Archive for the ‘Analysis’ Category

The strange Stooge story behind the gorilla with a gun GIF

December 16, 2018

The strange Stooge story behind the gorilla with a gun GIF

There is a popular GIF (in this usage, a short, repeating movie) of a gorilla maniacally firing a machine gun.

link to GIF at Giphy

It can be used to express different things, but I think I’ve seen it most as unbridled joy and enthusiasm…for example, because it’s Friday. ūüėČ

I got it recently in one of my Twitter feeds, the one for

The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip

posted by “Retro Horror” (@el_zombo).

There was some curiosity as to what the origin of the clip was…and I was happy to answer!

That’s from a 3 Stooges short,

A Bird in the Head (watch at YouTube)

In this case, the “third stooge” is Curly…and that’s important, and surprisingly, may have a good deal to do with why this video exists.

While many people think of Curly as the original third stooge, who was replaced by his brother Shemp, that’s not exactly how it happened.

The Stooges were part of an act, and they didn’t get top billing…it was Ted Healy and His Stooges. Healy was the front man, the lead comedian, and the Stooges (originally Moe, then his brother Shemp joined, and later friend Larry Fine) would interrupt him, leading to slapstick abuse.

Shemp left the act, and the third brother, Curly (then nicknamed “Babe”) joined it…the version I like the best is that Curly (then with long curly hair and a mustache) auditioned, and Healy (who reportedly had alcohol issues) didn’t like him. Moe (who was the leader in real life, as he was in the eventual shorts), took him out, shaved his head, told Healy he was a different brother, and Healy fell for it.

With the Moe/Larry/Curly team, the Stooges made a number of now legendary comic shorts (after parting ways with Healy and changing studios).

Shemp was off as a successful solo act (including appearing with Abbott and Costello), supposedly with the promotional line, “The Ugliest Man in Hollywood” (and this is while Rondo Hatton was working…Hatton had a medical condition which gave him unusual looks which led to him being cast in horror movies).

Shemp rejoined the act after Curly had a major stroke in 1946…reportedly reluctantly, but realizing that Moe and Larry would be in trouble without a third stooge.

Prior to that stroke in May, Curly already was being impacted by medical issues…what has been described as a series of “mini-strokes”.

On the set of A Bird in the Head, Curly’s performance was impacted. If you watch the short, he appears to be okay, even doing some physical comedy. However, the director, Edward Bernds (this was his first film as director) realized that Curly wasn’t at full capacity.

He decided (he was also the screenwriter) to expand the roles of the mad doctor Professor Panzer, and his gorilla, Igor (played by Art Miles). The Professor is looking for a human brain small enough to transplant into Igor…and Curly’s would fit (there is also a bit of animation in this short, unusual for the Stooges, showing an animated cuckoo clock inside Curly’s head instead of a brain).

So, the forced inventiveness of accommodating a Stooge’s medical condition in 1946 led to a popular GIF of a gorilla firing a machine gun in 2018!

Do you have other pop culture (especially) geeky questions you’d liked answered? Feel free to ask…and check my series of

#1TweetExpert tweets

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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.

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The Oscars new unpopular popular film category

September 3, 2018

The Oscars new unpopular popular film category

Oh, my.

It’s rare that an organization makes a decision and I just have an immediate, visceral reaction that it’s wrong.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced in a

tweet

tweet post recently that it is going to give out a new award for “achievement in popular film”.

Creating a new category is rare for the Oscars…people have argued for new categories for years, such as one for stunts, but the last major addition was Best Animated Feature, first awarded in 2001.

With any carefully considered change (especially an institutional one), it is reasonable to ask this question: why?

The first obvious requirement is that the new category is comprised of something different from the old category (unless it contains entirely novel items, which is not the case here). After all, imagine this conversation:

You: “What’s in category A?”
Them: “Polka dots.”
You: “What in category B?”
Them: “Polka dots.”
You: “What are the differences between them?”
Them: “There aren’t any.”

At that point, you’d no doubt be left wondering why there were two categories.

So, what makes a popular movie different enough from other movies that it needs a separate category?

We can assume by “popular” they mean that more people went to see it in the theatres, and the easiest measurement of that is box office (probably specifically domestic box office, what I call “dogro” for domestic gross). We have a category on this blog for that

Box Office

and keep quite a close eye on it.

Let’s just arbitrarily set the dividing line at $100 million dogro. That or above and the movie falls into the “popular” category, below, and it stays in the main categories (unless they are going to create an “unpopular” category, which seems unlikely). ūüėČ

If we look at last year’s Best Picture nominees and their dogros, we can perhaps discern a pattern:

  • The Shape of Water | $68.0m
  • Call Me by Your Name | $18.1m
  • Darkest Hour | $56.5m
  • Dunkirk | $188.0m
  • Get Out | $176.0m
  • Lady Bird | $49.0m
  • Phantom Thread | $21.1m
  • The Post | $81.9m
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | $54.5m

It’s obvious that the vast majority (80%) of the Best Picture nominees made under $100m, and some have suggested that has something to do with declining viewership of the Oscars telecast. Wouldn’t more people watch the Oscars if they were familiar with the movies in the category that gets the most coverage? They might want to see if one of their favorites wins…and it’s hard to have a personal favorite amongst movies you most likely haven’t seen.

That 80% figure…how does that compare to the movies which were released?

According to

Box Office Mojo

33 movies released in 2017 dogroed more than $100m, out of 740 movies.

That’s about 4.5% meaning that $100m+ movies are disproportionately more often nominated for Best Picture…something like five times as much as would be expected.

However, that assumes that all movies released are intrinsically equally good…and that seems unlikely. Is it possible that movies which are equally as good as those which do get nominated do not get nominated because of a prejudice against popular movies?

For this, we’ll use the critical review scores from the

Movie Review Query Engine

We’ll look at the ten nominees, then the ten highest dogroing features:

  • The Shape of Water | 79
  • Call Me by Your Name | 85
  • Darkest Hour | 75
  • Dunkirk | 85
  • Get Out | 80
  • Lady Bird | 83
  • Phantom Thread | 79
  • The Post | 80
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri | 86

Average: 81.3

Highest dogro (may have been released in 2016, but was on this table for 2017):

  • Star Wars: the Last Jedi | 82
  • Beauty and the Beast | 68
  • Wonder Woman | 74
  • Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle | 64
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 | 70
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming | 72
  • It | 66
  • Thor: Ragnar | 71
  • Despicable Me 3 | 55
  • Justice League | 54

Average: 68

The average doesn’t suggest an anti-blockbuster bias. However, The Last Jedi does average out high enough to be a nominee…but there are obviously more factors than just what the critics think.

If such a prejudice did exist, that might be a reason to create a separate category. Arguably, that was the purpose of introducing the Best Animated Feature category…an animated movie might not be nominated for Best Picture, because of reluctance to recognize “a cartoon”. Only one (Beauty and the Beast) had been nominated prior to the introduction of the category (although there had been other special recognition).

Some people have suggested that the purpose of creating the Best Animated Feature category was to make it less likely that they would be nominated for Best Picture…and the same argument is being made for a possible “Popular Film” category.

It may be worth noting that two animated features (Up and Toy Story 3) have been nominated for Best Picture since the introduction of the Animated Feature category…twice as many. Certainly, arguments can be made that some others “should” have been nominated (notably WALL-E, which has an 88 at MRQE), but contrary to my initial gut feeling, I’m not seeing clear evidence of prejudice in my admittedly small sample.

I don’t think the pushback I’ve seen would all have come about because the category simply wasn’t needed, though.

There is also this:

It smacks of elitism, with the idea that the general populace doesn’t like the best movies…perhaps because they prefer less challenging movies?

That one is harder to analyze, but it seems like that would be flawed logic on the Academy’s part. Great movies can never be box office hits? The King’s Speech won a lot of Oscars, and eventually dogroed close to $140m. The two categories of “Best Picture” and blockbuster don’t appear to be self-exclusive.

I do think the point of creating a category like this would be more about increasing viewership (and other public acceptance) than genuinely recognizing value. It’s not like blockbusters are particularly unrewarded. I mean, gee, if there was only some way we could reward movies based on how many people see them. You know, like have each person who goes to see a movie could indicate that somehow…maybe by paying some money? I don’t know what we might call that, but that seems like that’s “the ticket”. ūüėČ

Is there some advantage to the Academy in appearing to be the elite? Perhaps, yes…there are other awards more based on popularity, so it might remove some of the Oscars’ uniqueness if there was also a popular film Oscar.

The Oscars already expanded the possible number of Best Picture nominees from five to ten, starting with the awards given in 2009, again, presumably to increase viewership by providing more diversity in the titles.

Personally? I don’t think an “achievement in popular film” Oscar is a good idea…I also didn’t like the expansion of the number of nominees. It does seem to dilute¬†the value of the award.

I would like to see some changes. I’d like to go back to five nominees for Best Picture. I’d like to see that Stunt category happen, which certainly might interest the general populace.

I’d like to see the elimination of gender separation in the acting categories (which MTV has done). It doesn’t really make sense to me. Is the argument that Gal Gadot’s lauded (but not nominated) performance as Wonder Woman is more comparable to, say, Katharine Hepburn in On Golden Pond because they have a similar chromosome structure than it is to Chris Evans’ performance as Captain America, another principled, fish out of water superhero? If the thought there is that prejudice (again) would keep women from being nominated for Best Actor, why aren’t there separate acting categories for other protected employment groups? People would definitely not be happy if those were introduced! That’s a topic for another time, though…

What do you think? Would it be a good thing for the Academy to recognize achievement in popular films? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.


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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2016: the Year the Stars Went Out?

December 11, 2016

2016: the Year the Stars Went Out?

No question, there have been many sad losses of celebrities this year. For one thing, mainstream news has reported on several actors who played iconic geek-friendly roles…from Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder)¬†to Chekov (Anton Yelchin)¬†to The Man Who Fell to Earth (David Bowie).

People have suggested that this is the worst year to date for celebrity deaths…what we could call “The Year the Stars Went Out”.

Is that the case, though?

Every death matters. It’s not a competition, and each person deserves individual attention.

However, I thought it was worth looking at this idea…I’m always reluctant to frame things in a negative way. Have more celebrities died this year? If that’s not the case, why is that perception there?

My first thought was that there have been other years…and not just recent ones. After all, the In Memoriam segment at the Oscars always takes some time.

The year that immediately occurred to me was 1977. I remembered offhand that Groucho Marx and Zero Mostel had both died in 1977, and that at the time, I noted that there were several other big stars. I speculated then that babies named after celebrities that year might have some odd names (not that I’m someone to speak about the oddness of someone’s name).

To refresh myself, I ran a search for celebrities with a “death year” of 1977 at IMDb:

Most Popular People With Date of Death in 1977 at IMDb

My recollection had been correct. Just from that list:

  • Elvis Presley…arguably, there are no bigger music stars
  • Bing Crosby: an iconic figure, a giant of music, then movies, and TV
  • Charlie Chaplin: a very nostalgic figure at the time
  • Groucho Marx
  • Zero Mostel
  • Joan Crawford
  • Ethel Waters
  • Howard Hawks
  • Andy Devine
  • Eddie “Rochester” Anderson
  • Freddie Prinze: a popular actor of the period, in the category of “dead too young”
  • Of more specifically geek interest were Richard Carlson, Allison Hayes, Jacques Tourneur, William Castle, and Henry Hull

That search returns more than 1,300 names (not all of which will be well-known).

Still, I would say that there was at least a higher public awareness of celebrities who died in 2016 than in 1977.

I think there may be three main reasons for that:

  1. Pop culture now has a much longer “shelf life” than it used to have. Thanks in part to the preservation and distribution enbaled by the¬†internet (following television giving audiences the ability to see older movies, starting especially in the 1950s), people can easily see media which is one hundred years old, which wasn’t the case even twenty-five years ago. Electronic distribution of public domain works is very low cost. There are lots of sources. My own The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project¬†is built on the concept of enjoying older media. When Andy Warhol popularized the idea that “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes…” in 1968, the suggestion was that someone would be famous, and then not famous. Now, it’s much more that if you become famous, you will at least continue to be known to the public forever. See also You‚Äôre showing your age when you say, ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre showing your¬†age‚ÄĚ.
  2. Geeks honor their own…and¬†the¬†vast majority of famous actors has a geek connection. Now that geeks are the mainstream (look at the most popular movies in any week), this tradition of ours to recognize actors who have had even a single credit or a small recurring role means that geek-friendly actors get a lot more respect than they used to get. Oscar winners always got coverage: that wasn’t the case with non-stars of geek-friendly TV shows, for example, but I’m now likely to see several articles on the passing of someone like that
  3. The multiplicity of media: there are 24 hour news channels, but also blogs and websites which specialize in geek topics…and those may be picked up by the mainstream

So, I do think part of it is perception…and that perception will continue next year. We will hear about the deaths of stars of the 1960s, 1950s, earlier, and also later. The news media will cover the passing of¬†geek-friendly stars, and we will honor their lives.

Over the next few weeks, we will be updating our 2016 Geeky Goody-byes, where you can see more of a list.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you‚Äôll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get. :) Shop ‚Äôtil you help! :) By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

September 22, 2016

Is My Favorite Martian’s “Uncle Martin” a Jedi?

My Favorite Martian was a popular “mermaid out of water”* sitcom which aired from 1963 to 1966. I’ve recently been re-watching it on Hulu, and it got me thinking.

“Uncle Martin”, the Martian (whose real name is Exigius) has a number of “unearthly abilities”. They are fairly well established in the first season (although they arguably expand in the third season).

Some of them seemed a bit familiar to me, and then it struck me: they reminded me of the Jedi abilities in Star Wars.

Now, let me be very clear: I’m not suggesting that George Lucas copied My Favorite Martian! Certainly, it seems likely that he saw the series (he was 19 when it debuted), but was undoubtedly familiar with the themes through other science fiction. Nothing here originated with the John L. Greene/Jack Chertok’s sitcom.

It’s more the idea for me that “Uncle Martin” may be a Jedi…even though Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, a long time ago (perhaps the Martian Jedi philosophy was a survivor from an ancient time).

Let’s take a look at what Uncle Martin can do, and compare it to Jedi.

Telekinesis

This is one of the most obvious parallels. Uncle Martin uses his “levitation finger” to move things with his mind. It may look sillier (this is a comedy, after all) when he wiggles his finger, but it’s actually less effort than when a Jedi makes full arm swings. Darth Vader comes close when he chokes someone. There are certainly limitations…Uncle Martin can’t influence things which are very far away, and neither can Jedi. If they could, they’d be able to take fighter spacecraft out of the sky with a gesture. Martin, who is quite a techie, did create a levitation machine with an extended range…something we don’t see in Star Wars.

Acrobatics

One of the things that defines Jedi for me is the acrobatics. The Martian does do very Jedi moves in one episode, The Disastro-Nauts. He is applying to be an astronaut on an Earth rocket to Mars, and despite appearing to be a meek, older human, shows up all of the young military types. That includes demonstrating extraordinary strength. We don’t usually see this, but he is a quiet type most of the time (not unlike the Jedi).

Telempathy/reading minds

Martin can sense emotions from somewhat far away…a “disturbance in the Force”, so to speak. However, again, Martin would win in a contest…he can read actual thoughts. If Lord Vader could do that, they would have a much simpler time fighting the rebellion. It’s not easy: he needs to be close, and generally, the other person has to concentrate (as does Martin). Martin sometimes tricks people into thinking about a topic (by asking questions)¬†so he can get the details of it as he reads their minds.

Talking to animals

Interestingly, the Martian can speak with non-human animals…perhaps not surprising, since his telepathy already crosses species with humans. The animals appear to be cognitively much more advanced than would generally be accepted, but their motivations and perspectives are generally reasonably appropriate. A cat may be motivated by food, but hides an object to affect future events and understands what that object is and its importance. Can Jedi speak with animals? There are a lot of species involved in Star Wars, in addition to artificially intelligent droids. I can’t say that I’ve seen Jedi have the kind of communication Martin has with dogs and cats…they don’t appear to ask Tauntauns for specific information, for instance.

Jedi mind tricks

As is the case with Jedi, Uncle Martin can’t possess someone and control their actions. He can push them physically around with telekinesis, of course. However, he is also able to confuse them…we see a scene quite a bit like the “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” scene. Martin is speeding (to help Tim), and two police officers chase him. He slows them down, and after they catch up, they can’t figure out why they were after him.

Invisibility

Uncle Martin can actually become invisible at will (unless something like a lightning storm messes it up). That’s an ability that Jedi don’t have (they do a lot of sneaking around in the movies which they wouldn’t have to do if they could just go transparent). That appears to be an inherent Martian ability, though…Martin needs his (metallic appearing, but apparently biological) retractable antennae to work for that. They may be implants of some kind, and the invisibility might be technological, but it’s clear that Martians generally have them. Martin is clearly not a Homo sapiens (for one thing, he is about 450 years old…and those are Martian years, not Earth years), but neither is Yoda.

Those are really Uncle Martin’s signature abilities. Now, Martin doesn’t have a light saber and isn’t a warrior (he’s a professor of anthropology), but do you have to have that to be a Jedi? If a Jedi loses their light saber, does that make them not a Jedi any more? It might make it hard for them to be a Jedi knight, but isn’t it possible there are Jedi who aren’t knights? If not, why add the¬†term “knight” at all?

There are other parallels with Uncle Martin and Yoda: they are both relatively long-lived; they both dispense advise (Uncle Martin advised many famous humans over the centuries, on return trips to Earth…as far as we know, he just hasn’t been stranded on Earth before)…although Uncle Martin probably physically resembles Ben Kenobi more.

Could the Jedi philosophy have survived on Mars a long time later? By the way, Martin makes so many references to the actual planet Mars (trying to hideaway on an Earth probe there, for one thing) that it is hard to argue that he really isn’t from Mars…unless he has some form of transportation there that gets him to the actually more life-friendly location he describes.

What do you think? Is Uncle Martin a Jedi? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

¬†* “Mermaid out of water” is a term I use for a situation that is like the classic “fish out of water”, but the outsider is magical, from another time, from another planet, or something otherwise outside of the human norm

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard !

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project! Join the TMCGTT Timeblazers!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you‚Äôll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)‚Ķand the good feeling you‚Äôll get. :) Shop ‚Äôtil you help! :) By the way, it‚Äôs been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to ‚Äústart at AmazonSmile‚ÄĚ if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

October 22, 2015

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

Yesterday was October 21st, 2015,

Back to the Future Day (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That’s the day in 1989’s Back to the Future II that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrive in the future.

There were many, many stories about it…enough to fill a Ford Super De Luxe convertible. ūüėČ Now, I’m not suggesting they were similar to the material that filled Biff Tannen’s car…far from it.

Most were thoughtful comparisons of what was shown in the movie (fict((ional)) future) versus how we actually live today (fact future…at least, the future to 1989). I particularly liked this one:

Back to the Future 2015 SuperScholar.org

However, as an owner of an

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

I’ve been really surprised that people have generally ignored Marty McFly’s future home’s automation and talktech.

In the movie (and there are mild spoilers here…more about bits than about the plot), the house welcomes a character. Another character says, “….you should reprogram: it’s dangerous to enter without lights on.” When the character repeats, “Lights on?”, the lights come on in the room, with a tone to let the user know that the command has been heard (or just to acknowledge the lights coming on).

That is how I turn the lights on in my house…and the voice that tells me “Okay” is much more natural than what we generally hear in the movie.

I say, “Alexa, turn on the Family Room”, or “Alexa, turn on the Library”.

My Echo hears me and Alexa turns on the appropriate bulb which was part of the

GE Link Starter Kit, PLINK-SKIT, Wireless, A19 LED Light Bulb, Pack of 2 (at AmazonSmile*)

Could I “reprogram” the house to simply turn on the lights when I got home?

Yes!

The Wink app (Wink, by the way, has been sold following a bankruptcy by Quirky, but my equipment still works) has “robots”. I could tell it:

  • If the robot detects my location changing to arriving at my home address
  • Anytime
  • Then turn lights on

I don’t do that, but it’s an option.

Later, another character tells the talktech to turn off the “art” on a big screen and to display several channels (simultaneously).

That’s a bit tougher to do currently. I’m going to be testing in the near future¬†using our

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

to communicate with a

Samsung SmartThings Hub (at AmazonSmile*)

to control a

Logitech Harmony Home Control (at AmazonSmile*)

to in turn control an

Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile*)

I know, I know…that’s quite a daisy chain. Alexa is on my Fire TV (this is the 2nd generation), but it can’t actually control the channels or do voice search. The Fire TV does voice search, but that’s a different system. I do hope that the Fire TV will eventually be able to natively not only open, say, Hulu, but “Show me the next episode of [show name]”. I think we’ll get there within the next two years.

Regardless, talktech is a solid hit for BttF2…why wasn’t it being mentioned in stories and infographics along with self-lacing sneakers, hoverboards, and holograms?

Does it seem so natural that it wasn’t worth analysis? Alternatively, did the writers not realize that this arrived right on schedule? The Echo and the Alexa Voice Service have had a super soft launch…there weren’t lines of people outside a store waiting for the Echo. It’s been more like a rising tide than an asteroid strike. Amazon may be very clever in avoiding huge expectations and great demand and having it gradually just become part of our lives.

Now, let’s talk about fact future versus fict future.

How many predictions did Back to the Future 2 get right?

There were no predictions…so none. ūüėČ

Back to the Future 2 is a work of fiction: it’s not the analysis of a futurist or the premonitions of a psychic.

Much of what we see is there for comic effect, and to tie into the first and third movies.

Let’s take Jaws 19 playing at a movie theatre.

  • Jaws was released in 1975
  • Jaws 2 was released in 1978
  • Jaws 3-D was released in 1983
  • Jaws: The Revenge (effectively Jaws 4) was released in 1987

From 1985 (when Bttf2 is set) to 2015, a new Jaws movie would have to have come out on average every 15 months or so. While it’s certainly possible that production schedules will become shorter as technology improves, I’m not sure that’s a specific prediction they intended (but I’d be happy to be contradicted by the moviemakers…comment, Bob Gale?). ūüėČ

We can also see that Jaws 19 is directed by Max Spielberg. Max was born on June 13, 1985…and is the son of Steven Spielberg, the director of the original Jaws (and an Executive Producer) on BttF2. Is this a prediction of a fact based on trends and analysis…or an in joke? I’d lean towards the latter… ūüėČ

While some geeky fiction is trying to project current trends, it’s also often a commentary on the present. It may not be intended at all to represent a likely future…in some cases, it’s actually intended to help stave off some developments portrayed within it.

That’s one issue with fict future versus fact future comparisons.

Another one is this: the future may be boring. ūüôā

Drama is based on difficulty: stress, risk, friction, and difficult choices.

Technology, especially in the past decade or so, has been about removing all that.

Let’s say we set a new Back to the Future, set thirty years from now (2045).

Cars are impossible to crash. It’s impossible to fall off a building. All weaponry is nonlethal. Anyone on the street can be immediately identified and helped.

I’m not saying that’s going to happen by then…but it is a not unreasonable assessment of the trends.

Not only is the tendency towards less danger (and therefore less drama), there are two other factors.

Technology is becoming more invisible, and it’s becoming more internal.

BttF2 uses fingerprint technology for the house to allow someone to enter.

Currently, SmartHomes can use SmartPhones to recognize when someone comes to the home and unlocks the door (although there is a hypothetical risk that the phone could be stolen).

In the future, I fully expect that our technology will recognize us by our simple biology…no technology necessary to be carried. Facial recognition is one way, but there may be others, akin to the original Outer Limits’ O.B.I.T. (Outer Band Individuated Teletracer), which basically picks up on an individual’s unique electromagnetic emanations.

It wouldn’t be very dramatic in a movie, though, to simply have the door open, with no indication of how the individual was recognized.

Similarly, the TV should have been able to largely anticipate what the character wanted to watch…or at least, most of it. That conversation should not be necessary at some point in the future (not necessarily in the next thirty years), but again, would be much less dramatic. Imagine this scene in a movie:

A detective wakes up at home. The lights simply come on. The self-cleaning clothes change from pyjamas to a uniform with no interaction. The detective sits down to a breakfast table, where the food is already ready and eats breakfast (again, no interaction). The detective steps outside, and a car is waiting. The detective gets in the car, and it drives away…already knowing where the detective wants to go, and monitoring the detective’s emotional reaction to its choices. En route to where a criminal¬†is already unconscious (having been spotted and subdued by autonomous¬†technology), other cars smoothly move out of the way on their own.

Not very dramatic, right?

In terms of technology becoming more internal…I feel like we are very connected to other people now, but not with the strangers immediately in our vicinity.

Classic old time movie scene: a newsboy shouting, “Extra! Extra! Read all about it!” Somebody buys a paper, and we see the headline. The character exclaims, “Gosh all hemlock!”

Current version: character gets a subtle vibration notification, glances at a watch, and reads the news. In the same room, other characters are checking watches or phone…could be the same headline, might be something else, like a reminder to buy milk. Everything is done without speech.

Which one makes the better scene?

Even though geeky fiction isn’t usually trying to actually predict the future, sometimes it does…but intriguingly, it is sometimes a case of life imitating art.

Dr. Martin Cooper has suggested that seeing the communicator on Star Trek inspired his work on the mobile phone.

Does anyone doubt that Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon have been inspirations for work on ray guns?

Fiction may not intentionally predict the future…but it may help to inspire it.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Mid-year box office check 2015

August 2, 2015

Mid-year box office check 2015

We’ve gone through six months of the year, so it’s a good time to look at how the box office is going (based on movies released in the USA through the end of June).

It’s entirely possible that this year will have the largest dogro (domestic gross) to date (not adjusted for inflation), especially since there are some really big movies yet to come.

Breaking it down, what do we see?

Jennifer Lopez is a movie star

That might not be the lead in stories you’ll see in other publications about this year at the movies, but the success of The Boy Next Door is staggering, and largely due to J.Lo.

Oh, I’m sure some of you want to jump in and say that Chris Pratt is a bigger star.

Well, The Boy Next Door has a dogro of $35.4m on a reported production budget of $4.0m. That’s a return of 885%, nearly triple golden in our awards system.

It did that in part because of its star’s (and sorry, John Corbett and Kristen Chenoweth, but I doubt very many people¬†went to see the movie who weren’t¬†significantly interested in seeing J.Lo) smart and relentless promotion, appearing on TV shows, in magazines, and so on.

Universal has it figured out

Universal is one of the most geek-friendly studios ever (along with Hammer in England, and AIP). Of course, they had the famous horror cycle starting with Boris Karloff in Frankenstein and Bela Lugosi in Dracula, and continuing in that cycle until they may have killed it with Abbott and Costello Meets fill-in-the-blank. The list goes on and on from The Creature from the Black Lagoon and The Incredible Shrinking Man, to their relationship with Steven Spielberg, bringing us Jaws and E.T. This year, four of the top 5 of

The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies

at time of writing are from Universal:

  • Jurassic World ($478m in profit, domestic gross ((dogro)) versus production budget…419%)
  • Minions ($201m in profit | 372%)
  • Furious Seven ($160m in profit ¬†| 184%)
  • Pitch Perfect 2 ($154m in profit | 631%)

Those are four very different movies, with different target audiences. Yes, they are all sequels/prequels, but that’s certainly no guarantee of success (for an example from this year, Hot Tub Time Machine 2 didn’t domestically make back its budget…which was $14m). They did have a couple of misfires (Blackhat and Seventh Son), but they’ve more than made up for it.

So does Blumhouse

Universal has been investing money, and getting a return on it. Blumhouse, on the other hand, spends very little money…but has a higher percentage return than Universal…and they’ve been doing that for years. Looking at 2015:

  • The Lazarus Effect ($25.8m dogro on a $3.3m production budget | 782%)
  • Insidious: Chapter 3 ($52m dogro on a $10m production budget | 520%)
  • The Gallows ($21.9m on a $100,000 production budget | 21,580%) (note: this was released July 10th, so it’s past our cut-off…but it’s still a stand-out, so we’ll cheat a little) ūüėČ

Golden movies on our list

To get to our list, a movie has to dogro at least $40m. We also give awards to movies, based on their returns…at least 300% return is “Golden” (double, and this is still dogro versus production budget, is “Money”). These movies are Golden this year:

  • Pitch Perfect 2 Double Golden (at least 600% return)
  • Jurassic World (highly unusual¬†that a movie with a $150m budget to go Golden)
  • Minions
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Magic Mike XXL
  • Insidious: Chapter 3

The $500 Million Club

We also track

The Measured Circle’s Box Office MVPs

To get on the list, an actor needs to be first billed in a movie that dogros at least $100m, and appear in at least one other movie that dogros $40m.

Eleven actors are on that list, and six of them have had movies on our list that dogroed at least $500m this year:

  1. Judy Greer: Jurassic World ($628.0m); Tomorrowland ($91.8m); Ant-Man ($120.0m) | Tentative total: $839.8m
  2. Hayley Atwell: Cinderella ($201.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m); Ant-Man ($120.0m) | Tentative total: $777.0m
  3. BD Wong: Jurassic World ($628.0m); Focus ($53.8m) | Tentative total: $681.8m
  4. Stellan Skarsgård: Cinderella ($201.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m) | Tentative total: $657.0m
  5. Samuel L. Jackson: Kingsman: The Secret Service ($128.0m); Avengers: Age of Ultron ($456.0m) | Tentative total: $584.0m
  6. Dwayne Johnson: Furious 7 ($350.0m); San Andreas ($151.0m) | Tentative total: $501.0m

Of these six, only Samuel L. Jackson is repeating from 2014…although Dwayne Johnson was on the list for 2013.

There you are…halfway through the year, and there is a lot more coming!

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

The Geeky Seventies

June 9, 2015

The Geeky Seventies

CNN is following up their successful series on the 1960s with one on the 1970s:

http://www.cnn.com/shows/the-seventies

Tom Hanks is an Executive Producer.

The existence of this series is kind of funny to me. I did a comedy bit years ago on our community access TV show (Freedom from Fear) called “In Search of the Seventies”. I treated it as a mystery as to whether or not the Seventies even (culturally) existed. I asked if they were really just “…the end of the Sixties and the start of the Eighties”.

I think that’s because I was too close to it. I was really engaging in pop culture in the Seventies…well, often culture that wasn’t so popular, but you know what I mean. ūüėČ I didn’t have the distance from it and maturity to recognize what was special about it.

Certainly, I thought the 1960s had a unique culture…with the Beatles in part driving the bus.

As to the 1980s, well, New Wave music seemed to stand out to me.

The 1970s? At that time, I wasn’t seeing what made it special.

Now I do. ūüôā

This post is going to give you an overview of geek-friendly culture in the 1970s.

It was definitely¬†a transformative decade…even if the Transformers didn’t arrive until the 1980s. ūüėČ

Geek culture moved mainstream in very big ways. Predominantly, there was Star Wars, which made space opera a blockbuster, but we could also look at The Exorcist for horror, and Interview with the Vampire (Anne Rice) for vampires.

We saw the arrival of Stephen King as a novelist, and the publication of Dungeons and Dragons.

Home video technology meant that people could easily watch movies after they were out of theatres…decades after, in some cases. Prior to that, some of us had three-minute long Super 8 movies, and the real hobbyists might have 16mm reels, but the Betamax and others meant our cinematic history (including the geeky part) was much more accessible.

Star Trek: the Original Series was canceled in 1969…but the fandom continued. That led to the first Star Trek convention in the 1970s. Science fiction conventions went back to 1939, but this was different.

Batman in the 1960s might have made superheroes a hit on TV, but Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk were part of the 1970s scene.

The Weird World interested a lot more people…the In Search Of TV series was only one part of that, but was many viewers’ first exposure to some of these topics.

Let’s look at some of the highlights in different areas:

Movies

How times have changed!

When you look at the top ten US grossing movies released in the 1960s, arguably only two are geek-friendly (GF) and not specifically intended for the family/children’s market:

  1. The Sound of Music
  2. 101 Dalmations
  3. The Jungle Book
  4. Doctor Zhivago
  5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  6. Mary Poppins
  7. My Fair Lady
  8. Thunderball (GF)
  9. Cleopatra
  10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (GF)

By the end of the 1970s, that picture had entirely changed, and would look more like our box office today:

  1. Star Wars (GF)
  2. Jaws (GF)
  3. The Sting
  4. Animal House
  5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (eventually) GF
  6. The Godfather
  7. Superman (GF)
  8. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (GF)
  9. Smokey and the Bandit
  10. Blazing Saddles

The Exorcist (1973) brought straight up horror to blockbuster status and mainstream acceptance (along with a lot of protests).

In 1975, Steven Spielberg changed the summer. Up to that point, it had largely been a season of cheapo exploitation movies. People actually went outside (including drive-ins), not to the movies. Jaws reshaped all that, giving us the summer blockbuster season. There have been heated debates about whether or not Jaws is a fantasy (are we supposed to believe the shark is just a shark, or something more?), but it was clearly a monster movie.

Then in 1977, Star Wars changed it all.

While those movies were all big hits, there were a lot of other significant geek movies. Undeniably, we have to count the Rocky Horror Picture Show as establishing midnight movies and a special kind of cult film. It flopped when it came out, but then got a new life in a new way. He’s the hero…that’s right, the hero. ūüėČ

Here are some other stand-outs:

  • Alien (1979)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1971)
  • Mad Max (1979)
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  • Carrie (1976)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Young Frankenstein (1974)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Omen (1976)
  • King Kong (1976)
  • Eraserhead (1977)
  • Solaris (1972)
  • Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  • Logan’s Run (1979)
  • The Wicker Man (1973)
  • Live and Let Die (1973) (the first Roger Moore James Bond)
  • Soylent Green (1973)
  • Enter the Dragon (193)
  • The Amityville Horror (1979)
  • Dawn of the Dead (1978)
  • Zardoz (1974)
  • The Wiz (1978)
  • Westworld¬†(1973)
  • Four of the original Planet of the Apes movies
  • A Boy and His Dog (1975)
  • Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
  • Tommy (1975)
  • The Lord of the Rings (1978) (Ralph Bakshi)
  • Escape to Witch Mountain (1975)
  • The Andromeda Strain (1971)
  • Phantasm (1979)
  • The Sentinel (1977)
  • Suspiria (1977)
  • Death Race 2000 (1975)
  • Rollerball (1975)
  • The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)
  • The Omega Man (1971)
  • Tales from the Crypt (1972)
  • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
  • Freaky Friday (1976)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
  • The Car (1977)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The ¬†Stepford Wives (1975)
  • Dark Star (1974)
  • Eraserhead (1977)

TV

Sure, the 1960s had been huge for high concept TV (with 1964 particularly important), but the 1970s built on that with many geek-friendly hits. Batman on TV had burned out by 1970, but opened the field for other superheroes (DC, Marvel, and bionic). Star Wars and James Bond were both big in movie theatres, and we saw their effect on the small screen as well. Home video arrived, which began to give us more options (although cable wouldn’t be a factor until the 1980s). Saturday morning got trippy with the Kroffts (although H.R. Pufnstuf debuted in 1969), and saw the return of Star Trek with the original cast…in animated form.

Some geek-friendly series:

  • Wonder Woman
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Saturday Night Live (Coneheads! Land Shark!)
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Fantasy Island
  • Mork & Mindy
  • Land of the Lost
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
  • Kung Fu
  • Space: 1999
  • The Six Million Dollar Man
  • The Bionic Woman
  • The Muppet Show
  • The Tomorrow People
  • Isis
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker
  • Blakes 7
  • The Amazing Spier-Man
  • Nanny and the Professor
  • Shazam!
  • Tales of the Unexpected
  • SCTV
  • Paddington Bear
  • The New Avengers
  • Schoolhouse Rock!
  • Super Friends
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • Man from Atlantis
  • Return to the Planet of the Apes
  • Sigmund and the Sea Monsters
  • Sapphire & Steel
  • Star Blazers
  • The Prisoner
  • Quark
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • The Invisible Man (David McCallum)
  • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl
  • Doctor Who in the United States
  • Monty Python in the United States

Books/literature

I’ve gone into depth on the general topic of literature of the 1970s in another blog of mine:

I Love My Kindle: Books in the 1970s

In terms of geek-friendly, it was a huge decade! Just as movies saw the mainstreaming of geek-friendly genres, bookstores saw bestsellers from a new author named Stephen King, and a vampire hit (Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice).

While geek-specific bookstores (and comic book stores) were crucial, you could walk into a the newly national Barnes & Noble chain and get a variety of science fiction/fantasy/supernatural horror. You wanted military SF? You had Joe Haldeman. Light fantasy? Enter Xanth by Piers Anthony. Social science fiction? The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner. Ringworld…Riverworld…we weren’t only reaching out to new planets, we were visiting new worlds and universes.

Here are some of the stand-out titles and authors:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  • Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
  • The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny
  • Gateway by Frederick Pohl
  • Time Enough for Love by Robert A. Heinlein
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go by¬†Philip Jos√© Farmer
  • Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven
  • The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  • Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
  • Logan’s Run by William F. Nolan
  • Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm
  • The Sheep Look Up by John Brunner
  • Altered States by Paddy Chayefsky
  • Autumn Angels by Arthur Byron Cover
  • The Cave of Time (Choose Your Own Adventure) by Edward Packard

Gaming

1974 saw the release of Dungeons & Dragons…and we had Advanced D&D by the end of the decade. This was really the decade that saw the RPG (Role-Playing Game) world established, and would include Runequest and Traveller.

Fandom

Star Trek:  The Original Series ended in 1969, but the people who had come together to fight for a third season kept at it. That included the first Star Trek convention (well, the first widely available to the public one in 1972), the return of the original cast for the animated series, and eventually, 1979, to the big screen.

Comics

Again, there was a transition happening, with some significant experimentation.

  • Jack Kirby jumped from Marvel to DC, and introduced Darkseid
  • The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide first appeared
  • Green Lantern and Green Arrow take a philosophical walk-about across America
  • Mister Miracle debuts
  • An arc in Spider-Man features drug use, and defies the Comics Code Authority
  • Ra’s Al Ghul first appears
  • The Kree-Skrull War storyline
  • The Sandman
  • War Machine makes his first appearance
  • Wonder Woman gives up her powers

The Weird World

  • The TV series In Search of… (hosted by Leonard Nimoy) was instrumental in reinteresting people in the Roswell Incident
  • 1973 was dubbed “The Year of the Humanoids” by UFO researcher David Webb…one of the most famous was the Pascagoula incident
  • Uri Geller was famous, even appearing on the Tonight Show in 1973 to “bend spoons”
  • Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain by¬†Lynn Schroeder and Sheila Ostrander was published in 1970
  • The Mysterious Monsters was a Sunn Classics documentary, featuring Peter Graves
  • The Legend of Boggy Creek was released in 1972
  • The Unidentified, published in 1975, by Loren Coleman & Jerome Clark, is Coleman’s first “name on the cover” book
  • John A. Keel’s inimitable The Mothman Prophecies was published in 1975
  • Momo, the Missouri Monster, was just one of many hairy bipeds
  • Newsstands had magazines galore, including Ancient Astronauts
  • The “flipper photo” of the Loch Ness Monster was taken in 1972 by Dr. Robert Rines’ team
  • In 1975, Travis Walton is missing for several days, and a report emerges of an abduction by aliens

Records

Listening to LPs was definitely a 1970s thing, and there were some definitely geeky concept albums.

  • 1972: David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • 1973: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells
  • 1978: Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds
  • 1978:¬†Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!

Science/Tech

  • Home computers became a thing in 1977, with the Apple II, the Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor), and the TRS-80 (Tandy Radio Shack)
  • Skylab launched in 1973…and docked with the Russian Soyuz in 1975
  • The Atari 2600 was released in 1977
  • The first Pong arcade game was put to use in 1972. Arcade games would really take off with Space Invaders in 1978

There’s a bit of the geeky 1970s for you! We certainly didn’t cover everything, but you can see the big shift from geek culture being kids and niche to becoming the mainstream pop culture force that it is today. Want to add something? Feel free to comment on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Will Into the Woods reverse the Depp Dip?

December 17, 2014

Will Into the Woods reverse the Depp Dip?

Look, we love Johnny Depp. He’s talented, charismatic, and can do both comedy and drama.

For the past few years, though, audiences haven’t loved him enough to actually go see his movies in theatres all that much.

Here at The Measured Circle, one way we judge the success of a movie is by comparing its dogro (domestic gross) to its production budget.

As recorded both on this blog and on our IMDb list

2014 The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies

we give movies awards based on the following metrics:

Dogro 2X production budget = “Money”
Dogro 3X production budget = “Golden”
Dogro 30X production budget = “Platinum”

Dogro less than 50% of production budget = “Underperformer”

Let’s take a look at Depp’s starring movies for the past three years (leaving out 21 Jump Street as a cameo):

  • Transcendence (4/18/2014): dogro $23m / production budget $100m = 23% UNDERPERFORMER
  • The Lone Ranger (7/3/2013): dogro $89m / production budget $215m = 41% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Dark Shadows (5/11/2012): dogro $80 / production budget $150m = 53%

As you can see, the trend has been diminishing returns.

Taking these three movies as a whole, it’s dogro $192m / $465m = 41%.

Going back to the previous three year period, the picture is quite different:

  • The Rum Diary (10/28/2011): dogro $13m / production budget $45m = 29% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20/2011): dogro $241 / production budget $250m = 96%
  • Rango (3/4/2011): dogro $123 / production budget $135 = 91%
  • The Tourist (12/10/2010: dogro $68 / production budget $100 = 68%
  • Alice in Wonderland (3/5/2010): dogro $334m / production budget $200m = 167%
  • The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (12/26/2009): dogro $8m / production budget $30m = 27%
  • Public Enemies (7/1/2009): dogro $97m / production budget $100m = 97%

(not included: When You’re Strange, with Depp as narrator)

While only one of them was an underperformer, and none of them got to our Money level of 200%, this is still a much better showing. Taken as a whole: dogro $884m / $860m = 103%.

Skipping 2008 (no major releases), the previous three year period showed real strength:

  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (12/21/2007): dogro $53 / production budget $50m = 106%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (5/25/2007): dogro $309m / production budget $300m = 103%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (7/7/2006): dogro $423m / production budget $225m = 188%
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (7/15/2005): dogro $209 / production budget $150 = 139%

(not included: The Libertine and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, due to lack of production budget data)

Here are the other movies for which we have data (from http://www.boxofficemojo.com):

  • Finding Neverland (11/12/04) dogro $52m / production budget $25m = 208% MONEY
  • Secret Window (3/12/2004) dogro $48m / production budget $40m = 120%
  • Once Upon a Time in Mexico (9/12/03) dogro $56m / production budget $29m 193%
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (7/9/03) dogro $305m / production budget $140m = 218% MONEY
  • From Hell (10/19/01) dogro $32m / production budget $35m 91%
  • Blow (4/6/01) dogro $53m / production budget $53m = 100%
  • Chocolat (12/15/00) dogro $72m / production budget $25m 288% MONEY
  • The Ninth Gate (3/10/00) dogro $19m / production budget $38m 50%
  • Sleepy Hollow (11/19/99) dogro $101m / production budget $100 = 101%
  • The Astronaut’s Wife (8/27/99) dogro $11m / production budget $75m 15% UNDERPERFORMER
  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (5/22/98) dogro $11m / production budget $18.5 59%
  • Don Juan de Marco (4/7/95) dogro $22m / production budget $25m 88%
  • Ed Wood (9/30/94) dogro $6m / production budget $18m 33%
  • Platoon (12/19/86) dogro $139m / production budget $6m 2317% SEPTUPLE GOLDEN

Did you think that Platoon would be Johnny’s best movie, based on return on the investment dollar? That Chocolat was second? That The Astronaut’s Wife had done worse in that department than Transcendence?

Taking a look at it graphically (without Platoon, which is such an outlier that you wouldn’t be able to see the other differences very well ¬†if we included it), you can see that there have been ups and downs…but all downs recently:

Depp Dip

 

So,  back to the question: will

Into the Woods

opening December 25th, reverse that slide?

Unfortunately, while it may certainly do better than Transcendence, we think its unlikely that it returns to “Money” territory, and would be very surprised if it was “Golden”. The rumored production budget is $50m. Director Rob Marshall’s track record questions the ability to get to Golden, at least after the first big hit:

  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (5/20/2011): dogro $241 / production budget $250m = 96%
  • Nine (12/18/2009): dogro $20m / production budget $80m = 25%
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (12/9/2005): dogro $57m / production budget $85m = 67%
  • Chicago (12/27/2002): dogro $171m / production budget $45m = 377% GOLDEN

We hope the movie is terrific, and that it exceeds all of our expectations at the box office. We wish everybody involved with it well, and will be interested to see the results (and we will continue to watch Johnny Depp’s career in the future).

Join thousands of readers and try the free The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the  The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them

 

 

2013 The Year in Movie Box Office

December 29, 2013

2013 The Year in Movie Box Office

While I would be surprised if this year stands out in the history of movies the way that last year did, it was certainly interesting!

In this post, we’re going to do some analysis of the box office.

We have to first point out that the list isn’t final, and that there are some newcomers which will move up considerably (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is still burning up the box office, and for a movie with a snowman main character, Frozen surprisingly has legs). ūüėČ We think that American Hustle could eventually top $100 million dogro (domestic gross), and Walter Mitty and Anchorman 2 are just getting started.

We’ll continue to update our 2013 box office page

2013 Movie Box Office: 40, 80, 1, 2 , 3

at least until no 2013 release appears on the IMDb top ten box office list for a week. If that happens before the Oscars (which are scheduled for March 2), we’ll probably keep going until then…the Oscar bump can have an impact.

That said, let’s look at where we are as of now. We are only doing this on dogro, although we’ll have something to say about international later. We also cut it off at the bottom at $40 million:

1 Iron Man 3 $409,013,994.00
2 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire $384,324,000.00
3 Despicable Me 2 $367,607,660.00
4 Man of Steel $291,045,518.00
5 Monsters University $268,492,764.00
6 Gravity $254,067,000.00
7 Fast & Furious 6 $238,679,850.00
8 Oz The Great and Powerful $234,911,825.00
9 Frozen (2013) $229,775,000.00
10 Star Trek Into Darkness $228,778,661.00
11 World War Z $202,359,711.00
12 Thor: The Dark World $201,727,537.00
13 The Croods $187,168,425.00
14 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug $170,564,000.00
15 The Heat $159,582,188.00
16 We’re the Millers $150,394,119.00
17 The Great Gatsby (2013) $144,840,419.00
18 The Conjuring $137,400,141.00
19 Identity Thief $134,506,920.00
20 Grown Ups 2 $133,668,525.00
21 The Wolverine $132,556,852.00
22 G.I. Joe: Retaliation $122,523,060.00
23 Now You See Me $117,723,989.00
24 Lee Daniels’ The Butler $116,146,955.00
25 Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 $115,740,196.00
26 The Hangover Part III $112,200,072.00
27 Epic $107,518,682.00
28 Captain Phillips $104,287,640.00
29 Pacific Rim $101,802,906.00
30 This is the End $101,470,202.00
31 Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa $100,837,000.00
32 Olympus Has Fallen $98,925,640.00
33 $42.00 $95,020,213.00
34 Elysium $93,050,117.00
35 Planes $90,288,712.00
36 The Lone Ranger $89,302,115.00
37 Oblivion $89,107,235.00
38 Insidious Chapter 2 $83,586,447.00
39 Turbo $83,028,128.00
40 2 Guns $75,612,460.00
41 White House Down $73,103,784.00
42 Mama $71,628,180.00
43 Safe Haven $71,349,120.00
44 Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues $71,198,000.00
45 The Smurfs 2 $71,017,784.00
46 The Best Man Holiday $70,033,270.00
47 Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters $68,443,727.00
48 A Good Day to Die Hard $67,349,198.00
49 Warm Bodies $66,380,662.00
50 Jack the Giant Slayer $65,187,603.00
51 The Purge $64,473,115.00
52 Last Vegas $62,439,761.00
53 Prisoners $61,002,302.00
54 Ender’s Game $60,900,026.00
55 After Earth $60,522,097.00
56 Escape From Planet Earth $57,012,977.00
57 Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters $55,703,475.00
58 Evil Dead (2013) $54,239,856.00
59 Free Birds $54,089,000.00
60 Red 2 $53,262,560.00
61 Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor $51,975,354.00
62 The Call $51,872,378.00
63 Pain and Gain $49,875,291.00
64 American Hustle $46,885,000.00
65 Gangster Squad $46,000,903.00
66 Jurassic Park 3D $45,385,935.00
67 The Internship $44,672,764.00
68 Instructions Not Included $44,467,206.00
69 Snitch $42,930,462.00
70 Riddick $42,025,135.00
71 A Haunted House $40,041,683.00

Some movies which may still make $40 million dogro:

  • Tyler Perry’s a Madea Christmas
  • 12 Years a Slave (especially with an Oscar bump, but even without)
  • Saving Mr. Banks
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • 47 Ronin
  • There are some that could do it with an Oscar bump, for example, Philomena and Fruitvale Station

Counting Gravity as a geek-friendly movie (even though Gravity is not science fiction), the top 14 all qualify.

That’s just based on gross, though. Geek movies often cost more to produce, which reduces the profit. When we look at

The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies of 2013

the top ten looks considerably different.

  1. Despicable Me 2: profit of $292m to date
  2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: $209m
  3. Iron Man 3: $209m
  4. Gravity: $154m
  5. Monsters University: $153m
  6. The Conjuring: $124m
  7. The Heat: $117m
  8. We’re the Millers: $113m
  9. Identity Thief: $99m
  10. Lee Daniels’ The Butler: $86m

As you can see, three comedies and a mainstream drama make the cut with those numbers (dogro versus reported production budget).

Like last year, the biggest losers were all geek friendly:

  1. Jack the Giant Slayer: -$129.8m to date
  2. The Lone Ranger: -$125.7m
  3. Pacific Rim: -$88.0m

We don’t know yet where 47 Ronin might end up, with an estimated budget of $175m…it is possible it will lose as much as Pacific Rim, but it is too soon to tell.

This year, we started a new feature. We label movies based on their dogro versus their reported production budgets:

A traditional measure of success if the dogro being twice the production budget. Using that as a starting point…

Dogro 2X production budget = ‚ÄúMoney‚ÄĚ
Dogro 3X production budget = ‚ÄúGolden‚ÄĚ

Dogro less than 50% of production budget = ‚ÄúUnderperformer‚ÄĚ

Here are those groupings:

Golden (16 titles out of 69 tracked by us so far)

  1. Septuple Golden: The Purge: 2147%
  2. Quintuple Golden: Insidious: Chapter 2: 1,672%
  3. Quintuple Golden: A Haunted House: 1,600%
  4. Triple Golden: The Conjuring: 1053%
  5. Double Golden: Instructions Not Include: 890%
  6. Double Golden: Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa: 673%
  7. Despicable Me 2: 484%
  8. Mama: 477%
  9. The Best Man Holiday: 411%
  10. We’re the Millers: 405%
  11. The Call: 392%
  12. Lee Daniels’ The Butler: 387%
  13. Evil Dead: 387%
  14. Identity Thief: 383%
  15. The Heat: 372%
  16. This Is the End: 316%

Money (7 titles out of 69)

  1. Snitch: 286%
  2. Safe Haven: 255%
  3. Gravity: 254%
  4. 42: 238%
  5. Monsters University: 233%
  6. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: 226%
  7. Iron Man 3: 205%

Underperfomer (4 titles out of 69)

  1. White House Down: 49%
  2. After Earth: 47%
  3. The Lone Ranger: 42%
  4. Jack the Giant Slayer: 34%

No question, horror (especially when we include the horror spoof A Haunted House) had the best return for the studios’ investment dollars. The Purge knocks it out of the park, and every movie that was more than Double Golden was a horror movie (again, counting A Haunted House).

Mainstream comedies also do very well, though, including Jackass, We’re the Millers, Identity Thief, and The Heat…proving that while it isn’t necessary to have Melissa McCarthy top-billed, it’s a good idea. ūüėČ

Non-horror, non-animated geek movies don’t even make the Golden cut. ¬†On the other hand, three out of four of the underperformers were geek-friendly (and we could debate the fourth).

Does that high risk mean studios should stop making megabudgeted geek tentpoles?

Nope. ūüôā

There are a few reasons for that:

  • Even though Iron Man 3 wasn’t golden, it still dogroed hundreds of millions more for the studio than the production cost. That’s a lot of money! Profit matters, but having cash on hand counts, too
  • Lots of money on geek-friendly movies is made outside of the tickets for the initial theatre run. There are the merchandising bucks…how many licensed Halloween costumes from comedies are sold? Not that many, certainly compared to superhero movies
  • We have just been looking at domestic numbers so far…here’s where that international part comes into play. Comedies just don’t do as well internationally…humor is much harder to translate than explosions and special effects. ūüėČ Iron Man 3 made 66.3% of its box office outside the USA; The Heat made 30.6%. You’ll find similar numbers on other successful geek-friendly movies and mainstream comedies. As international box office becomes increasingly important, geek-friendly movies become more valuable

One other quick list: some geek-friendly movies which did not make the $40m dogro cut (and aren’t likely to do so):

  • The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: dogro $31m, reported budget $60m. Even though we wouldn’t quite label it an underperformer, this is one of the ones that may scare studios away from young adult literature as source material. Not completely, of course, but it does make them a bit more cautious
  • Kick-*ss 2:¬†dogro $29m, reported budget $28m. It did barely make a profit…did we witness the power of Jim Carrey’s not supporting the movie? If so, is that better or worse for Carrey: would you be more reluctant to cast Carrey knowing that, if the actor later decides the movie has a moral issue, you could lose promotional support?
  • The World’s End: dogro $26m, reported budget $40m. Don’t worry too much about this one: it will be profitable when everything is taken into account, and even if it wasn’t, we still love Pegg and Frost
  • Carrie: dogro $35m, reported¬†budget $30m. It made a profit, but I think most people would have predicted more out of it
  • Machete Kills: dogro $7m, reported¬†budget $12m. It’s not about the money with this one…
  • Beautiful Creatures: dogro $19m, reported¬†budget $60m. A major underperformer…see Mortal Instruments above
  • About Time: dogro $15m, reported¬†budget unknown. Our guess is this one was still a success, but we don’t know for sure
  • R.I.P.D.: dogro $34m, reported budget $130m if this one could have clawed its way to $40m, it would have been one of our underperformers. This was not a good year for Ryan Reynolds, although¬†The Croods¬†did well. This movie and¬†Turbo, though? Not so much…we still love you, Ryan! Although, you know, maybe not like we love Pegg and Frost ūüėČ
  • Jobs:¬†dogro $16m, reported budget $12m. This one did okay
  • The Host: dogro $27m, reported budget $40m. We thought this one would do better: see Beautiful Creatures above
  • Scary Movie 5: dogro $32m, reported budget $20m. That’s good enough: expect a 6 at some point
  • Dark Skies: dogro $17m, reported budget $3.5m. Again, good enough

We’ll keep tracking 2013…and then on to 2014!

See you in the movies!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Movies through Labor Day 2013

September 4, 2013

Movies through Labor Day 2013

The On the Circumference posts contain short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Even though there have been records set, this has not felt like a great year for movies so far. There have been some movies that have really lost a lot of money, when you compare their domestic gross (dogro) to their production budgets, as we do here:

http://www.imdb.com/list/KL-q-CWciQY/

Two movies at this point have dogroed more than $100 million less less than their production budgets:

Jack the Giant Slayer

Dogro to date: $65.2m
Reported budget: $195.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $-129.8m (34%)

The Lone Ranger

Dogro to date: $88.0m
Reported budget: $215.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: -$127.0m (41%)

The percentages there are dogro v. production budget.

When the box office has been setting record grosses, it seems like it has been because there have been more movies in the marketplace, not because some have been particularly profitable.

There have been some low budget movies that have done really well…and yes, a couple of movies that cost more than $100 million to make, and have made a lot of money.

We are now giving movies awards based on their categories. Let’s take a look at the top and bottom of those, with the highest percentage of dogro to production budget first:

Golden (dogro at least 300% of production budget): 10 movies to date this year

The Purge (Septuple Golden)

Dogro to date: $64.4m
Reported budget: $3.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $61.4m (2147%)

A Haunted House (Quintuple Golden)

Dogro to date: $40.0m
Reported budget: $2.5m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $37.5m (1600%)

The Conjuring (triple golden)

Dogro to date: $132.0m
Reported budget: $13.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $119.0m (1015%)

Mama

Dogro to date: $71.6m
Reported budget: $15.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $56.6m (477%)

Despicable Me 2

Dogro to date: $351.0m
Reported budget: $76.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $275.0m (462%)

The Call

Dogro to date: $51.0m
Reported budget: $13.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $38.0m (392%)

Evil Dead

Dogro to date: $54.2m
Reported budget: $14.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $40.2m (387%)

Identity Thief

Dogro to date: $134.0m
Reported budget: $35.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $99.0m (383%)

The Heat

Dogro to date: $156.0m
Reported budget: $43.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $113.0m (363%)

This Is the End

Dogro to date: $96.8m
Reported budget: $32.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $64.8m (303%)

Clearly, if you wanted the biggest bang for your buck (the highest percentage return), this was a good year to be a horror movie! Counting A Haunted House (a horror comedy…it can count in both), the top four movies were all in that genre.

Note also that the only sequel in this bunch is Despicable Me 2…the rest are all originals.

Despicable Me 2 high budget is an anomaly for this group, but that’s not surprising…the more you spend, the harder it is to triple that at the box office.

We also have a “Money” category, for movies that make twice their production budget…but that’s not really a stand out. We’ll skip those in this post (you can see them at the IMDb link above), and move to the bottom category. We’ll these with the lowest performers first:

Underperformers (dogro under 50% of the production budget): 4 movies to date this year:

Jack the Giant Slayer

Dogro to date: $65.2m
Reported budget: $195.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $-129.8m (34%)

The Lone Ranger

Dogro to date: $88.0m
Reported budget: $215.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: -$127.0m (41%)

After Earth

Dogro to date: $60.5m
Reported budget: $130.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: -$69.5m (47%)

White House Down

Dogro to date: $72.4m
Reported budget: $150.0m

Tentative dogro v production budget profit: $-77.6m (48%)

Does anything group these together? I’d say big stars…which certainly may drive up the production budget, affecting these figures.

Melissa McCarthy has two movies in the Golden category this year…but if her asking price goes up, that may become less likely in the future.

It is still possible that White House Down will earn enough to move out of this category. Some movies are making money for quite some time…Iron Man 2 added another million the last time we updated the list, for example.

Next, let’s take a look at our The Measured Circle Box Office MVPs so far this year:

http://www.imdb.com/list/1qpmYwE-IJs/

This is based on the combined dogros of their movies this year (provided the movie dogroed at least $40 million…that’s our cut off). To qualify, someone needs to have been first-billed in a movie that dogroed at least $100 million this year, and appeared in another movie that dogroed at least $40 million this year.

At some point, we may look at the profitability of movies for actors…that might let them know when to ask for a raise. ūüôā

Let’s pull some interesting ones from the list:

At the very top is

James Badge Dale

Iron Man 3 ($408.0m); World War Z ($198.0m); The Lone Ranger ($87.7m)

Tentative total: $693.7m

We wouldn’t say the actor is a household name, but Iron Man 3 and World War Z were both seen by a lot of people, so that may change.

Dwayne Johnson

Snitch ($42.9); G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($123.0m); Pain & Gain ($49.8m); Fast & Furious 6 ($238.0m)

had four movies that made that $40m minimum, with two over $100m. “The Rock” is #4 overall, and we think it’s safe to say that Dwayne Johnson is a draw for audiences.

There are some children high on the list, which we think may be an interesting trend.

Joey King (#5)

Oz the Great and Powerful ($235.0m); White House Down ($72.1m); The Conjuring ($128.0m)

Tentative total: $435.1m

was born in 1999.

Sterling Jerins (#17)

World War Z ($198.0m); The Conjuring ($128.0m)

Tentative total: $326.0m

was born in 2004.

They were both in The Conjuring, which certainly helped. When you look at the list, you’ll see a lot of actors who appearing in more than one movie in the same year with another specific actor. That is presumably due to them sharing an agent in some cases.

Shaquille O’Neal¬†(#38)

Shaquille O’Neal: Grown Ups 2 ($127.0m); The Smurfs 2 ($57.7m)

Tentative total: $184.7m

surprised us. Shaq’s movie career didn’t really take off in the mid-1990s, and the former basketball star only has 11 total IMDb acting credits. Kudos to an actor so well-known for physicality for making the list with a voice role!

It is very hard to be on the list year after year. If you make big budget spectaculars it may take so long to do one that it limits your opportunities the following year. However, here are two that are on the list year, and were on it in 2012:

John Goodman (#6)

Last year: #49, $285.7m

The Hangover Part III ($112.0m); Monsters University ($261.0m); The Internship ($44.6m)

Tentative total: $417.6m

Goodman (a personal fave…we thought the former sitcom star deserved a best supporting actor nom last year) increased the take. We were hoping Goodman’s Amazon pilot wasn’t picked up…for one thing, we didn’t like it, but for another, it will limit big screen opportunities. Goodman still has another movie which might make the list to come this year (The Monuments Men).

Channing Tatum

Last year: #32, $377.0m

G.I. Joe: Retaliation ($123.0m); White House Down ($72.1m); This Is the End ($96.7m)

Tentative total: $291.8m

Well, there is a lot more movie year left to go! Looking forward to it…

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog.


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