I usually do a post weekend analysis after a film fails, and it would’ve been easy to do so after Michael Mann’s Blackhat failed in spectacular ways, but the bigger story is of the insane success of American Sniper. Cracking $90 million in a month where the previous record had been half that, the film’s opening would’ve been amazing in nearly any month of the year. The fact that people came out in January en masse, and nearly carried this film to a $100 million opening when it was projected to maybe hit $60 million, is something that warrants discussion.
There isn’t much rocket science when it comes to figuring out why this film hit as big as it did. The wave of butt hurt from certain segments of the entertainment world, and the wave of adoration from others, has been tremendous entertainment fodder this weekend during the NFL Championship games.
Thus this week comes:
Analysis of a Success: Why Clint Eastwood’s Oscar Nominated
American Sniper Opened to nearly $100 million in January
1. The film appealed to people who long ago abandoned the cineplex
The one thing Hollywood has been for some time is tone deaf. It’s not surprising; they’ve ignored large swathes of their audience domestically to go for the big money of overseas markets. American Sniper appealed to the markets long since forgotten by Hollywood, ones that certainly aren’t going to come out to films marketed more to the coasts of America than the center. During the George W Bush years in office Hollywood had a cottage industry of films dedicated to trashing American foreign policy, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, et al, as films like Redacted, Grace is Gone, Stop/Loss and others all had substantial budgets and great reviews but never found an audience. Lost in the big box offices of a number of films, and the arrival of the comic book/superhero genre en masse, was one central message to a large portion of America.
“We do not like you, or your politics, and thus we shall make sure to let you know.”
Hollywood is still making tons of money in the domestic market but that’s been a combination of 3D becoming a staple of many blockbusters and rising ticket prices. Less people are seeing films for any number of reasons as the cinema is becoming less of a staple of Americana. And a big reason is people looked at all these films over the years, of Hollywood actors saying “hilarious” things about people who disagree with their politics among other things, and decided to stop going to the movies every week.
They’re sitting it out and coming out only when they find something that peaks their interest. A film about the Iraq war that isn’t fairly inflammatory, and complimentary, will do that. It’s the same audience that made The Passion of the Christ into a hit and one that Hollywood largely has abandoned to Kirk Cameron and gang.
2. Clint Eastwood has enough appeal to bring out the right kind of audience
Clint Eastwood has been on a lot of people’s bad side after he showed up at the GOP convention in 2012 to endorse Mitt Romney. It’s the same one David Zucker got after An American Carol and now people have been waiting to spill digital ink for some time. With interest in Eastwood at its peak right now the daggers that have been sharpening for some time are now going to be used.
But the key is that the same audience that came out to this film is the same one Eastwood directly appealed to.
People WANT to support Eastwood, especially in a pro-American war film, and the best way to support something you like is to put your money down and buy a ticket.
3. Strong buzz plus the exact right weekend to go wide
American Sniper had all the right pedigree from strong reviews of early screenings, led the way with Oscar nominations and anyone who saw it was raving about it. The buzz on this film was insane and people were screaming to see it. And then … they released it wide to an audience poised to devour it.
4. Bradley Cooper is becoming a bankable star
Slowly but surely Cooper, who starred (his voice did, at least) in 2014’s biggest film in Guardians of the Galaxy, is slowly banking on the potential to be a movie star he showed many moons ago. He’s got everything you want; he’s rarely bad, is insanely good looking and a good enough actor that he can carry a film by himself. Cooper was also front and center in this film; if he was bad it would’ve been profoundly noticeable and no one would’ve been ready to come out and see it. Cooper hit the right film in the right time in his career; he’s coming off three straight Oscar nominations and has put himself in the conversation to win.
It had been pretty much assumed that the race would be between Benedict Cumberbatch and Eddie Redmayne this year … and now one has to wonder if Cooper winning is now a possibility. People have yet to vote for the Oscar winner, just the nominees so far, and “momentum” could be gaining behind him right now.
If every movie star has that big breakout moment when people start to want to pay to see them act en masse, then this could be it. The “Bradley Cooper is a Movie Star Train” has been in the station for a while, waiting to depart. If this is a sign that people are willing to pay to see him then part of the film’s success has to be attributed to Cooper finally arriving as a star.
Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq
Travis talked about the weekend’s box office.
Travis also tackled Blackhat, which he didn’t enjoy as much as I did.
I reviewed Get on Up on DVD as well as The Identical.
I reviewed Taken 3, currently in theaters.
And now on MMC … we strut to Conor McGregor’s entrance music.
If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….
A Movie A Week – The Challenge
This week’s DVD – The Lego Movie
I avoided this film in theaters, mainly because it looked so profoundly that a bad children’s movie that I refused to see it on principal. But when it came onto Comcast on Demand I thought it could be interesting. It was also free, thus at a minimum it would not cost me anything but my time to sit down and watch.
Yeah … bad call.
Emmett (Chris Pratt) is an ordinary guy who stumbles upon a conspiracy by the President of Legoland (Will Ferrell) to destroy the world and stuff. Joined by celebrity voices abound as various superheroes, and Elizabeth Banks, Emmett has to save the world because he’s the fated one to do so. Animated to make it look like stop motion with Legos, there was a big reason why I was right to skip it.
My main problems with the film boiled down to two things. The first was that it was mainly a “wait for the cameo” kind of casting. There weren’t a whole lot of rhyme or reasons for it; it was mainly “how many people with recognizable voices can we fit into one movie” as opposed to picking people for good reasons. After a while it got really annoying; it’s akin to The Longest Day cramming as many stars in the film as possible for no real good reason other than because they could.
The other is that the film is basically an extended Lego commercial sans “This is how you talk your parents into buying it” PSA built in. I mean I get it, it’s called The Lego Movie, but at least Transformers had the decency to be subtle about it. This film is about as subtle as a punch to the mouth in wanting you to buy crap for your kids that’s Lego themed. I get it, Lego spent a lot of money on this glorified advertisement, but let’s not act like this isn’t a company spending $60 million to get a new generation of kids to be REALLY into Legos.
Recommend to avoid at all costs.
What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound
The Boy Next Door – J-Lo gets rapey on a teenager. Bad stuff happen after.
Skip it – Let’s call it what it is; Jennifer Lopez is the hero in a film where she statutory rapes a teenage boy. I realize it’s fashionable now for older women to go after younger men but the hero of a film being a middle aged woman borking a 16 year old is just wrong on so many levels.
Mortdecai – Johnny Depp is another goofy character; this time a British detective who’s clueless.
Skip it – This concept was funny when it was called Mr. Bean.
Strange Magic – Lucasfilm gets into the animated film game.
Skip it – The trailer is awful and animated trailers tend to be among the best out there. Bad omen.
Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .
Tags: American Sniper, Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Monday Morning Critic, The Lego Movie