Saturday, April 19, 2008

Can't open a movie with a can opener

There are movie stars and box office stars - and they aint the same thing. There are yots and yots of movie stars. Box office stars? Not so many.

Those movie stars can't open movies, or so they say, because they are celebrities - because there is no longer any mystery behind the face, because when you feel like you know everything about the person on the screen, there's just a wee bit of ennui watching them up there - knowing what they LOOK LIKE WITHOUT MAKEUP, who's GETTING DIVORCED, who's CHEATING WITH THE NANNY, who's IN REHAB, who's OUT OF REHAB, who's BACK IN REHAB.

That's sort of true, but it's also sort of true that most of the movies just aren't any good. Look, the problem with Leatherheads (RT: 53) isn't that George Clooney can't open a movie, it's that the movie he was trying to open wasn't very good. Sorry. But there you go.

Are there actors (stars - whatever) who are so watchable they can save (or at least lift a few feet out of the dreck) bad material? You betcha. Me personally, I think Will Smith has a way with a line that is simply entertaining, almost regardless of what else is happening. There's some evidence I may not be alone in that opinion (see box office results for The Pursuit of Happyness, I am Legend, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera).

So now comes the "new" movie opener - not the star-star, but the behind-the-scenes star. Like the Judd Apatow machine. This is not a new concept. I don't know why this is being treated like it's a new concept. We've had writers and directors and formulas (formulae?) who surpassed and overcame their actors before. Frank Capra. Alfred Hitchcock. Billy Wilder. William Wyler. John Ford. John Hughes, for crying out loud. Not that I don't think the Judd Apatow machine isn't great, it's just not a new thing. Though I like the way he is apparently fostering a whole cadre of writers and directors in the school of Apatow-ism (scarily close to apathy). This seems nice in a work volume and a spread the wealth kind of way. At least from the outside looking in.

If video killed the radio star, did tabloids kill the video star?

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