in the comments.

My favorite Star Wars movie is Episode 2: Attack of the Clones. Wait – don’t go! Let me explain. First, please note: I didn’t say “Attack of the Clones is the best Star Wars movie.” I said it was my favorite. I understand and to some extent agree with cinematic critiques of that film, and I’ve only ever watched the film on DVD, which means I can easily skip all the romantic scenes with Anakin and Padmé, which are, admittedly, difficult to watch. What’s left of the film – Obi-Wan Kenobi (played brilliantly by Ewan MacGregor) on an extended Dick-Tracy-esque sleuthing adventure, the backstory of the villainous bounty hunter Boba Fett, and best of all, some important advances in the Prequels’ subtle and complicated subtext of the Jedi Order’s downfall – is pure heaven to me, despite disagreement, even derision, from many Star Wars fans.

So I’m fine with liking a movie that isn’t perfect. I find perfection a bit boring, honestly. But the bones of a film have to be good, like the bones of a well-built house. The Last Jedi, while an imperfect film in some ways, gives us that solid space in which our imaginations can dwell, even as it challenges and shocks us. In this way, it’s not unlike Attack of the Clones, with its misdirective title and its quite nuanced subtext. The difference is with Clones, we knew where we were headed: the creation of Darth Vader, the birth of Luke and Leia and the destruction of the Jedi Order. With The Last Jedi, we’re in uncharted territory; we’re vulnerable, floating in space with no space suit. Characters we revere aren’t who they were, characters we trust make bad decisions, and characters we don’t like turn out to be right. Events seem only to lead to devastating failures for the Resistance, for the First Order, for the Jedi (whatever that is anymore), and we do not know where the franchise is headed at the film’s conclusion. When the credits roll, we have more questions than answers. [Read more…]