July 2009 Archives

(A warning: If you’re bothered by spoilers, images of fellatio, or discussions of fellatio, avert your eyes.)

brown-bunny-0.jpgThe Brown Bunny gave Roger Ebert cancer, and it features a real blowjob. And the girlfriend is dead.

In 18 words, I’ve summarized the hullabaloo surrounding (and the post-climactic revelation of) Vincent Gallo’s shockingly vain vanity project from 2003. I can even spare you from the “boring” parts of the movie — basically the first 80 of its 93 minutes — and help you indulge whatever prurient curiosity you might have by pointing to an in-depth description/analysis and video of the oral-sex scene.

But the film as a whole is actually oddly fascinating, especially in the context of its initial critical drubbing and the filmmaker’s reaction to that reception.

Canon Fodder

pulp-ficiton.jpgThis week saw the debut of “The 50 Greatest Films,” with the One-Line Review’s Iain Stott compiling responses from 187 movie buffs, including me. The list made me wonder: Has the “film canon” become too ossified?

I was frankly shocked that the results were so ... ordinary. A top 10 of Citizen Kane, Vertigo, 2001, The Godfather, Casablanca, The Third Man, Taxi Driver, Seven Samurai, Psycho, and Dr. Strangelove is perfectly reasonable and respectable, but it’s also merely reasonable and respectable. Given Stott’s admirable democracy (“[I]gnoring thoughts of position or pedigree ... ,” he wrote, “professionals and amateurs sit side by side”), I expected a tension between the canonical and the contemporary and the popular.


Potter Mouth, Part II


Which director/writer pair has done the worst job translating J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books for the big screen?

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Potter Mouth


Which director/writer pair has done the best job translating J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter books for the big screen?

View results

‘A Tale of 2 Sisters’ undermines reality to the extent that it’s hard to care. Creepy and full of potent symbolism, I’m baffled not scared.

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lovely-1.jpgIt is a car salesman that carries writer/director Kirt Gunn’s Lovely by Surprise on his shoulders until the movie blossoms.

To his credit, Bob doesn’t actually sell cars. In the automobile-sales process, he dispenses hackneyed life advice, admonishing his customers that they need to spend more time with their families, and do they really want to part with that old clunker, filled as it is with memories? He is played with sincerity by Reg Rogers, in the sense that Bob means everything he says. But there’s a fakeness, a performance, about Bob — a smiling, cheery devil-may-care mask that makes him both inscrutable and intensely compelling.

A genuinely independent movie, Lovely by Surprise hit DVD this week after playing the festival circuit, and what’s surprising is that it’s as successful as it is.

hangover.jpgYou have to feel a little sorry for the poor bastards of The Hangover. With all the trials they endured, in our Box Office Power Rankings they end up sniffing the ass of an old man. For a month. And when they finally get their shot at Culture Snob glory, Public Enemies sneaks in with numbers that are only across-the-board good — third place in each of our four categories.

Up was released on May 29, and The Hangover followed on June 5. Even though The Hangover has beaten the Pixar flick in every week of its release in terms of gross and per-theater average, in the Box Office Power Rankings it could never overcome its negligible critical-reception deficit. Todd Phillips’ comedy had excellent Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores of 78 and 73, respectively, but with Up (97/88) and Star Trek (95/83) garnering stratospheric reviews and having legs at the box office, The Hangover was doomed from the outset.

Well, as doomed as any movie that has made more than $200 million domestically could be with a production budget of $35 million.

Up becomes the first movie to ever win the outright Box Office Power Rankings title for five consecutive weeks. Iron Man won for five straight weeks last summer, but it shared the crown once.

And I’m proud to say that the Transformers sequel hasn’t been able to even see the top of the Box Office Power Rankings. When I devised this system two years ago, my aim was to counter the cultural box-office obsession by taking into account the fact that some very popular movies suck.

land-lost.jpgAnd speaking of sucking, how does Land of the Lost stack up to last year’s biggest summer bomb, Speed Racer? One ill-conceived adaptation of a long-ago television show cost $100 million to make; had grossed $48 million domestically and had pretty much disappeared after five weeks; and had Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic scores of 28 and 32, respectively. The other had a production budget of $120 million; had grossed $42 million and had pretty much disappeared after five weeks; and had a score of 37 at both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. The first is Land of the Lost, which in financial terms ends up looking slightly less embarrassing.

Continue reading for the methodology and the (six!) weeks’ full rankings.