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Farewell, Harold Pinter

The great British plawyright, director and screenwriter Harold Pinter has succumbed to cancer at the age of 78. More here.

Define 'blockbuster'

Another film based on the comic-book hero The Phantom is to be made in Australia. According to this story, the 1996 film starring Bily Zane was a "blockbuster hit". According to, which charts these things, it made a total lifetime gross of US$17,323,326. In that same year, Independence Day was the No. 1 hit with a gross of $306,169,268. Even Striptease, which often appears on the all-time flop lists, made $33,109,743. Now The Phantom did move some VHS and DVD copies, but "blockbuster" is a tad off the mark. Even the new film's writer Tim Doyle says: "I think we did it OK before, but I really, honestly, feel we can do it better. A lot better."

Top of the flops

Ever wondered why movie stars get paid so much? Well, so apparently did S. Abraham Ravid, a professor of finance at Rutgers University. And he's discovered through years of research that the appearance of a "big name" in a film makes no difference to its performance at the box office. Forbes magazine quotes him as saying: "Star participation has no statistical correlation with the success of a movie, no matter how you define 'a star' or how you define 'success'." The article, which notes that stars including Will Ferrell, George Clooney and Nicolas Cage all had big flops in 2008, continues:

While top-shelf stars like Ferrell and Cage often sell more tickets, he says their movies are often that much more expensive to produce and, as a result, rarely turn a sizable profit for their studios. Put another way, stars do well for themselves and their agent and management teams, but they fail to deliver for the studios that employ them.

And that, of course, begs the question: Why not make more little films with no names (like ths year's Twilight), and make lots of money, than blow a wad on star vehicles? While the business concept of a "loss leader" may come to mind, my guess is that many studio bosses are too caught up in the Hollywood mystique for their own (and their shareholders') good.

Hugh's the boss

Hugh Jackman is to host the Oscars. Expect a song and dance number, and maybe some good-natured jokes about Australia (the country and the flopped film).

Dial 007 for a quote

One of the things that intrigues me about Scotland is the almost-universal reverence for Sir Sean Connery. The James Bond actor is an icon here. What gets me, though, is that he's Mr Rent-a-quote on the issue of the day - from his support for an independent Scotland and his backing of the Homecoming 2009 event to his opposition to the merger of the Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB - but he doesn't live here, and he hasn't for a very long time. In fact, I think I am safe in saying that I've spent more time in Scotland in the past 20 years than Sir Sean has. I don't doubt his sincere feelings for the land of his fathers, and I acknowledge that it is possible to have a keen interest in local events from afar. However, I don't see why people here go running to the Bahamas or wherever he chooses to be to get his opinion on what's good for Scotland, and then quote it as if it's holy writ. After all, he is an actor and he's working outside his field of expertise.
PS: In Australia, who would dream of saying, let alone thinking: We must get Paul Hogan's view on the global economic crisis?

Taken as read

Here's a chilling line from a story about film critic Charlie Finch's assertion that nudity from star Kate Winslet in the new Stephen Daldry film, The Reader, trivialises the Holocaust ...

Within hours, Finch's attack was repeated by other critics, most of whom had not seen the film.

Now I haven't seen the film, and I don't know if Finch's opinions are justified or not, but what "critic" worth their salt would endorse the opinion of somebody else as fact before they had the chance to assess it for themselves?

Stoned again

Fox has commissioned another Romancing The Stone film. Somehow I think Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner won't be returning in the lead roles.

Alive and kicking

Patrick Swayze is rightly annoyed about media reports concerning his health. Here's what he says:

"They're reporting that I'm on my last legs and saying goodbye to my tearful family! ... It's upsetting that the shoddy and reckless reporting from these publications cast a negative shadow on the positive and good fight I'm fighting."

The big question is: Even if the reporters and editors involved believed it to be true that he was dying imminently, should they have published it?

Give Nicole a go

I happen to think that Nicole Kidman is overrated. But then, just about everybody in Hollywood is. I haven't seen Baz Luhrmann's Australia, but some friends have, and their verdict is that it's not as bad as many of the critics are saying. That's the problem with some critics: a film (or play or other work of art) that doesn't push their buttons suddenly descends from being average to awful, and the tale gets worse in the writing of the review. It's more fun to do a demolition job than to be fair and balanced. Enter the voice of reason, the Courier-Mail's Des Partridge, who diagnoses a case of Tall Poppy Syndrome and writes, in part:

You don't have to love her, but you don't have to hate her, either. And it's not compulsory to buy a ticket to Australia. But you'll be missing a very entertaining movie if you decide not to go.

I don't think I will be going to see it - the 2 hour 45 minute running time's a big turn off for me. But if I do go and I don't like the film, I won't be making a personal attack on Kidman.

Australia no earth-shaker

On July 26, I wrote on this blog:

... as I've said before, I doubt Australia, for all its hype, will be a global smash. It's bound to do well in Australia, but it would need significant international success to make back its budget and then some.

Now comes the news that the film has failed to set the US box office on fire. It made just US$3.4 million on its first day. It could still rally, but that's not a good sign.
PS: At the time of writing, Box Office Mojo says Australia has made US$10,935,000. The Reese Witherspoon film Four Christmases, released on the same day, is at US$28,230,000.

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