Mamo #156: Spicy Mustard

Mamo!

We finally come to you from the welcoming environs of my favorite Toronto restaurant, Caplansky’s Deli in the heart of the Kensington Market district. Between delectable bites of smoky cured meats we take a second pass at the relative success of Twilight: New Moon, the relative failure of The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the before release backlash (Frontlash?!?) directed at James Cameron and Avatar. Enjoy the latest Mamo, now with the spicy mustard.

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Rusty James
Guest

mark me down for being with the backlash against the Avatar backlash.

Andrew James
Admin

Mark me down as part of the frontflash. The over hype is annoying. The movie looks the same as any other CGI big budget nonsense (i.e. Star Wars 2) – did you not listen to the end of our latest cinecast? Can't wait to listen to this Mamo.

Rusty James
Guest

The podcast wasn't named after me so I wasn't interested.

Maybe it's the circles I run in but I've heard a lot more preemptive bitching than I have actual hype. Everyones so smug and snide, it's kind of off putting. It's like everyone's trying to one up each other with cynicism.

The director's name will always count for me with me than marketing or trailers or even word of mouth. Besides I think "dances with wolves in space" sounds like a fun premise for a movie.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

It's the people doing the back-lash and the print-media falling all over Cameron and company. There has been so much ink on Avatar, the technology and the making of the film, that yea, for those who read those sections of the news papers and magazines, it has been pretty exhausting.

Rusty James
Guest

The marketing is over bearing. I couldn't believe this shit was real:

http://io9.com/5419062/bones-proves-that-liking-a

Goon
Guest

I think the Mamo guys are off about mr. Fox – the marketing wasnt that strong, but word of mouth has been very good. everyone i know who saw it ended up using lines as facebook status, or reviewing it on flixter, in many cases the first time they bothered reporting in on something in months.

rot
Guest

been meaning to get to Caplansky's but never get beyond the potato latkes at Free Times down the block. That they got rid of the best pizza slice in Toronto, Massimo's, again just down the block, is an outrage. I used to live, you guessed it, just down the block.

haven't listened yet, this is just a frontcomment.

Rusty James
Guest

@ My choice is to lay that at the film’s feet for simply not resolving a satisfying enough narrative to carry the quirky greatness of the writing.

I don't know man but it sounds like you're saying that every film that doesn't find its audience in theaters is flawed in some way.

I guess if Mr. and Mrs. Fox adopted a gargantuan negro and taught him not to act so retarded then it would've been a better film.

Isn't there room in the world for films that maybe don't play the most universal but are still masterpieces in their own right?

Goon
Guest

"I guess if Mr. and Mrs. Fox adopted a gargantuan negro and taught him not to act so retarded then it would’ve been a better film."

Seriously, some guy at FJ was giving me shit for my impression of the trailer. I still say that trailer plays like "My Pet Black Man"

Goon
Guest

The more money = better than Wothingtons Law thing… sounds like Campea Logic.

Goon
Guest

btw, re: percentage drops

from week 1 to week 2, Blind Side went UP 20%, but from week 2 to 3, it dropped 50%… and there was almost no change in the number of theaters it was playing in.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

I am very much of the opinion that Fantastic Mr. Fox is going to gather mucho love on DVD. The film screams to be watched multiple times and appreciate the characters and flow of the film over something so mundane as plot. I think kids will get it on that level, and I think adults will too.

Plot is overrated, especially in kids films. My Neighbor Totoro, anyone?

Rusty James
Guest

"campea logic" is basically the R3 equivilant of being compared to Hitler.

Rusty James
Guest

I do agree that more conventional narratives play more universally.

Rusty James
Guest

Your basically just saying that the film had box office problems because it was less conventional. No arguments here. But by describing it as "not resolving a satisfying enough narrative" your coming close to tipping one of our sacred cows around here.

I HATE to hear a film's artistry discussed in the same breath as it's financial situation. Contrary to what populist folksy types would claim, the box office is not a merritocracy.

Goon
Guest

"what is your point about Blind Side? I don’t understand the comment."

you cited percentage drops to suggest that Fantastic Mr. Fox doesn't have positive word of mouth. I still maintain it DOES have positive word of mouth, simply because I've seen it first hand. You are operating on the assumption that positive word of mouth guarantees results and can overcome all other problems.

if 'positive word of mouth' always showed results, then way more people would also only see critically acclaimed films and skip universally panned ones. The logic isn't there.

The Blindside comment goes to show as well how futile a lot of the guesses and analyzations are, a movie that goes up from one week to the next – one might assume positive word of mouth. and then it takes a big tumble, and then what happened then? Bad word of mouth? huh?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the speculation on Mamo, it's like a football pre/post game show, often less about the actual movie and way more about the numbers, the politics, the controversy. But it's still a lot of subjective, ungrounded speculation.

Kurt Halfyard
Admin

The rules of thumb for American Box Office:

1) The first weekend is the Marketing

2) The second weekend is Word of Mouth.

3) Very few films have 'legs' and it is worth considering why those few (usually R-rated comedies) that have longetivity at the box office on some artistic or populist grounds.

(And a fourth, row three specific, 'rule': Mamo Rulez! You simply do not get this sort of smart and well thought money vs. mouth type conversations on the web. Simply put, we web-host the show because it is awesome.)

rot
Guest

When we post our best of the decade list I have a strong suspicion that the majority of them will be films that neither made money or even garnered much word of mouth attention (at least by John Q Public)… I think there is a difference between what us niche people consider word of mouth, and what goes on for the average filmgoer.

i.e. I think Little Children has a cache here, where if you asked anyone not affiliated with movie blog culture, they would probably not even know what the film is… but word of mouth in our niche has been huge.

Andrew James
Admin

Feed fixed. This show should be appearing on iTunes now.

Goon
Guest

"comparing me to your Hitler"

Comparing your logic to Campea's is a big swipe at your logic, but that's not the same as comparing you to Campea itself. That's an entirely different animal to me. However…

"remind me to kick you hard in the small of the back should we ever meet face to face."

Something like this doesn't help. That kind of threat is a Row Three first, I guarantee you.

"Stop listening to our show."

I know that was for Rusty, but I'd definitely consider it. Can you really stand to bleed listeners because you can't take what is actually quite mild criticism?

"people telling their friends that a movie is good is the single biggest influence on its success. When enough people do it, movies make money."

So word of mouth only exists when it shows immediate results? Does marketing only exist if it generates results? Do web banners and spam only exist if they get clickthroughs? Through my line of work I guarantee you can't rely on word of mouth alone, there are other factors and limitations.

I'd say word of mouth can't overcome bad marketing and that divide of people who have declared they just don't want to see it. I'd say often the best word of mouth can do is earn a DVD rental.

I used to work at a video store, and every week movies that would flop at the box office became massive rental successes, and immediately. The phrase 'found its audience in home video' exists for a reason.

Goon
Guest

"I am not saying it about every film, I’m specifically saying it about this one"

So you've decided if Fox doesnt make money, its a 'flaw' rather than just something that only connects with certain people?

I guess Patton Oswalt is a flawed comedian, and Jeff Dunham isn't then? I don't like this world.

Rusty James
Guest

@ Stop listening to our show.

I was responding to something you wrote in the comment section not something you said on the show.

Jandy Hardesty
Admin

I think trying to understand the relationship between artistic quality and box office success is a valid line of inquiry (and I'm glad you said that's explicitly what you're trying to do; I listened to your summer box office recap and couldn't figure out why you cared so much which dumb blockbuster made more money than some other dumb blockbuster – should've paid more attention to your podcast's purpose), but it can only go so far. Something like INLAND EMPIRE certainly doesn't follow conventional narrative form. Does that keep it from being commercially viable? Yes. Does it keep it from being an amazing cinematic achievement? Not at all.

And I think rot is right on both counts, regarding our top ten lists here and niche word of mouth. My current top ten this year only has two films that initially opened wide, and only two more that really played wide after a limited release. Regarding niche, if you asked me right now what I thought the most talked-about/buzzed/well-known films of, say, 2007 were, I'd say No Country for Old Men, Once, There Will Be Blood, and Juno. I have no idea what the actual box office winners were. No one I know was talking about them. When I was talking with someone a few months ago, I cited NCFOM as one of my favorite recent films, and I was seriously speechless when they hadn't heard of it.

I think what we as film bloggers and cinephiles consider word-of-mouth buzz may not necessarily be reaching the average person you have in mind. I was really surprised when The Blind Side had such big box office, because I saw the trailer, wasn't interested, no one I read or talk to online was interested, and yet it's getting word of mouth somewhere. People at my office are like "have you seen Blind Side yet, you've got to!"

(Music's the same way – I was genuinely surprised to see Silversun Pickups get a Grammy nod for Best New Artist; my circles have been listening to SSPU for years. Yet, as I mentioned over on MorePop, I know that my non-music-scene friends wouldn't know them even now.)

Goon
Guest

The Once performance and acceptance speech was one of the highlights of that years oscars, but when I brought the DVD to my mom, who watches the oscars every year, she had absolutely no idea what it was.

"I think Little Children has a cache here, where if you asked anyone not affiliated with movie blog culture, they would probably not even know what the film is…"

Little Children probably made less at the box office than any movie mentioned in this thread. If someone tells me there's thus a flaw in the narrative, I can only say in response that assumption is far more flawed.

rot
Guest

Is there a case to be made with animated kids films that they can get a pass on not having a plot and still generate attention, word of mouth, etc? What sort of plot did Monsters Inc have, or perhaps we should exempt anything branded Pixar as an anomaly?

Have any of Wes Anderson's films been embraced by the masses commercially? They are all hanging out films more than plot films. I question whether this film was even intended to be something on par with Pixar, its intent may have been strictly niche.

Henrik
Guest

Transformers 2 has no flaws in its narrative, it made tons of money.

rot
Guest

that said Fantastic Mr Fox is one of the most enjoyable experiences at the cinema I have had all year, and is probably, only below Bottle Rocket and Rushmore on the Wes Anderson list.

Henrik
Guest

"What sort of plot did Monsters Inc have, or perhaps we should exempt anything branded Pixar as an anomaly?"

Well, it's a fish out of water story. There is a kid with the monsters, they have to be parents and get it back. As far as I can remember, it's been quite a few years since I fell asleep to Monsters Inc.

I don't think that animated films generally have less plot than live-action films. On a somewhat related note, I recently rewatched The Patriot with Mel Gibson, and that movie reminds me insanely of The Lion King.

Jandy
Guest

Goon, that was one of my favorite Oscar moments of all time.

So, Little Children was a box office flop, then? See, I had no idea. I heard only good buzz on it, and just about everything Kate Winslet does is worth watching. I don't have it as high on my list as rot, but it's a great, great film.

This is why I try not to think about box office very much. It just depresses me.

Kurt
Guest

@Henrik. "I recently rewatched The Patriot with Mel Gibson, and that movie reminds me insanely of The Lion King."

this may be my favorite sentence read on RowThree in 2009. I don't know why, but it is awesome.

Rusty James
Guest

@ This is why I try not to think about box office very much. It just depresses me.

Yeah. Box Office is interesting to discuss because it tells us so much about this business we're so obsessed with.

But the danger is the temptation to draw the wrong lesson; to conclude that the movie must've been bad in some way because it didn't make enough money. That's what I was taking issue over with Matt.

And what really annoys me is when some film is criticized for not playing to a big enough audience when, by design, it's just not very broad. LIke Where The Wild Things Are for instance. That film plays very well to a certain type of person. If you're not that person you're just left out in the cold.

Goon
Guest

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgvrpC2O7_M

Skip to 2 minutes for the meat

Henrik
Guest

To be honest, I think people talk about Box Office because it's a race, and has the faux-content built-in. So if you're lazy and want to talk movies, you talk about their cashflow and where they placed.

"this may be my favorite sentence read on RowThree in 2009. I don’t know why, but it is awesome."

As are both movies!

Goon
Guest

"this may be my favorite sentence read on RowThree in 2009. "

Some of this paragraph is like Ronin.

Goon
Guest

"So, Little Children was a box office flop, then?"

One would assume with the people involved that Little Children would make more than Once, but LC made like 6 million vs. Onces 9-10. And LC's budget was like 14 million.

Henrik
Guest

Little Children flopped because people told their friends that they could get the audiobook instead.

Kurt
Guest

Goon brings out a classic. "Ronin!" "Ronin!"

Jandy
Guest

Of course, that said, I didn't see Little Children in the theatre, either. I saw it on DVD.

Kurt
Guest

Saw Little Children at TIFF, I managed to ask Todd Field a question, specifically about the voice over, in the Q&A afterwards, but I don't recall the details of his answer at this point.

rot
Guest

I can't remember what he said either but I think the use of voice-over is to draw a line for the audience, we are to treat these characters as satire, as actors on a stage. Something I noticed in my last viewing of Little Children is the only main character that is not given voice-over pronouncements is the sex pervert, not sure why that is. There is an interesting relationship between him and the rest of the characters, in relation to the Eden subtext. Brad and Sarah live in the garden (the playground) until they give in to temptation (fleeing their marriages), and that gets the ball rolling for the ex-cop to cause what happens to Ronnie, and Ronnie encountering Sarah in the playground at the end begins the expulsion (the moths around the lamplight being the most visible clue to that). The last shot of the film is the garden/playground left empty, devoid of the happiness once there.

The use of narration is sparing in the film, and goes audibly silent during most of the big dramatic parts, its more to set the tone of judgment on these characters.

Bob Turnbull
Admin

That's a shame Kurt, 'cause I'd like to hear details…I mentioned my issues with the voiceover to rot on Facebook and he had a pretty interesting answer (regarding it as an anthropologist's detached view – sorry I didn't answer back Mike). I could probably go along with that, but it failed to convey that to me while watching (maybe it was just the tone of the guy's voice – it didn't mesh). I like a whole lot about the film, but there were enough things that held it back from being excellent. For me anyway.

My take on what Matt was saying regarding the "flaws" of the narrative of Fox is that the term "flaw" is strictly in relation to its potential to make more money. ie. Nothing to do with its quality, what Anderson was aiming for or with his own personal opinion. And it begs a more interesting discussion – does the "general" audience prefer a straight narrative film? I would tend to say Yes, but there are always exceptions.

Though I haven't seen Fox yet (oh, you better believe I will), I think its marketing certainly didn't go after the audience it could have – my son (he's 9) saw a commercial for it on TV and immediately said "That doesn't look good". Having seen the trailer that was pitched at that age range, I could see how he might feel that way…And it seemed to be a common feeling among his friends (I know, I'm extending too much from a very small sample group).

Henrik
Guest

It's to make sure that the audience understands that you are trying to set the tone of judgment on the characters.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

My favourite film of 2009 so far is likely Coraline and I grew up reading just about all of Roald Dahl's books, so I imagine I'm part of the target audience for Fantastic Mr Fox. While I was aware of this movie, I had no idea it was out already until I listened to MAMO.

Coraline was incredibly well marketed to not just kids but to adults who would enough that type of film. They went in thinking it was going to be a cult film and targeted all sorts of niche web sites that would like the film, from film sites to animation sites to knitting websites. Coraline had a small opening, but word of mouth, plus the cool marketing kept it going week after week.

I can't say anything about the quality of Fantastic Mr Fox, but they certainly didn't market it well and I'm surprised they didn't learn anything from Coraline's marketing since the movies are so similar (in that they are both stop-motion film's based on a popular child's story).

Goon
Guest

I dont remember any marketing for Coraline at all. one day it just appeared in theaters, poof.

Kurt
Guest

I recall seeing trailers in front of movies at least.

But what shortened Coraline's release was the Jonas Brothers concert which took nearly all the 3D screens, promptly bombed, and killed Coraline's chances on capitalizing on the growing word of mouth for the film. Damn Shame. Makes you want to punch someone, in fact.

Matthew Fabb
Guest

The cool Coraline advertising I was talking about is things like giving 50 hand made boxes filled with props from the movie to 50 more niche websites rather than big mainstream websites:
http://superpunch.blogspot.com/2008/11/ten-corali

Also Coraline had alphabet ads with different letters appearing in different websites:
http://www.cinetopiatheaters.com/hype/movie3/2009
This was also used in newspapers with different letters appearing different days as well as different letters spread through out some newspapers.

Some of the best banner ads I've seen to date (yes I said banner ad and best in the same sentance):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kam_BHeU8VY

An amazingly cool subway ad (I never saw it in person but lots of people filmed it and sent it around:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ae99OkPlLw

Another YouTube link which includes the special Nike dunks, the cool Coraline metal keys left around major cities, cool interactive store fronts:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4woy-_3azzs

Basically, they had a small marketing budget but did all sorts of cool things with it.

Also Jonas Brothers took away Coraline 3D screens, but the movie was still doing well enough that 3 weeks later Coraline actually regained a number of 3D screens from Jonas Brothers. If you look at the box office of Coraline, it made only $16 million opening weekend (in itself surprised people) and then had lots of little drops and made over $75 million domestically:
http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=weekend&amp
The movie came out in February and only finally left theatres in the beginning of July!

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