If you want to get a film historian, critic, or theorist all hot and bothered, mention the auteur theory, find out whether they support it or not, and then argue the other side. It’s fun. It’s fun because the auteur theory’s not like a math equation: it’s neither completely true nor completely false.
French film critics writing in Cashiers du Cinema and the French New Wave of film that it produced had this idea that the director is the “author” of the film in the same way that a writer is the author of a novel. The artwork itself reflects the personal vision of the director, regardless of whatever industrial production method the movie may have gone through as it was being made.
On the other side is the understanding that film by its very nature is a collaborative medium. In addition to the director you’ve got actors, directors, cinematographers, designers, and editors, all of whom have a significant amount of influence on any given movie both in terms of process and product.
Hollywood’s Studio System epitomizes the film as industrial product. At its heights in the 30s, Hollywood produced so many movies a week that tasks were broken down and taken care of in sequence, like an automobile assembly line. It really was a factory. The French cinephiles of the 50s promoted auteur theory as a way of fighting for individual vision within a largely faceless industrial machine.
Of course there’s a continuum here. By every account, Stanley Kubrick held complete control over every aspect of his films, up to and including acting to the extent that he would do as many takes as necessary to get what he wanted from the actor. On the other hand you’ve got, say, the films of Judd Apatow: developed through several writers, jokes written by committee, improvised under Apatow’s direction, footage compiled by an editor, these movies are made by a large collaboration of people.
The funny thing is there’s no place on the spectrum that’s better than any other. Take, for example, what many consider to be the first example of American auteur cinema: Citizen Kane. Tightly controlled by Orson Welles, the piece is a critique of itself: a movie about a ravenously controlling man made in a ravenously controlling fashion.
Contrast that with a movie made just a year after, this week’s classic movie: 1942’s Casablanca
Casablanca represents the apotheosis of the classic Hollywood studio system. It was a play written by Murray Burnette and Joan Alison, re-conceived by story editor Irene Diamond, turned into a screenplay written by Julius and Philip Epstein, rewritten by Howard Koch, with additional uncredited rewrites by Casey Robinson during production. And after all that, it was producer Hal Wallis who came up with the famous last line.
Director Michael Curtiz, brought on by Wallis after his first choice for director fell through, was hired to serve the committee-written script. Robinson has been quoted as saying that Curtiz knew very little about the story at all, given that a great deal of the dialogue was written as they went. Curtiz directed on a shot by shot, scene by scene basis. So fractured was the production of Casablanca that critic Andrew Sarris has called it “the most decisive exception to the auteur theory.” It’s also one of the clearest, most coherent and most well-wrought stories ever told by Hollywood.
Catching Casablanca on TV the other night with my friends Erin and Greg, we were immediately pulled into the story. Casablanca perfectly balances cynicism and sentimentality, romance and intrigue, lyricism and pragmatism within a perfectly wrought story filled with memorable characters. There’s a lot to be said about personal artistic vision, but there’s just as much to be said about the power of the studio system at its best. If you haven’t seen Casablanca lately, do yourself a favor and revisit one of the greats.
Monday Daily Box Office Rally
First Place - Paramount's 'Jackass 3D' - After an earth-shattering weekend debut of $50.3 million, the 'Jackass' crew tops the Monday chart with an incredibly strong (and HUGE for an October weekday) 3D supercharged $4.4 million. Over the weekend, 3D accounted for a whopping 91% of the box office total. The film is now up to $54.8 million after just four days of release.
Second Place - Summit's 'Red' - Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren and Richard Dreyfus round out a very diverse, though somewhat unconventional action film cast and earn $1.6 million on Monday. The film has now earned $23.4 million after four days in release.
Third Place - Sony's 'The Social Network' - Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake star in the compelling tale of the formation of, and the battle over Facebook. Another $777,706 puts the film at $63.2 million in domestic box office.
Daily Box Office Top 12 Movies for Monday, October 18, 2010:
Domestic Total1. Jackass 3D
$23.42M3. The Social Network
$28.1M5. Life as We Know It
$29.25M6. The Town
$80.85M7. Legend of the Guardians
$46.2M8. My Soul to Take
$12.2M9. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
$48.1M10. Easy A
$52.5M11. You Again
$21.55M12. It's Kind Of A Funny Story
*Monday daily box office numbers provided by Hollywood.com Box Office.Check back Wednesday for the Tuesday Daily Box Office Rally results!
Whereupon we recognize the genius of the jackasses....
Paramount’s 'Jackass 3D' catapulted itself like a port-a-potty into outer space with an unbelievable $50 million for the weekend and the best October opening ever! After posting a $22 million Friday gross (and then $16.9M Sat./$11.1M Sun.) (nearly double that of the $11.6 million earned by “Jackass: Number Two” on its first day), the film was obviously the hot movie to see all weekend long and with 3D enhanced ticket prices, was scatological miles ahead of the nearest competition. The film also generated the second best ever R-rated comedy debut (behind only 'Sex and the City: The Movie' w/$56.9M), the 9th best R-rated opening of all-time and the biggest opening weekend since 'Inception' ($62.8 million) in mid-July. Perhaps this means the future of 3D will depend on genre movies, over-the-top comedies and horror films that give a greater three-dimensional bang per buck than films utilizing more subtle and immersive uses of the technology.
Check out our exclusive "Jackass 3D" themed comic strip from Francesco Marciuliano. Francesco writes the internationally-syndicated comic strip “Sally Forth” and the webcomic “Medium Large.” He was the head writer for the PBS series “SeeMore’s Playhouse,” for which one of his episodes won two 2007 Daytime Emmys. He currently writes for the Onion News Network.
Featuring Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Ryan Dunn, Jason Acuna (Wee Man) and derived from the outrageous MTV show, the first film was a surprise hit in 2002 when it opened at number one over the weekend of October 25 with $22.8 million and went on to earn $64.3 million at the domestic box office. The second film was an even bigger hit when it opened on September 22, 2006 with $29 million in its first three days, yet another number one debut and a domestic total of $72.8 million. It’s getting increasingly difficult to call these guys Jackasses when they seem to have a total understanding of the vomitous taste of the average moviegoer. Add to that the obvious fun of watching this film in the communal theatre environment, plus the novelty factor of the 3D which brings the gross-out quotient to an even higher level and we are talking about a perfect box office track record that ranks pound for pound with the Pixar films, the oeuvre of Tyler Perry and the Harry Potter franchise.
In second place with a respectable $22.5 million, Summit Entertainment’s 'RED' takes a page out of 'The Expendables' playbook with an all-star ensemble cast, action galore and enough comedic elements to have given the film broad based appeal. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Helen Mirren and Richard Dreyfus round out a very diverse, though somewhat unconventional cast for this type of action film. A strong Saturday hold showed that word-of-mouth was strong for the film as older audiences embraced their quinquagenarian heroes.
In third with another $11 million and a very sweet 29% third weekend hold is Sony’s 'The Social Network' which continues its terrific run, hitting the $50 million mark on Wednesday after just 13 days of release and is now at $63.1 million after just seventeen days in theatres as it continues to generate strong word-of-mouth, draw critical accolades and awards season buzz. Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and Justin Timberlake star in the compelling tale of the formation of, and the battle over the social networking juggernaut that we know as Facebook. A eventual $100 million plus gross (a terrific multiple of its $22.5 million opening weekend) is in the proverbial cards for this fall season hit.
The second weekend of both Disney’s inspirational true life horse racing drama 'Secretariat' and Warner Bros.’ romantic comedy 'Life as We Know It' put them in a dead heat at $9.5 million and $9.2 million for the fourth and fifth positions in the weekend derby as the horse racing movie showed real "legs" with the smallest second weekend drop of the year for any wide release film of just 25%.
Warner Bros.' 'Hereafter' earned an impressive $231,000 in just 6 theatres for a per-theatre average of $38,500. This portends a strong wide release debut for the Clint Eastwood directed film starring Matt Damon this coming weekend.
Last year’s comparable weekend was incredibly strong with the debuts of 'Where the Wild Things Are' ($32.7 million), 'Law Abiding Citizen' ($21 million) and the first wide release of 'Paranormal Activity' ($19.6 million), but even with the strength of 'Jackass,' we were unable to top last year's overall tally. Next week comes the first wide expansion of Warner Bros.’ “Hereafter” and the debut of Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity 2.”
Weekend Box Office
Top 10 Movies - Weekend of October 15, 2010 (Estimates)
Movie Weekend Total
1. Jackass 3D (R)$50.0 M $50.0 M
2. Red (PG-13)$22.5 M $22.5 M
3. The Social Network (PG-13)$11.0 M$63.1 M
4. Secretariat (PG)$9.5 M $27.5 M
5. Life As We Know It (PG-13)$9.2 M $28.9 M
6. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls Of Ga'Hoole (PG)$4.2 M $46.0 M
7. The Town (R)$4.0 M $80.6 M
8. My Soul to Take (R)$3.1 M $11.9 M
9. Easy A (PG-13)$2.7 M $52.3 M
10. Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (PG-13)$2.4 M $47.8 M
Wednesday Daily Box Office Rally
First Place - With a Wednesday gross of $1.9 million, 'The Social Network' continues to dominate the marketplace. The critically acclaimed film is now up to $28.7 million and with great word-of-mouth it will continue to perform well in the coming weeks.
Second Place - Director Ben Affleck's 'The Town' continues to impress audiences with $828,343 on Wednesday. The crime thriller, which also stars Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm, has earned $66.6 million in total domestic box office to date.
Third Place - Director Oliver Stone's 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' takes the third spot on Wednesday with $799,257 on Wednesday. With Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko and co-starring Shia LeBeouf, the film has earned $38.3 million to date.
Daily Box Office Top 12 Movies for Wednesday, October 6, 2010:
Domestic Total1. The Social Network
$28.7M2. The Town
$66.6M3. Wall Street 2
$38.3M4. Legend of the Guardians
$31.8M5. Easy A
$43.48M6. You Again
$17.84M7. Case 39
$6.6M8. Let Me In
$6.37M9. Resident Evil: Afterlife
$28.0M11. Alpha and Omega
*Wednesday daily box office numbers provided by Hollywood.com Box Office.Check back Friday for the Thursday Daily Box Office Rally results!
Monday Daily Box Office Rally
First Place - With a Monday gross of $2.05 million 'The Social Network,' director David Fincher's big screen adaptation of the story of the development of Facebook continues to dominate the marketplace. The critically acclaimed film opened this weekend with $22.5 million and with great word-of-mouth should find itself performing well in the coming weeks.
Second Place - Director Ben Affleck's 'The Town' continues to impress audiences with $815,000 on Monday from some 2,935 theaters (50 more than last week). The crime thriller, which also stars Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm, is at $65 million in total domestic box office to date.
Third Place - Director Oliver Stone's 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' takes the third spot on Monday with $773,942 in 3,597 theatres . With Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko and co-starring Shia LeBeouf, the film has earned $36.5 million to date.
Daily Box Office Top 12 Movies for Monday, October 4, 2010:
Domestic Total1. The Social Network
$24.5M2. The Town
$64.9M3. Wall Street 2
$36.5M4. Legend of the Guardians
$30.65M5. Case 39
$5.79M6. Let Me In
$5.56M7. Easy A
$42.58M8. You Again
$16.96M9. Resident Evil: Afterlife
$27.5M11. Alpha and Omega
*Monday daily box office numbers provided by Hollywood.com Box Office.Check back Wednesday for the Tuesday Daily Box Office Rally results!
Actor Jesse Eisenberg seems to like to appear in movies that open during the first weekend in October. Last year on this very same weekend he starred in Sony's well-reviewed horror comedy hybrid 'Zombieland' as a reluctant gun-toting zombie killer. This year he takes on a much more cerebral character who uses his intellect to redefine the world of social networking rather than splattering zombie guts all over the screen. To that end, few movies are able to create as much pre-release excitement as Sony’s 'The Social Network.' With Oscar buzz, critical raves and over 500 million members who use Facebook on a daily basis, David Fincher’s big screen adaptation of this incredible entrepreneurial story is set for a solid debut this weekend. The seeming fascination with the rise of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (Eisenberg) from Harvard student to multi-billionaire gives the film instant appeal. Throw in Justin Timberlake, a terrific trailer, great writing, solid directing, mix together and you’ve got a recipe for a film that will perform strongly not only this weekend, but over the long haul.
Currently performing well over the long haul is Warner Bros.’ ensemble heist drama 'The Town' which dropped a minuscule 34% last weekend and will hold steady again in this, its third weekend of release. Incredibly positive response by audiences toward this potential Oscar nominee will keep this one in the money well into the fall movie season. This is the very definition of quality fall filmmaking and has brought new levels of respect to actor/star Ben Affleck. With a stellar supporting cast including Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Hall, this is a must see film for those looking for a well above average drama with plenty of action thrown in for good measure.
Gordon Gekko in Fox’s 'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps' has been strong at the box office mid-week will be in the running for a respectable second weekend payday. After its number one debut last weekend, “Wall Street” clearly shows that Michael Douglas’ portrayal of this iconic character is still of interest to audiences more than twenty years after the release of the original film.
Warner Bros.’ will continue to be well represented in the top five in the second weekend of the 3D animated and IMAX-enhanced 'Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole.' Opening with $16.1 million last weekend, the film will continue to find favor with families who are finding multi-plexes loaded with decidedly adult-oriented fare and few options appropriate for their kids.
With terrific reviews, phenomenal acting and a director who has arguably improved on the Swedish original, 'Let Me In' from Overture Films is one of the few horror films in years to generate solid reviews and a grudging respect from foreign film aficionados. Based on 2008’s acclaimed “Let the Right One In,” the film has eerie visuals, strong performances and enough truly scary moments to satisfy the horror fans and generate long term interest in the weeks to come. Terrific young stars Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee join the great Richard Jenkins in this riveting film.
Click here for my Spotlight on 'Let Me In's' Kodi Smit-McPhee
Year-to-date box office revenues have now topped the $8 billion mark and are running 3.88% ahead of last year while attendance is still lagging by nearly 2% as we continue through the always eclectic, often rewarding fall movie season.
Easy A a teen sex comedy with no actual sex aims rather conspicuously to plumb the best bits of Diablo Cody and Alexander Payne in its upside-down self-consciously campy take on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. In the role of its high-school Hester Prynne is Emma Stone the sly husky heroine of last year’s surprise hit Zombieland. Tested by a film that is far less clever than its director Will Gluck or screenwriter Bert Royal would have us believe (and they desperately want us to believe) she passes with flying colors delivering a performance that should elevate her into the upper echelon of actresses possessing brains and beauty in equal measure.
Stone plays Olive the kind of quick-witted hyper-literate teen that our educational system produces in ever-diminishing numbers. (If it ever produced them to begin with.) More knowing and sophisticated than others her age she is nonetheless not immune to the pressure of peers and the dread of being labeled a loser. Under duress by a prying friend (Aly Michalka) to dish the details of her birthday weekend a rather mundane affair mainly spent jumping on her bed to the tune of Natasha Bedingfield’s pop monstrosity “Pocket Full of Sunshine ” she feels compelled to embellish a bit and concocts an entirely fictional account of losing her virginity (dubbed the “V-Card” by Royal trying too hard) to a boy from a junior college across town.
Word of Olive’s deflowering spreads with startling speed aided by the incessant rumor-mongering of a catty Evangelical eavesdropper (Amanda Bynes). Suddenly branded a tramp on account of a seemingly harmless little lie Olive opts to embrace her newly tarnished reputation and put it to good use. In a viciously stratified social environment where even the most awkward acne-plagued pariah can earn respect and even admiration from members of the upper castes for having gone All the Way Olive anoints herself the Mother Theresa of (fake) sluts bestowing her blessing upon downtrodden gents in need of a reputation boost. And she resolves to look the part too traipsing around in scandalous bustiers and affixing the letter “A” to her chest.
There are limits to Easy A’s Scarlet Letter conceit overly Glee-ful tone forced repartee and pop-culture references (John Hughes is invoked so many times he should get a producer credit). Which is why director Gluck must be grateful to have found Stone who handles the verbal calisthenics of Royal’s script with charm and verve and a certain effortless appeal that keeps us engaged even as the film wallows in contrived irony and heavy-handedness. Keep your eye on her.
Salt the propulsive new thriller from Phillip Noyce (Clear and Present Danger Patriot Games) has been dubbed “Bourne with boobs ” but that label isn’t entirely accurate. In the role of Evelyn Salt a CIA staffer hunted by her own agency after a Russian defector fingers her in a plot to murder Russia’s president Angelina Jolie keeps her two most potent weapons holstered hidden under pantsuits and trenchcoats and the various other components of a super-spy wardrobe that proudly emphasizes function over flash.
But flash is one thing Salt never lacks for. Its breathless cat-and-mouse game hits full-throttle almost from the outset when a former KGB officer named Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) stumbles into a CIA interrogation room and begins spilling details of a vast conspiracy. Back in the ‘70s hardline elements of the Soviet regime launched an ambitious new front in the Cold War flooding the western world with orphans trained to infiltrate the security complexes of their adopted homelands and wait patiently — decades if necessary — for the order to initiate a series of assassinations intended to trigger a devastating nuclear clash between the superpowers from which the treacherous Reds would emerge triumphant.
The Soviet Union may have long ago collapsed (or did it? Hmmm...) but its army of brainwashed killer orphan spies remains in place and if this crazy Orlov fellow is to be believed they stand poised to reignite the Cold War. It’s a preposterous — even idiotic — scheme but no more so than any of our government’s various harebrained proposals to kill Castro back in the ‘60s. As such the CIA treats it with grave seriousness even the part that that pegs Salt who just happens to be a Russian-born orphan herself as a key player in the conspiracy.
Salt bristles at the accusation but suspecting a set-up she opts to flee rather than face interrogation from her bosses Winter (Liev Schreiber) and Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor). A former field agent she’s been confined to a desk job since a clandestine operation in North Korea went south leaving her with a nasty shiner and a rather unremarkable German boyfriend (now her unremarkable German husband). She’s clearly kept up her training during while cubicle-bound however and in a blaze of resourceful thinking and devastating Parkour Fu she fends off a dozen or so agents of questionable competence and takes to the streets where she sets about to clear her name and unravel the Commie orphan conspiracy before the authorities can catch up with her. That is if she isn’t a part of the conspiracy.
The premise which aims to resurrect Cold War tensions and graft them onto a modern-day spy thriller is absurdly clever — and cleverly absurd. But Kurt Wimmer’s screenplay isn’t satisfied with the merely clever and absurd — it must be mind-blowing. Salt is one of those thrillers that ladles out its backstory slowly and in tiny portions every once in a while dropping a revelatory bombshell that effectively blows the lid off everything that happened beforehand. No one is who they seem and every action every gesture no matter how seemingly trivial is imbued with some kind of grand significance. The effect of piling on one insane twist after another has the effect of gradually diluting the narrative. When anything is possible nothing really matters.
But spy thrillers by definition trade in the preposterous and the principal function of the summer blockbuster is to entertain. In that regard Salt more than fulfills its charge. Noyce wisely keeps the story moving at pace that allows little time for asking uncomfortable questions or poking holes in the film’s frail plot. And he has an able partner in the infinitely versatile Jolie who having already exhibited formidable action-hero chops in Wanted and the Tomb Raider films proves remarkably adept at the spy game as well.
It’s well-known that Jolie wasn’t the first choice to star in Salt joining the project only after Tom Cruise dropped out citing the story’s growing similarities to the Mission: Impossible films. But she’s more than just a capable replacement; she’s a welcome upgrade over Cruise not least because she’s over a decade younger (and a few inches taller) than her predecessor. Should Brad Bird require a pinch-hitter for Ethan Hunt he knows where to look.
Troubled Andrew Koenig committed suicide, according to his Star Trek actor dad, Walter Koenig.
The body of the former Growing Pains star was found in Vancouver, Canada on Thursday afternoon.
He was last seen during a trip to the city on Feb 14th, and was reported missing by a friend after failing to show up for his flight home to Los Angeles two days later.
His parents issued an emotional plea to the 41 year old during a police press conference on Wednesday, when they begged Andrew to get in touch.
But their worst fears were confirmed when friends of the actor discovered his body in Vancouver's Stanley Park.
Vancouver authorities held a press conference on Thursday just hours after the discovery, during which a police spokesperson revealed they had no reason to believe foul play was involved in Koenig's death.
And Andrew's father Walter fears his son's battle with depression led him to take his own life.
Speaking to reporters, he said, "I went to the site. My son took his own life."
Walter and his wife Judy want to use the tragic news to warn other parents to seek help if they believe their child is struggling with their personal demons.
He adds, "The only thing I want to say is... for those families who have members they fear are susceptible to this kind of behaviour, don't ignore it, don't rationalise it."
The former Growing Pains star was last seen on 14 February (10). He disappeared during a trip to Vancouver and was reported missing by a friend after failing to show up for his flight home to Los Angeles on 16 February (10).
His parents, former Star Trek actor Walter Koenig and his wife Judy, issued an emotional plea to the 41 year old during a police press conference on Wednesday (24Feb10), when they begged Andrew to get in touch just to assure them he is "OK".
The same day, his friend Jenny Magenta confessed her fears that the star may have "taken his own life" - and now his family and friends have had their worst fears confirmed.
The tragic actor's body was found in Vancouver's Stanley Park around 12pm local time on Thursday afternoon (25Feb10).
Vancouver authorities held a press conference at 5pm (PST), just hours after the discovery, during which a police spokesperson revealed they had no reason to believe foul play was involved in Koenig's death. However, their investigations are continuing.
The representative told the news conference, "Andrew's body was found in the park by friends who had initiated their own search. Our investigations are continuing... We will not release any further details about cause of death. We have no reason to believe foul play was involved."
Koenig's dad Walter fought back tears as he told reporters, "We've already said what a great guy he was and a good human being... He was obviously in a lot of pain... What you can learn from this is that there are people out there who really, really care."
Judy Koenig added, "He was much loved and he had much to contribute in this world. This is the only statement that we are making. Please respect our privacy."