I have given up on trying to catch all the films getting rave reviews coming off the festival circuit. The waste of time and money this year was ridiculous. I spent the week between Christmas and New Years Eve catching up on films that have been littering End of Year Awards lists and have not liked most of them. I can be vicious about certain films but I’ll save that for when I get around to opening a Twitter account which will get me in trouble as my sarcastic wit is appreciated by select well-rounded individuals who don’t live or die on box office tallies.
There are 10,000 films made each year across the world. I recently read a white paper that stated with the rise of digital filmmaking the true number may be 50,000 but as the films sit on hard drives and never even make the festival circuit or streaming platforms they’re like the old paint-by-number sets everyone used to have in decades past when they wanted to be “creative.”
Films are tanking for many reasons, the main one being is they’re not any good and should have been aborted in the script stage. The more interesting films that barely bubble above the surface get shut out from film festivals as more and more of the festivals just repeat the films booked at bigger festivals. Sales agents have this racket down as they cycle their films through the festival circuit and, as the programmer doesn’t know better or can’t get the rights holder to return an email, they happily take whatever dredges are thrown their way.
Movie theaters should also shoulder some of the blame as they have gotten criminally lazy on infrastructure upkeep (here’s looking at you AMC Empire 25); run trailers for months and then don’t open them in that particular theater but another state (ditto AMC); schedule a film and then yank it opening weekend if it doesn’t perform without at least running the film through Monday (ditto again AMC, you have such a huge multiplex put it on the smallest screen, they just did this with the Pakistani film Rangreza — the Film Forum also did this twice in the last 30 years); and, (not AMC this time but IFC Center), open a film but change the start time each day so someone who looks at the movie clock on Friday doesn’t realize Monday it’s not at the same time (and I don’t mean early morning or late night screenings on weekends).
I still will lay the box office failures firmly in the distributors corner and their corresponding publicists. Most distributors don’t seem to have learned Marketing 101, let alone understand how to drill down deep into the niche audiences and sell out shows (I did that on a 3-hour documentary where it ran for 6 weeks and sold out EVERY SINGLE SHOW). The Chinese film Youth, which should have been the country’s entry for the Foreign Language Academy Award instead of the propaganda film Wolf Warrior 2, sold out every screening opening weekend which Star Wars: The Last Jedi didn’t. Publicists today, who a veteran studio publicist calls most of them “hand holders”, like to play this exclusivity game where they don’t allow film critics to see films and then wonder why the film didn’t get reviewed and bombs. A major critic told me that they RSVP’d for a major director’s new film last year and was cancelled out of the screening day of. They were never invited to another screening and when they finally caught up with the film during the general run, emailed the publicist to tell them that if they had seen it, the film would have been their #1 film in the year-end voting. It lost and bombed.
Top 10 Films Of 2017
I Am Not Your Negro [US/France] [Documentary]
The Public Image Is Rotten [Documentary]
Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World [Canada] [Documentary]
The Big Sick
Oklahoma City [Documentary]
Wind River [US/UK/Canada]
Master [South Korea]
A United Kingdom [Czech Republic/UK/US]
The Man Who Invented Christmas [Ireland/Canada]
Best Director – Zhang Yi Mou (The Great Wall)
Best Actor – Woody Harrelson (LBJ)
Best Actress – Zuzana Maurery (The Teacher)
Best Supporting Actor – LilRel Howery (Get Out)
Best Supporting Actress – Allison Janney (I, Tonya)
Best Screenplay – Martin McDonough (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
Best Cinematography – Gerardo Puglia (God Knows Where I Am)