'Meet the Fockers': Highest grossing comedy of all time?
Jay Roach's low-brow family – or rather, families – comedy Meet the Fockers, starring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, and Teri Polo, is now officially the most successful live-action comedy in history. But is it really?
According to a Los Angeles Times report, the craphouse family movie of the year (2004/2005) has grossed $498 million worldwide, $221 million of which outside the U.S. and Canada. It should be pointed out that as far as international box office figures are concerned, it surely doesn't hurt that in the last couple of years the U.S. dollar has lost a lot of ground against most major foreign currencies.
Now, the Los Angeles Times apparently doesn't consider that Academy Award-winning paean to idiocy and conformism, Forrest Gump, a comedy. Robert Zemeckis' Best Picture Oscar winner starring Tom Hanks, Sally Field, and Robin Wright took in $679 million (not adjusted for inflation) worldwide in the mid-'90s. But then again, perhaps the Times has a point.
'Meet the Fockers' vs. 'Home Alone'
But what about Home Alone? True, the Chris Columbus-directed Macaulay Culkin flick isn't funny, but then again neither is Meet the Fockers. In any case, according to Box Office Mojo Home Alone earned $476.68 million (not adjusted for inflation) worldwide in 1990-91.
Minor detail: inflation is a reality today, much like it was a reality back in the early '90s. Once that fact of life is factored in (but without taking into account currency fluctuations), Home Alone would have scored around $725 million in 2005.
That would place the 1991 sleeper blockbuster approximately $225 million ahead of the Meet the Parents sequel. So, should the award for the highest-grossing live-action comedy in history go to Meet the Fockers, or…?
Just do the math.
Image of Ben Stiller, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Teri Polo, and Blythe Danner in Meet the Fockers: Universal Pictures.
'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring' lawsuit: Peter Jackson vs. New Line Cinema
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first film in Peter Jackson's monumentally successful trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's three-part novel, has pitted the filmmaker against New Line Cinema.
According to a March 2005 Associated Press report, Jackson's production company Wingnut Films has filed a lawsuit against New Line and its subsidiary Katja Motion Pictures. In the suit, Jackson alleges that New Line has – via “willful, wanton, malicious, oppressive, [and] fraudulent” means – cheated him out of profits from his 2001 worldwide blockbuster and Best Picture Academy Award nominee.
Among its numerous claims, the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring suit states that New Line pocketed “secret profits”; short-changed Wingnut Films by way of sweetheart deals with affiliates; and allowed its subsidiaries to overcharge for services rendered, thus hindering Wingnut's profit participation.
A positive outcome for Peter Jackson could possibly result in a settlement for the other two films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). The latter film won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director.
First 'The Lord of the Rings' movie was major worldwide blockbuster
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring grossed nearly $315 million at the U.S. and Canada box office, and more than $556 million internationally – not including revenues from DVD, TV, VOD, and merchandise sales. Worldwide grand total: $871 million.
The fantasy-adventure tale features, among others:
Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring image: New Line Cinema.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring cast info via the IMDb.
Sofia Coppola to film 'Marie Antoinette' at Versailles
This March, Academy Award winner Sofia Coppola should start filming Marie Antoinette scenes inside the Palace of Versailles. Screenwriter-director Coppola, who won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Lost in Translation, loosely based her biopic of the Austrian-born queen of France on Antonia Fraser's book Marie Antoinette: The Journey.
Interview with a Vampire and Little Women actress Kirsten Dunst has been cast as the (English-speaking) Austrian-French queen. Jason Schwartzman* (Rushmore, I Heart Huckabees) plays her husband, King Louis XVI, and Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Rip Torn (Cross Creek) plays his father, Louis XV, a role Alain Delon had previously turned down.
'Marie Antoinette' 1938
In Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's W.S. Van Dyke-directed 1938 Marie Antoinette, the Queen of MGM, Norma Shearer, glamorously (and quite effectively) played the Queen of France. Robert Morley, stealing every scene he's in, played Louis XVI, while a bewigged Tyrone Power was borrowed from 20th Century Fox to play the queen's (fictitious) lover.
Both Norma Shearer and Robert Morley were shortlisted for Academy Awards. (Morley's nomination was in the supporting category.) They lost to, respectively, Bette Davis in Jezebel and Walter Brennan in Kentucky.
Although a sumptuous and prestigious production, Marie Antoinette was so expensive that it ultimately failed to recoup its cost.
* Jason Schwartzman is Sofia Coppola's cousin. He's the son of two-time Oscar nominee Talia Shire (The Godfather: Part II, Rocky), who's the sister of multiple Oscar winner/nominee Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, The Godfather: Part II), who happens to be Sofia's father.
Marie Antoinette Kirsten Dunst black dress image: Columbia Pictures.
Gus Van Sant to direct 'The Time Traveler's Wife'?
Mala Noche and Good Will Hunting director Gus Van Sant is currently attempting to turn Audrey Niffenegger's novel The Time Traveler's Wife into a feature film. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the book is a loose retelling of Homer's The Odyssey – a man with a “time-traveling gene” shows up at different points in the life of his beloved.
Jeremy Leven (The Notebook, The Legend of Bagger Vance) has adapted The Time Traveler's Wife into a screenplay.
Hollywood box office: International market beats North America
Dan Glickman, head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), announced at ShoWest 2005 in Las Vegas that in 2004 U.S. and Canada ticket sales topped $9 billion for the third year in a row.
Although there was a slight drop in movie admissions (the second consecutive yearly drop), these still surpassed the 1.5 billion mark for the third consecutive year – a feat not seen since 1959.
Impressive? Sure. But let's not forget that there are about 130 million more people living in the U.S. and Canada today than in the late 1950s; an approximate 60 percent increase.
Glickman added that Hollywood productions performed well at the international box office – in fact, surpassing the North American market. Overall international box office figures topped $14.9 billion, reflecting a 13.7 percent increase from 2003.
More 'family films'
In the U.S. and Canada, PG-rated films, open to all ages, grossed $2.3 billion in 2004, while R-rated films, aimed at adults, took $2.1 billion. It was the first time in two decades that PG-rated films outperformed R-rated ones; as in previous years, many more R-rated movies were released in '04.
Five of the top 10 biggest box office hits of the year were rated PG, including Brad Bird's The Incredibles; Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury, and Conrad Vernon's Shrek 2; and Alfonso Cuarón's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. PG-13 films (no one under 13 allowed without a parent or guardian) continue to account for the largest share of the U.S. and Canada box office.
John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners, said that Hollywood studios should make more “family films.”
Children, after all, can't go to the movies alone – which means at least one extra ticket sold to the accompanying adult. As a plus, kids and teens are great consumers of food and beverages at movie theater concession stands. Now, that is the Family Spirit.
More “family films” indeed.
Tribeca Film Festival film lineup
Organizers have announced the film lineup of the 2005 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival. Below are a few titles.
- Michael Winterbottom's controversial, sexually explicit 9 Songs, featuring Kieran O'Brien and Margo Stilley.
- Wong Kar-Wai's moody 2046, starring 2005 Hong Kong Film Award winners Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Ziyi Zhang.
- Joseph Lovett's documentary Gay Sex in the '70s, a look at post-Stonewall, pre-AIDS gay New York.
- Jaume Collet-Serra's House of Wax, a remake of the 1953 Vincent Price horror classic.
- Paul Cronin's documentary Mackendrick on Film, about British director Alexander Mackendrick (The Man in the White Suit, The Ladykillers, Sweet Smell of Success).
- Sally Potter's romantic drama Yes, starring Joan Allen and Simon Abkarian.
- Costa-Gavras' black comedy The Ax / Le couperet.
- Nahid Persson's documentary Prostitution Behind the Veil, featuring three Iranian women who have become sex workers in order to support their drug addiction.
The 13-day Tribeca Film Festival begins on April 19.
'Faux documentary' controversy rages on following 'Mighty Times: The Children's March' Oscar win
“The people that vote on our films are our peers, and these people have seen reenactments for 20 years plus,” says Bobby Houston, director of the 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary short Mighty Times: The Children's March.
Producer Steve Kalafer, whose Oren Jacoby-directed Sister Rose's Passion was also shortlisted in this year's Best Documentary Short category, has complained to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Houston and Mighty Times: The Children's March producer Robert Hudson misled the Academy's documentary board by not divulging the fact that reenactments had been used in their documentary short.
Their previous non-fiction short, Mighty Times: The Legacy of Rosa Parks (2002), opened with a disclaimer, while reenacted scenes were flagged via the on-screen use of film borders with sprocket holes.
As reported in the New York Times, in a March 18 letter to Academy executive director Bruce Davis, Kalafer labeled Houston and Hudson's lack of disclosure “an intentional deception,” adding that “in comparing the two [Mighty Times] films, it is clear that they chose to realize the full potential of their 'faux doc' technique, raising it to a new level as a well-crafted, cunningly deceitful art form – but not documentary filmmaking.”
The Times adds that the Mighty Times: The Children's March filmmakers used “vintage cameras and distressed film stock to shoot more than 700 extras, trained dogs and period automobiles and fire engines on various locations in Southern California.”
Mighty Times: The Children's March depicts the 1963 civil rights protests of thousands of children in Birmingham, Alabama.
Bobby Houston quote via the Times.
Mighty Times: The Children's March poster: Southern Poverty Law Center / HBO.
Russian movies in Strasbourg, 'Bride and Prejudice' in Israel and 'dystopia' in Istanbul
Commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II, in March/April 2005 Strasbourg is holding an eight-film retrospective of Russian and Soviet cinema. Pyotr Todorovsky' s Academy Award-nominated 1983 drama Wartime Romance kicked off the mini-festival.
Among the other classic films in the program are Mikhail Kalatozov's 1958 Palme d'Or winner The Cranes Are Flying and Grigori Chukhraj's masterful 1959 drama Ballad of a Soldier.
Newer Russian films include Lidiya Bobrova's Granny (2003) and Stanislav Govorukhin's Bless the Woman (2003).
The festival, which is being held at the 92-year-old Cinéma Odyssée, runs until April 4.
Eilat Film Festival
Bride and Prejudice, the Bollywoodized version of Jane Austen's most famous novel, will kick off the third Eilat International Film Festival in the southern Israeli coastal town.
The Eilat festival will screen 45 films from about 20 countries, including:
- Memory Lane / Le intermittenze del cuore (Italy).
Dir.: Fabio Carpi.
- Love Trap / Feestje (The Netherlands).
Dir.: Ruud van Hemert.
- The Magician / El mago (Mexico).
Dir.: Jaime Aparicio.
- Hazan (Japan).
Dir.: Igarashi Sho.
A Best Israeli Film and a Best Foreign Film will be chosen from among the competing entries. The Eilat International Film Festival will be held between April 6-9.
Istanbul Film Festival
Aslo, the 2005 Istanbul International Film Festival, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts, will be held April 2-17. The festival will screen 170 films from 62 countries.
Ridley Scott's Blade Runner (1982) and Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985) are two of the films to be presented in the “Dark Side of the Future: Dystopia” sidebar.
Simon Abkarian and Joan Allen Yes movie image: Sony Pictures Classics.
“A celebration of mediocrity.”
That's actor-director Mel Gibson, referring to the Oscars, while speaking to an interviewer at the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network.
By the way, Empire magazine agrees with him.
“The Oscars aren't about quality. They're peer group nods of approval and, as a result, there has been a surfeit of unworthy Best Pictures and, rest assured, there will be many more to come.”
Empire magazine writer Patrick Peters, in reference to the magazine's list of the 10 worst films ever to win a Best Picture Oscar. The very worst was Mel Gibson's Braveheart (1995, “dialogue has all the thudding subtlety of a parody”), followed by A Beautiful Mind (2001, “clunkingly intricate direction”), The Greatest Show on Earth (1952, “tawdry circus spectacle of hoary cliches and caricatures”), Ordinary People (1980, “nothing more than a TV-movie that got lucky”), Forrest Gump (1994, “revisionist nonsense”), Terms of Endearment (1983, “a weepie espousing family values”), Around the World in 80 Days (1956, “A-list co-stars confined to blink'n'miss 'em cameos”), Cavalcade (1932-33, “patronizing politics underpinning sentimental storylines”), Rocky (1976, “given Watergate and Vietnam, hardly surprising the Academy should hail a picture restoring the American dream”), and How Green Was My Valley (1941, “Hollywood's eagerness to show solidarity with war-torn Britain”).