Honestly and truly, I bear no antipathy toward Robert Zemeckis, although I wouldn’t want to sit through many of his movies, and even those I like are problematic at best. (Hack off all but the middle 90 minutes of Contact and you’ve got a pretty good flick.) But I hoped fervently that something would prevent his Beowulf from leading the Box Office Power Rankings this week.
I win and I lose. The motion-captured, computer-animated epic tied for first place with American Gangster (nice legs, by the way) and No Country for Old Men (which was only showing in 148 theaters last weekend). So it technically wins, but it has to share its crown with something in its third weekend and something that hadn’t even opened wide yet.
So why do I root so hard against Zemeckis? While I understand the need for spectacle (from big stories to 3D) to salvage movies as an out-of-home experience, motion capture looks like a filmmaking dead end to me. Filmmakers such as Zemeckis are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to create the amazingly lifelike effect of ... people.
Do we not recognize that there’s a cheaper way, involving the human beings who are already creating the performance anyway? Do we not recognize that hand-drawn animation and standard computer animation often feel more real than motion-captured folks? And although I’ll be the first person to bemoan the visual disconnect of live people interacting with computer-animated creatures, I’d prefer that to everything looking fake.
So screw you, Zemeckis, and your computer-animated, Crispin Hellion Glover-ed Grendel, too. And happy Thanksgiving.
Box Office Power Rankings: November 16-18, 2007
(Rank) Movie (last week; box office, per-theater, Rotten Tomatoes, Metacritic: total)
(1) Beowulf (-; 10, 9, 8, 7: 34)
(1) American Gangster (1; 8, 8, 9, 9: 34)
(1) No Country for Old Men (-; 4, 10, 10, 10: 34)
(4) Bee Movie (2; 9, 7, 6, 6: 28)
(5) Dan in Real Life (3; 5, 4, 7, 8: 24)
(6) Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (-; 6, 5, 5, 5: 21)
(7) Fred Claus (5; 7, 6, 2, 2: 17)
(8) Lions for Lambs (5; 3, 2, 3, 4: 12)
(9) Love in the Time of Cholera (-; 1, 3, 4, 3: 11)
(10) Saw IV (9; 2, 1, 1, 1: 5)
MethodologyCulture Snob’s Box Office Power Rankings balance box office and critical reception to create a better measure of a movie’s overall performance against its peers.
The weekly rankings cover the 10 top-grossing movies in the United States for the previous weekend. We assign equal weight to box office and critical opinion, with each having two components. The measures are: box-office gross, per-theater average, Rotten Tomatoes score, and Metacritic score.
Why those four? Box-office gross basically measures the number of people who saw a movie in a given weekend. Per-theater average corrects for blockbuster-wannabes that flood the market with prints, and gives limited-release movies a fighting chance. Rotten Tomatoes measures critical opinion in a binary way. And Metacritic gives a better sense of critics’ enthusiasm (or bile) for a movie.
For each of the four measures, the movies are ranked and assigned points (10 for the best performer, one for the worst). Finally, those points are added up, with a maximum score of 40 and a minimum score of four.