Box Office Autopsy: Fall Report Card

The fall is typically a slow time for the movie business, but this year things seemed especially sluggish. For the first time since 2008, no October release topped the $100 million mark. Several high-profile releases gave the box office a jolt in November, but aside from four big hits, nothing else has had much impact. Only ten November releases have crossed the $10 million mark as of 11/30.

So to give a sense of what did well and what didn’t, here’s my Fall box office score card. I’ve graded each major studio from A to F based on the performance of their films. I’d like to note that this has nothing to do with film quality, and everything to do with financial prospects. Without further ado, my Fall Report Card.

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Quick Cuts: Arrival

Every year since 2013 we’ve had a serious science fiction drama for adults released in the fall. Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian and now, Arrival all feature visionary directors tackling ambitious science fiction projects. The primary difference with Arrival, is that it isn’t a spectacle. If you’re looking for a more dark and realistic Independence Day, this movie isn’t for you.

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Quick Cuts: Nerve

Considering teenagers and young adults make up a majority of US movie-goers, it seems odd that relatively movies starring teenagers make their way to the screen every year. It makes sense; teens more readily relate to adults than vice versa which limits the overall audience. Perhaps more surprising is the expected drop in quality when discussing a film starring teenage characters. For every Mean Girls, there are four DUFFs. For every Hunger Games there’s a Vampire Academy.

Nerve finds itself somewhere in the middle of the pack. It does most things right, but a few things wrong, and it adds up to a generally positive experience.

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Quick Cuts: Swiss Army Man

I’ve seen a number of off-kilter, unorthodox and even bizarre movies in my time. At first glance, Swiss Army Man may be the weirdest. We open the movie with Paul Dano stranded on an island about to hang himself, before he spots the dead body of Daniel Radcliffe at the edge of the water. And that’s when the farting begins. Yes, there’s no way around it, this is the farting corpse movie. The story follows Paul Dano using Daniel Radcliffe’s lifeless body as a sort of multi-tool to find his way back to civilization. He uses the corpse’s rigor mortis, gag reflex and seemingly endless supply of gas to do just about every task a survivalist would face. Hence the title, “Swiss Army Man”. The movie makes it very clear early on that this is not supposed to be realistic at all, but a metaphorical multi-tool to talk about society.

If you’ve already jumped ship on this one, I don’t blame you.

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Autopsy: Coraline

You might be surprised to see Laika’s 2009 stop-motion animated film “Coraline” under my Autopsy category. As the heading of my blog states, a film autopsy involves cutting into a movie to see how it died. “But Coraline,” you say impetuously, “Is a critically acclaimed movie based on a Neil Gaiman book! It seems just like your kind of thing!” And it certainly does.

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Quick Cuts: Into the Forest

Many of the strongest dramas are tightly focused stories of a single relationship. In the case of Into the Forest, it is a relationship between two sisters. In the not so distant future, a global power outage throws the world into chaos. Instead of examining the broad implications or showing a global perspective, the film focuses on Nel (Ellen Page) and Eva (Evan Rachel Wood) living in a house deep in the woods with their father.  Continue reading “Quick Cuts: Into the Forest”