Film, Opinion

ANCIENT GENDER CLASSIFICATION IN HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU:

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Does anyone remember He’s Just Not That Into You? It’s a 2009 romcom that makes use of an all-star ensemble, just one of the slew of films Hollywood churned out after the UK stumbled onto the seemingly winning formula with Love Actually (2004). The film tells a number of interlinked stories about love and relationships, and is based on the self-help book by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccilo, which in turn was inspired by a single line of dialogue in HBO’s Sex and the City.

The problems with Sex and the City are prolific enough to warrant their own post, so the film is hardly getting off to a good start. Romcoms are not supposed to be particularly groundbreaking – they are designed to be light entertainment to be enjoyed on an evening out, or perhaps cosied up in bed, but does that mean they should be able to be so lazy in terms of gender classification?

06into_600According to the high majority of romcoms, with He’s Just Not That Into You being a particularly notable offender, women are desperate for love and must work hard to snare the commitment-phobic male. This blantant gender classification reflects ideas that should have been left behind in the 1950s, and it is ridiculous that we are still being fed them in the form of entertainment.

He’s Just Not That Into You is a great example, mostly because the classifications are almost laughably blatant. The story begins with Gigi (Gennifer Goodwin), who is obviously supposed to be the happy-go-lucky protaganist who never gives up on her quest for love. Instead, she is borderline psychotic and mistakes any gesture from a man as a sign of interest. Gigi alone is enough to undermine the whole film, depicting women as men obsessed and only able to gain fulfillment from finally bagging one, but she is just the tip of the iceberg.

affleckOther female characters include Beth (Jennifer Aniston) and Janine (Jennifer Connelly), the former of who breaks off her perfectly healthy seven year relationship with Neil (Ben Affleck) because he doesn’t believe in marriage. Beth and Neil are the boiled down concept of the entire film – Beth, the female, is marriage obsessed, whilst Neil being against marriage reinforces the idea of men as anti-commitment. Things take a turn for the worse when Beth finally gets to marry Neil – of course, she has to ‘earn’ this right by giving up on the idea of marriage altogether. Heartwarming stuff.

Janine, on the other hand, is already married to Ben (Bradley Cooper) but the film makes sure to constantly tell you that that is only the case because she gave him an ultimatum. Seriously, at one point in the film Ben genuinely says the words “no man actually wants to get married.” Janine is portrayed as overly uptight, going on various intense rants about lying (this is no attack on Jennifer Connelly’s acting, which is actually very good, but more the general context of the film), and then even blaming herself when Ben cheats on her with yoga instructor Anna (Scarlett Johansson). Seriously – she says things like “I used to be fun” and “we never have sex”, in the process making Ben look like the victim.

he-s-just-not-that-into-you-0Oh, Ben. Arguably the worst character in a film which includes the inherently annoying Gigi, Ben is made out to be the victim when he is in fact going through an early onset midlife crisis and stringing two women along, the epitome of the anti-commitment male.

Anna takes on the role of the niave, idealistic woman who gets involved with a married man, implying that women will let nothing stand in the way of their quest for love, whilst her friend Mary (Drew Barrymore) is the social media (Myspace, so 2009) obsessed girl with plenty of gay friends and no straight prospects.

Rounding out the male characters are Alex (Justin Long) the womanising bar owner who is won over by Gigi’s creepy antics by the end, and Conor (Kevin Connolly) Alex’s friendzoned roomate who is besotted with Anna. Alex fulfils the old stereotype of a man so hardered by years of meaningless flings that he doesn’t realise that true love is staring him right in the face. It could be argued that Conor is an example of the tables being turned, but it is more likely the script trying to be clever by making him the ‘exception’ to the ‘rule’ (an idea that broadcasted from the rooftops throughout the film).

The film provides an exceedingly poor representation of both men and women – at one point Beth says “there are no rules anymore”, made laughable by the fact that the narrative sticks so rigourously to age old “rules” regarding gender classification. It’s a shame that these ideas are still being reinforced in this day and age, and even more of a shame that He’s Just Not That Into You made $179 million against a $40 million budget – if we keep paying for it, Hollywood will keep making it.

What do you think of He’s Just Not That Into You? Let me know in the comments section!

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Film, List, Opinion

THE MISLEADING MARKETING OF MOVIES

Movie-Marketing

Since the dawn of the internet we have been living in a world where information is more widely and easily available than ever before. This has made pretty much everything more competitive, especially in the entertainment industry. It is harder than ever before to get a film made, and even if a great film is backed by a studio it will still bomb if it isn’t marketed in a way that gets people interested.

Advertising is in itself a huge business, and there are people out there who have dedicated their entire lives to working out what it is that sells things to people. It turns out that we as the human race are not an overly imaginative bunch, and mainstream cinema audiences are more likely to react to marketing that they recognise – be that a notable actor/actress or a typical narrative, marketing experts will generally gear advertising material about a film to fit certain quotas.

PicMonkey CollageThis can often lead to misleading marketing material that more often than not doesn’t actually represent the product that is being sold to us. This can work both ways, either selling an indie film as more mainstream fare (Me, Earl and the Dying Girl earlier this year was very much marketed as a YA adaption in the vein of The Fault in Our Stars in spite of being a vastly different film, for example) or tricking audiences into seeing a generic flick.

The ways in which marketing material can be misleading varies in a number of ways, but most tactics generally centralise around the ‘bait and switch’ idea where material will lure audiences in before turning out to be something totally different – this is done with actor/actresses, notable directors and trailers, as well as posters and even titles of films.

The thing is, advertising works. As much as many of us would like to believe that we are not susceptible, but with advertising being a multi-billion dollar industry the odds are stacked against us, and a lot of what makes marketing material work is the fact that it can sometimes operate on a subconscious level.

This post will look at these tactics in more detail using various examples of real life marketing material that was essentially misleading in the representation it provided of the film in question.

POSTERS:

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Posters are one of the main forms of marketing when it comes to movies – they generally set the tone and establish the stars of the film, as well as generally alluding to what the film is about. However, there are plenty of examples of times where distributors have provided movie posters which quite drastically misrepresent the film in some way.

A notable example from earlier this year was Legend, which made the headlines when it was revealed that it had strategically placed a two star review from The Guardian to look like it was a five star review. The review, from critic Benjamin Lee, was decidedly less than complementary about the Tom Hardy starring gangster biopic, yet the way the stars had been placed in the poster made it look like it was yet another excellent review of the film, leading to Lee himself writing an article about the dangers of misleading advertising. He pointed out that this was far from a one off, and the practice of taking critics quotes or ratings out of context and placing them in marketing material is a surprisingly common.

Other examples of posters which were essentially misleading include one of the US posters for The Aviator (2004) which tries to entice fans of Saving Private Ryan type films by taking an action still completely out of context, or the Spanish poster for The Godfather (1972), which was based on an early draft of the script which involved a spaghetti restaurant and just ends up coming across as promoting stereotypes.

Here are some of more examples of misleading movie posters…

  • PicMonkey CollageKramer . Vs. Kramer (1979) – shows a happy family even though the film is the depiction of the breaking up of said family
  • Drugstore Cowboy (1989) – selling a movie about drug addicts is always going to be hard, but the main characters on the poster are much chirpier than they appear in the film.
  • My Sister’s Keeper (2009) – Much like Drugstore Cowboy, marketing a movie about cancer is difficult, but this poster contains a lot more smiling than we ever see in this tearjerker

TITLES:

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It goes without saying that a movie title is one of the most important elements, as it tends to be a consumers first point of contact with the product. A poor or bland title is unlikely to entice audiences, and sometimes quirky or unusual trailers can be used for generic films, or vice versa. Titles differ from other marketing materials in that they are often taken from other mediums – for example, if a film is based on a book the title will often be retained.

However, there are examples of films based on books where the title was changed, presumably as part of the marketing strategy. This would include the likes of Slumdog Millionaire (2009), which was based on Q&A by Vikas Swarup. From a marketing perspective the name change is quite obvious – the idea of a slumgod millionaire is much more evocative than a Q&A session, and it immediately gives the consumer a bigger insight into what the film is about.

Love, Rosie (2014) is based on Irish author Cecilia Aherne’s second novel, entitled Where Rainbows End (2004) and is another example of a title change, with the movie title nodding more towards rom-com material.

trainspottingFilms such as Trainspotting (1994) retained their book titles, but no longer make sense in the context of the film. The book contains a line which alludes to the act of trainspotting and also acts as character development for the pyschotic Begbie, who was immortalised on screen by Robert Carlyle. However slight this alluding to the title was, it was still present, and no such instance occurs in the film, essentially making the title obsolete. This did nothing to impact the overall quality of the movie however, and it was going to be a hard task for the marketing strategists to come up with a title for a film about Edinburgh based heroin addicts and sociopaths.

Film titles can also change from country to country, the most famous recent example being the Avengers/Avengers Assemble instance in 2012. The culmination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was markered in the US as The Avengers, whilst in the UK it was distributed as The Avengers Assemble. This was done due to the existence of a TV show titled in The Avengers in the UK, making it crystal clear to audiences that they were not the same thing.

Other examples of differences between the US/UK movie titles include…

  • Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_postersHarold and Kumar go to White Castle (US) became Harold and Kumar get the Munchies (UK) due to the lack of White Castle fast food chain in the UK.
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (UK) became Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (US) – there is much debate as to why this was the case, but it is generally deemed to be because the idea of a sorcerer was one that implied ‘magical’ more than philosophers in to the US market.
  • Dracula 2000 (US) was changed to Dracula 2001 internationally due to the fact that it was released the year after. Apparently audiences wouldn’t buy that a film about Dracula was set a year in the past.

Whilst these title changes are not misleading in themselves, it shows how important titles are as part of the overall marketing strategy, with distributors being willing to actually change a title if they feel it will sell a movie better.

More examples of titles that are misleading…

  • The Squid and the Whale (2005) – It’s not about a squid, or a whale, though dioramas of both are seen in the film at the American Museum of Natural History. Does this count?
  • Antichrist (2009) – Whilst it may sound like your run of the mill horror/possession/exorcism movie, its actually part of Lars Von Trier’s overly depressing depression trilogy.
  • 12 Monkeys (1995) – It’s not about 12 monkeys, ok?

STARS:

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The old bait and switch is one of the oldest tricks in the book – marketing a film with a well known star at the forefront of all the material, only for them to hardly appear in the film itself, which people will only find out once they have already paid to see it. It’s a concept thats still around because it works, and despite social media making it easier and easier for audiences to deduce what is going on before a film comes out, we are still being collectively duped more than you would think.

Just this year the marketing material for Suffragette (2015) had us all thinking that Meryl Streep was in the main cast as the notable real life campaigner Emmeline Pankhurst. She featured heavily in all the material including trailers and posters, but turned out to only be in the film for a grand total of about five minutes. There was no reason to believe that Streep had anything less than a leading role, but it turned out that Cary Mulligan was the lead, with Helena Bohem Carter appearing in a supporting capacity. Streep was really no more than a cameo, making her appearance in the marketing material extremely misleading. It’s clear why this was the strategy however – Streep is one of the most famous and successful actresses of all time, and whilst Bohem Carter and Mulligan are both respected they in no way carry the level of traction that Streep does. Featuring her heavily in the marketing was also a clever move in enaging with US audiences, who will recognise her much more than the British Mulligan and Bohem Carter.

One of the first notable uses of the bait and switch of a star was in Alfred Hitchcock’s Pyscho (1960), which was marketed with Janet Leigh as the lead. She is then killed off in the first half an hour of the film, a feat that was famously repeated by Wes Craven with Drew Barrymore in Scream (1996). Both films were hugely successful – arguably partly due to the marketing of famous actresses Leigh and Barrymore as respective leads.

Other examples of this in practice include…

  • 273894_oriLeprechaun (1993) – The DVD release of this horror film capitalised on the fact that Jennifer Aniston, who has a relatively minor role in the movie, had struck gold as Rachel Green on Friends (1994-2004), and she is featured on the cover design.
  • Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) – Sean Penn is implied as the lead but it actually just part of a larger ensemble cast.
  • Halloween: Resurrection (2002) – Marketed almost wholly on the grand return of Jamie Lee Curtis, who is then killed off in the first half.
  • The Place Beyond the Pines (2012) – Marketed on Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper’s names, completely leaving out the other half which focuses on their sons, played by the then lesser known Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen respectively.

DIRECTORS:

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This is a trend that is slightly less obvious, but is still prevalent across Hollywood marketing material. Once a director has made a name for themselves, sticking their name on a poster or in a trailer is a surefire way of convincing people that a movie is worth seeing. The thing is, advertising will tend to stick a directors name on it even if their involvement with the film was not in a very large capacity, as it is easier to sell a picture on their name than that of a newbie or a less established film-maker.

Guillermo del Toro is a director that has had his name attached to several films, to the point that he actually spoke about it in an interview, saying:

“I only do it when – (a) I am introducing a filmmaker to the world, but (b) I endorse and say I believe in this movie very, very strongly. For whatever reason, it’s a more risky proposition in one way, but it’s one that I believe needs to continue to support first-time filmmakers. . . . I only do it when I fully believe I was involved in the product in a way that is meaningful.” 

del Toro was attached to Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2013), which was directed by Troy Nixey and The Orphanage (2007), directed by J . A Bayona. Regardless of the reasons why a director may choose to allow their name to be attached to a film, there is no doubt that it is both an effective and misleading marketing tactic. Audiences are going to see something based on the fact that they know and like the work of the director appearing on the poster, which can sometimes lead to them seeing a rubbish movie bolstered by the name, or give an up and coming film-maker a chance by viewing it, albeit under false pretences.

Other examples include…

  • The_nightmare_before_christmas_posterNightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Generally marketed as Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Whilst the king of kook is responsible for the concept and is credited as a producer, the film was actually directed by Henry Selik.
  • Hostel (2005) – Splat pack director Eli Roth’s super violent torture horror film had Quentin Tarantino serve as an executive producer, and it was his name that the film was marketed on in spite of the fact Roth both wrote and directed the film.
  • Sanctum (2011) – Advertised as coming from executive producer James Cameron ‘the creator of Avatar and Titanic’, the way it is written on the poster makes the words James Cameron, Titanic and Avatar the ones that stand out. Considering they are two of the most financially successful films of all time, it is little wonder that is the slant the marketing took, in spite of the film being directed by Alister Grierson, who has no such accolades on his CV.

TRAILERS:

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Trailers are increasingly becoming the most important part of the marketing of a movie, providing without a doubt the biggest insight into what the film is going to be about. However, like everything else that has been explored in this post, they can be edited in a way that totally misrepresents the narrative and overall tone of a film.

The films of Nicolas Winding Refn are notable for being marketed in ways that do not fully represent the final product. Three examples are Valhalla Rising (2009), Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013). Valhalla Rising’s entire marketing campaign piggy-backed on the success of Zack Snyder’s 300 (2006), right down to the DVD cover and posters. However, the film is actually a deep study of a norse warrior. Drive is a neo-noir crime thriller that was marketed as a Fast and Furious style caper, whereas the final product is something much darker and broodier. Only God Forgives was advertised as a marital arts flick, but again was a thriller where marital arts was only a component factor. The marketing of these films, along with the fact that the very bankable Ryan Gosling (who is also featured heavily in the advertising) starred in the latter two allows them to be accessible to mainstream audiences in a way that they may not have without these elements.

Some other examples of misleading trailers include…

  • 126166377_iron-man_406735cIron Man 3 (2013) – the one that left comic book villains the world over bitter, the trailer advertised famous Iron Man foe The Mandarin as the big bad, only to pull a bait and switch and reveal Ben Kingsley’s character to be an drunken actor.
  • Magic Mike (2012) – Steven Soderbergh’s film was a deep character study marketed as a flashy chick-flick based around male strippers.
  • The Grey (2011) – capitalised on the Liam Neeson as an action lead phenomenon that began with 2009’s Taken, but The Grey was actually a study of the human relationship with death that is surprisingly light on the action.
  • Cabin in the Woods (2011) – marketed as a run of the mill teen slasher flick, but Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods takes the idea of meta-horror to a level that makes Scream (1996) look as though it lacks self-awareness.

Which films do you think had misleading marketing campaigns? Let me know in the comments section!

 

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Film, List

5 GREAT FILMS THAT WERE BOX OFFICE FLOPS

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When it comes to mainstream cinema it’s all about the numbers, and the box office performance of a film is often what dictates whether it was successful or not. This can lead to sequels of bad films – Terminator Genysis, for example, is pretty sure to have a sequel in spite of appalling reviews and poor box office turnout in the USA due to the fact that it proved itself to be a money making machine in the gargantuan cinema-going demographic that is China. It can also lead to films that are actually pretty excellent only getting recognition years later due to a poor financial performance. Here are five films which performed poorly at the box office in spite of being great films…

Honourable mention…

Steve Jobs (2015)


Director:
Danny Boyle

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels

maxresdefault (2)An honourable mention due to the fact that it is still out in cinemas, Steve Jobs significantly underperformed upon it’s initial US release earlier this year. The film, structured like a three act play, stars Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs and goes behind the scenes in the time leading up to three significant product launches. Penned by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) the film has garnered $18 million since its release. On a budget of $30 million, the film still has a way to go before even making its money back.

There are a few contributing factors which may explain why the film has been a financial flop in spite of excellent critical praise. Director Danny Boyle blamed the marketing strategy, believing that the film had to wide of an initial release and did not generate enough word of mouth. There is also the issue of Steve Jobs fatigue – the Apple founder has been the subject of dozens on films and documentaries, and the critical and commercial failure of the Ashton Kutcher starring Jobs (2013) is still fresh in the minds of US audiences. The film was released by Universal, who reportedly still have faith that the film can recover if it stays in cinemas until closer to awards season.

Amy Pascal of Sony passed on the film, seeing it as too big of a risk after the likes of Christian Bale did not agree to star, and rumours suggest that Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell actively tried to stop the films warts and all portrayal. Both Sorkin and Boyle have been very vocal about their belief that the film is not a biopic, but Powell’s sway in the tech community may be another factor as to why the film didn’t perform well.

5 – The Iron Giant (1999)

Director: Brad Bird

Starring: Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, John Mahoney, Eli Marienthal

iron-giant-hogarthBased on the Ted Hughes novel The Iron Man (1968), this Warner Brothers Animation changes Hugh’s English setting for Cold War America. Set in 1950’s Maine, the film charts nine year old Hogarth Hughs (Eli Marienthal), a young boy who discovers a fifty-foot tall metal eating iron giant. The film was the directorial debut of Brad Bird, who is now best known for his work with Pixar, which includes The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007), and incorporated a mixture of traditional animation and elements of CGI.

The film made around $23 million on a $70 million budget, making it a financial failure in spite of critical adoration. The film had a pre Fast and Furious Vin Diesel in the titular role, as well as roles for America’s sweetheart Jennifer Aniston and Fraiser’s John Mahoney, but selling animations on their star power are more difficult than live action films. The film also used a washed out colour palette and held some pretty strong anti-government themes. Take into account that the film is a non Disney animation and that Bird was yet to make his name, as well as the fact that it came out the same year as Toy Story 2 (1999) and that Pixar were making CGI films popular and it becomes clearer why the film made a loss.

The film received a limited rerelease in cinemas this year ahead of the release of the Blu-Ray edition, which contained two minutes of new footage, and the film is considered one of the best non-Disney animations. Bird’s work at Pixar also went on to be some of the most financially successful for the studio, so it’s not all bad.

4 – Heathers (1988)

Director: Michael Lehmann

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannon Doherty

Heathers2Heathers is an excellent black comedy/satire from Michael Lehmann. The film stars a young Winona Ryder, Christian Slater and Shannon Doherty, and is pretty fearless in its approach to tackling issues such as bullying and teen suicide. The film was made on a very low budget of $2 million but still only managed to make back around half, meaning it was still a financial flop.

The film was very well received by critics, but a couple of noted individuals such as Roger Ebert took issue with the films extremities. The film came out in the late 80’s – making it a great showcase of the fashion of the era – which means it came out in the midst of the John Hughes era. Seeing as the film was a total subversion of everything a Hughes teen film stood for, this is probably a significant reason as to why the film did not fare well commercially.

The films stars Ryder and Slater were also yet to make their names – Ryder was only 16 upon filming and had appeared in Beetlejuice (1988) the same year, but only really became better known in the 1990’s with roles in the likes of Edward Scissorhands (1990) and Mermaids (1990). Similarly, Slater was 19 when the film came out with only a few credits to his name. Notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty also hadn’t had a chance to prove how notoriously difficult she was, with her roles in Beverly Hills 90210 and Charmed coming in 1990 and 1998 respectively. This lack of percieved star power is another reason the film failed to gain any financial traction.

3 – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Director: Frank Capra

Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Henry Travers

tumblr_inline_nmh0a4Ufom1r4j8j1_500Frank Capra’s holiday classic, based on 1939 short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, is one of those rare films that it is very difficult to find anyone who dislikes it. However, whilst it may be hard to believe, the film was a letdown at the Box Office, debuting in 26th place. Made on a $3 million budget, the film only made $3.3 million in its initial run despite starring the hugely popular Jimmy Stewart in the central role of George Bailey, a man who is contemplating suicide and is visited by an angel, Clarence (Henry Travers) who shows him what life would have been like had he never been born.

The story doesn’t end there however – it was due to a copyright issue that the film went on to become a festive favourite. The film originally had a 28 year copyright claim, and when it expired the rights were not put up for renewal. This meant that in 1975 the film entered the public domain, leading to it having heavy circulation on television during the holiday season. This led to the film being reevaluated as a classic, and it has since garnered over $60 million in DVD and home video sales. NBC now own the rights and there is a good chance they won’t be giving them up anytime soon.

An interesting side note is that the FBI actually pinpointed the film as communist propaganda. A 1947 memo entitled ‘Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry’ argued it was propaganda due to its populist theme and negative portrayal of rich bankers. The film was not blacklisted in the infamous McCarthy era, but it is interesting to think that the FBI were concerned about the feel-good classic.

2 – The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Director: Frank Darabont

Starring: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

shawshank-musicThe seven times Oscar nominated film written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on the Stephen King novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is one of the more surprising entries on this list. The film is currently at the top of the IMDb Top 250 Films list. The film was made on a $25 million budget, but debuted in ninth place on its opening weekend with only $2.5 million.

The film is regularly quoted amongst favourite films/top films of all time lists, so why did it fail to gain any traction? Producer Liz Glotzer has argued that the film didn’t achieve any word of mouth promotion due to people being unsure how to pronounce the title. It could also be argued that the title gives too much away, though it’s not as though it gives away the main details of the plot (we are looking at you The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007), the winner of the most spoilerific title of all time).

Things become even more confusing when we see what The Shawshank Redemption was up against at the Box Office. Opening on 23rd September 1994, other films that opened that day included It Runs in the Family, Shadows of Desire and Terminal Velocity. Not exactly bonafide classics. However, it is also worth noting that NBC’s beloved sitcom Friends debuted on the same date, drawing in some 22 million viewers for its pilot episode. Did this stop people going out to see the film on its opening night?

The film is similar to It’s A Wonderful Life in that it became more popular after its original cinematic run, and TV circulation and word of mouth in recent years has seen the film become the classic we know it as today, but exactly why The Shawshank Redemption underperformed on its initial run will always be a point of cinematic speculation.

1 – Fight Club (1999)

Director: David Fincher

Starring: Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bohem Carter

the_coolest_inside_facts_about_22David Fincher’s cult classic Fight Club, based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel of the same name, made only $37 million on a $63 million budget. The film came out four years after his critically acclaimed and financially successful Se7en (1994), which also starred Brad Pitt in a main role. However, Fincher followed up the film with The Game (1997) starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, which was again critically successful but saw significantly less box office returns compared to Se7en.

Fight Club has gone on to achieve cult status due to the fact that it was hugely successful when released on DVD, selling over 6 million copies and making its money back in that way. Whilst the film is now regarded as a modern classic, it was extremely divisive amongst critics upon its initial release. The films depiction of violence and counterculture led to criticisms from some critics, including Roger Ebert who said years later that it was “beloved by many, not by me.”

Another issue came in the marketing. Fincher reportedly had very specific ideas about how he wanted to market the film, but executives at 20th Century Fox didn’t like the film when they viewed it. The company were unsure of how to sell a film that is so openly critical of consumerism. The films release was delayed several times, and the film eventually came out after the Columbine High School Massacre, meaning that audiences were arguably much less open to a film with such graphic violence at its core. Brad Pitt was undoubtedly the most bankable star in the film, but Fincher refused to have him as the focus of the marketing campaign for fear of misrepresentation, and the lacklustre campaign is arguably the biggest factor in Fight Club’s poor box office performance.

The film was without a doubt one of the most talked about the of the year, and the controversy that surrounded its violent nature is arguably what made it successful in DVD sales, meaning it was not a total failure.

Which films do you think are great in spite of a less than stellar box office performance? Let me know in the comments section!

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List, Television

FRIENDS CHRISTMAS EPISODES: RANKED:

Friends-say-Merry-Christmas-friends-2964228-762-549

Christmas is coming! It’s December and the countdown is officially on – only three weeks or so until we can all chow down on far too much turkey. One of the best things about Christmas is all the excellent television. Friends is one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, but it was surprisingly light on the festive cheer across its ten year run. This was probably partly due to the fact that two of the characters – Ross and Monica – were Jewish, and that the show tended to have a Thanksgiving episode most years. That’s not to say that Christmas didn’t play a significant role in the show – eight out of the ten seasons feature the holiday in some way, shape or form. Here is the definitive ranking of the Friends Christmas episodes (Ok, so it might not be definitive – let me know what your ranking would look like in the comments section!):

8 – THE ONE WITH ROSS’ STEP FORWARD

friends-s8e11-800x450Season eight was a strange time for Friends, and this was partly due to Ross’ relationship with the eternally bland Mona. There was nothing particularly wrong with Mona, but the fact that she stayed with Ross for so long not only highlighted her poor judge of character but also led to some really lacklustre storylines attempting to incorporate her. This festive themed episode sees Ross freak out when Mona suggests they send out a holiday card together (obviously it was way too soon, what’s your deal Mona?), and a series of unfortunate Ross-like attempts to iron out the whole situation end up with him giving her a key to his apartment and then changing the locks. Classic Ross. The episode takes last place because it’s not very Christmassy and MONA SUCKS.

7 – THE ONE WITH PHEOBE’S DAD

holy crap is it hot in hereThis season two episode is the first time the show referenced Christmas. The holiday takes the backbench, but we see the gang shopping, holding a party and decorating the apartment, and there is an excellent scene at the end where Joey and Chandler give their gang the Christmas gifts they picked up at a small convenience store. Gifts include wiper blades, cans of soda and condoms – the things everyone is hoping to see in their stocking. This one ranks low due to Christmas not being at the forefront of the episode, but it’s background involvement raises some laughs.

6 – THE ONE WITH THE GIRL FROM PHOUGHKEEPSIE

maxresdefault (1)Season four featured Ross and Rachel getting used to life after the end of their relationship, and this episode centres around Ross dating two girls and battling between convenience and actual attraction. It has very little to do with Christmas at all, but there is an amusing subplot where Phoebe tries to write a festive song dedicated to the gang. She runs into various rhyming stumbling blocks, particularly when dealing with Chandler and Rachel. The final product (which you can see at the end of this list) is the epitome of Phoebe’s kookily awful songwriting skills, and a bonafide Christmas classic.

5 – THE ONE WITH THE ROUTINE

friends-season-6-episode-10This is a classic season six episode where we are reminded (as we quite often are) that Ross and Monica were massive geeks before they grew up to be David Schwimmer and Courtney Cox. The pair are invited to be extras at the filming of filler shots for Dick Clarke’s Rockin’ New Years Eve along with Joey and his dancer room-mate Janine (Elle Macpherson). Their increasingly desperate attempts to get on camera go overlooked, culminating in them dusting off an old dance routine which we are treated to viewing in it’s entirety. This is a scene that only gets better with age, with the increasingly dated but not yet quirky costumes of the late 90’s adding to the overall hilarity. This episode rates pretty high on the festive factor, with a subplot featuring Phoebe and Rachel attempting to find Monica’s christmas gifts for the group. Chandler is outraged, moreso when they discover and deride his gifts, but the girls wear him down and they set to finding the presents. This is a great episode which has just enough festive frolics.

4 – THE ONE WITH THE CHRISTMAS IN TULSA

640x360_eb3678de-ddeb-44c2-954e-d114a86dfb91This one drew to a close the strange storyline where Chandler had to split his time between Tulsa and New York in season nine. This episode sees Chandler being forced to spend Christmas in Tulsa, leading to him recalling happier festive times with the gang – allowing the perfect opportunity for a flashback episode. This one panders to the nostalgia that we all tend to get at Christmas time, and also serves to remind us of just how great Friends was.

3 – THE ONE WITH THE INAPPROPRIATE SISTER

tumblr_nh19ahddc31qddkt4o5_400Again, Christmas doesn’t play a massive part in the episode, but it makes its way into the top three due to the fact that the small subplot where it does feature is comedy gold. Phoebe has landed herself a role as a bell ringer/fundraiser and is given a prime location outside of Macy’s. Her spreading of festive cheer proves harder than she thought when people decide to instead utilise her collection bucket for pretty much anything other than donations (ashtray and urinal are some of the worst uses). We see her having to take desperate measures and revert to her ‘Street Phoebe’ persona, making us laugh along the way.

2 – THE ONE WHERE RACHEL QUITS

friends_episode058_337x233_032020061505This season three episode has a great little Christmas subplot which sees Joey taking some temporary work selling Christmas trees. When Phoebe announces that she is against the concept of the festive trees, Joey takes her to workplace to calm her down, only for her to become further outraged at the fact that old trees are put in the chipper (“I bet that’s not as happy as it sounds”). Monica and Joey then go on to make her Christmas by decorating the former’s apartment with the dead trees, in spite of the fact that Monica is a massive clean freak (this shows the extent of her goodwill and sacrifice, obviously). It’s a really sweet festive moment, landing it the number two spot on this list.

1 – THE ONE WITH THE HOLIDAY ARMADILLO

tow-the-holliday-armadillloCould it be any other episode? This gem from season seven is a pop culture favourite which sees Ross attempt to teach his son Ben about Jewish holiday Hanukkah, but finds it hard to compete with the man in the red suit. Ross then finds himself unable to find a Santa suit on short notice, leading to his hilarious ‘holiday armadillo’ improvisation. It’s already funny, but things get downright hysterical when Chandler shows up in a Santa suit, later followed by Joey in a Superman outfit, leading to one of Chandler’s finest lines:

“My favourite part was when Superman flew all the Jews out of Egypt”

So there you have it, the eight Christmas episodes of Friends ranked. Do you agree? What are your favourites? Let me know in the comments section!

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